MONTHLY EXPENSES ON AMERICA'S GREAT LOOP - MARCH 2022
Traveling around America’s Great Loop doesn’t have to break the bank. This article explains the detailed monthly expenses of one couple’s 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.
NOT ALL GREAT LOOPS AND BUDGETS ARE THE SAME.
Completing the Great Loop is a unique experience as it varies from person to person. 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. We have chosen to anchor as much as possible on our loop to maximize our time away from marinas that tend to be rather pricey. Our time at marinas is typically very focused on getting convenient boat tasks done like washing the boat, filling up our water tanks, grocery shopping, boat work, projects, etc. We find that spending the money to have a reliable and trustworthy anchor setup was valuable to our overall budget because it helps us limit our time at marinas which can be rather pricy. With this being said, marina expenses will vary from person to person depending upon their preference and budget to anchor or visit marinas more often.
WHAT KIND OF EXPENSES ARE ON THE GREAT LOOP
Traveling on the Great Loop has many of the same expenses as on land, however, there are a few specific to life on the water. We divided up our Great Loop expenses into a few categories including marina, fuel, groceries, housekeeping, restaurants, attraction/tours, insurance, boat projects, and others. Here are how we made these categories and what is included in each of them:
- Marina. This category is for all services rendered at a marina, minus fuel. That includes mooring balls, docking, pump-outs, water, and tips to dockhands. Marinas typically range from $1/foot to $8/foot depending on your location (see more below in our March travel summary). In our experience, the ICW in Florida has been fairly expensive with $2/foot as the norm. Some marinas also charge $5-30/day for electricity 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 is. 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. Pump-outs can range from free to $10, however, we usually see pump-outs costing $5. We haven’t had to pay for water until we got to the Florida Keys. Usually, water is free with diesel to 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.
- 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. There might only be one grocery store in town in some cities or towns, while other locations might have several options available.
- Housekeeping. This category includes things like laundry and propane refills. 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 for our stovetop and grill cooking on our boat. Fill-ups usually cost around $5.
- 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, 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 is 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. Anything related to our boat goes here.
- Other. This category is for any miscellaneous items that don’t fit into the previously mentioned categories.
TRAVEL SUMMARY - MARCH 2022
Before we dive into our March 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 in the Florida Keys traveling from Marathon to Key West and on March 2, 2022, we re-started our Great Loop. Here is our Nebo travel summary for March:
Nights at a marina dock: 0
Nights on a mooring ball: 7
Nights on a free dock: 0
Nights at anchor: 24
As you can see, we spent most nights on the anchor for a total of 24 nights and spent 7 nights on a mooring ball. We were lucky to have mooring ball options available to us, as mooring balls are usually much cheaper than marina docks and help us to keep our marina budget low. We found marina docks upwards of $8/foot in Miami, Florida, which for a boat our size (34 feet) would total $272/night plus electric. That was way out of our budget, so finding safe, dog-friendly anchorages was important to us. If you’re interested in learning more about what it’s like cruising full time with a dog on America’s Great Loop, check out our blog post!
Some anomalies about March that are important to consider are our guests aboard as well as our time home. We spent 4 days at home with our parents, where we did 10 loads of laundry. If this were included in our monthly expenses, it would have added about $40 to our housekeeping and total budget. We also had Elliot’s dad visit us for one night and Jen’s aunt and uncle visit us aboard PIVOT.
GREAT LOOP MONTHLY EXPENSES - MARCH 2022
We spent a total of $2,229.88 on our Great Loop expenses for March 2022. This list does not include our healthcare, phone bills, and business expenses as those are all vary from one person to another.
Our greatest expense this month was groceries for a total of $869.24. We did a major provisioning run while we were home and were able to stock up on a lot of pantry items that we try to avoid purchasing every week so we don’t have as much to carry back to the boat. Provisioning runs are usually made every month or two, depending upon our stock. We also had family visit us for 4 nights between Elliot’s dad and Jen’s aunt and uncle. The price of groceries was a little bit higher than what we have normally paid living in Atlanta, however, we attribute that to being in the Florida Keys for a week where we found food prices were slightly higher than mainland Florida food prices. Most of the meals we eat are cooked on our boat, making this a particularly high category for us.
Our second greatest expense was fuel for a total of $708.37. We bought about 150 gallons of diesel at $4.90/gallon, which was higher than normal. After searching around for fuel prices and doing our homework, we did find the cheapest fuel available to us in our region. This is something we’re not able to escape as we’re in a motorboat, so we’ve tried to save money on other areas of expense.
Our third greatest expense was marinas for $329.64. We spent a total of 7 nights on a mooring ball and paid for 9 days of dinghy access while being anchored out in the Florida Keys. We found this was typical for the Florida Keys as mooring balls and dock access are very hard to come by and when it is available, it is very expensive. The cheapest marina in the Florida Keys that we found was at Bahia Honda State Park, which we did a video on, but decided not to stay there. There are not many places to take our dog out and go to shore for free, which is why we needed to purchase dinghy dock access. If we didn’t have Ollie, we may have been able to wait out storms and such without land access. When possible, it’s important to us to take Ollie to shore even if it costs us money. The dinghy dock access ranged from $8-23/day, which we felt was expensive, but it was typical for the Florida Keys.
The remaining categories were pretty nominal. We didn’t do as much exploring, touring, or visiting restaurants as we would have liked, but we were on a schedule to get back to St. Augustine. In future months, we expect this number to be a little bit higher. Thankfully all boat projects and work expenses were nominal as we had spare pieces and parts already on board. About $100 of our Walmart grocery bill was spent on oil for our next oil change, even though it’s listed in the grocery.
ANNUAL BOAT EXPENSES
There were a few boat expenses that we pay for on an annual basis. These items did not make our March Expenses because we paid for them earlier in the year, but felt it was important to include them in this monthly budget analysis:
- US Coast Guard Vessel Renewal $26.00
- Garmin Navionics Yearly Subscription for the US and Canada $21.99
- AquaMaps US and Canada Maps $29.99
- Boat US Annual Gold Unlimited Towing $169.00
- Florida State Park Annual Family Pass $147.06 – we used this pass for many of the Florida State Parks in the Keys this past month.
This totals $393.05 of previous expenses paid that will last us for the upcoming year. It’s part of the cost of doing business in completing the Great Loop.
Overall, this was a pretty low budget for a month on America’s Great Loop as we didn’t stop and explore many towns or destinations along the loop. Going forward, we expect to stop and explore more spots, which will mean we’ll be spending more money. 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 April Great Loop Expenses that we missed this month, let us know in the comments below!