Costs of Cruising The U.S. West Coast – September 2017

We’ve had a few readers ask what budgeting software we use.  It’s YNAB, which we switched to a few years ago (from Mint, which we used previously).  YNAB is what budgeting should be – spend only the money you have in-hand, not what you think you’ll have later in the month.  We recommend YNAB for other cruisers.

After four full months of cruising, we’re hoping we’re almost near the end of the “shakedown” expenses.  In past months (including this one), our costs were high for a few reasons.  Primarily: (1) we took a monthly loss on our house, which wasn’t yet generating rental income; and (2) living on the boat full-time, and really testing her 10-year-old systems through constant use, we broke a lot of things.  Well, we saw the first income from the house this month (although it was only for a partial month), and I think we’re almost done breaking things.  We have a yard bill still coming for the offshore prep work, but otherwise, the end of the shakedown expenses is in sight.

Primarily for the two reasons above, our expenses this month remained high.  But, we also had a few budgeting victories.  First, our trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium was only $3!  Typically, tickets for our entire family would have cost $160, but Rich got them for free (just paying $3 in fees) through a perks website from his former employer (

Second, we thought we’d have to spend $1200 on airfare to fly my parents and the girls to California to meet us after we left the girls with my mom for our offshore passage.  Instead, we used Alaska Airlines miles to get the tickets for free, paying only $22 in fees (which we of course paid on the Alaska Airlines credit card, to earn triple miles on the expense of the fees).

Finally, the girls are growing quickly, and they were in need of new clothes.  During the girls’ time with both sets of grandparents, the grandparents took the girls shopping and generously bought them what they needed.

