Almost Fearless

Want to Sail Around the World? Save Your Pennies.

GUEST POST: While I am on the road this week and exploring Madrid, I’ve arranged for some of my favorite travel bloggers to share their travel stories and advice here. So enjoy, give our guest bloggers lots of love and be sure to check out the author’s site.


sailing, worldwide travel, saving money, nautical travel

Maybe your adventure will take the form of voyaging on the open seas. Before you sell the house, here are some of the financial considerations for planning long term travel over blue water.

How much will it cost?

The costs of cruising can be the most daunting issue to get in the way of your decision to cast off those dock lines. Ask anyone who has spent at least a year onboard and underway and you will get as many unique answers.

The Short Answer – “It takes as much money as you have, plus some!”

A recent discourse on one of the popular cruising forums dealt with this very important issue. The question that started the thread asked:

“What is the average cost [of cruising]. I know it varies greatly. I have a refitted Tartan 30 that I do all the work on. We are 52 and 53 years old and do not need a lot to be satisfied. We plan to anchor out most of the time and currently eat out very little. We like the simple things snorkeling, walking, enjoying nature around us. We will have solar panels and wind generator and should not have to run the diesel (much) in the tropics (hopefully). We plan to leave South Carolina for the islands for a couple of years then maybe go around if we decide to. We will have at least $1,200 a month without touching principle, what kind of cruising life will that support for two?”

This is an excellent example of an average cruiser. The reply posts came from a wide variety of folks in various cruising areas. Each had different perspectives just as they have different boats. Just how much your cruise will cost will depend on a number of factors.

Any discussion of cruising costs will quickly turned to provisioning and how to keep costs down, which brings us to the first factor:

Food Costs

How will you store the provisions you buy? How long will they last? Will you require refrigeration? Freezer? How will you power them? How much energy will it take to keep them?

Another big factor, we’ll call it ‘Number 2,’ is Cruising Area. Where you cruise will also decide how much you will spend.

sailing, worldwide travel, saving money, nautical travel

Your Cruising Area

Generally speaking, cruising the Caribbean, the Med or even the US can be expensive compared to cruising Mexico’s west coast, Central America, and farther south. Cruising the South Pacific (except for Tahiti and New Zealand) can make your cruising kitty last longer. Some island nations are just now beginning to charge exorbitant sums for cruising permits. But for the most part, it’s still cheaper than Europe, unless of course you are cruising off-the-beaten path in the eastern Med, Turkey or Croatia.

The answers to these questions will determine how much your cruise may cost.

Power Consumption

One post dealt with ways to manage power consumption while having all the ‘go-slow’ stuff like watermaker, solar panels and a wind generator.

‘David’ from Scotland says,

“The boat is a Beneteau Oceanis 461 and spends its (unused by us) time in secondary charter, it does not have a watermaker nor any solar on board or even a 12V unit to run the Refrigerator/Freezer. Liveaboard plans are to rebuild the fridge/freezer boxes with at least 6″ of insulation, add one or two 12V systems and add solar and a watermaker, plus a nice small generator and an inverter, as well as a small ice maker. I think with a good freezer and a watermaker you can limit your expensive runs ashore to the food stores. These trips always seem to cost much more than we anticipate and well, we have been doing this for a number of years now, so we should have this down to a fine art. Perhaps the secret is to only take in a finite amount of dollars with you. But then when something that you like is in stock, it is best to stock up with it, as for sure when you go to get it next time, it will be all gone. And treats like the Pecan Pie from the store at Bitter End YC on Virgin Gorda are, for sure, not to be missed. So having no dollars in your wallet to purchase one could be traumatic and result in the crews’ mutiny.

I like ‘David’s’ remark about taking ‘a finite amount of dollars with you.’ It fits nicely with the adage that it takes all that you have. When we were cruising between 1999 and 2001 on the US west coast, Mexico and Central America, we allotted ourselves a monthly budget. We actually placed equal amounts of cash in envelopes for each month. If we spent less in a particular month, we would place the extra in a ‘slush fund’ meant for unforeseen or emergency situations. I guarantee that you will have them.

Be sure not to deprive yourselves of those special treats like the Pecan Pie at the BEYC! Managing your expenditures however, will be paramount in making sure you don’t run out of funds prematurely.

