Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Cost of Cruising Continued...

Yesterday's blog got a few comments and a request for more info on what marina fees run.  This is for you, Shawn.

I will only comment on what we've spent living aboard from April of 2010 to December of 2011, from Stamford Connecticut to Annapolis Maryland.  As we travel south, I'll include marina fees and other expenses in our blog.

When we put Drift Away on a private dock in Westport Connecticut, we paid $500 a month.  There was no water or electricity on the dock.  For water, we filled our tanks from a garden hose, and for electric we ran 300 feet of extension cord to the house.   This was barely adequate, and we had to turn off the hot water heater to turn on the stove.  Otherwise, we'd pop a breaker.  Summer marina fees in Fairfield County, Connecticut ran $100 to $140 per foot per season (April 15 to October 15), or $4,600 to $6,440 for our boat .   

We moved to Seaview House Marina in Stamford for the winter where we had a nice floating concrete dock and 50 amp shore power electric service.  The cost for the entire winter, November to April, was a mere $1000.

We stayed at Seaview House for the summer.  I don't remember the exact amount, but it was about $5,500 including electricity.

Once we started cruising, the costs increased because we were paying daily or weekly rates and not seasonal rates.  We paid anywhere from $2.50 per foot per night to $4 per foot per night depending on the marina.  The closer we were to New York City, the more expensive the fees. 

Once we got to Annapolis, we knew we'd be here from the middle of November to after Christmas.  I asked for a monthly rate, which is $15 per foot ($690) at their off season rates.  This is half the going rate of $30 a foot during the summer months.

I'm guessing that marina fees will drop as we move south, but the daily rates will be more than the weekly and monthly rates we've paid so far.  Eventually, we need to get the Boston Whaler on the upper deck running, and then we can anchor out.   We need the Whaler to get the dogs ashore.  If you don't have dogs and you're someplace warm, anchoring out is a very attractive and much less expensive option.

Other expenses to consider; restaurants and car rentals. 

We eat out a little more when cruising.   Part of the reason is that we arrive at a marina late in the day and after driving the boat all day, Pam needs a break from cooking.  Yeah yeah, I could cook, but I'm not that good at it, and I've been navigating all day.   Besides, we like to eat out, and this is a good excuse.  Once we're docked in one place for awhile, like we were in Atlantic Highlands, Atlantic City, Manasquan, and Annapolis, we revert back to eating out a couple of times a week, the same as we did before cruising, and mainly cook in.  When Pam and I eat out, we like pub food and rarely eat in fancy restaurants.  We usually spend about $50 to $70 for the two of us, including tip. 

Rental cars.  I included this because we've rented cars several times since we left Stamford in September.  We traveled back to upstate New York for my daughter's birthday and for Christmas, and even rented a car to go from Atlantic Highlands NJ to Annapolis for a party with friends.  Factor in rental car and hotel costs if you plan on visiting family and friends.  Figure $60 a day for a full size car (we have dogs) and $100 a night for a hotel.

Other incidentals, such as pump out fees, are really pretty minor.  Some places will pump you out for free, such as in the Norwalk Connecticut area.   I'm guessing that they offer this free service (in season) as an incentive not to pump overboard (which is illegal) and pollute their oyster beds.  Other places charge a few bucks.   When traveling, you can dump your holding tank overboard if three miles or more off shore and so equipped with diverter valves and a macerator pump.  We are not so equipped, but we also have a 40 gallon holding tank and we can "hold it".  Most boats have a much smaller holding tank and have to pump out often.

This brings up a pet peeve.  Why are waste holding tanks so small?  Don't boat builders realize that cruisers poop?  There was a silly five gallon holding tank on my sailboat when I bought it.   It had never been used, and the PO (previous owner) only had it installed to meet regulations.  I removed it and replaced it with a 50 gallon flex tank.

It's early in the morning and I haven't had my morning coffee yet, but I think that's about it.  Any other expenses, like food and clothing, you would have as a dirt dweller.

We're still waiting for our weather window to head south.   Thursday is now looking iffy, with Friday and Saturday being ideal.  We'll see.


  1. Thank you! Another area I have wondered about is Insurance, both for the boat and for its occupants (yes even the dogs).

    With the move towards more regionally based HMO medical and dental plans this seems particularly problematic for the cruiser.

    Curious if you carry insurance on the dogs?

    I've heard boat insurance costs vary wildly depending on the areas you cruise and if you lay up for winter or not. I've talked to some who own their boats outright who chose to carry none and roll the dice. My current boat is a 29' that is trailered and laid up for the the winter indoors and I pay a ridiculously low $395 per year for full coverage. I'm assuming it would increase tenfold if used as a live-aboard on the coast.

  2. Insurance can be problematic if you buy an old fixer upper like we did. We had no trouble getting hull insurance to cover our $20,000 initial cost, but after spending all the money we have, we could only get it increased to $40,000 which costs us about $1,200 a year. I'll have to get another survey done once we're down south. That will update the value of the boat.

    BTW, I've never bought insurance from Boat US. They've always been much, much too high. We're with Progressive.

    No insurance on the dogs. No insurancce on me. Pam has COBRA health insurance until next year. I don't have any health insurance because, in CT, insurance companies can base insurance on age and pre-existing conditions. I felt that $1,300 a month was too much. We'll shop around as we go south and hope I don't get sick. The dogs we could always shoot.

    Just kidding. I left my guns in storage.

  3. LOL,

    When the dogs piss her off, I keep telling Terry, I can fix that for a nickel. (The cost of a .22 shell these days. It used to be a penny)

    She is not amused.

  4. Full time cruising requires a great deal of researching 'cost issues'. Once you start heading south, you'll discover pumpouts can cost anywhere from 0 - $20. As for marina rates, we try to find places that offer good monthly rates and try to plan accordingly Skipper Bob marina books show great marinas. For car rentals we joined the 'great loop' organization. They have a great deal with Enterprise rental car for 10% off which makes them competitive and they offer the pick up/drop off service.
    Anchoring out will save on marina fees. But then you have to take into consideration the offset cost of running your genset to keep your batteries charged. Further south if you bring your dinghy into a marina dock,,, there is usually a dinghy docking fee to consider. Some places want $10/day. There are also marinas in FLorida that have mooring fields where you can stay for 30 days pay a monthly rate and their dinghy dock is then free (economical depending on how often you need to run your generator). Sometimes a monthly marina rate is more economically sound.

  5. Great reading Dave and Pam. You'll likely want to be free to anchor more as you get down south a bit. Lots of good spots.

    Your costs seem pretty reasonable considering the boat. It offers a lot more living than a 40 sailboat for instance. Of course that bigger space costs more going down the ICW.

    If you weigh the costs over a year that involves cruising, working(or not), compare it to land based costs, it could be quite a bit less.

    Could be the difference between working a little, and working a lot.

    It's good to see you enjoying yourselves. We've met people who cruised on pennies. That seemed like a guilded cage to me.

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