This is Part 2 of 2 of the Sail Away on FIRE Interview with Floats Our Boat. Click the rewind icon to read Part 1.
Are you an expat living overseas? How about someone who has achieved Financial Independence? Maybe you have an interesting story to tell? Would you like to be interviewed for EXPAT INSIGHTS? Contact me and let's chat.
Introduction and Guest Bio
Captain Mike and Jenn from Floats Our Boat return to Nomadic FIRE to provide deeper insights into living on a sailboat. This husband and wife team are two former engineers who retired early at 46, with a retirement nest egg of $3.3M. They fill their retirement days with adventure, spending 8 months of the year cruising the oceans on a sailboat. When hurricane season hits, they take their adventures back to land for experiences like the 500 miles (800 km), 35 days El Camino trek across Spain.
Their first interview with Nomadic FIRE gave us a glimpse of what living on a boat was like as the pandemic hit. In today's video, they return to provide insights on day to day sailboat life, training required to captain a boat, and how much you need to budget for annual expenses.
Watch the Sail Away on FIRE Video Interview
Sailboat Life- Video Notes
- Mike describes the living conditions of a 37' sailboat [3:15]
- Bonus video get a virtual video tour of the living quarters of the Sanitas
- What size boat should someone buy? [5:06]
- Want to know how much living on a sailboat costs per year? Mike and Jenn give us some guidance. [6:55]
- Get a complete sample monthly budget for sailboat life. [7:40]
- What kind of training or experience required to live on a sailboat? [8:25]
- Living on a sailboat isn't always sunshine and roses. Hear about Mike's emergency repair underwater in the middle of the ocean. [9:45]
- Listen as Jenn relives challenges the crew faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. [12:02]
- Looking for ways to get rid of seasickness? [15:00]
Sailboat Life- How much does it cost?
If you are looking into living on a sailboat, one of the first questions you will want to know is, "how much does it cost to live on a boat?" I pulled together some budgets from other full-time boaters to provide a basis for comparing monthly budgets. As you can see below, there is not much consistency between what boaters spent. Just like on land, there are budget boaters, and there are luxury boaters. After talking with Mike and a few others, I can safely say that when it comes to living on a sailboat, the boating adage holds.
It costs as much as you want it to cost.
The Penny Hoarder- San Diego, California USA
|Utilities, Laundry, Mail||$250|
|Total Expenses|| $2,133 |
Seek to See More- Bahamas
|Drinks and Entertainment||$420|
|Food and Water||$408|
|Utilities and Comms||$343|
|Hotel and Shopping||322|
|Maintenance & Fuel||$105|
|Total Expenses|| $2,011 |
BONUS VIDEO TOUR INSIDE THE SANITAS
Jenn gives us a virtual tour inside the living quarters of the Sanitas. Get a inside look at sailboat life.
EDITOR NOTE- Here is a comparison of the living quarters on a yacht vs SUPER yacht.
Full Transcript of Sail Away on FIRE
Morning walks on the beach, postcard sunsets in the afternoon, and sounds of waves lulling you to sleep. Beach life epitomizes stress free living. We have all dreamt about living on tropical island. But what if the ENTRIE ocean was your backyard? Imagine retiring in your 40s to travel the world on sailboat? Well I found 2 people who are doing exactly that. And they are willing to tell us how they did it. Stick around, as my next guests will be answering questions all the way from the their boat anchored off the coast of the Caribbean island of Antigua. Stay tuned.
Welcome to Nomadic FIRE's EXPAT INSIGHTS, I am Marco Sison.
Wow…I’m having a COVID-19 Hair Day. I've been on home quarantine for over 60 days, which means I haven't had a haircut in about 3 months. I haven't had this much gel in my hair since I was 13 years old.
For those that don't personally know me or haven't read about me through by blog, again, I'm Marco Sison and I started Nomadic FIRE, which is a website specifically built to help you reach Financial Independence---the FI part of FIRE By living abroad in super affordable, but amazing low cost countries, where I can live a better life at 70% less cost than the US. I am thankful and thrilled about the life I live…but today, I am even more thrilled.
