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A Major Milestone: Star Stuff is Paid Off!

A Major Milestone: Star Stuff is Paid Off!

I got a boat for my birthday this year! Our ability to patiently squirrel away money month after month has allowed us to finally free ourselves from the shackles of monthly payments for our floating home. The great news is that when we leave, we won’t have recurring monthly debt payments. We will only be responsible for our living expenses and cruising fees when we enter other countries. The not-so-great news is that we still have to finish the refit on the boat, and that’s going to take more time and money.

In the last two years, we’ve been able to pay off our credit card and our car loan. It has been a season of shaking off debt. It feels great to be free of consumer debt and to be able to use our entire income to feather our little cruising nest. The bad news is that we still have an estimated $31,000 to spend on getting the boat seaworthy. That’s on top of the $34,000 we’ve spent in the last two plus a quarter years on maintenance and upgrades. For the record, $8700 of that was spent on much needed engine repairs and another $6500 on a new electronics suite. Those should be one-time purchases that will last us another 10 years. We’ve also made her our home in that time. That sounds like a metric shit ton of money, and it is.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s been worth it, even though we are going to end up buying our boat twice over between the sale price and the refit costs. We are hoping that spending a lot upfront will keep us from having to spend a lot while we are underway. I look at it this way: $130K is a pretty cheap house that will take us around the world.

Breakdown of what we have left to finish the refit:

rig $13,000.00
mainsail $5,000.00
batteries $3,000.00
electronics $1,000.00
autopilot $2,000.00
life raft $3,000.00
EPIRB $500.00
life jackets $300.00
bottom job $2,000.00
stove $1,500.00
Total cost $31,300.00

Julie and Greg

These are the bare minimum items we will need to check off our list to make the boat safe to go cruising. We really want to start heading south after this list is done, even if that means continuing to work while saving for the cruising kitty. The problem with a boat refit is that there is always, always something “to do” that will keep you at the dock if you let it. You can ask anyone that’s lived aboard for any length of time. There are dozens of old farts that pulled into port to make repairs and never left. As a (former) yacht broker, I’ve seen people buy boats and put them right back up on the hard because they’re trying to straddle the fence between life on land and going cruising.

My experience has been “commit to it or forget it.” Buy the boat and live aboard in a nice slip, if you can afford it. On the hook if you can’t. There is just no practical way I can see that makes it worth it to split your finances between a home mortgage and a boat. A boat takes as many resources as a house, needs as much care, and can be just as much a home. Our investments of time and energy will hopefully make our cruising life long, safe, and relatively comfortable.

But the overarching message here is that even though the going seems to be slow, we are serious about drawing a line somewhere and doing the rest underway. We do not want to be the couple that got trapped at the dock by Columbo. “Just one more thing…”