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If someone said to you that you would require 600 gallons of water each month that you were cruising on a boat, what would you think? The experienced cruisers would immediately counter that assertion, citing that they go through either much less, or much more water, on their own boats. I mean, think of the variables!

  • Do you shower each day? Every other day? Once a week? Do you let the water run while showering or turn it off as you’re soaping up?
  • Do you bathe in salt water and rinse with fresh or shower entirely with fresh water?
  • Do you do laundry on board and if so, do you have a machine or do it by hand?
  • Do you wash the dishes in salt water and rinse with fresh or wash them entirely with fresh water?
  • How do you rinse the dishes? Do you fill the sink(s) with water or let the tap run?
  • Do you have an electric water pump or a foot/hand pump?
  • Do you let the water run while brushing your teeth? How often do you brush your teeth?
  • Do you wash the boat deck/fittings with fresh water? If so, how often?
  • What about those dreaded unplanned circumstances such as you fall in a puddle of mud and have to wash off, or even worse, your boat get’s covered in some material that needs to be rinsed off? Where would you get the water for that?

I could go on but I’m sure you get the point.

Let’s look at our own boat for example. We have a small watermaker which puts out about 4 gallons each hour that we run it. That’s not a lot but it saves us from jerry jugging water from shore, or filling up at marinas. We also catch rainwater, when it rains, and use this for laundry, dishes or showers, depending on which of the three needs to be done more urgently (hint: if we have no dirty dishes in the galley, and our clothes look clean, you might want to stand upwind of us). So what do we do if it doesn’t rain? We use fresh water for the previously-listed tasks, knowing that we could just run the watermaker a bit to produce that which we used.

Now for those on yachts which have very high-output watermakers, and plenty of energy to run them, they wouldn’t even be bothered with rainwater. For those without the luxury of such a device, they might use saltwater to wash the dirty pans. The point is, there are way too many variables to tell you how much water you’re going to need on your boat. Knowing that now, if I told you that we used 800 gallons of water last month, and you didn’t think that you could acquire that amount of water, what would it really mean? Would it mean that you couldn’t go cruising, or would it mean that you might have to get creative with how you do laundry, or the dishes, or how you bathe?


Sign outside the public school here in Portsmouth, Dominica. Not bad advice!

Substitute the word money for water

Alright, substitute the word money for water. What if I told you that it cost us $2000.00 to cruise last month? It didn’t, but I’m using that as an example. Would that information be any more relevant to you than the water amount I quoted above? I mean, some people we’ve met out here spend much more than that each month to cruise and others we know spend much less. If you thought my list of variables about water usage was long, just imagine what you could list about money! It should go without saying that people with less to spend, obviously spend less, just as those with less water to splash around use less water.

I understand that those still in the planning stages would really like to have someone tell them that it costs X amount of money to cruise each month. I empathize, but it’s not going to be me. Trust me when I say that it’s not possible and anyone who gives you an amount is only quoting their particular circumstances (at that time, in that place, on that boat, with their personalities), which in all probability, has little relevance to you. What it’s going to cost you to cruise will only be determined by you, when you get out there. I’m convinced it’s very much a personality/lifestyle thing. You need to make a leap of faith on this and trust, as we do, that when it comes to money (or water if you like), you’ll figure it out along the way.

Sometimes you just need to make a leap of faith and trust!


  1. Well mike, you have done it now. You’ve said nothing and everything all in one post! Just as everything in life; we all have a different set of “standards” that we live by. Can we all live with less? Most likely. Could we all be extravagant given the proper bankroll? Absolutely. Sometimes you just need to make a leap of faith and trust! Those words sum it up nicely. Keep up the insanity. 😉

  2. Good example. It is funny that with all the personal “business” we will share with strangers, our finances are so hard to discuss. I was one of the people asking money (water) questions. My question wasn’t how much water would I need, but how much water did YOU need. We have spent two years watching you two wash dishes, wash clothes and have been standing downwind from you… We were curious how much “water” it took y’all to stay that clean.

    OT – I don’t remember exactly when I started following your blog (cyber-stalking) – I think you were in the Bahamas. I Started at the Beginning yesterday and made it through the first couple of years. Wow! y’all really did start at ZERO!

    Good Job! Great Blog! and, thanks for letting us tag-along….


    • Hi David

      You are not the only one to inquire about our “bathing habits” so I hope you didn’t feel that this post was directed solely at you.

