Friday, June 03, 2011

The Cruising Kitty

MEOW!! I am the cruising kitty!
No -  this is not a term to define a stray cat we have adopted on Rasmus.

This is the term we cruisers use for money.

Money seems to be the #1 thing people want to know about.  I have touched on it before - but I'll go into a little more detail in this post.

Before we left, Scott and I worked hard and lived (very) cheaply to save money for this trip.  We did not own a house, we rented a tiny one bedroom next to the "el" train ($900 p/mo complete with a "wake you up and scare the bejesus out of you" train going by every 30 minutes) and shared one car (a little VW bug - a hand-me-down from my mom).   We dined for an entire month on grilled cheese sandwiches and could have owned stock in Tombstone Veggie-Lite frozen pizzas.  Our boat was purchased, by me, from money that I came in to and had in a savings account for a "future" big purchase I might make (aka. down payment on a house or something).  We paid $48K for Rasmus and put at least as much back into her.  (I am nowhere near as organized as some fellow bloggers who have spreadsheets and data for spending - so you will not be seeing that here).  In total, when we left, Scott and I had a combined $10K in savings.

In addition to the above - Scott and I got married.  Because we knew we would be living on our boat for at least a few years - our entire registry consisted of only boat stuff (i.e. our self-tailing winches were my bridal shower gifts - everyone chipped in.  This was a win/win - not only did I not have to put people through the pain of watching me open 30 gifts, but we got some awesome winches to boot! Our windlass, snorkel gear, nesting cookware, and more were also wedding gifts.).  Of course, many of our guests (knowing what we were setting off to do) gave us money in lieu of a physical gift ("What the heck are "jack lines"?!).  That added another $18K to our cruising kitty (about half of that went back into the boat, much like a 'normal' couple would put it back into their home).

I would be lying to say my family didn't help us - because they did.  My father contributed handsomely to our cause by purchasing our new engine for us (a "wedding gift") as well as new sails and countless other "smaller" items like tools, hoses, and fittings that he would "pick up" on his way to the boat yard. In addition, his advice, expertise and industry know-how continue to be our greatest source of knowledge and support.  I've said it before, but I'll say it again, he is the best.

Right now - we are on living on savings and a (growing) income.  Scott is a working sea captain with Island Windjammers and I have taken writing jobs and freelance social media work from time to time.  We make anywhere from $35-$100 per month from generous readers who click our "Donate" button (is reading this blog valuable to you?).  Not to mention, we have saved thousands on products and gear thanks to our sponsors.  At this point, we're cruising in the black and that feels good.

We do not have any boat insurance and we do not have health insurance.  We have no real "bills" to speak of and our only expenses are diesel fuel (which, thanks to our very efficient engine and the fact that we sail a lot is not much), groceries (which, typically we buy local), eating out (we usually find the "happy hours" and/or split a meal), the occasional marina (I'd say maybe once a month, if that), and boat parts/upkeep (we have a ton of spares, but occasionally need to hit up a marine store and supplement).  Because we did such a thorough job refitting our boat before we left, we have spent comparatively very little on maintenance unlike others we have met who did not. We spend (most likely) a mere fraction of what you do on land, so life costs a lot less once you are out here.

I want to reiterate - this is how WE did/do it.  There are many people who spend a LOT less on their boat, do not do anywhere NEAR the amount of refitting that we did, do not eat out at all, never set foot in a marina, and refuse to turn on their engines.  There are people we have met who have state of the art boats,  eat out every single day, and enjoy marinas weekly.  Scott and I fall somewhere in between and are definitely not the experts.  People often email us and ask us "Can we do this on "X" amount a month?" - to be honest, I have no idea.  Do people do this on $500 a month?  Yes.  Do people do this in $5,000 a month?  Yes.  We fall somewhere in the middle.  I have no idea how simply you can and are willing to live or where you will fall in the spectrum.

It is funny how when you live a life less ordinary people think it's totally okay to talk financials when on land, it is considered "rude" to ask how much someone makes or how much something costs.  I guess that is one of the prices we have to pay for living our dream?

24 comments:

Athena said...

Great post. As a fellow boater (motor, not sail ;))and insurance industry person, I suggest you seriously consider insurance for your boat. As such a big investment you have a lot to lose should something happen to the boat. Also, life insurance for both of you. Policies are reasonable for someone your age.

Anonymous said...

Several people I know just come back to the US and get a job with West Marine. Work at one and learn the ropes and you can work at just about any other one. A friend worked at several in Fla and went north for the summer season. She got a job in North Jersy and did NYC on her days off. Side bennie is you get a discount! Ken

Dawn Ireland said...

