Many of us feel uncomfortable talking about money. Our society often treats the topic as taboo, which is probably why a lot of us are so poor at managing money and understanding finances. We want to help change that — at least as far as it relates to sailing, and cruising.

We shared the price we paid to purchase our Tartan 37 in Episode 6 on our Youtube channel and discussed our boat buying budget in a previous blog post titled How to Buy the Right Sailboat for You. In this post, we’re planning to dive deeper into the financials, breaking it all down for you.

Our Budget

We spent years paying off school debt, building a nomadic income stream (working our way into remote jobs and acquiring rental property) and saving for our boat. When we were ready to buy our boat, we felt comfortable spending $50,000 in total.  This meant we could by a $50,000 boat that needed absolutely no work before moving aboard and sailing away, or we could buy a cheaper boat and save whatever was left for upgrades and repairs.

We knew that every boat needs some work, so we chose to focus our search on boats we thought we could buy in the $30,000-$40,000 range that were in decent condition with no major updates required. We bought our Tartan 37 sailboat, capable of sailing around the world, for $43,500.  Leaving us with $6,500 for immediate updates. Yay!

Transaction Costs

But wait, not so fast. That was just the purchase price… There are a number of other costs associated with buying a boat (Many people tend to forget these when building their budget. We forgot too!). Let’s break those down:

Marine Survey – $740

While not technically a requirement, just like using toilet paper, it comes highly recommended. In other words, you should get a marine survey.  ESPECIALLY if it’s your first boat purchase. No matter how much you know, or you think you know, it’s extremely important to get an impartial third party to look over every nook and cranny. Even if you spend hours upon hours researching how to survey a boat, arrive prepared with a set of tools and a massive checklist of everything you need to look at (like I did), it’s still helpful to have a second set of eyes to make sure something isn’t accidentally overlooked.

We’re pretty comfortable with this expense from our real estate endeavors. We’ve happily paid $300-400 for a house inspection on numerous occasions, and it has saved us from some major disasters. Our boat has all the major systems of a house and more — and houses don’t typically sink! — so this cost seems quite reasonable. I’m not sure if what we paid was high or low on a national scale, but it was inline with other local quotes.

Haul Out – $272

This one caught us by surprise. We knew we would need the boat out of the water to inspect the hull, but amidst all of the excitement of finding her, we just didn’t think about the logistics to make it happen.

So, if you’re going to do a full marine survey, regardless of whether the boat is in the water or out, you will need to employ the services of a travel lift. If the boat is in the water (as was the case with ours) either at the beginning or the end of the survey, you’ll want to haul it out to get a good look at the hull to inspect the bottom paint, thru-hulls rudder etc. And if the boat is on land, you’ll want to splash it so that you can run the engine, test instruments, check for leaks, etc.

Insurance – $591

Some people choose to self insure, which seems crazy, but I understand how it can make sense in certain situations. We decided to finance our sailboat so we didn’t have a choice, we had to have insurance before closing. This cost was also a bit surprising, but in the opposite way — to us, $591/year felt inexpensive. Having purchased both auto and home insurance in the past, I had expected this to be quite a bit more, especially given that we were insuring the full value of the boat, with a very reasonable deductible.

BoatUS Membership – $10

We purchased our insurance through BoatUS. For those who don’t know, a BoatUS membership offers a number of benefits, but the most important among them being unlimited towing. This was included in the underwriting of our insurance policy — as long as we signed up for a BoatUS membership. The peace of mind alone is well worth it! We did end up needing to use it on one occasion, and it saved us a bunch of money.

Closing Costs – $125

This was paid to the brokerage that took care of the closing documents. This is not a cost that shows up in every transaction, but in this case the seller used a broker, and it really helped the deal move smoothly. They helped with negotiation, provided us with data (which was extremely valuable as you’ll see later on), held our deposit in an escrow account, and took care of all the paperwork. It was an expense we were happy to pay.

Registration – $73

This was a very reasonable expense. We may at some point document with the USCG, but it was an additional step and expense and we didn’t want to deal with at closing.

Sales Tax – $2,218

There are whole books written on this topic, and about the many (sometimes legal, sometimes not) ways of getting around this expense. We chose to pay up and avoid any hassles down the line.


In total we spent $4,029 on transaction costs to purchase our bluewater sailboat. Every transaction is unique, and you may not encounter every expense we did, but hopefully this serves as a reference. It’s interesting to note that this comes out to almost exactly 10% of the purchase price – which is a very significant expense to keep in mind when shopping for a sailboat.

  • Survey – $740
  • Haul Out – $272
  • Insurance – $591
  • BoatUS Membership – $10
  • Closing Costs – $125
  • Registration – $73
  • Sales Tax – $2,218
  • Total – $4,029

At this point we’ve spent $47,529 on our boat. So, whereas we thought we would be left with $6,500 for immediate updates after agreeing on a $43,500 purchase price, we were actually left with less than $2,500.

Immediate Upgrades & Updates

Our boat was sail ready the day we bought her. However, the previous owners had primarily used her for daysailing and short trips. We purchased her with the intention of living aboard and cruising to faraway places. So before leaving our homeport for good we spent $2,924 on upgrades and updates to prepare our boat for extended cruising. We did not complete every project we’d need to cross oceans, but instead prioritized things we needed to do before heading down the inland river system to the Gulf.

Boat Buying Dashboard | Sailing Soulianis

The screenshot above is from the Boat Buying Dashboard we created to manage all our boat related financial information.

In Summary

  • Our all-in budget was $50,000
  • We bought our Tartan 37 sailboat, capable of sailing around the world, for $43,500.
  • The transaction costs were $4,029
  • Leaving us with $2,471 for upgrades
  • We spent $2,924 before leaving the dock and starting our sailing adventure
  • In total we spent $50,423 and were $423 over budget*

*In all reality we probably spent a couple thousand more on other odds and ends. Think cleaning supplies, random consumables, and little bits and pieces that slipped through the cracks. This also does not include living expenses we incurred during the first three months, nor does it include operating costs (fuel & dockage) for the 3-week shakedown sail we did on Lake Michigan.

That’s less than 5 boat bucks ($500) over budget! That’s like a rounding error in the grand scheme of boat ownership. It’s pretty crazy to look at those numbers on paper. We didn’t actually know how close we were until sitting down to write this post. So to answer the question How much does it cost to buy a bluewater sailboat capable of sailing around the world? 

It cost us $50,423.

Hopefully this post was helpful.  Or maybe it created more questions than answers… If that’s the case let us know (in the comments below) what question you’d us to answer next.

  1. Wait, I thought you couldn’t get insurance on a nearly 40 year old boat!?
  2. How did you determine your 50,000 budget?
  3. How did you save $50,000?
  4. Why did you decide to buy the boat with financing instead of paying cash?
  5. Wait, I thought you couldn’t get financing on a nearly 40 year old boat!?
  6. How did you decide a fair market value when making your offer?
  7. I have more questions! (Great, ask away!)

Now You Know How Much the Boat Cost… How Much Does it Cost to Cruise?

We got you covered…

Monthly Cruising Budget

We plan to talk about various aspects of money and financials on a semi-regular basis in a series we’re calling “Financial Fridays.”  If you’re interested in learning more about something that we haven’t touched on leave us a comment below or contact us.