Let’s face it – it’s always tough to buy gifts for sailors, because most of us sailors are trying to get rid of stuff, not aquire more of it. So in honor of Cyber Monday, here are 5 ideas to get you started. Each of these will fit in a stocking, so huge bonus for the space-conscious, and the best thing is that nothing is over $30, so this is awesome for the budget-conscious. Without further ado, here’s my list of holiday gifts for sailors.*
Can’t imagine sitting through another boring company Christmas party or show of The Nutcracker without wanting to gouge your eyes out? Never fear, this flask is here. When I first saw this, I fell in love. I mean, any sailor can appreciate this – not only does it look nautical, resembling the porthole on a sailboat, but it carries rum (or whatever booze you fancy)! And has a window to let you know when the rum is gone! And did I mention that it carries booze?
The flask is smaller than you might think (it fits in the palm of an adult male hand), but that’s a good thing, because the chances are less likely that you’ll wake up with a hangover. It fits easily in a pocket and would make a great stocking stuffer or a super fun host or hostess gift. As of this writing, just $29 on Amazon.
How many times have you been out sailing, and the perfect photo opportunity comes up, but when you pick up your phone to snap a photo, you realize your battery is dead?
Well, with this solar charger power bank, you’ll never again have to miss a photo of dolphins swimming in your bow wake, the perfect sunset, or the mahi you just caught due to a dead iPhone. Your phone will be charged and ready to upload those pics up on Facebook so all your friends will
hate envy you.
This one is waterproof, dustproof, and shock resistant, PLUS it can charge 2 devices at once. There’s also a nifty LED light that you can use as a flashlight, or just hang the device in your cockpit for instant mood lighting. Bow chica bow wow. As of this writing, only $25 on Amazon.
If you’ve not read this book, then you owe it to yourself to do so. While you’re at it, you should pick up an extra copy to give away because you won’t want to get rid of yours.
Before you go and think of this as just another “boat book”, let me just say that it’s not. Although if you’ve ever fallen in love with a sailboat or sailing, you will instantly connect with the emotions of the writer.
It’s a reflection on all the ways that learning to sail teaches us about life. It’s a parable. It’s a love story.
I don’t have any smartass comments for this gift idea because I love it so much. As of this writing, you can get the paperback version directly from the author’s Amazon page for just $15.
If you’re accident prone like me, this may be just the perfect gift for sailors or anyone who spends a lot of time on the water. I’m still missing the camera I lost one year on Old Hickory Lake, and my husband has donated several wallet items to the Chesapeake Bay.
So far, neither of us has dropped a phone in the water, although you’ll want to check with me next week, because now that I’ve said that, I’ve surely jinxed myself.
Bonus is that it’s much cheaper than some of the other waterproof phone cases I’ve seen out there. As of this writing, it’s only $10 on Amazon and gets great reviews.
Well, you know I can’t make a list of gifts for sailors without tooting my own horn, right?
These unisex bracelets are made with authentic sailboat hardware and materials, from the double-braided mini “rope” to the stainless steel shackle. I whip the ends in contrasting sail thread to give them a truly nautical look.
Sailors and non-sailors all over the world are wearing these and loving them. And for the rest of 2015, I’ve reduced the price, so you can purchase yours at Maggie & Milly for just $18-$20 with FREE SHIPPING within the US (no order minimum), and just $10 for international shipping.
Tell Me Your Best Gifts For Sailors Ideas
Have you gotten inspiration from any of these ideas for gifts for sailors? Do you have any other awesome gift ideas for boaters? Share them in the comments below!
*Note that the links shared here are affiliate links, with the exception of Maggie & Milly, which is my own company. The affiliate links do not add to the cost for you – they simply allow me to get a very small commission should you decide to make a purchase on Amazon. My affiliate commisions help cover my time and costs associated with running this blog, so your support is always appreciated!
Ask ten strangers on the street what it means to live a rich life, and you’ll probably get ten different answers. Some might say a rich life means having a life of luxury… yachts, fancy cars, diamonds the size of Kim Kardashian’s ass, and trips to Paris on a moment’s notice.
