Sitting here bobbing placidly at anchor in the morning light I think through the information I want to communicate. All cruisers can kill their monthly budgets easily if they don’t take a hard look at needs versus wants. I’m speaking from experience (although we’ve only just begun to cruise) because we’ve done these things already (either by mistake or as a matter of decision making). Here’s what we’ve found that put major dents in our savings just in the last 6 months (both prior to cruising and while cruising):
Slips: While some out here take this luxury for granted, we can’t (slips are a luxury for us). We’ve been in several slips longer than we expected or wanted to be; but we made calculated decisions as to why we needed that slip time (repairs/weather). Both times we’ve taken slips (for longer than expected) we had repairs to handle and we’re ok with those decisions. Other boats make their own decisions on why they want to be in a slip…and to us there’s nothing wrong with folks who want to take a slip and afford this lifestyle. The fact is there’s amenities in most marina’s you just can’t always have on a cruising sailboat sitting on an anchor and this is a major draw for some cruisers. For example, if you’re on a cruising sailboat there’s probably not the water to take long hot showers, the anchorage might be too crusty or busy to take a daily swim and you probably can’t get a fresh icy blended drink anywhere. “Why Not” you may ask ?….well the freezer on some cruising boats simply can’t keep ice frozen and most cruising boats can’t plug in a blender to power without draining some portion of their precious battery power for a luxury like an icy blended drink. Point is this: Everyone makes their own decisions on how they spend their money. Slips are expensive (even in Mexico)…so if you’re low on funds or want to save some money…plan on using that large piece of metal on your bow and plant it in the bottom often.
Eating Out w/Drinks: We’ve eaten out at restaurants and had drinks…and seen the bills. This is another luxury for a crew that loves to cook. Yes, we do look for unique opportunities at special restaurants in the culture when those opportunities present themselves..but still like to cook. With the amount of fresh, high quality and inexpensive ingredients offered on the local economy; we often choose to cook rather than eat out just so we can try different combinations of foods in our own galley. We know the opportunity to eat out at high end places abound wherever we go, but we just can’t go to those places if we want to keep any sort of savings or budget every month. Usually where we go out to eat….the food and drinks are fairly inexpensive but higher end restaurants abound with opportunities to buy expensive food and drinks to pay for the expansive views or coifed linens.
Unexpected opportunities to improve your boat: Have you gotten the translation yet? This means unexpected or unplanned repairs or improvements to the boat that are basically mandatory. There’s things to do on boats that are still in the “nice to have” category but not needed for safety and survival on a boat…then there’s things that are needed to actually keep the boat running, functional and healthy. On Tulum, we’ve now had three of these opportunities for improvement that were neither welcomed, planned or budgeted for…but happened just in the last 6 months with major impact to our cruising budget. Our first opportunity happened just months before we had planned to leave and sapped a portion of our cruising budget unexpectedly, but we knew that we were buying an older boat and we made the mistake of not insisting on a good repair estimate. I’ve written several posts on the overhaul of Tulum’s aging engine…which dropped a bearing in the sixth cylinder…resulting in a complete rebuild of the engine. The engine was put back in the boat just a week before the Baja Ha-Ha after being out of the boat for three months…a very large learning experience. These things tend to have a cascade effect…and for us this meant we didn’t any time out of the slip (while the engine was out) to work through systems glitches until we literally motored out of San Diego. Upon reaching the glorious cruising grounds of Baja, we realized that our energy management wasn’t doing so well and made sure to make an appointment with an electrician to go through our batteries specifically. The diagnosis was unwelcome but not totally unexpected…our house batteries were shot and not able to take in or let out enough energy to power the boat effectively. The purchase of six new AGM house batteries in La Paz was the solution and we were forced to make that purchase in December. Christmas for Tulum but not so great for a cruisers budget. After these two larger purchases, I was content to do smaller projects and improvements around the boat..knowing we’d bitten the bullet and knocked out two large improvement projects on Tulum that were mandatory and needed. I even had dreams of building back up our depleted stock account…not spending money like water as we had so far with major repairs. But once out cruising you’re subjected to the will of weather and the boat no matter how much you want to stick your head in the sand and avoid certain forecasts. As a matter of precaution, I arranged for what I thought would be a short but informative rig inspection in February. To my complete surprise, the rigger didn’t even need to go up the mast before he informed me that we would need to start looking at replacing Tulum’s standing rigging…soon. After further questioning and investigation, we determined that we have no idea how old the standing rigging is…nor do we know how old the chainplates are or their condition. We still don’t know the full cost or complexity of re-rigging all of the standing rigging or putting on all new chainplates yet..but we’re soon to tackle that project, which will include another dock stay.
In buying an aging sailboat we knew all of these repairs and replacements were possible, but didn’t know we would have do them all in our first six months of cruising. However, we’ve much to be thankful for during these repairs….that we were in the US when we lost the engine and needed to have it overhauled, that we were able to get the batteries ordered, shipped and seamlessly put into the boat in La Paz in Dec and that we had a high quality rigger give us a straight answer about the life of our standing rigging..allowing us to make solid decisions about the trajectory of our trip and change of plans to accommodate getting these upcoming projects done. Sailing and cruising isn’t always cheap but it’s always challenging and keeps our heads in the game. We’re not ignoring these prime repairs because they effect the health and safety of Tulum…just gotta do it and make sure you’ve got enough money left to eat. Cruising truly needs to be a fun quest rather than a sprint to anything…as slow is fast out here.
There’s a lot happening in the world and we do get news mostly every day (when we have WiFi), so we’re well aware of it. Sometimes neither me or Michelle is sure how to approach our writing while COVID-19 grips the world, but we’ve had followers who have not minced words in telling us to continue to write, as our writing is sometimes used as a welcome distraction from the very real changes going on around the world. So we’re going to continue writing and hope that you’ll continue to read but know that our reality is tempered by concern for family and friends and world events.
LF2SF is an independent blog/website run by a cruising family (us) who lives on their boat full time in Mexico (till next season when we start moving) with their two kids and Great Dane. The HelmsMistress publishes her take on boat life every Weds, one of the kids writes for Kids Corner every Fri and Quincy Dane the Great Dane writes from her doggy point of view every Sun. Of course our posts are predicated on having WiFi or a cell signal so we get these things out and answer comments back. We LOVE your comments and we’d love to have you follow us (and keep following us).
We’d LOVE a cold beer while we’re doing all of these upcoming repairs…so instead of panic buying some toilet paper why don’t you consider checking out our Patreon Page and buy us a beer?