Doing maintenance and repairs yourself will bring the cost down. Offloading work to professionals if you can afford it is fine, but it's good to know how to take care of your boat. You may not always have access to workers if sailing to far-flung islands.
A failure to maintain items regularly will cost more later. We recommend keeping a log of the repairs, part replacements that is done to your boat. Many parts have a limited lifespan, so knowing when they were replaced last will help prevent breakages. If leaving for a big sailing trip with spares, install the spare and keep the other one as the spare. If you do this, you'll learn how to change the part and what tools you need to do the job.
- The boat’s hull (bottom) & topsides, electrical systems
- Electrical systems
- Moving parts (hinges, tracks and zippers)
- Canvas and upholstery
When doing repairs, use quality materials and products, research them thoroughly before a project instead of relying on brand names.
Some years will cost more than others as gear wears out.
Tasks like hauling-out (to get the bottom painted) is once every 2-3 years for an offshore boat, but can be every year otherwise. How often you haul out depends on your personal preference.
Yard fees vary from place to place, those closer to large cities will cost more. In New Zealand, it cost us NZD$420 total, including bottom rinse, haul in and out and days to stay on the hard. While in Japan, it was about double that price for half the time.
Bottom paint: If we want to wait longer between haul-outs we paint 3 coats, otherwise 1 every year. We use ablative anti-fouling which costs about ~$250 to paint a 10 m yacht.
Shaft, strut and prop: Coating your prop, shaft and strut with PropSpeed (see image below) works well to keep growth off, it works well in high-growth areas (we used it in New Zealand and Japan) but it is very expensive.
There is also the option of zinc paint. If your boat comes out of the water for a haul-out every year, a cheap alternative is to coat metal with zinc cream(penanten) or anhydrous lanolin. Both products are available at the pharmacy.
Offshore sailing costs
Traveling offshore means more wear because the boat is under more stress. Repair and maintenance can cost between $500-800 per year for a 10 m yacht like ours. This price goes up and down depending on where we go, and what has to be replaced that year. The size of the boat has a big influence on the cost of things. Larger boats need thicker hardware, rigging etc.
In 2018 while in new zealand, we spent around $10k on Pino (see projects and pain) to get it ready for japan and the subsequent trip across the north pacific ocean. This was the most we'd spent in a year and was due to the purchase of a new AIS system, mainsail, throttle cables, replacement windows, top hatch, galley plumbing, replacement batteries and solar panels. We did most of the work ourselves, all except for the mainsail. Our first year was also expensive, because the boat was not outfitted for sailing offshore, we had to buy lifejackets, jacklines, a drogue, extra lines, shackles, a med-kit, extra tools, a location device, a handheld VHF, a SAT phone, foul-weather gear, engine spares etc. We wrote an offshore checklist to find out what you may need to buy.
Engines require spare parts like oil ($25) and fuel filters ($10), they should be replaced 250 hours (300 hours on some models) or once per year, whichever is sooner. Our engine has two fuel filters, a secondary and primary. Other items that need to be replaced periodically include: water pump impellers ($40), water pump and alternator belt (15-$20), zincs (inside engine, $8 each), coolant (if fresh water cooled) shaft zinc ($16 each) etc.
See our resources for a list of helpful manuals on maintenance. Always carry the physical manual for your engine.
Wood upkeep costs
Most boats have teak rails or accessories, or marine plywood(interior). Teak does not rot, but it is a very expensive and an increasingly rare material. We don't recommend buying new exotic hard woods, even if they last longer, because they often come from endangered forests. In all cases, using reclaimed hardwoods is the best thing to do. When boats are too old, they're stripped for parts and are a good source of used hard woods.
Most interior wood ought to be treated—especially marine plywood—so they don't absorb moisture. Marine ply is usually pre-treated to prevent the wood from rot and decay, but the wood still needs to be sealed. All boats suffer leaks eventually, and so it is necessary to take steps to protect the wood to make it last. If replacing a wall, coat the wood with multiple layers of epoxy(on the seam too) before applying multiple coats of varnish for UV protection.
