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10 Steps to Become a Cruiser

10 Steps to Become a Cruiser 2021

10 Steps to Become a Cruiser
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If you have kids, you will want to get them excited about sailing.

3. If You Have Kids – Decide How Schooling Will Work

When you decide to become a cruiser with kids, you need to look at how homeschooling will work. Not only who the teacher will be. But will you use a free or paid plan? Will you use physical books or online?

All of these decisions will affect your cruising budget. A paper school plan may look to be cost-effective at first. However, down the line, getting the books delivered in a remote corner of the world may cost many times more than you paid for the school course. The same can be said for an online course. Data rates vary wildly from country to country. You may need to set your mind to be flexible to change your homeschooling plan or even school provider region by region.

Make Sure There is a Backup Homeschooling Plan

Fully investigate the total cost of the school plan you have selected or are recommended. Also budget for a back-up plan for year two. One of the most common comments we hear from fellow cruisers with kids is that they have changed school plans. And end up dropping a free or cheap plan and now have to budget for an expensive homeschool plan every moth, quarter or year.

Make sure you budget for schooling with an open mind that your idea for homeschooling may not work for you. And you may very well need to change plans, methods of delivery, etc.

If you will be cruising with kids take a look at my article on ‘Selling Sailing To Your Kids‘.

10 Steps to Become a Cruiser
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4. Make a Provisional Cruising Budget

Now’s the time to make a cruising budget. Research, research, research! Make sure your cruising budget is tailored to your cruising region, how you will cruise, your lifestyle, the number of onshore activities you expect to do, etc.

Be realistic! So many cruising plans end up on the rocks because of an overly optimistic budget.

I know budgeting at this stage is hard as you probably don’t own the boat yet. Nor should you run out and buy a boat at this stage of your planning. I’m sure you have a rough idea of the type and model of the boat or boats you are looking at. Research running costs for your wish list of boats and average them out. As a rough rule of thumb, insurance will be around 2% of your future boat’s hull value.

It is a well know fact amongst cruisers that the cruising budget for the first year may be almost double what they see in the second year. You are learning to live on a boat and cruise full time. It will be different from what you are used to. You are still learning.

You will blow the budget! In year one the boat will cost you more than you expected (especially on a brand new boat). The longer you cruise for, the better your budgeting will become. Don’t try to fool yourself. Build the year one budget with you blowing out your year two onwards cruising budget.

10 Steps to Become a Cruiser
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5. Draw Up Your Five Year Plan to Go Cruising

Now that you’ve decided to become a cruiser. Let’s work on your five-year plan. Or two, or three, four-year plan. Normally a five-year plan is what it takes unless you have your ducks in a row. Cruising funds lined up, own a boat, know how to maintain it, and know-how to sail.

  • Work backward – start at your cast-off date
  • When will be your last medical appointment? dentist checkup? When will you get any vaccinations you may need?
  • When will you apply for the first visas you may require?
  • When will you renew your passports, driver’s license, etc?
  • When will you sell your cars, toys, furniture, etc (or store them)?
  • When will you sell the house? Business?
  • What courses will you take and when will you take them?
  • When will you start trimming the budget? You can stagger these on a per expense basis?
  • When will you cancel memberships, subscriptions, kid’s activities?
  • Are there medical procedures you need to be done? When will they be done? (maybe Lasik?)
  • When will you buy the boat?
  • When will you move on board?

These are the main items. Tailor the plan to your needs.

Now:

  • Get a Count-down App for the home screen of your phone (or hidden screen if you don’t want someone asking questions at work) set your cast-off date.
  • Make a poster with your cast-off date and a picture of your future life. Stick it on your bathroom mirror. Behind the toilet door. Or a place you will see it to keep you motivated.
  • Start getting active – If you’ve been sedentary start walking. Aim to be active by the time you cast off.
10 Steps to Become a Cruiser
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Get a Countdown App on your phone to keep you motivated

6. Make a Budget That Starts From Today Up To The Day You Cast Off

While looking at your five-year plan draw up a month-to-month budget that will help you achieve your cruising goals. Create it in Excel and update it on a monthly basis. You need to be honest with yourself. And, you need to review it monthly with your partner and possibly even your kids.

Part of drawing up your budget will be going through your bank statements for the past six months with a fine-tooth comb. Taking stock of what you are willing to start trimming from your monthly bills. Take a look at my post on 5 quick tips to save $1000 a month.