The reason I'm super excited. This is the FIRST video I’m making for Nomadic FIRE. My first ever. But this is going to be the start of many I'll be doing, because video is such a great way to show you what life is like living abroad. So before I get into this interview, make sure to subscribe to our youtube channel and give this video thumbs up to help others looking to upgrade their retirement
I've lived abroad and traveled to over 40 countries in the last 7 years. In these 7 years, I haven’t met ANYONE that has retired early to live life like my next two guests
For Nomadic FIRE’s maiden voyage into the video, we have opportunity of hearing Captain Mike and his wife Jenn from Floats our Boat. This husband and wife team retired at 46 to travel the world on SAILBOAT.
They are both engineers, in their 40s, they FATFIRE with a retirement nest egg of about $3.3M. They have given a full breakdown of their FIRE numbers, allocation breakdown, and withdrawal strategy. For FIRE folks or anyone who wants the financial nitty gritty details, checkout nomadicfire.com/living-on-a-boat.
And thank you Mike and Jenn for being open with your FIRE numbers. I know the audience out there can learn from your FIRE strategies and how you have made it to where you are today.
But Mike, while you here available to chat, I don't want to focus on the numbers, we can read about those. I want to hear what retirement life traveling the world on a boat is like. Is it tiny, like living in a sardine can? Is there room to move around? Do you and Jenn feel like you are bumping elbows constantly? What’s the living situation?
Our boat is a Pacific Seacraft 37, so 37 feet long. What does that mean for living space? We have about a hundred and twenty five feet square feet of usable living space and that's about the same as a room in a home that's ten foot by thirteen feet.
So imagine you're bedroom, dining room, bathroom, kitchen and all your storage space fitting into that one room. It's a little stretched out on the boat, but if I was to lay out from side to side I could touch both ends and then walking from one end to the boat to the other about a stern probably have 25 feet of usable space up on the deck. If we really wanted to get away from each other Jen in the cockpit and me up on the foredeck, we'd be about 25 feet away.
We have learned from experience that there is no real good space on our boat to do yoga. It's just a little too small. We can do simple poses like…
A child's pose and maybe I do a few push-ups in the middle of the salon floor.
Not that it’s a competition, but the garden behind me is where I get to do my yoga.
To get exercise on boat, I have to imagine you need to get creative. A 10 x 13 room isn’t as big as a house, but you're not trapped in a closet either.
Help me out, I’m so ignorant about boats. I'm guessing most of the folks out there are as well. How much should someone spend on a boat? Is there a guideline about how much boat a person should buy? As an example, when I talk to people about saving for Financial Independence, I help them with benchmark to not spend more than 30% of your take home pay on housing. Is there a guideline on a boats?
Size of the boat that someone might choose for living and cruising aboard is very, very personal. Things like, certainly your budget would get involved and you're familiarity with sailing so if you're if you've been sailing your whole life and you’re comfortable, yeah, has a couple you might be able to manage a 55 foot monohull. For Jenn and I, we thought something in the 40 foot range was a good size to shoot for and that seems to be a pretty popular range with a lot of cruisers.
There's no hard fast rule with respect to how much income how much of your income you should spend on a boat like there might be in landlife, but there is a handy rule of thumb that says for every 10 feet of length your maintenance costs double and for every year, your maintenance costs will be roughly 10% of the boats value.
So we bought our boat for roughly $140,000. We plan roughly in our budget somewhere in the 12 to 14,000 annually for maintenance costs. And certainly on a year-to-year that varies widely, but some years you're going to have a big surge in costs where you might have to replace sails or do some structural work and other years it's quite minor where all you do is put on some more bottom paint and splash the boat. Which sounds simple and straightforward, but our bottom paint is $150 a gallon and it's pretty toxic so we pay someone that has all the appropriate safety gear to do it for us and it usually runs about a thousand dollars just to get the bottom paint.
