Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Bit of a Summary

Enough about travelling for now. I realize that some blog readers may be looking for information to help prepare them for their own cruising adventures. It is time to discuss some of the practicalities of cruising. These include what things have worked well, and what things have been a disappointment. First, some context. We have been cruising since May 4th, 2009 when we left our ‘home’ at Liberty Landing Marina in Jersey City and headed into the East River and Long Island Sound. As of April 15th, 2010 we had travelled 5799.6 NM. To accomplish this we have sailed for 795 hours and motored for 293 hours, including going into and out of harbours. By our definition, if the engine is on, even if the sails are up, i.e. motorsailing, it is motoring. I have been very happy with the ratio of sailing to motoring since many cruisers end up motoring significantly more than they sail. This ratio of hours is largely because of three factors: we did not come down the ICW and instead went offshore to the US Virgins, Ainia sails really well in a wide variety of conditions, and we really look to sail first at every opportunity.

Equipment Review
June figures that everything on the boat should work, after all it is all pricey and supposedly engineered and built well. In theory, I agree entirely with this view, but the reality of boats is not so positive. Having said that, our experience has been overwhelmingly good. We have had quite a few minor problems but no major ones. We have been able to fix most things with only a few things that will need more attention (and possibly professional intervention) when we get back to the US. Anyway, on to comments on specfic gear. If anyone has questions about any of this stuff, add a comment at this site and I will reply on the blog so that everyone can get the info. Apologies for the grading system(s) – you can take the teacher out of the classroom, but not the classroom out of the teacher.

The Really Good Stuff – in modern teacher talk, ‘exceeds expectations’
· The MVP award has to go to Morley, the Monitor windvane steering system. Morley has steered for something like 4000 miles, including every point of sail, every sail combination and done brilliantly. There is a bit of learning curve at first to get everything set right, but now it has become pretty much second nature. It is hard to imagine life without Morley – the hours at the wheel that have been saved. GRADE – A+

· We have been very pleased with our Digital Yacht AIS system. We bought this at the Annapolis Boat Show at a remarkably good price (less than half of the next cheapest one we could find). For those not familiar with AIS, it allows you to ‘see’, on your chart plotter or radar, other AIS-equipped vessels within a range of 30 or so miles. A triangle appears on the display and when you click on it you get a variety of information about the vessel, including its name, course, speed, size, and its closest point of approach to you and when that will occur. We bought a transmit unit (some are receive only) and our vessel information appears on other vessel’s displays. On night crosssings I have seen freighters alter their course a bit to give us room several miles before they got close. The unit was inexpensive and works exactly as advertised. GRADE – A+

· Our Kyocera solar panels and Solar Boost 2512i charge controller have virtually eliminated any concerns about keeping our battery banks charged. In fact, when we were at anchor in Grenada for more than 3 weeks we never had to run the genset or engine to do battery charging. I installed the panels (one is 125w and one is 85w – I think) on our rail (they swing up and down but they are up 99% of the time) so they are exposed to as few clouds as possible. After installing them and the controller I felt like I should be doing something – but no, there is no user input at all. The system just works away happily generating loads of free energy. GRADE – A+

The Good Stuff – meets expectations
· We bought two North sails from their loft in New Jersey. One is a #2 genoa (135%) that has proven to be a real work horse and has been up more than 95% of the time, including during some strong winds with large reefs taken. It still looks to be in excellent shape and will go in to a loft for a check only. The assymetric spinnaker has not been used that often but has proven to be very handy at times. It was the smaller of the two sizes they offered, around 1300 square feet and is the right size for our needs. We have had it up in winds to 20 knots true and it was manageable without problems. GRADE – A

· Ainia came with an ancient Hood genoa furler that had seen better days – in any winds furling was a task. We replaced it with a Schaeffer 3100 system that has worked very well indeed and has made furling and reefing much, much easier. GRADE – A
More grades in a later posting …