A liter of resin can cost 30-40$, and harder is about 50-74$ per liter(although sizes tend to be much smaller. UV-resistant varnish can cost 40-80$ per liter, depending in the producer.
Living at anchor, that is, in a bay somewhere tethered to the earth with ground tackle is free. Some bays will have moorings installed that you can tie to for a small fee (often around $10-15 per day). Living at anchor is the cheap way to go, although getting a good anchor and rode is important as it will keep your boat safe.
Marinas often have guest docks with power, WiFi and showers, for a medium-to-high cost ($300-$800.) The longer the boat though, the bigger the cost. Some marinas charge per dock space rather than boat size, beware of these places. Moorage near cities is more expensive, and the price goes up during the high season (summer). Winter moorage is generally much cheaper.
Paying for annual moorage is a good idea, but keeping a boat in a marina means getting liability insurance, which in turn, means you'll need a survey, resulting in a seemingly interminable domino effect which can incur many more costs. Depending on the age of your boat, and when it was last surveyed (if ever), you may need a full condition out-of-water survey. This means paying a marina to lift your boat out, and paying the surveyor. A surveyor will point out mandatory items that need fixing and/or replacing, if these items are not complied with within 60 days the insurance will be void.
Living aboard your boat will cause wear from regular use of the space. If staying at a marina in your home country for long periods, paying for liveaboard fees (up to $150 extra per month) is necessary. If staying in a marina in a foreign country, liveaboard fees are often waived. Some marinas charge for electricity and water, be sure to take that into account, especially if you have plans to winter there and that your heating is electric. In winter, marinas charge less than in the high season. A marina that charges 900$ per month in the summer can charge 500$ in the winter.
He who lets the sea lull him into a sense of security is in very grave danger. — Hammond Ines
Things can happen, even on a calm ocean, so it is necessary to be alert and to not underestimate the water's strength and unpredictability. Never be complacent, and don't trust the sea. Wear a life jacket (with sailing harness) and tether (especially when night sailing). Safety gear with auto-inflating systems need to be inspected often, and you must carry spares.
Safety gear will last you many years if serviced regularly. Pyrotechnic signaling devices (including aerial flares and hand held signals) expire 42 months after the date of manufacture in accordance with the Coast Guard requirements. Typically, this means that you must replace your flares every three boating seasons. Aerial flares cost $75 per pack of 6 (in Canada), for a boat our size (10 m) we need to have 12 aboard.
Life jackets and life rafts need to be serviced every 3 years, as the auto-inflating canisters need testing, and replacing. Replacement cartridges for auto-inflating PFD's cost about $35 (again, in Canada). If planning to travel for many years out of the country, carry replacement cartridges onboard, because other countries may not carry the ones required by your model and that replacements can't be shipped by air (they're pressurized). Re-packing a liferaft is very expensive, and varies depending on the model, and your location in the world.
Life jackets that are not auto-inflating are fine, but must have a sailing harness to which you can clip a short tether. If the tether is short enough, you won't fall overboard and won't require extra flotation. Floating life jackets that are non-inflating are bulky, and may make it difficult, or uncomfortable to sail in. Wearing a short tether that keeps you to the boat, and prevents you from falling too far overboard is your best security. We recommend a short tether with two clips, so you can clip to another point on the boat while always being clipped on elsewhere.
Run jacklines along the deck, from bow to stern cleats, and keep them within the standing rigging. Make sure the jacklines are flat, and brightly colorful as to be visible at night. Rope jacklines can trip you up. An even better option for jacklines, is to keep them running as close to the center of the boat as possible, so that there is no chance of falling overboard when attached. Jacklines have to be made from a strong, UV resistant material, you can buy them, but we had ours made.
Every boat should have a ditch bag, that is, a bag filled with emergency supplies in case the boat needs to be abandonned. The bag should have a handheld vhf, spare batteries, noise-producing device, flashlight, water, food (energy dense), charts, sextant, ibuprofen, sunscreen, lighter, medical kit, fish line, fish hooks, mirror, compass, duct tape, flare gun, emergency blanket, etc.