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How much does it cost?

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There it is, the BIG question.

“How can we afford to do this?” is the question we may get asked the most.

The cliche answer is, “how can we afford not to?” In a society where we labor our youthful years away, only to reach the promised land of retirement lacking the energy to fully enjoy the dreams of our past selves, we chose not to wait to live our dream. But, how can we afford to do it without a flush retirement account or a trust fund?

Lets talk money

It is hard to put an exact number on how much it has cost us so far to get the boat ready to sail, since we chose not to keep detailed records of it all. But, everyone seems to think talking about money is taboo. We don’t. We see money as just a tool, and we believe that the topic should be as easily discussed as how many screwdrivers you have in your tool box.

The reality is, everything cost money right? So, the truth is, if you want to do it bad enough, you find a way to make it happen. If you don’t want it, you’ll find excuses not to have it. Instead of rent, cars, gas, shopping, eating out, etc… we chose to reallocate those expenses towards our dream. We don’t have a “cruising kitty”, or a large savings account. Yes, we sold all our superfluous belongings, but we did that because we didn’t need them anymore, not because they were worth a lot of money.

The other reality is, that there are some sailboats like ours that can be very inexpensive, while other cost significantly more. So why didn’t we just buy a nicer boat that wouldn’t need so many repairs? Well, aside from the larger upfront costs, any older boat has it’s own set of issues, old rigging, leaky deck hardware or portholes, a questionable electrical system or a diesel with a “personality”. So, our rational was, we would rather invest our time in learning boat repair, than invest our money on a “new” boat, that we would then know nothing about.

The specifics

To be a bit more specific. Originally our boat was priced at $11,000, but after the engine wouldn’t turn over, the owner was anxious to sell before putting it up for winter storage. After weeks of negotiating, we purchased the boat for $3,000. Yes, that’s a 3 with only 3 zeros behind it. It was an opportunity we couldn’t miss. We saved up what we had, and got ourselves a sailboat at 70% off.  Now, we knew it had issues. The main ones being, a non working engine and keel structure issues. The rest of the boat was in relatively good working order and the systems were simple enough that a refit of the plumbing and electrical would not be terribly difficult. She had no major water damage or other structural issues. There was also no mold and no major leaks. She came with new sails, cover, winches, dodger, new chart plotter, new autopilot and a Porta-boat dingy. Those things alone could have added up to well over $20,000 if we purchased a boat that needed them all. Since we knew we were going to be doing all the labor on the boat ourselves, materials are relatively cheap compared to buying things like new sails.

We will always be upgrading and repairing Uma. Owning a boat requires constant maintenance, so it is hard to put a price tag on it. But, purchasing our boat and getting her safely sailing again, it will cost us about $10,000. Significantly less that any boat we found in similar condition. And, we gained the added bonus of now knowing how to repair everything in our boat ourselves.

Once we are underway, and sailing becomes our daily life, we are budgeting $1000 a month to cover our costs of cruising. Now, that means many nights at anchor and eating in the boat. But, thats what we wanted to do anyway. We want to go to places where marinas don’t exist. Explore places with limited access. If we end up making more each month, it will allow us to upgrade equipment on our boat, travel more, eat better and save for major repairs in the future.

That breaks down to around:

  • $300 Food
  • $50 Cell phone service and Wifi access
  • $50 Dinghy gas
  • $200 Visas, fees, permits, licenses
  • $200 Repairs, upgrades and maintenance
  • $200 Marinas, travel, eating out and adventures

(Since we don’t have a diesel engine, we don’t have to budget for fuel. For the first few months we may have a generator on board while we fit solar and wind generation, but after that, we don’t plan on using it much)

Our solution

Here is where we get creative. The key for us, is not having any debt, and not having any superfluous monthly expenses, like mortgage, car payments etc. So every penny we earn, we can use for life aboard.

For us, the main thing is having multiple, flexible income streams. Working a 9-5 was never for us. Our initial plan, was to generate passive income from several different sources. Seems simple enough right? Things like Amazon Associate accounts, niche websites, YoutubeEtsyIstock photos,Cafepress, Google Adsense… There are hundreds of great ways to make money online, that don’t require logging in daily or trips to the post office 10 times a week. For now, we are still exploring options. We also maintain a steady flow of small architectural projects that keep us going for now.

The dream however, is to have diverse, passive incomes, allowing us to volunteer our architectural expertise in places around the world where architects are desperately needed yet are seldom afforded.

Port au Prince, Haiti

We hope that helps clarify a few things for you. Let us know if you have any other great questions for us. We love hearing from you, so leave your comments below.

Dan + Kika

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Agreed. It is not helpful to keep money a "taboo" subject. Learnign from other people's experiences builds confidence and courage.... which you 2 seem to have a lot of!

    Agreed. It is not helpful to keep money a "taboo" subject. Learning from another person’s experiences builds confidence and courage…. which you 2 seem to have a lot of!

    1. Sailing Uma


  2. ScubaTony

    Love your dream. Keep the good stuff coming!

  3. kroqster


    1. Sailing Uma


  4. Jamie

    What about boat insurance or health insurance? Life insurance? Health care?

    1. Sailing Uma

      Sail safe in a boat you own and stay away from marinas. Eat healthy and exercise, Don’t die, leaving your spouse all your debt (Better yet, don’t have any debt). Outside of the US, health care is MUCH more affordable and you can just pay a doctor to fix you for less than international health insurance….

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