Which brings me to the third factor:

sailing, worldwide travel, saving money, nautical travel

Your Boats Systems

“The bigger the boat, the bigger the boat bucks”

That’s another cruising adage you will be certain to hear. We cruised on a 1964 Alberg 35 – a “good old boat” in many books and perfect for our “mini cruising kitty.” Although the Alberg 35 was not necessarily built to be a blue water cruiser, with some specific modifications, we ‘cruiser-ized’ her to make her into a stout coastal cruiser. The most important cost-saving gear that we invested in: 2-small solar panels, a FourWinds wind generator and a PowerSurvivor 35 watermaker – all purchased second hand. Where we did not cut costs was on new standard rigging, new wiring all around and new interfacing instruments. Safety should be foremost in your planning stage, so depending on the age of your vessel you will need to invest as necessary.

We kept all systems as basic as possible since our cruising kitty was not only small, but also finite. This also insured that we would be able to fix almost all the things that broke. A definite cost-saver.

Many younger cruisers like us (42 and 51 when we left San Francisco) might not have passive income like rental property or pensions to cruise on. We made the decision to go with a limited savings fund, on a smaller boat (that was paid for) and plenty of skills that would allow us to work along he way to augment our kitty. Why wait until you retire? There are plenty of folks out there cruising on smaller budgets just as there are those who are taking slips at marinas instead of anchoring, eating at nice restaurants rather than cooking onboard, thus spending far more than the average of $1,200/month.


Refrigeration seems to be a major need for the majority of cruisers, especially women. If you are a 20 or 30-something single man setting off on your own, you probably won’t need to make this investment. For the sanity and comfort of the crew, I would suggest making an investment in a good unit. Our little boat came with an icebox which was located most inconveniently next to the engine and contained little or no insulation. We didn’t have the space or the money to install a refrigeration system so we decided to purchase a stand-alone Engel© unit. We were lucky to find one after our first year aboard, at a boat show, on a visit back to the states, for a considerable discount. Stand-alone chests can run on both AC and DC are very cost-effective and our Engel used very little power. We were generally able to keep up with our entire power demands without resorting to the engine to recharge the house batteries. This unit now sits on our balcony, still running perfectly over nine years later and will become our freezer on our next boat.


According to ‘S/V Carina’ in Panama, “Best to have a good nest egg of capital you can draw from for when the big things break down or wear out – which they will.

“We are proponents of mixed solar and wind, though a high output wind generator is a must if you decide to use wind generation. Wind provides power at night and on days when the sun doesn’t shine. We have owned our KISS© wind generator almost five years and have done nothing to it but watch it generate amps.”

A small Honda gas generator is nice to have for running power tools and for charging batteries when there is little sun for solar or wind input as can happen during some seasons in Central and South America.

We have a Technautics © cold plate in our freezer and an insulated (gated) panel that divides the original well insulated icebox into this freezer and a refrigerator. This has worked well for us.”

sailing, worldwide travel, saving money, nautical travel

You Can Do This

Rick on S/V La Vita a 1987 Hans Christian 33T says that he and his wife are spending around $50/week (boat parts not included) while cruising in Mexico. He says,

“I guess [the] bottom line is: Do you take your culture with you or are you ‘out here’ to experience the other cultures of the world on their terms. Can we afford more? Yes. But we choose not to just now so that we can have more later when the culture may dictate that need.”

This is our experience. Apart from the constant boat repair work/expenditure so we can safely go long distances, we are happy with our “lot in life.” Simpler is definitely better and also less expensive.”

The important thing to remember is that anyone can do this. Get the right boat for your budget, get the right gear to make it comfortable, yet easy to maintain and manage, and above all…get out there and Go Cruising! Quit your job, and travel the world!

About the author:

Nancy Birnbaum, former editor of the Seven Seas Cruising Association’s Commodores’ Bulletin, is a freelance editor and writer. She is the Online Editor of the Cruising Compass for Blue Water Sailing Magazine. You can see photos of her cruise online (search the members for “cruisingeditor”) and her website Cruising Editor.

Photo (top): Wili Hybrid

Photo (mid): Wolfgang Staudt

Photo (mid-lower): Angela7

Photo (bottom): Ordinary Guy

Christine Gilbert

I’ve been dragging my husband around the world since 2008 always with the promise that, “Yes, Drew there will definitely be hammocks there.”



