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 7 years old and needs a bit more attention to the big maintenance items like the engine.
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.
The 2020 season started very differently from what we had planned and hoped.
The Dream suffered an accident while berthed at our winter spot in Tunisia, caused by a neighbouring yacht doing berthing manoeuvres. It happened at the end of 2019, on the same day John had departed to Australia to visit his mum and impacted the entire 2020 year.
2020 as we all know, was when the Covid-19 pandemic started, and we were locked down in Tunisia until the end of June 2020.
With Tunisia being such a cheap place, we managed to keep our daily expenses very low but then incurred extra marina fees because we overstayed our contract.
The repairs to The Dream started against our advice in Tunisia. After many delays, it became evident to our insurance company that our yacht could not be properly repaired in the country as we had stated to them initially.
It was then decided that we would depart Tunisia to Turkey to perform the repairs and re-repairs in a reputable shipyard. But due to the Covid-19 situation of borders closed and the sustained damages meant motoring most of the distance non-stop to Turkey some 900nm and nearly 8 days.
The insurance company paid all extra costs related to the marina in Tunisia (caused by the constant delays from the original shipyard appointed by the insurance company). They also paid for the fuel costs, the visas, the agent necessary to perform the checking-in formalities; the haul-out, our accommodation (or part of it to be more correct), the rectification of the work poorly done by the originally appointed shipyard, including a new furler, a new forestay cable and a new anchor roller (the original unit was further damaged by the originally appointed shipyard to the point of not being possible to guarantee the quality of a second repair).
None of these is included in this budget report because we were reimbursed, but we can say that we felt it was worth having the insurance policy we have despite the costs of it.
Our time in Turkey was mostly spent having the yacht repaired.
We did manage to order a new set of white sails exempt from VAT just before we departed from the country. A hefty expense but a long term purchase for our sailing intentions.
Due to restrictions imposed by Greece to vessels incoming from Turkey we had again limited options to our destination, and Malta become the obvious choice as they considered Turkey part of their green corridor at that time.
So, once again, we had to do a non-stop crossing, this time dictated by the timeline that allowed Ella (the sailor dog) to enter the country after the health declaration to travel was issued (valid for 120 hours).
With such a tight schedule, we ended up motoring quite a bit, luckily the price of fuel in Turkey is low, and the impact was not felt in the pocket as hard as might be expected.
After spending some time in Malta, we crossed to Sicily and then to Greece, where we ended up getting caught by the second lockdown and with our ability to move further restricted.
The time spent in lockdowns and repairs under insurance in cheap or affordable countries allowed us to keep the budget controlled. Ensuring that all upgrades, repairs (not insurance-related), and maintenance were within our budget, except for the new white sails set.
That was a great achievement for us.
The three times we crossed our monthly budget were: January with the insurance policy renewal; July when we replaced all of our seacocks, manual ball-valves and connectors with composite TruDesign units, did the maintenance on the saildrive leg; and October when we purchased the new sails.
Provisioning was quite rewarding in all places we visited in 2020, with plenty of local fresh produce and great prices. Only the food for Ella became quite challenging to find, and unfortunately, she had to eat a lower quality kibble compared to what she usually gets.
Like many experienced, there was not much tourism and entertainment to enjoy. Other than for July and August in Turkey, where the summer saw some easing of restrictions.
Dining out was reduced to pick up treats at the local bakery. And travelling to our home countries to visit our mums didn't happen.