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Month: November 2016

How Much Does it Cost to Go Cruising? Our November Budget

How Much Does it Cost to Go Cruising? Our November Budget


How much does it cost to go cruising? How much does it cost to live on a boat? These are questions we’ve wondered about many times. It was so helpful to find other cruisers who were willing to share, what some might call private information, openly and willingly. We loved finding bloggers who posted their monthly budget while cruising so much that we told ourselves, when the time came, we wanted to do the same. So for anyone dreaming of cruising and interested in the costs of cruising, this is for you.

However, one thing I must mention first is this: you can go cruising on any budget. I read this from other cruisers over and over again. It’s just a matter of what is important to you, and what you are willing to live with and perhaps even compromise on. Some cruisers wouldn’t dream of setting sail without certain things that other cruisers wouldn’t miss at all. It’s just a matter of preference, lifestyle and budget.

This monthly look at our expenses doesn’t include the cost of the boat – that’s something my husband can easily (and eagerly) write an entire post about. So we’ll save that for another time. What we wanted to share here is just what we spent this month living on our boat.

To give you an idea, we estimated spending about $2,000 US dollars a month. This is a very general average. We hope that many times we will spend less than this. As you’ll about to see, this month was an above average month, but we expected that with the initial boat repairs and boat items we needed. Also we do not expect to pay for marina fees very often. Marina fees/dock fees can add up fast and take a big chunk out of the cruising kitty (savings). Our plan instead is to stay in anchorages, which are free.

This budget begins when we arrived at the marina November 7th, so this doesn’t include things like the hotel we paid for on the road trip here, but just know there were additional costs of moving across the country to get here.

November 2016

All amounts are in US dollars.

Marina monthly fee $503.01

Electricity — From the house we left- this was for the previous month while we were living there. This will not be a recurring expense. $134.21

Cell phone bill $83.25

Medical co-sharing payment — Our current form of medical insurance while we are in the US (See Samaritan Ministries for more information) $470.25

Groceries $929.04 — This is about $300 more than we would normally spend on land, but we bought extra food a) while we had a car b) to stock up on specific items that I knew I couldn’t get at just any grocery store c) to have extra after we leave the dock. We don’t plan on spending this much each month.

Eating out $80.14 — This includes when we went out for our anniversary dinner.

Diesel fuel for the boat $93.96

Propane $7.95

FCC operating license for the SSB radio $70.00 — A one time expense.

Portable generator $869 — To charge our batteries when we are away from power. We have a wind generator and solar panels that came with the boat so we were pretty lucky not to have any other large expenses for power.

Boat supplies and hardware $479.36 — This includes many, many things. Anything from parts to repair the head (toilet), eye bolts, plunger, ditch kit supplies, zip-ties, to fishing supplies, a haircutting kit, a small vacuum, small kitchen items and much more. Just anything we needed to fix, repair, improve or have on board. We do not anticipate spending nearly this much every month on supplies and boat projects. We think of it as our “starting up costs.”

Boat insurance $166.67 — We paid an entire year’s worth of insurance up front, but this is the amount it would be if we could have paid the amount per month for one year.

Small heater for the boat $16.90

Laundry facilities $30.00 — This is what we spent for a total of three times (once a week) going to the laundromat. During the week we washed by hand as many clothes as we could.

Gas for the car $40.00 plus a little

Things we’ve received for free- a car to borrow (from a friend back on land), sailing books, work gloves, bimini cloth, a pump second hand for super cheap and a bottle of wine. Other cruisers have certainly lived up to the cruising community’s reputation of being helpful in any way they can!

Total for November = $3,973.74

We hope this is helpful!





Boat Projects: Lights, Heads, Action!

Boat Projects: Lights, Heads, Action!

This month we got back to the boat after spending 3 weeks in Houston selling off the rest of our belongings!  Truly an unexpected change of plans (I feel very bad about leaving my work on such short notice, sorry guys).