  • Matt,
    Sailing and cruising around in your own boat or someone else’s is amazing! We haven’t done the round-the-world thing yet, but we want to.

    It’s not hard to find people willing to take an extra hand along, especially for ocean passages. You can find crew sites (for fun sailing, not paid crew) all over the Internet. Got a week? Get onboard and find out if you like it. Then go for it!

  • yesits great,ive sailedall overtheowrld and really cantsay of a better way to go.
    sorry the spacebar is not working at themoment

  • Lots of useful advice in a concise presentation! Good job!
    I also have done the “refit a boat and cruise for a while” thing and can’t say that I’m totally in love with passage-making, like Matt. It’s the lifestyle and opportunities to have fun adventures in exotic new places that I enjoy. Much better than anything I’ve tried here ashore. I guarantee sailing to Isla Mujeres, Mexico and arranging a land trip to the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza is more fun than any trip to an amusement park. Cruising does take a large commitment in funds, energy, time, education etc., but can be reached by taking small steps in each of the areas. You don’t need the Queen Mary 2 and a degree in Marine Engineering to start.

  • Nancie,
    I’m such the landlubber, but your account got me excited at the idea of sailing anyway! If you’re ever taking a shorter excursion, say 7-10 days, can I sign up as an absolute novice deckhand? I usually don’t get seasick…and I love to snorkel.

  • Hi,
    I have circumnavigated between 2004 and 2006 from Durban, South Africa, on my 32 foot Van Der Stadt Dogger, mostly single-handed. The total cost was less than $23000. I have 2 solar panels and a wind charger. I have a small freezer which was only run for 2 hours a day to cool the drinks, no water-maker and about 200 litres of water, which was more than sufficient for the 40 day crossing between the Galapagos and the Marquesas for 2 of us. I have published a book on my travels (And The Wind carried Us) and I’ll be happy to share my ideas and experience with anyone contemplating the same trip.

    • Hi Gilbert.
      We should chat. I live in PE and starting the dream next year. Drop me a line please so we I can get some inside information. Regards Alan

    • Hi,
      I would love to communicate with you regarding sailing. I was looking at gwtting a boat similar to yours. Would love ur advse and where I might get ur book.

      Quinton smith

  • I Have lived and cruised on my 55ft sloop for 19 years and right now my cost per month here in Honduras is $800 that is food and fuel and elect. at the dock when i am tied up. I live by myself and suppliment my exsitance by chartering 3 days a week.I do all the work on the vessel myself and I do mean all. I rebuild engines, do wood work ,fiberglass work paint ,plumbing. electronics etc.. so if you are handy you can make it work if not have deep pockets.have a great sail Capt. Hank

    • Hello Harry!

      Your life,how you live in the past 20 years is my purpose for teh rest of my life!
      Am 36 now,and i didnt find any other interest in the life just be able sailing and make the money for my first boat!I have house, cars,fields…but this propeties not and cant make me happy…My favorite passion is the traveling,specialy by natural energies like wind,waves,etc.
      My 5 years plan is:
      -get a small(20-25 feet) boat to start learn sailing well
      -make around 60000euros and get a big 35-45feet catamaran(multihull),or monohull to live a board and go south and start goes island to island …and searching the last available paradise.
      At the moment i live and work in West of Ireland.
      I realy interested about everything to make my dream come true!
      One thing is very interesting for me :everybody talk about 1000dollars avarege per month for expenses,maybe am too naiv and think if you on the open water and fishing for eat ,and just for rice ,potatoes,fruits etc stop the trip ,how reach the 1000dollars?


    • Hi Captain

      I think I’m late little bit to write you.How did you get the skill of repairing diesel engine ?

  • Wow! This is by far one of the best collections of knowledge on how to sail around the world and what to expect! I really commend you and thank you for writing this and helping my burningness to do this.

  • Cruising can be a great lifestyle; some people only do it for a couple years, for others it is a life. I’ve seen the life first-hand: my parents took my brother and I to the Bahamas for a year on the family sailboat when I was in middle school and I sampled the cruising life as a child, perhaps the best life experience I have ever had. People talk about the equipment, but it’s the attitude and mindset that is far more important.

    Someday I’d like to cruise for a bit myself…

  • The author talking sailing around the world, or about pottering in Panama, Mexico, the Med ???

    These are not the same thing, are they.

