This month, the Home Port Crew is focusing on one of the primary concerns people have about cruising the Great Loop – the budget. While some Loopers prefer to Loop now and worry about the costs later, many need to set a budget before hand and make sure they’re able to stick to it. If you’re Looping on a fixed budget, or just want to save the bulk of your funds for shore-side fun, your choice of Looping boat can affect your expenses in a big way. Simply put, your vessel choice can vary your total cost by tens of thousands of dollars.
For most Gold Loopers who report the actual expenses for their trip to AGLCA, the costliest line item is typically slip fees, followed closely by fuel costs. Both expenses, however, can be controlled by the boat you choose to Loop aboard.
Dockage Fees - Size Matters
The length of your boat clearly has a direct impact on marina costs since slip fees are nearly always per foot. Obviously, selecting a 27-foot boat vs. a 50-foot boat saves nearly half on slip fees. But beyond marina costs, did you know some waterways also charge by the foot? Canada’s Trent Severn Waterway charges for lockage by the foot (at last check, $4.65 for a one-way transit or $8.80 for a seasonal pass). The Trent Severn also charges by the foot for tying to the lock walls overnight ($0.90 per day or $9.80 for a seasonal pass). Clearly, size matters for costs beyond just dockage.
With slip fees averaging about $2 per foot, if you plan to tie up in marinas about half of the time on your Great Loop trip, you can expect to save around $10,000 in a 20-something foot boat versus a 50-foot boat. The amount saved, of course, depends on many factors. Members can use our Cost of Looping calculator to help hone in on the costs based on how long you intend to take to do the Loop, how frequently you intend to utilize marinas, etc.
Spending Time on the “Hook”
Although slip fees may be costly, they are an optional expense. Some Loopers choose to anchor out on a frequent basis, regardless of whether that’s due to budget constraints or a longing for the peace and tranquility that can only be found at a quiet anchorage. If spending the night on the hook regularly is in your plan, your vessel choice still matters. You’ll want to make sure your Looping boat is well equipped with the proper ground tackle, a generator, and a comfortable dinghy that’s easy to launch and retrieve. Choosing a boat that’s well-equipped to spend the night at anchor comfortably will be very important to your success. If you’re shopping for a “new to you” boat for the Loop, ensuring it has the proper equipment in working order may cause your boat itself to cost more initially. But the savings to be had by anchoring out should quickly offset the higher price tag.
Fuel costs, while often the second highest line item, are also probably the most varied when actual totals are reported by Gold Loopers. Your choice of boat will have a direct impact on your fuel costs, but more importantly, the speed you travel can save you a boatload (sorry, couldn’t resist!) on fuel. A slow-moving, lower horse power vessel like a trawler or a sailboat, is more fuel efficient than a “go-fast” boat. But, having a go-fast boat that can cruise at higher rates of speed doesn’t mean you must when you’re trying to be budget conscious.
Fuel consumption rates found in a search of AGLCA’s results vary from less than one gallon per hour for a 29-foot sailboat to more than 25 gallons per hour on a 46-foot motor yacht. Doing your due diligence on determining the consumption rate of boats you’re considering is important if you need to stay on budget. And remember, “Looper speed” is typically a fuel efficient 7 or 8 knots.
The Bottom Line
Your boat choice affects your costs in a major way and can make or break a tight Looping budget. A quick review of our Cost of Looping Calculator submissions shows costs that range from about $10,000 on a 22-foot trawler that anchors out most of the time to over $125,000 for a 47-foot motor yacht that tied up at marinas every night. Sure, what you chose to do on land matters when it comes to costs, but choosing the right boat for your personal cruising style (preferred speed, nights at anchor, size) is the best way to control (or blow) your budget.