Sailing The Dream
On our third year sailing and second year in the Mediterranean Sea, we kept the 2017 and 2018 target of a 2000€ monthly budget for the three of us and also the boat maintenance, marinas, etc.
This season we were committed to achieving our goal even with the planned upgrades and new projects.
The year started with an unexpected expense when John had to return to Australia to deal with some issues without any notice, meaning we could only find a costly business class ticket instead of an economy class one. And then finished with another unexpected expense resulting from the work done by a third party on our electrical system back in 2017.
Despite this initial and final set back we managed to keep focused on our goal until the very end of the year.
After our experience in Tunisia the previous winter we decided to go back for another winter. The plan was to once again take advantage of being a cheaper destination and enjoy the company of the friends we met the previous winter season while we worked through our project and maintenance list.
It made perfect sense especially when we were still on the Ionian side of Greece in October and we didn’t want to simply rush through the Aegean to get to Turkey.
This decision helped to reduce some of the day to day expenses during the last couple months of the year and we can proudly say we were pretty close to achieving our goal.
So let’s look at how we organise the budget and understand the costs of sailing and the pitfalls that can and do occur.
It’s important to understand that one thing is the lifestyle costs, another is the actual sailing costs. And these do change considerably depending on the boat size, age, how much of the maintenance are you willing and know how to do.
A multihull will in principle be more expensive than the same length monohull in Marina costs for example and an older boat will probably require more maintenance than a more recent one, you have two engines to maintain not one as in a monohull.
But of course, each case is different.
The sailing grounds can also make a huge difference when it comes to costs (marina prices, fuel price, cruising fees) differ quite a lot even within the Mediterranean Sea.
We tried to track all our spendings obsessively on a spreadsheet I created, therefore very few expenses are outstanding or missing.
By using different categories for each expenses type and with the help of some graphics we can see the overall budget distribution by month and by year.
So what goes in each of our categories for easier understanding and extrapolation of costs:
Boat Maintenance - spare parts (anything from fuel filters to screws and zip ties), tools, gadgets, services done by technicians, haul outs, my IKEA outings, etc.
Boat fuel - this includes besides the obvious diesel for The Dream, the gasoline for the dinghies.
Mooring/Marina - any time we need to go to a port, dock, or paid for mooring balls, etc.
Safety gear - this could have been considered under boat maintenance but when we started the spreadsheet we had to invest or were planning to spend serious money on EPIRB, personal AIS beacons, lifejackets, Sailing weather gear, so we decided it was best to consider a category on itself for these.
Insurance - this one is obvious with the detail that because we are doing a very slow around the world adventure we need different policies for different situations and periods.
Visas & fees - includes any cruising fees, passport visas, passport renewals, etc
Clothing - any clothing item that is not sailing foul weather gear.
Dining - we used to eat out a lot, so we decided this was an important category to understand our spendings. So anytime we dine out or just go for drinks will be reflected here.
Ella - any expense related to our dog. Food, toys, veterinary, etc.
Entertainment - all tours, and real toys we buy, stuff like the paddleboards, fishing and spear gear because we also do it for fun.
Medical - any medical expenses or trips to the pharmacy.
Provisioning - all food matters purchased to stock up the boat and day to day meal preparation, onboard drinks included.
Technology - we love personal gadgets and cameras. Our website fees also go on this category.
Travel - all trips that are not done on The Dream. Plane, train, ferry tickets (unless part of a tour and in that case will be part of entertainment) taxi, Uber rides, etc.
Utilities - SIM cards, internet and John’s occasional haircut.
So The Dream is a 50ft monohull and is now 6 years old and needs a bit more attention to the big maintenance items like the engine. There’s also the case of the electrical system that needs attention to correct mistakes done by the electrical engineer back in 2017. Besides these two big areas, there’s also the improvements desired as the result of living full time onboard.
The crew composes of John, Myself and then there’s Ella.
I’m a pescatarian, John has a normal diet and is an easy mouth to feed, Ella eats a special diet kibble.
These choices also change the costs from one crew to another.
So let’s check the 2019 budget and try to break down some of those categories for a better understanding of the potential costs of sailing.
This years budget was defined by three different moments easily identified on graphics.
The first one, an unscheduled trip to Australia to solve some issues related to our investments. The short notice meant getting a business class flight to meet the timeline of the events and therefore a trip that is already quite expensive when compared to the ones done to visit family in Europe (we are currently in the Mediterranean). This escalated the expenses in January.
The second moment, in the middle of the year, was the planned upgrade of our solar system (purchase of the panels) and the new heating system and increase of fuel capacity. These costs were planned and budgeted at the beginning of the year.
The third moment was the surprise failure/malfunction of the battery system due to the installation done by a specialised technician back in 2017. This would mean investing in items that should have been installed at that time. The correction of those mistakes impacted not only the budget at the end of 2019 but also the beginning of 2020.
It was no surprise that the category Boat Fuel was still a bit high given the amount of motoring we did to fit tight weather windows and our schedule to get to the top of the Adriatic Sea due to our upgrades purchases. But good planning allowed us to take advantage of the low price of fuel in Tunisia and the Duty-free fuel in Montenegro twice which kept the costs on that category reasonably controlled.
This year we finally achieved our goal of staying away from marinas and living at anchor from the moment we left our winter berth in Tunisia on the 1st of April until the first week of October when we had friends visiting us during a bad weather week. Because they had no experience at all with boats we decided to treat them to a few calmer days in a marina after their arrival and just before their departure.
The Travel category’s inevitably higher than we wished for the simple fact that any flight from the Mediterranean to Australia is expensive and some times convoluted when it comes to layovers etc. Flying to Portugal from another European country is cheaper but when flying to Tunisia the prices also go a bit higher. This year was marked by the unexpected extra flight to Australia at a high cost as mentioned above.
Although Dining is our guilty pleasure, this year we found ourselves eating more and more onboard. The time spent in Croatia in the remote islands contributed greatly to that, and even we had restaurants close by honestly the menus and quality were for tourists and quite disappointing although there were a few good surprises also. Greece was much more rewarding in this department in terms of variety, quality and prices, and therefore we treated ourselves more often. Our favourite spot is the Taverna next to Cleopatra Shipyard, great home-style Greek food in big doses and with great prices.
Provisioning was also disappointing in Croatia and Greece, one due to the high prices the other due to the lack of freshness. Italy never disappoints, great products even if a tad more expensive.
We are still quite stocked up with dry grains from my mum's farm and we also stocked up for at least six months while in Tunisia of rice, pasta and all other long shelf-life products taking advantage of having access to better prices and a car.