    BTW Agree with the RSA guy – we spent some 30K USD total (crew of 2) sailing around the world (2004-2007) in a 27 footer. Cooking on board since this is what we like, anchoring rather than living in the marinas since this is what we like. Were we to do it again, we could do with less.

    Actually, SAILING around the world is cheap – it costs you the food, some fuel (bet much less than your car takes) and some boat parts. Panama canal is expensive too, but you can avoid this if you have a boat good enough to take the alternative route.

    It is the land side of the adventure that cost (e.g. marina fees, cruising permits, etc.), not the sailing.


  • Hey evreyone!
    Thank for all the imput, it is verry useful for beginers like myself!

    So I am allso interested in costs in enjoying a sailing boat.. What other costs would one have excluding fuell , food and providing I anchor and don’t need to pay for marinas….
    What is this stuff with cruising permits.. do I have to pay like a tax to use other countryes or international waters? Do I pay visa fees in ports? And allso, do you have any idea how mouch micht cost to “park” the yacht (say arround 40ft) in a cheaper but safe mediteranean port.
    I am planing on buiyng a sailing boat and to settle on a size and design, I must see what I would use it for.. and if I have to pay more in taxes than my food, then maybe I will stick to a weeckend boat rather than a cruiser (and charter boats if I want to sail further away from home).

    Any experiences/prices are appreciated!

    All the best!

  • Hello,
    I am a young man,23, as i write this. At the moment i am in the army but before i joined i was a fisherman and hunter. I have spent many days on the sea is search of marlin and other offshore fish… i have also sailed a little. My plan is to buy a hull of some sort here fairly shortly and with help of a couple friends of mine, rebuild her for a trip around the world when i get out. i want something in the 40 foot range that would be able to handle the open ocean as well as some of the shallow waters around the islands. I hate to reask many of the questions that have already been brought up but i must. I plan to make the trip with a crew of two, maybe three, but we are all young men and dont need many of the things most people would to make such a trip enjoyable. Im what im asking is for prices for permits etc. As for food i plan to catch most of it… i will take rice and other staples. What i want is bare essentials.

    Keep a weather eye on the horizon,

  • @ Gilbert Goor

    Hi Gilbert, I live in Cape Town and am planning a trip around the world in 2 years time and would love to find out more about your adventure. Do you have an email address?



  • I have been thinking about doing some serious sailing. I’ve sailed around the great lakes and seen some rough weather. Obviously it is nothing compared to what you could experience on the Ocean. I am interested to know how much these cruising permits cost, and if there is a particular boat recommendation. I’ve put aside around 25K for cruising expenses, am I dreaming or can a round ye earth Voyage be done with that kind of a budget?

  • Hi Gilbert Goor,
    I have a Vanderstadt dogger, and would be interested in how you set it up for long distance cruising. do you cover this in your book? and is it available in Australia or direct from you
    Garry Devonport Tasmania

  • Thanks to all of you who left comments. Those of you who want to start out with a very inexpensive vessel should check out the Freesailboats Yahoo Group. They list ads from CL from all over for free or almost free boats! Great site and way better than starting from scratch!

    If you need more answers, please email me:

  • I want to circumnavigation round the world.
    I’m in Bangladesh where there were no opportunity to do such an adventure. can I get sponsor from you to true my plan?

  • Amzad,

    I am not in a position to sponsor anyone, but there are many excellent resources for find a spot onboard a voyaging sailboat. Check out these groups:
    ** – Seven Seas Cruising Assoc – Discussion Board/Crew
    **Yahoo Groups – Pacific Puddle Jumpers,Cruiser Network Online, World Cruising.
    Or just Google Sailing Crew! Good Luck and Fairwinds!

  • Yes, yes, yes, you can do this! This is a great post and conveys nicely the options/decision people looking to go cruising should ask themselves early in the process.

    If you are new to sailing, learn the basics, then get out and sail with other people… see if you like the cruising lifestyle (and it is a lifestyle, with all the trials and tribulations… it is NOT a permanent vacation!). Before long, you’ll be ready to go it alone.

    My parents spent 12+years island hopping in the South Pacific aboard a 31 foot sailboat. We see young sailors from Europe on shoestring budgets and small, seaworthy pocket cruisers passing thru Mexico all the time. And of course we have the big yachts, with crews and luxuries. To each his own. There is an adventure for every budget!