      I was thinking about this yesterday when we went to the liquor store and bought two bottles of rum, an obvious luxury for all those without an alcohol dependancy. If we didn’t have the money to do so, we wouldn’t have bought them. Other boaters who want to drink might just go to one of the local bars instead of mixing their own. Again, too many variables.

      The reason I don’t want to quote a figure is not because I have anything to hide. Rather it’s because if I quote a number that people perceive as too high, they might think that cruising is out of their reach and stay home. Conversely, I could quote a figure too low and then based upon that (if ZTC can do it, so can we), someone might get out here and then not be able to deal with it.

  3. 800 gallons a month? With one hour of watermater a day, that leaves more than four 5 gallon jugs a day. Yikes! You must take baths everyday,Ha!

    • I was trying to pick an overly extravagant number to make a point. I have no doubt that there are boaters who do use that amount though!

      • I kinda guessed that. I had a 22 gal. tank and two water jugs while cruising. You do learn to use “cups” of water for many things.
        This was a really good post Mike for those wondering what it takes. More than likely it will take all that you have as slowly as you wish and again more than likely you won’t grow too old and wish you never went sailing.

  4. The only thing that is for sure, then, is that no one can cruise without any ‘water’.

    I really was expecting a cost breakdown and wondered why you said that we probably wouldn’t like it. Now I get it!

    A very wise post indeed.

  5. Whether on land or sea, we all have variables and we all should have budgets! If we don’t, well you saw what happend to America in 2009! I know our boating budget in a year is $x.oo. Thats all we spend. What does that mean? We have winter storage, winterizing, commissioning, fuel, dock space, mooring charges, etc. We live by our $x.oo budget!! If in August are creeping up to our budget, we cut back on longer cruises, we take mooring balls, we anchor, we stop going out to eat as much, we drink on the boat in lieu of going out for drinks. Budgets should be budgets and EMERGENCIES happen, but we must always follow budgets and stick to them. We have boat budget, I have housing budget, I have kid budget, I have ex wife budget, I have play budget!

  6. you’re so rite in what yr saying !!! it’s the same thing when yr living in an R.V “you learn how to compromise but now & again are able to splash out
    Your view is well said & has also made us think of how frivolous we are when things are so freely available

  7. Great post! I’m glad to hear that you’re happy with a watermaker that only makes 4 gallons per hour. Like you, we’d like to have a smaller watermaker, catch some rain every now and then, and kinda be “in the middle” with our water use. As far as the $2000 per month … if we can get away with just a little less than we’ll be happy! We just might have to starve and stink a little … LOL!

  8. Good post!

    But that picture, and THAT ROPE! “Sometimes you just need to make a leap of faith and trust!”
    Rebecca must be VERY trusting.



  9. So how much does is cost to go cruising? Just kidding of course! You see this question all the time on all the sailing forums. I never quite understood why an otherwise mature and sane group of people would ask such a question of seemingly complete strangers and base life decisions on the response. This same group of people would never consider stopping someone on the street or at the shopping mall to ask “how much does it cost to live in your neighborhood?” and then decide to live there or not based on the response. When you put it in this context the question seems absurd.

    Of course the real answer is, cruising takes all my money 🙂

    Great post!

  10. I guess the real question is…knowing what you now know, would you still take the cruising “leap of faith” the same way? Would you have waited longer to save more money for a bigger watermaker or would you have left sooner with less cash hoping to catch more rain?

  11. Talking water….
    After a couple of years using it, can you give a quick review of your Katadyn PowerSurvivor 80E watermaker?

  12. I think I understand why people would ask “how much does it cost?” What they are REALLY asking is how much does it cost YOU. Not how much money do you have coming in but how much are you spending?
    It would give people a comparison. They look at what you are getting for your dollar and, after reading your description of your lifestyle, they try to imagine if they could/would. I personaly think it is a very realistic question and one that probobly 90% of the people that read these types of blogs wonder about. Finances are a question anyone readying themselves to get underway for a length of time considers.
    The very few people I have seen actually brave enough to address that question publicly online really get many thanks from readers. The average person is not willing to open that part of their life up for public consumption and I can understand why.

  13. Shouldn’t this:

    (hint: if we have no dirty dishes in the galley, and our clothes look clean, you might want to stand downwind of us).

