You don’t have to be retired or be a millionaire to travel around America’s Great Loop. As a young couple who are working as we cruise around the Great Loop, our budget is strict yet flexible with the approach of saving money where we can, such as anchoring, and spending money on unique experiences such as our time in Canada. The Great Loop is full of a variety of people with varying-sized boats, budgets, and lifestyles. This article is to help show the various expenses of a young couple with a dog on a budget who are balancing working full time, traveling to new places, and learning how to cruise. This is by no means the only way to do the loop, but it’s how we are doing our loop. Just as the Great Loop experience is completely customizable, so is each person or couple’s budget. This article explains the detailed monthly expenses of our journey around the Great Loop. By sharing our Great Loop monthly expenses with you, we hope to inspire other people that you can do the Loop on a budget at any age.

Thousand Islands, Canada
Ontario, Canada | Georgina Island in the Thousand Islands National Park


Traveling on the Great Loop has many of the same expenses as on land, however, there are a few specific to cruising full time. We divided up our Great Loop expenses into a few categories including marina, fuel, groceries, housekeeping, restaurants, attraction/tours, insurance, and other. Here are how we made these categories and what is included in each of them:

  • Marina. This category is for overnight dockage or mooring. This could be at a marina or it could include overnight stays at the lock walls along the Trent Severn Waterway. Marinas typically range from $1/foot up to $8/foot depending upon your location (see more below in our July travel summary). In our experience, Canada has been priced at the typical CA$2/foot. Some marinas also charge $5-30/day for electricity or “hydro” in Canada. The cost of electricity depends on the boat; we have 30 amp shore power while other boats might have 50 amp shore power. Depending upon the marina, location, and amp shore power depends on the cost of how much the price of electricity. When available, we try to get a mooring ball as they are a fixed price and provide many of the same amenities as a marina, just without the convenience of a dock. We’ve found mooring balls to be about $20-30 a night, which is significantly cheaper than a dock could cost us.
  • Fuel. This category is just diesel fuel. Our engine and generator take diesel so we have two large diesel tanks that hold about 300 gallons total. When our tanks are getting low, we begin to shop around for diesel before making a large fill-up. We made a video on Tips for Saving Diesel on an Old Trawler which includes searching for the best diesel prices on Waterway Guide and Cruisers Net. When researching fuel prices, be sure to look at whether tax is included or not. That can affect your overall fuel prices by several cents when filling up 150 gallons. By doing our homework and searching around ahead of time, we can avoid high fuel prices and can rest assured that we’re getting the best price available.
  • Groceries. This category includes groceries, pantry items, large provisioning hauls from Walmart or Amazon, and alcohol. While we lived on land, we would shop around at various grocery stores for deals. Now that we live on a boat, we’re at the mercy of whatever is most convenient to our boat and shopping at whatever grocery store is available. In some cities or towns, there might only be one grocery store in town, while other locations might have several options available.
  • Housekeeping. This category includes things like laundry, propane refills, pump outs, water refills, and tipping deck hands. We primarily wash our clothes in marina laundry facilities. Each load can cost between $1-4 per load, with the average load costing $2 for a total of $4 to wash and dry one load of laundry. Our galley uses two primary fuel sources for cooking: electricity and propane. We have two propane tanks on our boat for our stove top and grill cooking. Fill-ups usually cost around $5. Pump-outs can range from free to $10, however, we usually see pump-outs costing $5. In Canada, pump-outs cost us $15/tank. We used to put pump-outs in the ‘Marina’ category, but since we visit marinas just to get pump-outs, we felt it was important to delineate the marina category as overnight stays so we can better show how much money is saved by anchoring out and not visiting a marina. We haven’t had to pay for water until we got to the Florida Keys. Usually, water is free with a diesel fill-up or overnight dock stay. Each time we visit a dock, there are usually people there to help catch lines and assist you when docking. We tip each person about $5/person.
  • Restaurants. Part of the fun of traveling is tasting the delicious food that’s popular in a specific region. This category includes everything from bars, restaurants, desserts, breweries, coffee shops, etc. Anytime we ate out whether it was taken out or dining in, it went in this category.
  • Attractions/Tours. The other part of traveling is seeing various sights and taking tours to learn more about a place. This category will vary significantly from place to place, but is something we value to make the most of our Great Loop experience.
  • Insurance. Part of owning a boat includes boat insurance. It’s just part of doing business.
  • Boat Projects. This category is for all hardware, maintenance items, or engine pieces that are completed on the loop. This can range from boat improvements to maintenance items. Basically, anything that’s related to our boat goes here.
  • Other. This category is for any miscellaneous items that don’t fit into the previously mentioned categories.