Others might say a rich life is having their dream job.
Ask a mother who has cancer, she’ll probably tell you that living a rich life is having her family close to her… or simply more time.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what my version of a rich life is. The scenery in my thoughts may change occasionally, but the story is almost always the same: to be with the man I love, living life on our terms, without having to worry about money. Simple as that.
My Version of a Rich Life
Two weeks ago, I couldn’t tell you how much money it would take for me to feel like I’m living a rich life, but I learned a week ago that it’s a lot less than what I would have thought, when I found myself crying in the waiting room at the emergency animal clinic.
You see, the Jet-pack (my dog) and I had taken off on a road trip of sorts. My favorite uncle passed away on Easter Sunday, and my aunt needed to make a trip from their home in Destin back to Arkansas, where they had once lived and where he was to be honored in a private military ceremony. She was going to be gone for about a week, and I offered to watch her dogs for her at her house so she didn’t have to bear the expense of boarding them or having to ask a friend to watch them.
Destin, FL is about a 9 hour drive from Fort Lauderdale, and Jet and I arrived to my aunt’s house on a Sunday afternoon. After long, tearful hugs, we unloaded the car and brought Jet inside to meet her dogs, two German Shepherds. Nikki is the mother and is 12 years old, and the poor girl has arthritis pretty bad, and Maddie is Nikki’s daughter and is around 8 or 9.
The dogs got along well, and after some initial butt-sniffing, they all relaxed. Nikki was too old to care much, and Maddie was more curious but I don’t think she much liked how much attention Jet’s nose was paying to her butt.
My aunt left a couple of days later for her trip to Arkansas, and my routine with the dogs started to take shape. The four of us made quite a pack when we’d go for walks together and it was made all the more interesting because we all moved at completely different paces. Nikki had to take it slow, while Jet was practically dragging us all because when he goes for a walk, he’s full speed ahead. After a while though, he slowed down, and I’d even catch him stopping and turning, waiting for Nikki to catch up.
They didn’t always get along perfectly though. One morning, Jet scared the local feral cat away and Maddie, who had taken a liking to the cat, didn’t like the fact that Jet ran off her friend. From that point forward, if Jet came in the room, Maddie promptly left the room.
Jet is so easily adaptable… almost too easily adaptable, because it only takes him about an hour to make himself right at home. He’s so used to traveling on the boat that he just becomes very comfortable very quickly. He promptly made the office, where I spent my time working all week, his room, too. When Nikki wanted to come in, he’d let her, but he wasn’t crazy about sharing “his” space, and I think he was a little jealous of the extra attention I was giving the old girl.
Well, after 9 days of being there, and getting along mostly wonderfully, we came back from a walk, when suddenly Nikki and Jet got into it. There was about 2 seconds of what I thought was just growling and barking when I yelled and clapped my hands, and it was over as fast as it began.
Then I saw Jet shaking and lifting his paw and I knew something was wrong. I leaned down, looked at the leg he was holding up and nothing was broken, and there wasn’t any blood, so I assumed he was just really scared – which isn’t like him at all, but there’s always a first time for everything.
Then I saw a little scratch on his muzzle and realized that must be why he was so shaken. I went to wipe the tiny bit of blood that was seeping when the cut opened up and I could see that it was well down to the bone. I’m not one to panic or get squeamish, but at that moment, I felt sick.
I rushed to find my phone so I could call a vet. It was after 6pm, so I knew I’d have to find an after-hours clinic. I called around and the closest one was about 20 minutes away. Ok, let’s go. Wait – let me check Nikki to make sure she doesn’t need to go as well. I looked her over quickly but thoroughly and not a scratch, so off we went.
I knew Jet was in pain, so I just talked to him the whole way to the vet. When we got inside, he perked up a bit because everyone was giving him attention. The vet checked him out briefly and told me they would need to make sure his sinuses hadn’t been punctured, and then he left the room and that’s when they sent someone in to tell me what would need to be done… and what it would cost.
I told them, “I don’t care… just take care of him.”
