On sailing a Folksong – thoughts on expenses

Most posts get written and published relatively swiftly. Some get started then abandoned. This one has hung around for several days and now I realise why: I go sailing to get away from this sort of discussion! The irony is that I can’t go sailing unless I discuss it (Catch 22). So I will finish and publish, and think of  it as a rite of passage.


This New Year especially some serious financial planning is needed if we are going to enjoy another year’s sailing.

Here are some thoughts on the expenses involved.


Last spring, I watched Super Yachts in the Adriatic and the Open 60 fleet out of Plymouth. During the summer Blue Mistress wallowed in the wash of luxury Princess yachts. I have just been watching clips of the Sydney-Hobart Race and I am bombarded monthly by journals full of expensive yachts and luxury accessories. As far as sailing is concerned, I know my place when it comes to what I can afford – and it isn’t at that end of the market.


“Whatever you want, oh discontented man. Step up! Pay the price. and take it.” James Allen

Exciting thought? I am sure you read the first part and the last part. Did you see the bit in the middle about ‘pay the price’?

“If you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it.”

Right? Wrong!

I used to think this was fair comment. It made me reconsider whether I really did need this or that piece of kit!

Now I think differently. At its best, not asking the price is a sign of no-management. More likely it’s a sign of bad-management. And we are all now living with the results of both.

So here is a quote from me: “Good financial management is a basic ingredient of good boat management”.


In the preface to “Shipmasters Business Companion, including Hints to Young Shipmasters” by J.W Anderson, price 5/6 net, printed in 1920, Captain Anderson writes:

“It is of the greatest importance that a young shipmaster should study his business well and thoroughly, and should endeavour at all times to be prepared for any emergency; the man who is well prepared generally comes out on top.” (For ‘any emergency’ include financial ones, for ‘young shipmaster’ include older boat owners).

It doesn’t matter whether it’s 1920 or 2020, this will always hold true.

That the boat creates no direct financial income is irrelevant. The income in terms of recreational value and spillover benefits is priceless.

Nevertheless, expenses are very real and must be balanced in some way if they are not going to sink the whole project.


So where does the money come from? ‘Credit’ doesn’t work any more; living ‘hand-to-mouth’ on the water might be great if you had the time and the freedom; and, yes, there are people who will always afford it, directly or through sponsorship. The rest of us have to get out there and earn it – and then spend it wisely (more or less).

Blue Mistress’ expenses break down like this:

  • Initial cost of boat
  • Marine survey
  • Documents/Subscriptions
  • Marine Insurance
  • Mooring/Berth
  • Boatyard Costs
  • Electronics/Software
  • Sails/Rigging
  • Engine/Fuel
  • Safety
  • R&R
  • Courses/Books/DVDs
  • Chandlery
  • Provisions
  • Sundry

To make the dull process of recording the figures easier, I’ve come to thinking of the categories as instruments in a jazz band – some provide the basic rhythm (moorings, subscriptions etc) and the rest get brought in at the right moment to create great music – louder, softer or not at all depending on what I can afford at the time.

For example, I will hang fire on a new rudder this year, but there is some work that needs doing down below that will get done in February and March, and the paintwork, and . . .

Here’s another quote – “it’s not what you say, it’s the music you play”

Maybe there are ways of making the world work without having to be so darned serious all the time – but you’ve got to be serious occasionally and get the basics right.


And, besides money, the other two major expenses are:

A great deal of Time


A whole lot of Energy

Which brings us on to income – more of which later.