10 Steps to Become a Cruiser
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Choose YOUR perfect boat, don’t let anyone else tell you what your perfect boat should be.

7. Decide on The Type and Model Boat That Suits Your Cruising Style

This is one of the most important choices you will make in your planning to Become a Cruiser. Every sailor you speak with will try to sway you away from the decision on the type, or even model of boat you have decided will work for you.

Listen to their advice but carefully evaluate every piece of advice you receive. Just as we have different tastes in the style of houses that we live in or the cars we drive, the same can be said for boats. There is no perfect cruising boat. They are all compromises.

Some people love classic designs, others like to race their boats. Some folks will only buy a well-known brand others want a one-off custom boat. There is even a large minimalist crowd that wants no modern conveniences on their boats. No refrigeration, no toilets. Nothing! On the other end of the scale are people that want every convenience of home. Not to even get started with the Catamaran vs. Mono debate. They are all personal choices. And some people will defend their choices tooth and nail. Be forewarned!

Once you have decided on the boat model(s) on your shortlist that meets your budget. You will need to set a maximum refit budget in terms of both a dollar value and time value. Another decision will be where will you complete the refit or upgrades?

Please note that now is NOT the time to run out and buy a boat. Don’t even contact a broker for a casual chat. You will either be talked into a boat that may not suit your planned cruising boat needs or you’ll be labeled a tire kicker. Then when the time comes to go out and actually buy a boat brokers will discount you as not being a serious buyer and will give you second-rate service.

Over the months and years as you learn more about cruising and the cruising lifestyle you will reevaluate your checklist decisions over and over. I suggest you bookmark the Boat Evaluation Checklist checklist so that you have a reference to return to over and over again. Obviously, if you already own a boat that you love and have decided that it’s the boat you want to go cruising on then do not sell it.

If you are thinking of cruising on a catamaran be sure to take a look at my article Buying a Cruising Catamaran.

The message here is, not only will your ideas of the perfect cruising boat change over time. It doesn’t make sense to purchase and refit a boat years out from departure. Unless you have the desire and can afford to own a boat for pleasure while still maintaining your home and current lifestyle.

Buying a boat too early will burn through your cruising and boat purchase budget as you pay for upkeep and marina fees month after month. You may also be tempted to solicit high priced maintenance services as you feel you don’t have the time to maintain your own boat.

Installing upgrades further out than a couple of months before departure doesn’t make much sense. We know many cruisers who tinkered on their boats for years, adding various bits of equipment. By the time they left to go cruising full time, the upgrades were years old, out of warranty and, more than one or two never-used items failed within their first few months out cruising. Furthermore, certain items such as watermakers don’t like to sit unused for extended periods. My advice is, install them just before you start using them.

The other hazard in having a boat that you spend years prepping is that you run the risk of never feeling you are ready to go! Your cast-off date arrives and it gets pushed back and back again. As you “just have one more thing to install before the boat is ready”. Boat prep becomes a crutch and comfort blanket. And the would-be cruisers lose their nerve and never leave.

If you are looking at purchasing a used catamaran to go cruising please take a look at my article ‘Is Buying an Ex-Charter Catamaran a Good Idea’.

10 Steps to Become a Cruiser
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Nic

Hi, I’m Nic! Our Family of four have been out cruising since 2016. We have sailed about 15,000nm, almost halfway around the world. We sold everything, took the leap of faith, and bought a 10-year-old Lagoon 380 ex-charter catamaran. We’ve fixed every system on the boat, often more than once. Cruising has been such a wonderful, positive experience for our family that I want to share my tips to help you Become a Cruiser.


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2 thoughts on “10 Steps to Become a Cruiser 2021”

  1. Hey Nic! Excellent!! You have a brilliant set of ideas, and attention getting style. Good on ya mate! Is that your FlipFlop-built dinghy in the dinghy dock picture? I think of you and your great family everytime I stumble over the mold for the floor.
    Cheers,
    Sheila
    Linton Bay Marina
    Panama

    1. Hi Shiela,
      So great to hear from you. How are you? How far are you with the rebuild of your boat?
      Nope, that’s not the dinghy in the pic, we eventually went and bought an OC Tender. The one we made was so so heavy.
      Thanks so much for the feedback on the site and commenting.
      Loads of love,
      Nic

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