Here are the boat projects we’ve finished so far:

Cleaning the water tanks and installing water filtration at the sink

When we first arrived to the boat in September we were pretty put off by the quality of the water in the tanks, what came out of the faucet was cloudy and odd smelling.  We could actually see bits of algae floating in the tank, which was continually clogging the filter just before the water pump.  Granted, the previous owners lived with this (I think they used a Brita) and no one got hurt, but I need to keep the Mrs. happy!  The remedy was a somewhat long process, which I’ve only completed for the port side tank so far.  For the mean time that is good enough since we have 165 gallon capacity per tank.

First I removed the two inspection covers and drained the tank completely using the on board water pump, toward the end I had to use a hand pump since the pick up is not in the very bottom of the tank.  The tank has 4 baffles to prevent sloshing when under way, but with only 2 of them accessible the best solution I could come up with was to blast the debris out with a water wand (similar to this one).  After that I filled the tank to the brim and shocked it with chlorine, I also ran each faucet in the boat so the chlorinated water would have a chance to sterilize the lines as well.  After 12 hours of that, I drained and filled it twice to flush the system.

The aluminum inspection covers had some kind of epoxy paint on them which was flaking off and would have resulted in a poor bond to seal them back down.  I ground this off with a wire wheel brush, and was intending to repaint it, however I have not been able to find a good “potable water” epoxy to apply that is sold in small quantities (most of what is available is industrial and sold in 5 gallon buckets).  I re-installed them bare and will tackle that later!  I’m thinking about just replacing the whole cover with a sheet of Plexiglas.

Port side water tank inspection cover, re-installed.
Port side water tank inspection cover, re-installed.

Now, the only problem here is that eventually the tank will get nasty again, its the nature of water tanks.  However there are some measures we’re taking to keep it clean:

  • Filter the water going into the tank – install a whole house filter on the water spigot when you fill your tanks.  You might think municipal water is clean, but maybe not!
  • Keep chlorine in tank – Chlorine, even if it comes from a city tap, will evaporate out of the water in a short time, add chlorine (google the correct ratio).  I have also heard of Chlorine Dioxide which is sold in tablets and is supposedly healthier / greener for the environment, but we haven’t tried it yet.
  • Keep only as much water as you need – stale water breeds bacteria and algae.  While we’re near plenty of places that have water we’re only going to use one of our water tanks.  The other one is filled as ballast, but isolated from the system.
  • Install filters at the sink – despite all of the above, I still installed a filter at the sink.  A 5 micron filter will remove chlorine and much of the taste from the water.  Smaller micron filters can remove bacteria, but that is what the chlorine is for.  We were able to re-purpose a couple of house filters that were in the engine room.  They had been set up to filter water for the entire boat, but that was just too much for the water pump to keep up with.
Filtered water dispenser next to the hand pump, yes we cleaned the sink just for this picture.
Filtered water dispenser next to the hand pump, yes we cleaned the sink just for this picture.


Engine room plumbing panel, the two house filters are circled in red.
Engine room plumbing panel, the two house filters are circled in red.

The Forward Head

In a previous post I explained that when we first arrived the forward head worked, but the aft head did not.  As luck would have it, almost as soon as we fixed the aft head, the forward head stopped working.  For those of you don’t know, a head is a toilet.  Google tells me this term comes from when the “bathroom” used to be at the head of the ship, over the front, directly into the water!

Now, the aft head was easy, because it had never been used, but the forward head….

Our shining Raritan PHII manual pump toilet (actual toilet not pictured)
Our shining Raritan PHII manual pump head (actual toilet not pictured)

Well, it had been used, quite a lot.  The fix was simple, but smelly.  The “joker valve” needed replacing, for one thing.  This is kind of like a one way valve, as you pump the handle waste goes out but does not come back in.  Over time this wears out, the result is that the suction stroke doesn’t suck as much “waste” out of the bowl as it should.

The other issue, and this was quite silly really, was that the thru-hull handle was in the wrong position.  A thru-hull is a fitting on the hull of the boat that opens and closes to control water entering or leaving the boat.  What I thought was open, was actually only partway open.  The result was toilet paper and “waste” clogged up in the opening.  I had to pull the hose off the thru-hull and clean the “waste” out by hand.  (I trust you know what “waste” is).

