I want to focus on the cost of cruising in this blog post. The main reason is I don’t have much to talk about since for the last month I have been nursing a hurt back. It turns out I have a contracted muscle and it is slowly getting better even though I keep re-agitating it. First though, I want to plug my friend Fritz Herscheid’s crowd sourcing campaign to find the AE1, the first Australian Submarine which was lost almost 100 years ago this month.

Before I get into the cost of cruising, I did manage to get off the dock and go anchor out. This proved to be an excruciating mistake for the back and so I returned to the dock off Mahon. The dock isn’t all that bad as the Panerei Classics regatta was this last weekend so I got to see some incredible wooden boats racing. This will make up most of the pictures of this post. I also managed to make some more videos of Slick’s Refit, those can be found here.

A comment on one of my blog posts awhile back was something along the lines of “most people would give up everything to do what you are doing.” My response was that this was exactly the cost. Which is why most people don’t do it. Recently that cost has become very apparent to me as I try to plan a post-cruising life. The funny thing about it though is that when you start the cruising life you have some ideas about the costs. Its the ones you don’t realize though that are the most expensive ones.

Lets start with the two most obvious ones, time and money. Going with time first, since its the easiest. When I set out on this voyage I wanted the trip to last between 2.5 and 3.5 years. That seemed fast to most people and the reality is, it is. When it looked like the trip was going to go beyond that, I decided to ship the boat. At least this was one of the many justifying reasons for the shipment. Shipping was my exit plan. The exit plan should have just been scuttling the boat, but that’s an entirely different argument. In any case, shipping should have allowed me to be back in Boston some time this year. Well, the boat was late shipping and whatever else came from that so I should be getting back to the US in about 9 months. OK, total time-cost, 3.8 years

Next, and this is the one most people think about and ask about when I meet them, how much money does it cost. I will think of this in today-money, so no need to worry about inflation, since the total investment time is less than ten-years. The initial purchase of Slick was $47,500. Then I spent another $50K outfitting her for the voyage. On top of this comes the living costs while cruising. I spend approximately $2,000 per month. This covers food, diesel, moorings and shore activities. If I cut down on the drinking I could probably lower this a bit, but I am sure I would just find somewhere else to spend it. So after 3.8 years this will amount to $91K. Finally there are some unforeseen costs, like shipping and major repairs, this has set me back another $80K. In total, the obvious out of pocket expense then amounts to around $270K. That is a lot of money, but most cruising-boats cost more than that just to buy. I also don’t actually know if Slick will have any salvage value when finished, but if I can sell her then I can recoup some of these costs.

However, there is something else in terms of cost, that is equally valuable to someone my age. This would be the impact on my career and the financial cost that comes with that. Most of my fellow PhD level graduates started out making something in a range from $70K to around $200K, with the average being somewhere about $120K. So, taking that average, over 3.8 years this amounts to an additional $456K of lost income. That is a big number, especially added to the out of pocket expenses, giving a total cost of $726,000. That’s a bit depressing. This is probably not the real number though as I miss out on 4 years of advancement, bonuses, 401K, medical and all the rest. So, I don’t actually know, and I don’t want to think about it. But it is likely more than buying a house in the suburbs and raising a family in it.

Sticking with career for a little longer will help bring on the non-financial, more intangible, costs of cruising. When I was finishing at MIT, I had a few companies attempting to court me and the job potentials seemed endless. After all I had an elite degree from the best university in the world and tons of experience on top of that. They can wait, and they will, or so I arrogantly thought. Now I am in the process of trying to find a career and rebuild a life of normalcy and it is difficult to say the least. Part of the difficulty comes from not being anywhere near where the jobs are, so it isn’t like I can really schedule an interview or even network for that matter. What my career search amounts to then is sending 8-10 resumes a week off into the ether and hoping it might land on someone’s desk who will actually read it, then give this high risk person (me) a chance. Nate and I likened this to a beach full of desperate, single women, some of which you wouldn’t actually want to date, but you a need a date anyway. And we anchor off the beach and make paper-airplanes with our old phone-numbers on them and toss them in the direction of the beach, hoping one might make it, or at least fall in the water close enough to wash up still legible for one, any one, of them to find. Then hope that maybe they will call us on our non-existent phones and ask us out. Clearly I am going about the job search wrong, and have changed my strategy a bit and hopefully it will come to some fruition. Until then, the cost of cruising was working my way into irrelevance and obscurity in what was once a promising career path.

The next thing I gave up, and didn’t think I would, was my physical health. Yes, I breath ocean air everyday and sail lots. But it isn’t like I can just go to the gym, or for a run, or whatever, let alone shower afterward. Almost all of my muscle has atrophied and I am probably overweight. In most of the world it is hard to get decent food and I can’t imagine what metrics like cholesterol or blood pressure would be, but probably way out of the norm. It’s not like I go to a doctor and get these things checked so there are probably tons of other problems too. Recently, I pulled my back as mentioned above and I keep straining my left knee. Thanks to the loss of muscle in my legs, they don’t quite perform always as I would want them to. I think by the end of this trip I will need another knee surgery, that will make 4 in 15 years. Perhaps I can get them to just install a zipper to make going in there easier the next time.