Now that is the price for just boat. What about the other expenses? What do you spend on that people like me living on land don’t? And actually vise versa. Can living on a boat actually SAVE you money?
So once you've decided which boat your budget allows based on the 10% annual maintenance costs plus the cost of the boat initially then you're looking at discretionary spending.
And all that stuff is very flexible how much you want to spend on restaurants drinks entertainment, whether you pay to stay in a marina or you spend a lot of time on anchor for free, whether you buy restaurant meals cook your own meals in the galley.
I think liveaboards, cruising sailboater’s budgets, vary dramatically based on how they choose to prioritize and those kinds of decisions that they make. I do think it's possible that living on a boat can save you money because your lifestyle comes with a very small footprint and you really only spend money on things that you're actually using.
And the things you do use like your electricity and water you get really good at being efficient with them we have a certain amount of power that we can generate every day so we know we can't just run the laptop all day long and the water tanks are only so big so we know that we need to conserve and only use three to four gallons of water a day.
Say you convinced me to buy a boat. No, not really. I have no idea what I'd do behind the helm. Can I just go down to the local Boats-R-Us to buy one and drive off?
Or do I need some training? Are there classes that I should be taking? An international drivers license of some sort?
As far as experience needed to live on a boat and open water. I would say none. You could buy a boat that's already on a mooring ball and move board and no one would stop you. But you would probably get a crash course in how to maintain that boat and its systems. That by far I think is the hardest thing to transition and learn.
Honestly, I think the sailing part is some of the easier stuff. And when Jenn and I got into sailing with we had no background in sailing at all, so we took the ASA or American Sailing Association classes 101 102 and 104. Which gave us enough of a skill set to go do bareboat charters in the British Virgin Islands for a few years.
But we know many people that have moved aboard with no sailing experience and no lessons and they make it work.
Woah...woah...wait...That’s a little scary, right… I mean you are all on your own. If the boat breaks down, its up to you and Youtube to fix something your life depends on. IKEA gives me pretty good instructions and I still screw up making a table.
This is just the two of you hundreds of miles in the middle of the ocean. Actually, that reminds me, I read a story on your blog. You had some mechanical trouble on the boat and to fix it, you had to jump overboard in the middle of the ocean. That's nuts!
Yeah, that was super scary. One of those things that you never think will happen to you until it does we were on an overnight passage off the coast of the Dominican Republic and thank goodness this happened around sunrise. I can't imagine doing this at night.
So we noticed a strong shaking at the helm for the steering wheel, especially when we added revs to the engine. I investigated as much as I could on board looking at the engine for broken fan belts or motor mounts, but I couldn't find any problems. We figured it had to be on the prop. The water was so deep we couldn't measure the depth with our instruments, so there was no option to anchor. We dropped the sails and stopped the motor.
We were moving about one knot or one mile an hour so I had to be very careful not to be a separated from the boat.
How deep did you think it was?
I don't know. Three or four thousand feet.
Wow, that's deep. So Mike dug a long dock line out of the locker. Tied one and around his waist and tied the other end of the boat. He put on a snorkel mask, grabbed the knife that we keep close at the steering pedestal and got ready to jump in.
I said, I love you and I made him say it back and made him promise to be careful and then he was in the water.
My intention was to get in and out of the water as soon as possible on my first dive. I saw something on the prop, which was great news because at least we had found the problem.
I took a couple more deep breaths and after a few slashes with a knife. I freed a huge mess of fabric, rope, plastic, and netting. I threw some of it up on the deck so Jenn could see what the problem was.
And take pictures!
EDITOR NOTE- Getting the best pictures is about the camera. Here are tips on what makes the "Best Underwater Camera."
And then I got my butt back up the ladder and onto the boat as soon as possible. We're pretty lucky, there was no damage to the prop and we continued on our passage to Somana (sic). All in all I was in the water about 10 minutes.
Did it feel like it was only 10 minutes?
It felt a lot longer and looking down into the deep blue was not encouraging.