Somehow I always find myself in these hard to reach places...
Somehow I always find myself in these hard to reach places…

The Galley Light

We have these very nice LED lights all over the galley, nav station and saloon.  They are energy efficient, which is good for our batteries.  The galley light actually worked but the button in the switch was stuck.  This was slightly more complicated than just replacing the switch because it had circuitry in it to down-convert the voltage from 12V to whatever the light needs.  I wound up using a solder gun to soften the solder and remove the old push button switch, then installed a jumper cable across the contacts.

I'm learning that jury-rigging is an important skill, since we don't have money to buy new.
I’m learning that jury-rigging is an important skill, since we don’t have money to buy new.

I re-routed the 12V supply for the light through a new push-button switch, this one conveniently installed on the galley bulkhead.

New LED pushbutton switch installed.
New LED pushbutton switch installed.


Yes that is an actual pot of food, we didn't just stage it for the picture.
Yes that is an actual pot of food, we didn’t just stage it for the picture.

Upcoming projects:

  • Reprogram MMSI numbers in all the radios and the AIS
  • Install a gimbal lock on the stove
  • Mount the dinghy on the davits (our Portabote didn’t come with any attachment points)
The Beauty of Living on a Boat

The Beauty of Living on a Boat

I’m the first one to wake up every morning. I emerge from our nest of blankets and sleeping bags, all piled high, five sleepy people snuggled in one room at the close of each day. The dawn awakens me. It’s cold so I slip my socks back on my feet and peek out one of the port windows surrounding our cabin. The water beckons.

The still of the morning

The water ripples, glistens. It is perfect in reflecting the beauty of the morning. Sun slowly breaks over the horizon, gently calls forth the new day in colors of pinks, purples, oranges and yellows. God calls to me at the ushering of the day, every day, wooing me to his side and I open my Bible to hear what he would say to me. I stop, I listen, I thank him for another day. If I dare, I brave the cold morning wind and slide back the hatch to sit topside with my Bible, journal and pen. I find refuge under the bimini in the cockpit; as soon as I peek out from its cover, the cold bites through me. But I long to find an unobstructed view of the sunrise. The marina brims with boats. Side by side, each dock is nearly full. I see the glory of the sun through another mast, another bow, another stern. But I see it. Beauty that fills up the soul, glory that heals the spirit. Sitting on this boat, something is healing within me.

The new day

Eventually, little feet emerge from the cabin, looking for breakfast, looking for me. I put my Bible away, and start a pot of water steaming. Oatmeal will fill bowls and tummies, brown sugar sprinkles received with delight. My feet find their place in the corner where sink and stove meet and where I can look out my favorite window. The kitchen window. For now I happily watch the neighboring marina, their lights at night, the way the sun lights up the ripples in the water during the day, but soon, through my little kitchen window, I will see long stretches of beaches, forested shore lines; mysterious new places my eyes have never seen.


The marina gives us a particular flavor of boat living. People come and go, boats get hauled out and put back in the water, the boat yard bustles with older men smoking cigarettes, machines grinding, docks empty and fill again. Like the tide coming in and going out, never ending, so is life at the marina. And one day soon, we will go out too, and another boat will fill the emptiness we will leave behind.

The Boatyard Shop

Our children love the marina; they love boat life. Their youth softens the crustiness of the boat yard. Around scruffy bearded men with calloused hands they run around, saying hi to all. As we walk around the rocky yard, they exclaim in delight at the boats on the hard. That one is so beautiful mommy, they say, especially towards the ones that are not beautiful at all. Paint chipped, demasted, barnacle bottomed, neglected by their owners, but to a child, a wonderland.

Fun in the boatyard
Our marina

Most days you will find me washing something. Soft bellied babies, last night’s dinner plates, yesterday’s clothes in a five gallon bucket. It seems, my daily life is in keeping this clan clean. And it’s not as easy as it used to be. Pressing a button, turning a knob, flipping a switch- that’s the modern way. Here, I feel the warmth of the sun on my skin and I know the day is ready to dry my towels on the stern. Here, I feel the bitter chill on windy days and know my hands will likely freeze while I rinse off dishes in cold water from the sink. Here, the sun and moon are not mere ornaments in the sky, something pretty to nod at now and then, they are tools and guides by which we live. Sailing at night? Best to do it on a full moon. Anchoring before sun down? Better leave early, that winter sun begins to set late afternoon. Rain on the way? Time to put away the baby clothes drying on the deck.