There is a cost of security in cruising. That is to say, I have none, at all. I have to lock the boat and dinghy when I am not on it, always. This isn’t such a problem as people lock their houses and cars too. But while at anchor I must be extra vigilant about dragging. After all Slick contains all my home and worldly possessions outside of some things stored in some people’s basements. And I frequently leave her hanging on a string attached to a plow in the sand. Sand is security. Weeds, that’s and entirely different story, those help your anchor drag, even maliciously I think. I have been lucky that I, or my crew, have always caught a dragging anchor, but it could happen where we end up on the rocks. There are a lot of sleepless nights surrounding this. The most secure I feel is when I am tied to a dock, but even this isn’t safe. Just yesterday I awoke to some Spaniards who hit Slick while docking. Then they got their anchor caught on Slick’s lifeline and still tried to back-up. Of course, there is also the sailing itself, there is a constant awareness of submerged objects to run into, pirates, lighting and storms. This goes with the territory but that doesn’t help reduce the stress. These sort of things have aged me. Stress is the cost.

The last cost I want to talk about, and this is a tough one, is the emotional cost. The first thing that happens is a loss of a concept of home. I don’t know if I can think of Boston as home. I don’t think so. Washington State, no. Sure I grew up there and served there, but there is very little left of that. Friends, does that make home? I have lost almost all human connection outside of Facebook, which is hardly fulfilling. I do get some validation by the reader stats of this blog (thank you to all 18 of you) and I have one video on youtube that has been watched almost 20,000 times, that is 19,982 more times than I expected. But it isn’t like I get to hang out with any of those people. I looked at my email and aside from business and some other cruiser’s exchange, I have had eight, only eight, separate people contact me in the last month. One I hear from almost daily, a few a couple times a week or every other week and the rest, once a month or so. I have also, ironically, had 8 visitors in 2.8 years of traveling (not the same 8 people) despite thinking that this would be an inviting time for any of my friends. Home is where I am and it moves a lot. I carry it with me, I am like a snail. It takes time to get used to a new place, to find an approved grocery store, water, and a local bar, maybe make some friends (albeit fast ones). And as soon as you do, its time to go.

Time to go, that’s it right there, I am perennially leaving. This is where it gets really tough. I am not able to maintain any semblance of a relationship. It is absolutely impossible. My life, the single-cruising life, is not fair to another person emotionally. Neither side of the relationship gets anything close to what they want out it. This is compounded by the fact that I am usually in some of the most difficult places on earth to reach. It becomes geographically untenable for long periods of time. It is sort of like when the Apollo astronauts went on the dark side of the moon. No one, including them, knew if they would actually emerge on the other side. They were alone. I am often alone. That is not to say that I have not had emotionally fulfilling visits, but once the reality of the distance and time sets in, I realize what a Faustian-bargain this life is. There are no relationships, only the hope that when (if) you see that person again, a long time from the last time, the feelings will still be there. So forget the things that normal thirty-something year old people do in a relationship, you know – go on dates, meet each-other’s friends, test-drive each other, see if its a good fit, if it is then plan a future together. That is just not possible. And it sucks.

There are, of course some ways to mitigate these costs. I think the best way to do it is wait until you are fully retired. Then you have a nicer boat, more time, presumable more money and your life partner is with you. The idea of home is better established and you can fly there between seasons. You’ve finished your career so no need to worry about that at all. The stress remains, but that’s part of the life. Maybe you can’t be as active, but I have met plenty of divers, hikers and sailors way over 60. I wanted to do this for a number of reasons when I did. Mostly, I think, because I have some fear that I would never actually make it to retirement and I didn’t want to regret not doing this.

And I don’t regret doing it. Was it worth it? Yes. Absolutely YES. The experiences I have had have been incredible. I have met some of the most amazing people you can imagine. I have been to some of the wildest places on earth and seen some of the most unique single entities our planet has to offer. I have challenged myself beyond measurable ability, helped out entire villages in need, and grown as a human being. If I had to do it over, I would do it again. I am happy with the person I am, and a large part of that has to do with doing this voyage. When I am finished I will do my best to lower the above-mentioned costs. Hopefully I will find a rewarding job in a place I can call home and hopefully I can I end up geographically located near the right woman and we can reciprocally-love each other for the rest of our lives. I have the capacity to structure my life any way I please, where I please and, with a willing partner, with whom I please. The career part isn’t entirely up to me but I will find something. I am sure I will have lost a lot of the autonomy of being my own captain, but the security might be worth it. I am positive and ambitious about the future but as for the cost of this 3.8 years of my life, it is, in fact, everything.