Great Post! Write a book, you are an awesome writer and it would bring more $ !! :-)

Anonymous said...

If your going to run a crewed charter, I would suggest you check out the competition... $500/week is way to low, and may scare clients off.

Secondly, make sure you know the local rules. I am just going through that now, and each island is different. Lots, and lots of hoops to jump through. I have not found all of the hoops yet :)

Good luck.

Paulina said...

This is a great break-down, thank you. As we are planning to go sailing in the next three years, I am thinking a lot about our financials. I was looking at having a smiliar savings budget to start with but didn't know how to go about earning some money while sailing.
You say you earn about $200 from writing - could share more about how you make money from writing? Do you write articles on hubpages and if so, how many do you have to write for $200 a month? Also, how do you find sponsors?
I would greatly appreciate more detail about this as it sounds you are doing it right! Thanks! Paula

Windtraveler said...

@ Paula - I write for my old company, blogging for them. It's an arrangement that has worked out tremendously well. I do submit articles here and there, but so far - my writing has been by and large for this blog...I hope to change that. As for sponsors - we just ask. Because our blog is popular and gets a lot of traffic some respond, some don't. If you have a product you like, I suggest asking for an "in kind" sponsorship meaning they'll donate it to you. Be creative. Though, this is tricky if you don't have the website stats to back it up...sort of have to have that first I think. But just start asking!!
@ Anoymous - we know, which is why we are hesitant...but thanks for the tip on price!!!

Pat said...

Do you have a plan for leaving your boat in Grenada while working somewhere else? Would that be a marina or mooring? I'd be pretty nervous leaving it to work in the Med for any extended time. I'm sure you've considered this - just interested in what your thought are and how much that would cost.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing! Us, truly landlocked folks (I), couldn't even immagine how this would be financially possible with out being bazillionaires. Now, I see that it is and it sets my immagination sailing. I may never be a cruiser, but I know that it is possible thanks to this post.

Lots of love,
Kristi in LV

Paulina said...

Thanks for the response Brittany. I'm not suprised your blog is so popular - it is by far the best one I found out there, and I looked quite a bit. I hope one day I will get closer to what you do because it really looks like you're doing it right. The best of luck! Say hi to the Caribbean from me. :)

Anonymous said...

I would like to book a week before you raise your prices. Seriously!!
Sometime this winter would be good. After November..
I know you weren't planning on doing this until next year, but I am in need of an experience to enlighten my boyfriend to the dream!!
I am a fan of Windtraveler on FB. My name is Jackie Ford. Please write me back if this is a possibility!!

Warren said...

Great explanation, and glad to see the Campmor logo, which I spend money with as much as I can without being caught by my wife or adult kids!!!
I enjoy the blog and your adventure. For too many reasons, happy sailing!!
Warren

Whisperboat said...

Nice write up on the financials. Post it over on Cruisers Forum, they love threads about cruising costs especially when you offer up some real numbers like you have.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great post! I know it isn't easy to post personal information, such as finances. I am grateful you did. It shows that when planned out properly, the cruising lifestyle is not out of reach. All it takes is some smarts and a dedication to make the dream a reality!
My boyfriend and I work on yachts now and have worked in the Med, Carribean and are currently working on a 62' stinkpot ( sailor's commonly refer to the big white boats that way!) on the Cheasapeke. It's a good idea to consider doing that if you are sure you can leave your Rasmus in good hands while you are off working. I think you should seriously consider boat insurance before choosing to do that.
We wish you all the best and hopefully we will be joining you soon as fellow cruisers, rather than as working crew!
Off to clean up the boat after a weekend owner's trip! Argghhh, the downside of a yachtie's life!
Cheers!

Mid-Life Cruising! said...

Thanks for being so open and honest. Everybody has their own budget and needs, but it's so nice to know what someone else is doing to "make it happen". Not too many cruisers do this, and it's appreciated. It lets us know we can "make it happen" too!

Laura and Hans said...