This is a place where if you long to be insulated from the elements around you, you will be miserable. On the sail here, it was quite rolly. The seas were boisterous, the salty spray splashed in my face as I sat fixed on the beam, gazing into the horizon, trying to steady my queasy stomach. I loved it. I’ve lived my life in fear, I’ve lived clamoring to insulate myself from all the things that might make me uncomfortable. Not anymore.

There is so much beauty here. Not just in sunsets and moon rises, not just in Night Herons splashing for fish or Buffleheads bobbing up and down, and not just in the kind smiles and conversation from boat neighbors, but there is so much beauty growing within me. I am learning who I am. Barefoot, free, on the deck, wind in my hair- beauty.




Packing, Provisioning and Saying Goodbye

Packing, Provisioning and Saying Goodbye

So what’s it like selling (almost) everything you own and packing up your family for an adventure?

Exhausting. Exciting. Thrilling. Humbling.

It has been a challenging, exciting time the last couple of months. First we had our initial three week trip to our boat for the first time as a family. (Read part 1, part 2 and part 3) There was so much to do to get ready, everyday I felt overwhelmed by something, whether making lists, packing or knowing what to say to family and friends about our trip. But the trip itself was amazing and fulfilling, despite it’s challenges. We grew as a family and witnessed the bond between our daughters grow so much. It was completely rewarding.

Right before we left for our three week trip – Hannah inside the trailer!

On the two day road trip back to Houston (my husband had only taken vacation time off from work) my husband and I talked it over and both agreed- we didn’t want to wait to return to our boat, “Gromit.” Our rental house had already sold, and the house we lived in was in the process of being sold, so we simply asked ourselves, what are we waiting here for? The answer was clear: we would finish up the sale of our house and pack up the rest of the items we wanted to take to the boat with us and say goodbye to family and friends. We wanted our adventure to begin! For some it seemed crazy, others I think were disappointed to know we were leaving, many others were excited for us, but we would go back to Virginia where Gromit was docked in just three weeks. Three weeks to pack up our life and begin our voyage!

Getting ready to leave has been a very exhausting process, but one I would not want to trade. It’s been so freeing simplifying our life and holding on to what we truly value.

We can’t wait to get back to this beautiful place

So how do you get a family of five ready to leave land and live on the water?

One of many lists

The first thing we started doing was online shopping for things we knew we need and also things we anticipated we might need. We knew it would be easier to receive mail while still having an address on land. We double checked we had all the major safety equipment like tethers, jack lines, and life jackets, which we had most of from our first trip. We bought other items like chamois, bungee cords, dry bags, winter clothing and new sheets for the mattresses. I shopped for homeschool workbooks for my 5 year old (from the dollar store), field guides for the area I knew we would be in first (the southeastern Atlantic coast) extra paper, pens, colored pencils, coloring books, stickers, and puzzles. I knew I wanted enough material to keep us busy with homeschooling/unschooling but also for the times when my husband and I would be busy sailing the boat and they needed to keep themselves occupied. I also shopped for things like protein powder and green powder for making quick and healthy drinks.


Essential books

We made sure all the equipment we were brining was in good working order. My husband fixed our iPad’s cracked screen and it was like new!

I gave the girl’s new haircuts, and they loved it! It was my first try at cutting their hair (I have cut my own for a couple of years) and it was not as difficult as I imagined. This will be the first of many haircuts we will be doing ourselves!

Hannah’s new ‘do
Marlee loves her new haircut

Then there is the packing. We decided not to take a trailer with us this time and that has been so freeing. For many that may seem terrifying because that means all we are going to take with us has to fit in the back of our truck. But knowing we only have to pack and unpack what can fit in the back of our truck is liberating! There is so much more energy for living life when you are freed from all your things!

We want to take time for what matters

Tomorrow marks the last day of work for my husband. His “two weeks” is up. Everything is almost packed and we are seeing family tomorrow for one more hug and goodbye. I am SO excited to see what God has in store for us next!