They showed me a breakdown of the minimum costs, and the maximum in the event his sinuses had been compromised, and gave me various treatment scenarios.
Again, I said, “I don’t care… just take care of him. Do whatever you need to do.”
Then they took my sweet baby away to prepare for surgery. I heard him yelp once when they gave him his sedation shot (apparently it burns), and that’s when I began to cry.
I cried for him, of course, because I cannot stand to see him in pain.
But I also cried out of relief, because at that moment, for the first time it hit me that I was living a rich life.
I had a man back at the boat who loved me, a dog who would be battle scarred, but would otherwise be ok*, and while not a whole lot of extra money in the bank, enough that it didn’t matter what that emergency vet bill was going to come to. I would have gladly spent every dime I had that night if needed because no matter what, I knew I could make more. It’s just money, after all.
And that, to me, is a very rich life.
What’s your version of a rich life? Leave it in the comments. Don’t be shy… no one’s judging you if you admit that you want a megayacht with a helicopter landing pad. Ok, maybe I will judge, but I promise to do it quietly… as long as you promise to invite me over for cocktails. 😉
One of our biggest challenges so far since living on the boat is eating healthy on a budget. It’s funny because you’d be surprised at how many people, upon finding out that we live on a boat, ask us silly questions like, “What do you eat?” I mean, what do they think we eat? Plankton and seaweed?
Contrary to popular belief, we don’t eat a lot of fish. Not because we don’t like it, but because we’re terrible fishermen. Truth be told, it’s not really the fishing part we’re bad at (although we are kind of bad at it), but it’s the killing part. Hmmm… vodka on the gills or blunt force trauma to the head? Neither is on my list of fun things to do, so we’ve refrained from seriously trying to catch our own food… so far. However, I, being the budget-bitch and all, am determined to learn. I mean, fishing is free! And fresh!
Until we learn to be better fish-catchers (and fish-killers), the local market is our ocean. Food is definitely our biggest expense besides our monthly marina costs. There is a huge difference between eating cheap and eating healthy, and eating healthy costs a little more in the short term, but it’s worth it because over time, you’ll pay the price (literally and figuratively) if you eat like crap, with medical bills, insurance premiums, etc.
Don’t get me wrong… there are times when I succumb to the devil on my shoulder and chow down on some Totino’s Pizza Rolls. But we stay away from processed foods, we eat a ton of veggies and fruits, and we only buy organic, cage-free and grass-fed when it comes to our meats and eggs.
I would say our monthly grocery budget hovers somewhere around the $600 mark for both of us. We could do a lot better, but lately I’ve been lazy and haven’t been properly planning our meals and making lists beforehand, so I go and just buy stuff, randomly planning my meals in my head as I walk down each aisle, which is a terrible way to shop for groceries.
My goal this year is to start planning my meals better. Oh, and to not go shopping when I’m the least bit hungry. I’ve found that when I plan my meals out, I walk out with a lot more money left in my pocket. I often try to take it a step further, and try to coordinate meals with shared ingredients so that all ingredients get used.
In fact, I got the idea for coordinating meals with shared ingredients when I signed up for a trial awhile back for a meal-planning service called The Fresh 20 (no affiliation, I just think it’s a great service). Members get a meal plan every Friday, complete with a list of 20 grocery items – all fresh, nothing processed. These 20 grocery items are essentially all you’ll be using to make your week’s meals with. (They do have a list of 20 staples you should always have on hand such as spices and condiments – these aren’t counted into the 20 ingredients).
After you shop, you spend one hour prepping your meals. Yes – just one hour, one time, for the entire week. They may have you dicing all of your onions or peppers ahead of time – the thought is if you have the cutting board and knives out and knock it all out at once, you’ll save a ton of time during the week (when you’re likely tired from working… or snorkeling). In fact, most people end up eating poorly because the they are too tired to even think about preparing a meal.
The meals are straight-up gourmet, and each of them is very simple to make, especially since all of your prep-work was done beforehand. They even have different sets of meal plans for different dietary needs, such as gluten-free, vegetarian, and even single meal plans for you lovely single folks.