But that isn’t the only time things were stressful. Your adventures in response to pandemic are was really interesting.
I did a series of interview with several FIRE Expats who were overseas when the borders closed, flights were getting canceled, and people were getting kicked out or denied entry into countries. People were stranded and had to get rescue flights out. It was a stressful time for those us living abroad and we were on land. Can you tell us what it was like being anchored on some foreign island when COVID-19 hit?
Sure okay. I'm sure everybody listening can relate to the fear and stress we all experience early on during this pandemic, but I think our experience with the crisis in Guadeloupe was heightened by the fact that we were in a foreign country where we didn't speak the language very well.
When France its overseas territories went unlocked down in mid-March, we were anchored off the tiny town of Terre de Haute (sic) on Isle of Il de Song (sic) and we struggled to figure out what was going on. I'd walk by the town hall and I take pictures on my phone of any official looking document posted outside and then later plug it into Google Translate and try and figure out what it was saying. Basically, trying to learn the lockdown rules.
Another day the motor on our dinghy died when we were halfway back to the boat from a grocery shopping trip on land. Drifting through the anchorage without a motor. I grabbed onto the side of a nearby boat and held on while Mike did some troubleshooting and eventually the only other English-speaking captain in the harbor came by and towed us back to Sanitas.
We did figure out our problem and we were able to repair it. But this really brought home to me how much we were on our own and we were really missing the cruiser community that always rallies round and helps each other out when it's needed. It was also pretty stressful seeing police in uniform walking on the beaches and seeing French warships off the coast.
I belong to several Facebook groups for sailors and one group at the time was posting updates twice a day on the border closures and the immigration rules in the Caribbean. That's right twice a day. Because the situation was deteriorating so quickly. When the government requested that all foreign flags ships leave Guadeloupe and return to their home ports, it was really nerve-racking to try and figure out where we could go.
At a real, very real possibility that borders would close in our destination country while we were sailing there. So that's why we chose a pretty sporty weather window to sail from Guadalupe to Antigua. Where we successfully cleared into the country just two days before Antigua closed their borders to incoming visitors, yachts, and planes. Whew is a relief to get back there and be settled for a while.
I read about that “SPORTY weather” you ran between Guadalupe and Antigua that the seas were rough enough that Jenn feed the fish. I get terrible motion sickness. I’m actually not allowed to dance, because moving that much makes me seasick.
Is that something that goes away? I would honestly be interested in learning to sail, but the thought of weeks floating up and down make me nauseous. Do you eventually stop getting sick?
I used to say I don't ever get seasick. I don't say that anymore. I don't know if it's getting older or what it is, but there's been a few times the season when I've definitely been queasy.
Thankfully I can say I still don't get seasick but it's very personal and we know a lot of cruisers that either can say they've never been sick or people that cruise and get sick every time they head out for the next island.
I think some people do get used to it over time and there's a whole bunch of methods out there now to help prevent and mitigate see sickness, especially once you're outside the US there's some medicine called Stugeron that people swear by that in the Caribbean you can get up over the counter in a pharmacy that is really supposed to be beneficial.
So, I would say if this is a concern of yours. Push your comfort level go spend a few days on a boat see if you get over it after a few days certainly do that before you make a big commitment and go and buy a boat.
Captain Mike. Jenn. Thank you both for taking the time to chat with me. It has been a fantastic talk. The people listening and watching out there, I am sure have absolutely learned a lot. I hope you guys stay safe and sane aboard the Sanitas. Mike...one last thing, you are a Captain of a boat. A boat that happens to be in the Caribbean. Can you make pirate noise for me? Like a goodbye 'ARRGHH, Maties
Been great talking to you Marco and fun getting to know each other. Thanks again for featuring us on your super informative blog.
We hope this exchange has inspired a few of your followers to untie the lines and pursue FIRE on the high seas.
So from Mike and Jenn on sailing vessel Sanitas, here is a traditional royal navy toast to you and your followers.
“To the wind that blows. The ship that goes. And the lass who loved a sailor.”