    Be this:

    (hint: if we have no dirty dishes in the galley, and our clothes look clean, you might want to stand upwind of us). or “not downwind” If you stink, and I’m downwind of you, I’ll be forced to smell you! :). Nice site, happy cruising… you lucky bastard!

  14. I was hoping to asertain basic cost for things like mooring, permits (Bahamas), international internet and cell service, pro & con around certain caribbean islands, e.g. St Martin, Jamica etc..
    Thanks, Jackson

  15. I have just found your blog and am loving it. I am in the process of hunting a boat but for me it may have to be power until I can find someone to teach me to sail. My dram has always been to sail the tropics and live aboard and I am working towards that now. I am hoping by summer I can have the house and cars sold nd most everything else too. I am also looking a a power cat but am thinking of a sailing too and getting someone to teach me. I like the cat for the same reason, room. Big question though, what abut animals on board? Are there many problems with the different islands and animals. I am thinking 2 Newfoundlands with me as I have bred them for years. Thanks for anything you can tell me.

  16. Just finished reading about another couple who went thru the bahamas and caribbean and it was somewhat negative regarding the sewage in the water, bad weather and breakage along the way, over a three year period They emphasized the negative a little too much instead of the positive.

    Husband and I have been planning to do this when we retire in two years but this left me a little down. We still have 9 rentals to sell plus our own house so we are very handy and my husband used to race boats in his youth. Your site is much more upbeat and positive. Guess some people just don’t expect it to be work with excitement and enjoyment along the way.

    • Hey Cheryl. You can find good or bad wherever you go. We choose to focus on the good things. If you do too, you’ll have a blast. Ignore the whiners and naysayers.

  17. Talking about how much cruising costs. Living aboard, with no land property is possible. My home in Ill costs $ 8.000 a year for taxes alone.

  18. You don’t want to give specific numbers, because you don’t want to set false expectations. You don’t want to scare anyone away from sailing by quoting too high. And you don’t want to lead anyone astray by quoting too low. Because you know that, in the end, everyone’s consumption is different.

    With that said, I’d still be interested in what YOU guys are spending. You’re not obliged to tell. It’s none of my business. It’s just that, if you posted about how YOUR numbers looked like, I would read it with great interest.

    I wouldn’t think, “It’s gonna be the same for me”. But I’d have an idea about where the major costs are, and about what is flexible and what is not.

    If you wanted to do that, you could make a list with three columns: Item. Cost. Comments. In the comments you could say a few words about the lifestyle you have chosen that leads to those costs. It would make it clear that it all depends on how you choose to live on your boat.

    That being said, *I* don’t have a blog where I post MY monthly expenses. Most people wouldn’t do that, and there are many reasons why one might prefer to keep these details private.

    • My biggest reason is that I don’t feel like investing the time into calculating it. 🙂

    • I agree with the comments above, and I also see your side of it….

      For me, I have been gathering numbers from as many people as I can. I’m also reading their blogs to ascertain their lifestyle and how it compares to me. Based on that info, I’m willing to bet I would be within $200 – $300 of our budget when we go.. Of course you could argue that I will hit that number, since that is the number I’ve set.. and therein lies the rub….

  19. for Cheryl… The difference between adventure and ordeal is attitude…

  20. When your hopping island to island i.e st. Marteen to the next and to the next since they are so close. Does it not get expensive paying entry fees at every port?

  21. Caught your blog about a week ago and have been immersed in it since then. I, like you, would be starting out at “zero” but my interest has grown already (so maybe I’ve moved from “zero to one” at the moment).

    My question on this topic isn’t so much the cost, but rather how do people that choose this lifestyle make more money when they need it? I see you two are running a charter now but there has to be other options as well I’m just lost to what those would be.

  22. Nice post Mike… and you are right, it’s too difficult to pin down a number, way to many variations. Type of boat, year of boat, having a watermaker vs not, solar panels vs running a generator. Just way too many things. After cruising and knowing what we know now, we will do a number of different things. Keep up the good work my friend.

  23. Of course how much money you spend and how much water you consume is dependent on many variables and that will be different for everyone. But here are some numbers…

    We average 5 gallons of fresh water is per day. This includes drinking, daily showers and dishes. For showers and dishes we are very careful not to waste water. I would guess half gallon per shower and 1 gallon per day for dishes. 1 gallon drinking per day per person. The remaining gallon is for cooking, washing hands and misc. We may hand wash a few clothes on board but generally do laundry on shore. hope that’s helpful. Sam

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