Thursday, February 2, 2012

What Does It Cost To Go Cruising?
By Michael

Windy at the helm steering us downwind
down the channel into La Paz. On this point
of sail, we would benefit from an extra
panel in our genoa.
We’re still working on our own answer to that question. I finished assembling the data and just updated The Cost page at the top of this blog, through December. Our monthly expenses still far exceed what is sustainable, yet they are in line with our expectations of now. Looking forward, I think 2012 will be less expensive than 2011, but costlier than normal for a couple reasons. First, we plan to spend a chunk of 2012 in the U.S. and Canada, and the higher cost of living (compared to Mexico) will affect us. Second, we anticipate two big expenses during the year.

The first big expense has to do with sails. Our 33-year-old mainsail is stretched and worn, with a belly like Santa Claus. And no matter how I trim this sail, I can’t seem to flatten the thing. I cinch down the outhaul, I make sure she’s sheeted tightly, I bear down on the halyard winch until the luff is stretched to the breaking point, and I still have a Santa sail.

Now, I’m not a very good sailor, but I’m blaming our tired mainsail for our inability to point. Returning from the islands last week, we played around on a close reach for several hours, tacking back and forth upwind into a stiff breeze. What I learned is that, try as I might, we have a no-go zone that spans 135 degrees. This is going to kill us trying to bash north against the prevailing winds late spring (headed up to British Columbia, not via Hawaii). So, sail work is in order, and it may not be cheap. I’m going to talk to the loft here in La Paz and see what they can do. And that is not the end of our sail problems: when the sun is on the other side of our genoa, I see thousands of points of light through the seams. Furthermore, our genoa is cut about 36 inches too short. Standing on deck, I can hardly reach the foot (the furling drum is already at stanchion level). The previous owner reported having it cut because of some deterioration, so if we learn the sail is worth saving, I may have a panel added. More money…
Tie up two big tugs next to
each other and this is
bound to happen.
Second, the dinghy situation is going to change, somehow. I wrote here about whether we should go with a life raft or a life boat. Today we have a soft-bottom dinghy and a Plastimo Offshore life raft with an inspection that expired 3 years ago. We are considering replacing both in San Diego with a Portland Pudgy. The idea is that the Pudgy would serve as both a dinghy and a life raft. We’ll see. Otherwise, if we stay with the dinghy + life raft model we have now, we will probably have our life raft inspected and may replace our dinghy with a ridged-bottom inflatable. More money regardless…and on my wish list is a Torqeedo electric outboard that uses no gasoline…

Today, the cost basis of our boat (the purchase price plus the money we spent on it) is just about $90K. We will likely spend about $10K more on the refit.

Just a week ago, I was in contact with the Portland Pudgy folks in Maine,
trying to locate an owner in San Diego whom we could contact and
arrange a sea trial. Then yesterday, here in La Paz, we ran into a couple
cruising on a 72-foot powerboat who let us try out theirs. We found
it felt much bigger than we anticipated. This may indeed be our future,
but still lots to consider, including cost.


  1. Hi Michael, you probably know all about this already but Pat and Ali Schulte recently posted details about their recent sail purchase and had a good experience. Read about it here

    -- Lee

  2. I am pretty sure that there is nothing wrong with your sails… that a few thousand miles of downwind sailing couldn't fix. We miss you guys.

  3. Hi Michael,

    We had good luck with Island Planet Sails - you can read about our new mainsail purchase here. Their price is excellent, and they use really superior materials (high modulus Dacron sailcloth and Goretex thread especially) that other offshore sailmakers will not use. We have a friend here in Brisbane who is representing them, so let us know if you want contact information. He's an ex-America's Cup etc. sailmaker so he really knows his business.

    Portland Pudgy - yes, very spacious, but very costly (and heavy). For the price of it outfitted as a lifeboat you can get a very nice RIB + liferaft. Or get a catamaran, they don't sink.

    Torqueedo - sigh. Friends had one in the Tuamotos ( One problem is the charge level doesn't allow very long excursions like to go 1 mile to snorkel on a reef. I think they are great as a 'dinghy to shore' motor if you keep your boat on a a mooring, but as a full time cruiser motor I don't think they are that great an idea. Also expensive. Also our friends had to send the controller board back to the factory for a software upgrade, though that probably doesn't happen to everybody.

  4. Oops, it was s/v Shalimar with the Torqueedo.


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