Before we dive into our July expenses, it’s important to understand where we traveled, how far we cruised, and some peculiarities in our particular loop experience. We began our travels on the Erie Canal at Lock 18 and completed the eastern part of the Erie Canal, up the Oswego Canal, crossed Lake Ontario, through the Thousand Islands into Canada, and began our time on the Trent Severn Waterway for a total of 425.9 nautical miles. Going through the canals is much different than typical cruising on the loop because our cruising hours were limited to the hours the locks were open. Throughout the loop, we’ve left as early as 3:45 am and have arrived after dark at 8:00 pm, but since the locks are only open 7 am-5 pm or 9 am-6:30 pm, we’re limited to when we can travel. Our travels are also slower given the time it takes to pass through a lock. We may only travel 20 miles in one day but have traveled for 8 hours. Our Nebo Travel summary for July only shows our US travel because we don’t have an international roaming SIM card in our Nebo Link device (we have the older version). Here is our Nebo travel summary:

July Nebo Travel Log

Nights at a marina dock: 10

Nights on a marina mooring ball: 0

Nights on a free dock: 8

Nights on a paid dock: 4

Nights on a free lock wall: 1

Nights on a paid lock wall: 7

Nights at anchor: 1

We spent most nights at a marina for a total of 10 nights, which is really unusual for us. The first marina was in Clayton, New York where we had several packages delivered and got a slew of boat tasks completed. The next marina was in Kingston, Ontario, at the Confederation Basin Marina for 3 days at CA$1.90/foot. We stayed here to explore Kingston, catch up on some work, and wait out some weather. Our third dockage was at Campbellford which was CA$2/foot to also see the city, use their internet, and wait out some weather. Looking back on our time at Campbellford, we could have stayed on the lock wall for CA$1/foot and used the wifi at a local coffee shop. Our last dockage was at Port of Orillia for CA$1.89/foot. Outside of these marinas, we stayed at many lock walls. Lock walls were CA$1/foot in Canada, whereas they were free in the US because they were the most convenient option given the lack of anchorages with land access on the Trent Severn waterway.


We spent a total of $3,924.08 on our Great Loop expenses for July 2022. This was by far our most expensive month on the loop given all of the dockage fees. This list does not include our healthcare, phone bills, personal subscriptions, and business expenses as those all vary from one person to another.

July Great Loop Expenses

Our greatest expense was marinas for a total of $984.86. This month was abnormal for the amount of time we spent at marinas. We are looking forward to the month ahead where we’ll be traveling in the Georgian Bay with more anchorages and spots to go to shore. Our goal is to spend no more than 4 days at a marina in a month to keep our expenses low, but this month we spent 10 days at a marina and 11 nights at a paid dock or lock wall, making it a very expensive month for overnight dockage!

Our second greatest expense this month was groceries for a total of $870.79. This month’s grocery bill was average compared to other months. Most of the meals we eat are cooked on our boat, making this a reoccurring high category for us. The cost of eating isn’t an expense anyone can escape, however, we try to cook more meals than going out to eat at restaurants, which helps us overall save money.

Our third greatest expense was boat projects for $594.06. We bought a slew of items and had them delivered to the Clayton Marina where we did a major boat clean, boat projects, and bought oil for our next engine oil change. Most of the items were just part of doing business on a boat and cruising full time.

The remaining categories were pretty nominal. We tried to keep our exploring, touring, or sightseeing to free or inexpensive activities. We visited more restaurants this month because we visited Kingston which was a mecca of restaurants and of course we had to try the local brews and ice cream as we traveled about. We thoroughly enjoyed the food we did eat out!

Trent Severn Waterway, Lock 20 | Jen and Elliot going through the lock with a tour boat and a group of kayakers

We hope this post provided you with some insightful information on how much it costs to do the loop on a budget. We will continue to make these monthly expense reports as long as they continue to be helpful to our viewers. If there is something you would like us to include in our August Great Loop Expenses that we missed this month, let us know in the comments below!

The ups, downs, and everything in between, we share it all. If you like what you see, there are lots of ways to show your support and say thanks!

8 Responses

  1. Living my dream through you guys. That’s something I always wanted to do….. Good luck!
    I enjoy your videos so much.
    From Eustis Fl.

  2. If we ever did even part of the loop, we’d have to be frugal, and your incredibly detailed budget is super helpful. Great job as always! I’m really looking forward to seeing your videos of Canada. The pics are stunning already.

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