You can download a sample meal plan by going to their site – at the bottom, they have an email signup form to fill out to get the download. Even if you don’t end up using the service, it’s still good to check it out because it will give you the knowledge to become a better shopper.
Another awesome resource I came across is this FREE e-book called Good and Cheap. It is about eating well on $4 a day. Seriously. Four bucks a day. Check out the free download here. You don’t even have to subscribe to anything to get it. It’s seriously just free and the photos are gorgeous, and there are a variety of awesome recipes.
Last weekend, I challenged myself and went to the store with my planned meal list and $100. I told myself I was not allowed to go to the store again for a week. I was pretty proud of myself because I only spent $80, but later realized that I totally forgot some of the veggies I needed for a soup I was making. But per my own rule, I couldn’t go back. Just had to make do and it was delicious!
As today rolled in, I had pretty much expended most of the food in the pantry, and was totally bummed because I still have one more day to the challenge. Then I realized I had one chicken breast left, 2 cans of kidney beans, and some leftover chicken stock. Chicken chili for dinner tomorrow!
Sometimes you just have to get creative and make do with what you have on hand, but by preparing a meal plan ahead of time, you can save a lot of time and money. I know a lot of you are out there cruising and there are places where there just isn’t adequate provisioning, so it’s harder to plan ahead (not knowing what local sources you’ll have for grocery items), and you’re left to fend for yourself with whatever is on hand, but if you get creative and actually use that random stuff that’s in your pantry, it’s a good way to not only save money, but you’d be surprised at how many tasty meals can be made from what seems like nothing.
What’s the best meal you’ve made from random stuff in your pantry or galley? Do you have any tips on eating healthy on a budget? Let me know in the comments.
One of the things I have the hardest time with when it comes to saving money for our ongoing adventure is creating a budget. Add it to the list of many things that are just more difficult to do while living on a boat than while living on land… like hiding a fart.
For instance, while on land, our mortgage was always the same, so it was easy to budget for it. While on a boat, marina prices vary. While on land, shit didn’t seem to break all the time. On a boat… well, you know the story.
And let’s talk about wine… how the hell can I predict how much wine it’s going to take me to get through the month? I mean, what if I had a bad day and all I really want is a nice glass of Malbec, but our wine budget is already maxed out because someone decided that it was a good idea to drown her sorrows with the last little bit of the boxed wine after watching Message In A Bottle one night on Netflix? And not because the movie was so sad, but because it was so bad. How do you budget for that shit?
Thus begins my cycle of not knowing what we spend on anything because it’s never the same. So basically, it’s like just pick a number – any number – and don’t go over it? NO. That’s a terrible way to do it.
In order to create a budget that you can live with while putting money back in savings, you have to determine as best as you can where your money is going and where you can cut back. Even if that means cutting back on wine. Just kidding. If you sit down and just create a budget with no real frame of reference, you may find yourself near the end of the month going way over in one category and under in another. And you’ll rob Peter to pay Paul, which is never a good idea. Peter can be a real asshole when you do that.
Creating A Budget That You Can Live With
So… (drumroll)… Here is my advice on how to create a budget that you can not only live with, but one that you can stick to. I am no financial expert, nor do I offer this advice as the only or best way to do it. It’s simply what works for me, so if you go broke or can’t manage your money, please don’t send me hate mail. But if you love it, please send me cash. Or wine.
- Sign up with a budget tracking service such as Mint. This is a great way to get a general overview of your spending. While I don’t rely on it exclusively, the weekly spending report gives you a good idea of what percentage of your money is going where.
- Get a receipt for every single thing you buy and save the receipts somewhere. Everything. Do this for at least the first several months – it’s the easiest way to see where you might be overdoing it. I don’t care if you bought a donut and that’s all. Get a receipt and save it. Anyone remember Mitch Hedberg’s hilarious routine on this very subject? I don’t care what Mitch says, get a stinkin’ receipt.
