One of the most common questions I get is, “How much does it cost to own your boat?”
Under the “Expenses” menu you will find the yearly expenses broken down by category with exact prices I actually paid. I add the previous year’s expenses at the end of every year, so expect the next spreadsheet this December. Generally speaking, the first year of purchase is the highest. You are excited about the boat, you want to make it yours, and you will customize it to fit your exact needs. As the years pass, you’ll find the yearly expenses decrease.There are many factors that affect the cost of owning a boat. Frequency of use, location, well maintained vs “just enough”, etc. But the biggest factor is SIZE! A 24′ boat costs a small fraction to buy and maintain vs a 48′ boat. And a saying I find increasingly true is, “A boat costs as much as you have.” The more I earn, the more the boat eats! She’s insatiable!
Here is my situation:
- Size: 39 foot Bermuda rigged sloop.
- Location: I live aboard at a well-maintained, new harbor in Hawaii at a slip which includes security, restrooms and showers, trash, and unlimited fresh water. Electricity costs extra, but is very cheap (~$20 per month).
- Frequency Of Use: I use my boat 3 to 4 times per week while at the slip. I might go for a quick hour run around the buoys or a 6 hour Waikiki and back tour. Once a month I may make a longer overnight trip to Pokai Bay or Molokai. And once a year I find myself sailing on a two week trip with friends. I hope to make a long-distance, open ocean voyage once every two years or so. A lot of my maintenance is fixing things my guests break. I admit, there’s a lot of alcohol on those Waikiki booze cruises which definitely adds to maintenance costs!
- Maintenance: I bought the boat with tons of extras, but everything was old and falling apart. My main focus is to keep her running smoothly with a minimum of failures at sea. I am willing to sacrifice cosmetics, as long as it doesn’t affect the practical use of the boat. My boat is dirty! A lot of the interior trim is missing or broken. Quite a few of the less important items in the boat are old and fragile and should be replaced. But my priorities lie more in the safety department. I.e. Keep the mast up. Keep the water out. Maintain a trust-worthy engine. Keep the sails pulling with minimal running rigging failures. By replacing things only when they break, you can save thousands of dollars. I find replacing things preemptively is expensive, but sometimes worth it. For instance, I replaced most of the running rigging before it broke so I wouldn’t have to deal with it on my Hawaii to Tahiti trip. If I were staying within sight of land, keeping a spare line or two below would have been a cheaper option. If the old, frayed halyard breaks, I would simply sail or motor back to fix it in my slip. Maintenance is a constant effort if you want to keep the boat running. If you want to improve the boat as you own it, it costs more. My goal is to make my boat reliable enough to sail long distances with minimal failures, and my expenses reflect that. I have also been adding cruising gear as I go, which drives the expenses up. If I were happy to continue day-sailing near the harbor or even inter-island, I wouldn’t have made nearly as many purchases and fixes as I have, thereby saving thousands. I am not rich by any means either though, so I do all the maintenance myself, I shop around, keep the boat as simple as possible (the less toys on the boat, the less things to maintain), and try to separate wants and needs. I would love a new, more efficient refrigeration system, or more solar panels, but instead of buying more and creating more complications, I simply use it as an ice-box when away from land. I hope this blurb on maintenance helps convey a sense of where I’m at in the “cheap-as-shit” vs “unlimited-income-baller” scale.