What It Has All Cost
When we started this lifestyle we really did not have a clear idea of how much it would cost. Beth Leonard has a variety of cost ranges in her Cruiser’s Handbook and we heard her on this topic at a seminar at the Annapolis Boat Show, but it was not clear to us where we fell on her continuum between deluxe and ultra simple. Our boat is much larger and complex than her simplest case and we eat out, just not often or at fancy places so we would certainly be on the low side. So … we decided to keep close track of all of our spending and then do monthly summaries by category of spending. These reflect several factors. We have tried our best to live modestly while not missing what the islands have to offer. This has meant avoiding marinas and not eating out very often (or at very expensive places), both of which can balloon spending. Also, Ainia was well-equipped and fully-provisioned to start. The cost of these factors is not included below. At the very least the overall cost would include reprovisioning and some consideration for equipment depreciation. As well, boat insurance is not included which would add almost $400 a month to the totals.

Total Monthly Costs ($US)
· Nov - $1140
· Dec - $1045
· Jan - $1004
· Feb - $1446
· Mar - $3825*
· Apr - $879
*The March figure includes the purchase of a new windlass (the old one was working but this was a major upgrade) and new computer. Without these the spending was about $1200.

Spending by Category
We created a number of categories of spending to help us analyze where our money goes. First figure is total expenditures for six months, followed by monthly range.
· Boat Capital Expenditures (defined as boat improvements only) - $2635 - $0 to $2197 (windlass)
· Boat Maintenance (defined as keeping what we have in good repair and replacing existing equipment) - $924 - $39 to $390
· Fuel (diesel and gasoline for dinghy) - $575 - $0 to $304
· Water (we also use the watermaker and collect rainwater) - $28 - $0 to $14
· Groceries (including beverages) - $1875 - $187 to $459
· Internet access (includes buying drinks at bars that offer Wifi) - $100 - $4 to $48
· Eating out/touristy expenses - $1162 - $31 to $391
· Land transportation (we take local buses rather than taxis) - $145 - $10 to $40
· Government fees (customs, immigration, permits(Bahamas $300!)) - $575 - $24 to $300
· ‘Boat boys’ (not the problem we had been told) - $18 - $0 to $17
· Marinas and moorings - $239 - $20 to $80
· Laundry - $53 - $0 to $25
· Personal items - $711 - $0 to $430
· Miscellaneous – $36 - $0 to $22

Total spending for six months was $9338 (+insurance


Steve said...


Steve said...


Love your blog, especially since we just bought a Bristol 45.5. Your equipment review raised a couple of questions for me.

Re: the Monitor, how do you stow your dinghy? Doesn't a dinghy on davits interfere with the windvane? I was thinking about folding davits to allow carrying the dinghy there on short sails, but then on deck for longer passages with the davits folded.

Re: the Schaeffer furler, we also have an older Hood furler and it's difficult to furl in even light winds. With the Schaeffer, can you furl/reef by hand (i.e. without a winch) in heavier wind?

I also liked your comment about 3 weeks at anchor wihtout running the genset. I assume you have 12 volt refrigeration (and watermaker?)? I have an engine driven system, but am thinking of changing to 12 volt and installing a wind gen and solar panels.

Thanks for your help. Feel free to e-mail back at

Steve Fennell

Rhys said...

Hello, Bruce and June.

Marc here, just checking in and it appears you two are doing splendidly. Thanks for the very valuable "real life gear review" and the cost breakdown. I've told people that with a fully and largely newly equipped boat that I expect to spend $25K/year, excluding insurance, and it looks like even that modest amount is on the generous side, seeing as we have the same strategy as you (anchor out and limit shoreside spending in marinas and restaurants) and we are going outside of the Caribbean to Panama and then the Pacific, where, admittedly, French Polynesia could be a hard place to economize.

A nice companion piece to your "things that have worked" entry would be a mention of gear that hasn't worked, hasn't proven to be durable, or hasn't proven to be necessary. I for one like the KISS concept, and wouldn't want to weigh down the boat more than is needed to stuff I will never use.

I'm putting the mast in my old 33 footer tomorrow, which gives me a chance to stay practiced when I get tired of working on the big boat.