- Get one of those accordion folders and, using your receipts, sort your spending into categories. Your categories may vary if you have mortgage, loans, kids in college (we are debt free except for a credit card with a $750 limit that we use only for the rewards perks and it gets paid off every month in full):
- Cell Phone (AT&T)
- Internet (Verizon Jetpack)
- Boat Repairs
- Boat Insurance (ACE)
- Eating Out
Next, add up your totals in each category. Are there any totals that surprise you? Chances are, you’ll be all, “No WAY did we spend that much in such-and-such!” But the numbers don’t lie. How do they look in hindsight? This is where you have to just be honest with yourself. It’s really easy to forego cooking in favor of a Burrito Mazatlan at the Mexican joint down the road, but if you recall, you kind of felt like shit the next day from that big thing and the 2 Pacificos you washed it down with. That’s $40 that you could have put into savings. Yeah, I know – that doesn’t sound nearly as sexy or fun, but then again, neither does sleeping in the v-berth with your husband/wife/partner after you’ve both had more than your share of refried beans. Trust me.
Take all those numbers and figure out what categories you think you could (or should) cut back in. It’s important to be realistic, but also to be disciplined. If you are a movie buff and going to the movies (or having a Netflix account) makes you happy, by all means, keep doing that! Budgets are meant to be guides to help you stick to a financial goal or a plan – not to strip away every ounce of extra spending or fun that you’re entitled to after all the hard work you’ve done.
Now it’s time to create your budget using those numbers. Mint will help you do this, and they will periodically email you to help you stay on track, which is great, but I also still use a good, old fashioned spreadsheet, or even just paper and pen. I like to keep the categories pretty simple – you’ll basically have the same categories you made for your receipts, but you’ll also want to add categories like SAVINGS and TAXES. I always put a little money in savings first (pay yourself first, as they say), and if you work for yourself in any capacity, you’ll want to set aside a certain amount for taxes so you don’t have a Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot moment when tax season comes next year. You’ll be prepared, and as any boater knows, preparation is key.
Ideally, all of your expenses will fit nicely in your prospected spending categories and you’ll have a little left over at the end of the month to save, invest, or put towards a new goal. On our boat, if anything is left over, it either goes into savings at the end of the month, or it goes towards boat improvements.
Oh, who the hell am I kidding. It goes to wine.
We often get asked about the cost of sailing. In fact if you go on any sailing forum you’ll see pages and pages of threads dedicated to discussions about what it costs to sail full-time. Several fellow sailing bloggers have written great posts about this and the general consensus is:
It costs as much as you want it to cost.
I know that’s a disappointing answer because people want specifics, but that’s the simple truth. There are so many factors that come into play:
- Where you’re cruising
- The size of your boat
- The type of boat you have (which will affect insurance costs)
- The condition of your boat
- Your diet (Do you eat organic only? Vegan? No processed food? Gluten free?)
- Whether or not you cook on board
- How handy you are (Are you a DIY-er, or do you prefer to hire someone)
- How much alcohol you consume regularly
- Hobbies (Do you like free stuff like walking, visiting parks, going to the beach…)
If you are frivolous with your money on land, chances are, you’ll be frivolous with your money while on a boat. However, if you’re frugal and love saving money on land, you’ll be that way when you’re on a boat.
Our Cost of Sailing Broken Down
I will say for us, we spend more than I thought we would when we first started doing this, but I’ve also learned a lot and know a lot of things we could cut back on.
Eating out is our biggest unnecessary expense. It’s not that we don’t like to cook because we actually love cooking on the boat, but when you travel around from place to place, it’s nice to go into town and find out where the locals hang. We’ve met a lot of really cool people just by going to a restaurant and sitting at the bar, talking to the other patrons or the bartender.
Lately we’ve changed our tactic a bit. We still go out to dinner once or twice a week but when we do, we order water to drink (because alcohol will totally rack up your bill), we order an appetizer, and we share an entree. We have found that by doing this, we walk away totally full and our bill is half what we used to spend. We then go back to the boat and enjoy a beer or glass of wine that we bought for a fraction of the price. I would estimate that we spend about $300 a month on dining out / entertainment.
