There are many factors that go into creating a budget for the Great Loop, but among all is flexibility. We knew budgeting for our Great Loop would ebb and flow depending on the season and our location. When doing our initial budget plans, we expected Canada to surpass our lower budget months but we did not expect the Great Lakes and Illinois River to be our most expensive month on the Great Loop. Let us explain…

Havanna Anchorage
Havanna, Illinois | Quiver Island Anchorage on the Illinois River


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, a paid dock, or any paid overnight stays. Marinas typically range from $1-8/foot depending upon your location. The most we saw a marina cost in the Great Lakes region was $2.65 at the Chicago marinas. When available, we try to get a mooring ball as they are a fixed price and provide many of the same amenities of as marina, just without the connivence of a dock. The mooring ball field at Monroe Harbor in Chicago was our key to staying at a convenient location to Chicago well within our budget.
  • 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 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 dock 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. 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 us when docking. We tip $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 I dive into our September expenses, it’s important to understand where we traveled, how far we cruised, and some specifics in our particular loop experience. We began our travels in Mackinaw City, Michigan, and cruised down Lake Michigan in 6 travel days to Chicago. Most of our time was waiting for the weather since it took us three weeks to get from Mackinaw City to Chicago. A big thank you goes out to our subscribers, Bruce and Cindy in Saugatuck, Michigan who invited us to stay on their private dock while we waited a week for our next weather window. Alternatively, if we didn’t have that opportunity, we would have been anchored out, but were so happy to have the conveniences of a dock without the major price tag. Once we got to the mid-west rivers, we enjoyed some free docks and a few affordable marinas. Here is our Nebo travel summary:

September Nebo Summary

Nights at a marina dock: 9

Nights on a marina mooring ball: 4

Nights on a free dock: 12

Nights on a paid dock: 1

Nights on a free lock wall: 0

Nights on a paid lock wall: 0

Nights at anchor: 4

We spent most nights on a free dock this month (thanks Bruce and Cindy!). We paid for almost half of our night locations on the boat which is not ideal. Our goal is four nights at a marina per month, but we clearly surpassed that goal this month. We’ll definitely be reining in our paid overnight locations going forward!


We spent a total of $4,109.85 on our Great Loop expenses for September 2022. This was our most expensive month so far on the loop since we did some major pantry provisioning at Walmart and on Amazon. This list does not include our healthcare, phone bills, personal subscriptions, and business expenses as those all vary from one person to another. All expenses are in USD.

September 2022 AGL Expense Report

Our greatest expense was groceries for a total of $1,764.56. This month’s grocery bill was high compared to other months because we made a big haul at Walmart and did a major Amazon order with pantry items (canned food, dried beans, seltzer water, dog food, etc). Most of the meals we eat are cooked on our boat, making this a reoccurring high category for us.

Our second greatest expense this month was fuel for a total of $658.28. We fueled up once this month in Hammond, Indiana.

Our third greatest expense was marinas or dockage for $584.08. Our goal is to spend no more than 4 days at a marina in a month to keep our expenses low. This month we spent 10 nights at marinas or paid docks, and 4 nights on a paid mooring ball which quickly adds up. We stayed at Monroe Harbor mooring ball field which saved us a ton of money to stay in the heart of the city, with a little less convenience as we took the tender service from our boat to shore each day, sometimes multiple times a day. Monroe Harbor was $1/foot compared to the other nearby options (DuSable Harbor and Burnham Harbor) at $2.65/foot. Our four-night stay in Chicago cost us $145.52 instead of $360.40.

The remaining categories were also higher than normal. We enjoyed more meals at restaurants and attractions/tours which were partial because we were stuck at marinas for weather and wanted to get off the boat and socialize with other boaters. The other part was to experience the places we visited. While we were in Chicago, we enjoyed some vegetarian Chicago dogs, Chicago-style pizza, and some touristy attractions. Although we did spend high in the remaining categories, we did enjoy ourselves, which is part of the reason for doing this trip in the first place. We’ll be dialing back our expenses in the next month or two and are looking forward to all of the great anchorages in Kentucky and Tennessee!

Lake Michigan | Jen and Elliot reaching Chicago

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 September 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. Hi Kyle,

      Thank you for reading and following along on our journey around the Great Loop! Wow, that’s awesome that you guys are going to do the loop with your daughter. That’ll be such a fun experience for all three of you. You guys will have incredible memories that’ll last a lifetime.

      Kind regards,

  1. Just heard your podcast. It was wonderful to listen to.
    We heard you will be heading to the keys. Our winter home is on Big Pine Key. We have a large dock with 4ft.of water on open water in Newfound harbor. We are inviting you to come. We do not have grandchildren.

    1. Hi Sherry,

      Wow, that’s wonderful! I’m so glad you found us 😊 Thank you so much for your kind and generous offer! We really appreciate it. We’ll reach out if were in the Newfound Harbor area.

      Kind regards,

  2. I’ve grown to love your vblog on YouTube. My very 1st impression was that you’re both a little goofy, “in a good way” 😉. But, as I continued to watch your episodes, I realized how young you both actually are and it’s simply a lost generational difference on my part. It’s amazing to watch two such young adults teaching themselves and accomplishing such mature tasks with ease and still retaining the playful character of your youthfulness, along the way.
    I’ve highly recommended your channel to others in the boating community. Very awesome character and content, thank you so much.

    1. Hi Jeff,

      Thank you for watching our videos and following along on our journey around the Great Loop! Thank you for your kind words and for recommending us to others. We deeply appreciate it.

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