Cruising Expenses

Item Amount (USD) Notes
House/Car Carrying Costs – Net Loss $‎ 2,404.41 We finally saw our first month of rental income!  It didn’t offset all of our carrying costs, so I’m looking forward to receiving a full month’s rent in October.
Bank Fees + $7.13 Wells Fargo refunds these for us each month, so this is the net we got back from the previous month’s international transaction fees.
Cloud Data Storage/ Backups $‎ 5.98
Cord Blood Storage $‎ 0 This is an annual cost of $250 to store the girls’ cord blood.  Not sure how long we’ll continue it.  It’s paid in August each year.
Computer/Phone Upgrades $‎ 44.91 We got my iPhone 6 on a payment plan.  The jury is still out on whether we’d do it that way again.
Discount Memberships $‎ 50.00 Costco executive membership.  This year we got $180 cash back, so the $50 membership fee is worth it for us.
Gifts $ 14.00 I broke the handle on my parents’ dryer while we were visiting, so I bought them a new one.
Boat Payment $‎ 1,088.94 Purchased in 2014 on a 20-year mortgage.
Vessel Insurance $‎ 0 We pay $1502/year for our vessel insurance policy, covering Coastwise from Juneau, Alaska to Cabo, Mexico along the Pacific Coast.  $225k Hull Value, $500k liability, $2k deductible.  Your own costs will vary wildly depending on your boat, your experience, your location, and coverages.
Life Insurance $‎ 200.40
Health Insurance $‎ 645.00 We had to get an ACA-compliant plan until we make it to Mexico.  Once we get to Mexico, we’ll no longer have to comply with ACA, and we expect this cost to drop by over 50% by switching to an international plan.
Guest Moorage $‎ 442.00 With fewer nights in port in September, and much lower moorage rates in north/central California than up north, this number is down about 50% from August.
Fuel $‎ 428.53 This is down about $200 from August, thanks to many more opportunities to sail!
Groceries $‎ 1,032.56 Includes alcohol, and typical grocery store items like toiletries and paper towels.
Medical Supplies $‎ 55.30 Needed to replace some CPAP equipment.
Clothing $‎ 28.06 New pajamas for the girls (several sets).  This number does not include the clothing the grandparents bought for the girls.
Laundry $‎ 18.00  All quarters, baby!
Haircuts $‎ 100.95 This is all of us at Supercuts.  Going forward, I plan to cut at least the girls’ hair myself.
Tools $‎ 49.99 Before Rich talked to the welder, we’d planned to install the aft rail support ourselves, so we purchased a pipe cutting tool to do it.  But, we ended up not needing it, and unable to return it.
Galley Equipment $‎ 79.29 A year’s supply of the special sponges we love, an oil sprayer I’ve been missing ever since we left home and it accidentally got packed with the storage items, a loaf pan, and Paprika for managing my recipes.
Rigging/Deck $‎ 318.35 When we installed the lifeline netting, we lost the space where our spinnaker sheets pass through the lifelines back to the cockpit.  To re-run the lines, we had to purchase and install two new blocks (and accompanying screws).
Cabin Comfort $‎ 111.67 5 clip fans, and supplies for these awesome DIY hatch screens.
Maintenance/ Improvement $‎ 1,041.07 Watermaker membrane ($470), drone repair ($182), prop repair ($110), and miscellaneous repair, maintenance, and organization supplies purchased in preparation for offshore sailing.
Electronics $‎ 624.17 Remember how our autopilot controller broke?  This is mostly the cost of the replacement, plus $50 for two camera batteries.
Safety Equipment $‎ 72.49 Boom brake, and TDS meter for use with the watermaker.
Airfare $‎ 22.40  See note above.
Postage & Shipping $‎ 0
Land Transportation $‎ 88.34 Gas during the week we were prepping for our offshore passage, and a few small Uber/Lyft rides.
Restaurants $‎ 792.53 So, this is down $500 from the previous month, but we still have a problem.  We’re continuing to work on this one. (Explanation for those just joining us: We eat out at least one meal a day, sometimes two, when we’re in port; our bills always include alcohol; so, the frugal cruiser can easily reduce this expense.  But we really, truly love eating out.)
Coffee Shops $‎ 61.31 We love coffee shops as much as we love restaurants.
Fishing Gear $‎ 325.95 One California fishing license, and some tuna-fishing gear.  So far, we have zero tuna to show for it.
Activities & Excursions $‎ 1,579.24 $30 for our Channel Islands permit; $3 for the Monterey Bay Aquarium; and the rest is the hotel for our Legoland trip in October.
Kids’ Toys and Crafts $‎ 44.36 At least once a month, the girls need a new project to get them through long or rainy days.  Family bought them this month, so all we paid for in this category was their Halloween costumes.  (Mo is going to be Mal from Descendants, and Ellie is Belle from Beauty and the Beast.)
Charts & Guides $‎ 54.98 iNavX
Media & Entertainment $‎ 32.97 Monthly Netflix (not sure why we’re still paying for this when we have internet so rarely), and 2 movies on iTunes.
Education $‎ 5.49 Subscription to Epic!, a reading app for the kids that has offline functionality.
Delorme InReach $‎ 76.38 Expedition Plan (unlimited text messages and 10 minute tracking) plus a few marine and premium weather forecast requests.  Each premium or marine weather request costs $1.  The marine forecasts are valuable as a second source of weather, but the premium are not necessary, so no need to request those for boaters.
Farkwar $‎ 5.00 We are cancelling this, as we really don’t use Farkwar.
Internet $‎ 0 We managed to find free internet often enough this month.
Cell Phone Service $‎ 110.42 We actually pay about $185/month because Rich’s phone is on T-Mobile but run through our business, which is not tracked by the budgeting system. $90/month for unlimited Verizon plus $20 for iPad, plus $75 for unlimited T-Mobile.  All of these plans include unlimited roaming in Canada and Mexico, and the T-Mobile plan includes international roaming.
Satellite Phone $‎ 69.00  6MB/month or 85 minutes/month, combo plan.  Used sparingly and with a Redport Optimizer.
Software $‎ 0
Major Repairs/ Upgrades $‎ 413.88 When we installed our new aft head, we didn’t install the extra raw water pump.  This turned out to be a mistake, since the head wouldn’t suck in raw water while we were underway, so we purchased and installed the secondary pump to solve the problem.
Federal Taxes $‎ 5,000.09 Because we’re self-employed, we make quarterly estimated tax payments.

So, on the expense side, we continue to exceed our anticipated budget of $10,000/month.  However, some good changes are on the horizon.  First, once we get to Mexico, we’ll be able to cancel our expensive health insurance and instead get a much cheaper international plan.  Second, the house net loss should be near zero going forward.  Third, Legoland is the last big splurge we have planned.  (Until we come up with the next thing, right?)  Fourth, with no income, our 2018 estimated tax payments should be much lower.  With these changes, I’m hopeful we’ll be well below our conservative $10,000/month estimate by the end of 2017.

More on the bright side, our costs were offset by a small amount of income:

Cruising Income

Source Amount (USD) Notes
Devon’s Legal Work $‎ 314.97
Investment Income $ 86.02 About half of this is gain on stocks Rich is dabbling in (realized), and the other half is interest on various checking and savings accounts.
Draws From Side Business $‎ 0
TOTAL INCOME $‎ 400.99

The Progress Report

We’re four months into our (hopefully) two-year cruise.  Although we’re spending more than the $10K/month we anticipated, Rich’s severance, and some residual income I had coming in for a few months (which has now ended) offset most of our early costs, and we’ve officially started raiding the savings.  So, our $240K cruising kitty is now down to $219K.  (I know, $240K is a ridiculous number.  But I’m SUPER conservative when it comes to planning money, and when it came to saving money while we were still working, so that was the number we had to hit before we went cruising – and we did.)



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