  • Hi, I’m really considering circumnavigating on a 3 to 5 year plan. With 100k to my name I’m shopping for a boat. So far a pretorien 35 seams like the ideal boat for me. I have some basic knowledge about sailing.I had this dream since I was 17 and now at 30 I realize that It’s now or never. If I find a boat this year I would take 2 year to get it ready and could save up to 45k for expense on the trip. So far this would be solo navigating but things could change before take off.Looking to get the more knowledge as possible about boat maintenance, I just started a diesel engine repair classe. I will be also looking on info about deep sea fishing and sails repair.

    I live in Quebec, canada.With winter here I can only sail for 2 to 3 months in the summer so I would be leaving with only the basic. My dad owns a tanzer 25 and plan to pratice on it this summer a much as i can.

    So right now area where i’m clueless are in the navigation departement. How to read map or planify course etc. can you recommend so books or internet site where I could read some info about it.

    Feel free to share yours thought about my project and forgive my grammar english is not my first language.


    • Yves, Sounds like you have a good getaway plan. Congrats on that! As for basic nav courses, I recommend two great online resources for sailors/cruisers: – The Seven Seas Cruising Assoc (SSCA) is the largest & oldest organization of its kind. Members are either full-time, part-time, or wanna-be cruisers (and there are even some that have “retired” on trawlers!). They are now offering Webinars on all sorts of great topics near & dear to cruisers. I also recommend who offers great online training, even on sailing cats. Some courses are free and there’s even a mobile app for tracking your sea miles for certifications. Learning to use a nautical chart is fairly easy, as is learning to program a GPS. Learn both, just in case! Take both with you! Best to be safe, than sorry!

      My email has changed. Please use:

    • Hi Yves,

      I just came to this site and wanted to know how your dream is coming along? When I read your note on here, I thought wow, sound like something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time now!


  • Hi, My house goes on sale next month (Feb) I’ve already had an offer but thought I would try for a little more as boats are expensive and so is living on one? I’ll be buying a 50′ catamaran or similar. I’ve only sailed a little but will learn as I go (part of the adventure) !!!! I intend to live onboard charter only a little. I have no crew as yet but sure someone will want to join me. I can’t wait to start its all I think about these days.

    • Hi,
      Yes, its all I am thinking about. I’m building my own sailboat to be equipped with solar and wind power, and a huge storage area in the hold for canned food and water jugs.
      This is the first website I’ve looked into regarding the topic, but seems to be everyone here has the same dream.

  • Dear,Dave Adlington,
    I’m 30 years Bangladeshi guy dreaming Circumnavigation round the world, but it is impossible for me to collect such a large amount of money for the trip. now at the age of 30 I realize that It’s now or never. It is a great opportunity for me if you choose me as a unpaid crew for your Boat.

    With regards,

  • Hi,

    I have for sale ANTEAK sailing boat (40 feet long). The speciality of the sailboat is that except the mainmast it was fully made of teak.

    The boat’s run is excellent in both heavy and light wind. The long keel easily drives the boat in direction while cruising and the sails of the two masts keep wind force in balance.

    The outcome of the renovation project has become a classical maritime boat
    equipped with hi-tech navigation and electronic devices – all hidden, thus
    preserving the classical atmosphere of the reborn Anteak.

    If somebody interested in, please send me an e-mail! I can send more information and pictures!

    With regards,

  • Hi there
    I,am a 51 year young single men.I,am going to buy my sailyacht in september and next sping i,am going to start my life long dream to sail around the world.I have sailed in on lake ontario and lake simcoe but never the ocean, but i can not wait to the day that i start my trip around the world.
    I,am not doing it just for a year or two no i,am doing it for the rest of my life.I,am looking for a girl (Lady) to come with me,so if you like to get to know me then write me a line or two, i be happy to hear from you.
    Take care all you sailers will see you all soon.
    the name of my boat is ( The sailing bear.)

  • Found this article in a Google search for “bare minimum supplies needed to sail around the world”… definitely a great basic overview on the subject. We have a CAL25 that was purchased used for a song and are fixing it up for the long haul. Thanks for having this guest post! 🙂

  • Hi, I am looking for someone who is Interested in a 50% share of a Lagoon 450 in the Mediterranean (new or second hand).

    Would you know which would be some good website to find someone?
    Thanks in advance, Paul
    (sorry if I’m off topic here…)

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