Thanks for such an honest post (and really, most of it is no one's business!). However, it is very enlightening to those who think this might be something they'd like to do. We were gone for 4 months (to and from the Bahamas) and are now back in our cheap apartment (Pittsburgh is a lot cheaper than Chicago and just yesterday we watched the Forensic's Team load a body bag into their van from the house across the street!) attempting to regroup. We hit so many snags on our first trip, and the Knotty Cat sucked up a ton of savings in thousands of dollars worth of repairs.
Chartering your boat can be pretty tricky. To charter your boat in the U.S. with yourself as captain, you have to own a U.S. made boat (we do), you have to have at least a 6 pack Coast Guard Captain's license (Hans does), and you also have to have insurance (whether you're the captain or not, and not cheap). To charter in foreign countries you don't want anyone there to find out what you're doing or you can get into a lot of hot water with them (I did a ton of research on this and found it all to be terribly depressing). Our boat is currently on the hard in FL, and the boatyard requires insurance but our company wouldn't cover us in FL during hurricane season. This meant we had to get coverage through a different company and of course this meant we had to get a whole new survey (read $$$$!!!).
So anyway, we hope to get a bit ahead this summer and bail our girl out in October.
It would appear that you're doing something right and I don't for a second doubt that you'll both be just fine. (Pssst, no one needs to know about any side line work ;-)

Chad Gleason said...

Great post. Thanks for your candor. We spent about $15,000 combined in our year off cruising and about half as much as you in terms of outfitting. If I had it to do over again, I would have left with more cash. That was a major factor in our return to life on land.

We also dealt with many people who also had issues with jealousy and resentment.

I wish we found a way to work along the way.

In hind sight I would have also skipped the boat insurance like you guys.

I would love to hear more about your decision to do without health insurance. I was always afraid of a major illness or injury which would have required treatment in the States. The cost of the insurance was six months of cruising or $6,000 a year for the two of us. If I was a Canadian resident, I'd still be cruising!

Jill said...

You guys should totally consider doing the charter thing but instead of being "crew" be the "teachers"...as 30-somethings who appear to be super chill and fun you are exactly the type of people my husband and I would LOVE to learn from. We are planning to leave Fall 2014 on our own cruising adventure but like your Grandpa did Britt we want to spend a week on a boat with someone who can teach us the ropes, ins and outs, overnights, etc. We both have a good amount of sailing experience but nothing overnight or extended. So rather than pay some stuffy captain from The Moorings we'd MUCH rather learn from people who could teach us what it's really like and sip some rum on occasion. The market for learning about cruising as a 30-something as opposed to a retiree is sorely lacking which is why I LOVE your blog. It'd be incredible to learn from those out there doing what we want to do that are our age.
If you ever consider hosting a week of "cool cruisers 101" we'd be game and we'd pay well!

Karen Gardell said...

Here's a link to this month's west coast free sailing rag...there's an article about working while cruising that I thought you might be interested in (around p. 110). Thanks for the honest info!
http://www.latitude38.com/eBooks/2011/L38201106.pdf

Anonymous said...

Wait... let's make sure I understand this correctly... You bought the boat, you bring in the income to pay for everything, you grew up sailing since you could walk but he started sometime after 16... but HE's the captain?? Um, how does that work?

Windtraveler said...

Scott actually started sailing when he was 5, is definitely the better sailor between the two of us and does a TON of work on the boat. He's half the reason our boat is in as good of shape as it is and is immaculate when it comes to boat projects. He got the license because HE'S got a job opportunity captaining a boat in Grenada. I have no interest in becoming a captain (yet) and am quite happy to just keep blogging and growing my social media marketing business on the side :).

Jimfavreur said...

Very inspiring article. I think its a good idea if Scott gets his captains license. You can never have too many things going for you. As for money. The internet is your friend, as I am sure you are already aware. There are millions of ways to make money. You just have to pick one that is not shady and suits you.

Dani said...

Well I have fallen in love with you both. That said, when I got to the "kitty" link, I was in heaven. You said in many of your post read before you ask it may be answered so I did and it was. The frankness is something that I think we need on land as well. People are so afraid of offending they don't ask and assume, (there's that word again) and get in trouble. Be honest be open and thank you for that. It makes the expectations reasonable.
Dani

Andreas Duess said...

Even as a Canadian you would need private insurance. Our health insurance runs out after you've left the province for six months. Then it is private all the way.

Niki Napier said...

I just discovered this blog and it is answering so many of my questions! I am grateful for all of the knowledge you are sharing :D I just wanted to say that I also find myself asking people with extraordinary lifestyles the nitty gritty "rude" questions, especially about money. For me, it is all about gathering knowledge to use for my own brainstorming later :) I am glad you are willing to explain as much of the financial aspect as you can, because in our culture we are told that if we don't have dollars we can't do diddly. I think people, myself previously included, have a hard time seeing passed this mentality they were raised with, and just have no idea how an alternative might work. To many, there simply IS no forseeable alternative to a steady job with a steady income on land, so your answers open doors they wouldn't have known about otherwise. Thank you!!!
Love, Niki

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