Grocery shopping is another big expense of ours, mainly because we are really conscious about what we eat. Aside from the occasional condiment and very rare treat of Totino’s Pizza Rolls, we don’t buy anything processed and we buy organic as much as possible, which, as you know, costs a little more than the non-organic counterpart. We figure the additional expense is a small price to pay when it comes to our health.
If eating clean and healthy food keeps us from getting sick, that’s fewer medical bills in the long run, smaller insurance premiums, etc. It all balances out and at the end of the day, we don’t feel like crap. We probably spend about $400-500 on groceries a month but are looking at better ways to do our shopping.
Another expense is marinas. Oh boy – even though we have a shower on our boat, it is so nice to be able to go and stand under a hot (or cool) shower for as long as you want. Oh and what was that? You have a pool? Why, it’s 95 degrees outside and I’m sweating like a stuck pig… don’t mind if I do! Free coffee? So I don’t have to fire up the propane stove in this 95 degree weather to make my own? Get the picture?
Marinas are expensive because they are so convenient, especially when you pay a nightly transient rate, which can vary anywhere from $1.00 per foot/night to $2.50 per foot/night. We have a 35′ boat, so you can do the math.
Although we’ve been cruising the Chesapeake Bay all the way down down to Florida, repairs, friends and freelance work have kept us in some places for longer than others. If we’re in a place for any length of time, we definitely stay in a marina. We have our dog with us so his bathroom breaks require a dinghy ride to shore, plus we don’t yet have a wind generator or sufficient solar panels to anchor out for more than a couple of nights without running the engine to charge the batteries.
If we’re staying for more than a couple of weeks, we always ask for a monthly rate (rather than pay a daily or weekly transient rate). The monthly cost varies depending on the area as well as the marina. Our average dockage rate so far between the places we’ve stayed for a month or more has been about $600/mo. Hopefully one day in the near future, we’ll be able to get rid of the marina fees, but until we make a few upgrades, we’ll have to suffer that expense.
Other than that, we really don’t spend a lot on ourselves – most of it goes towards the boat. This is where your expenses can really vary. You see, when we bought the boat, we had two options:
- Get a boat that was ready for cruising and thus a lot more expensive and may require a partial loan OR
- Pay cash for a boat that needed some upgrades and spend the first couple of years traveling, getting to know her, and fixing her as we go.
We opted for the latter. We are slowly but surely adding elements, taking some out, replacing this part or that, changing this, etc. I do know that we’ve put at least $20,000 into her, probably more.
I tried tallying up all of our receipts for our first year of doing this (we moved aboard in May 2012) and after realizing that we had a lot of receipts, but we didn’t keep all of them, I didn’t think it was worth the trouble to tally them all for a number that wouldn’t be accurate.
I do know that we haven’t really changed our spending habits too much from our life on land. We are spending less in many aspects, but the money we put into the boat evens it all out. My goal is to cut our everyday costs as much as possible so that we can sink more into the boat – that way, even though the boat’s work is never done, if we have the major things done, we just have to make sure to do the upkeep. Everything left over goes into savings, or “the cruising kitty“.
I estimate that our monthly spending (including marina fees, entertainment, boat work, food, wifi, phone, laundry, etc.) is somewhere around $1800 – $2000. But let me be the first to tell you, you CAN do it on a lot less, and I know people who spend a lot more.
I would love to reduce our cost of sailing by spending considerably less, but to be honest, as long as we’re stateside, we’re going to spend more than we would if we were in say, Grenada, Dominican Republic or Panama. For now we’re still in plan-making mode and as always, plans can change.
My advice for anyone who is looking to do this is to estimate that you’ll spend close to what you spend on land, but substitute mortgage costs with marina fees (if you are getting rid of your house and plan on staying in marinas), and don’t forget to take into account costs like storage (to store what possessions you do keep but that aren’t going on the boat), cell service, wifi, towing insurance and/or boat insurance, entry fees (if traveling outside the US), entertainment expenses, etc.
These are only my experiences – everyone will be different. Do any of you live aboard a boat and/or traveling around like a gypsy? How do your spending habits compare to our sailing costs? Please comment so we can all learn!