1. Be very Realistic:
Look before you leap. If you don't have your boat yet, spend a lot of time looking at every live aboard size boat you possibly can. Get a solid idea of the
type and kind that fits your lifestyle, pocketbook and purpose. Sure, we all want that big expensive boat we saw at the Boat Show. . .  But the hard cruel
fact is, a 'dream boat" is (most often than not) a dream buster.
2. Be Comfortable:
Now days, cruising or not, refrigeration on a boat is no longer a problem. Neither are other creature comforts such as: TV, Laptops, Internet,
Microwave, cellphone, etc. Long distance voyagers today
no longer have to live like cave men. Instead, most boats are more like "man caves".
3. Deal with it:
The biggest single difference between spending a weekend on your boat vs an extended cruise, are the things you have to just "deal with". These
include the size and type of boat that will work best for you, the amount of storage, tolerance and close quarters. It is far easier to do without some
creature comforts for a weekend than it is for months or a year.
4. Dinghy:
You will need a tough, hard bottom seaworthy dinghy. It'll be your SUV on the water. If you are spending 6 months or more on the Great Loop, it will
save you much more than it cost to buy. Not only is it a safety feature, it will also prevent you from having to walk miles farther for provisions. A good
dinghy is a must have in our book.
5. Good tools:
When you're "out here" on the water, a new boat warranty won't do you any good. Good tools and spare parts are better than money in the bank.  
6. Weather:
Living and cruising on your boat can at times, put you at the mercy of the weather. Keep an eye on the sky, and your VHF radio handy. You always
need to know where you are, and where the nearest safest anchorage or marina is located. It's really that simple.
7. Tides:
In many areas on the ICW tides can change the water depth beneath your boat as much as 5 or more feet. This of course, is not good at all when you
are in 7 or 8 feet of water and the tide is falling.  
We always cruise these areas on a "rising tide". This way, if you do go aground, you simply wait until
the rising tide floats your boat again. Going aground on a falling tide however, can be disastrous.
8. Anchors Away:
Your boat is your own special island, with some of the comforts of home. We average spending 5 nights a week "on the hook" while cruising. Many
boaters have had a bad anchoring experiences cruising unfamiliar waters. It shouldn't happen. So Invest in a good heavy duty anchoring system, and
learn how to use it. This will prove to be better for a good nights sleep than any sleep number bed.
9. Attitude:
There is one thing you will never see on my boat - and that is a schedule. When I'm cruising, I am on "CMT" that's "Caribbean Maybe Time".  If I say I
will be there, I will be there, but it doesn't mean I will be there any time soon. I'm on a boat, not a train or plane. I don't even try to run on a schedule -
neither should you. This is what (most often) gets sailors in real trouble. If you like a place, stay longer. If you don't like it, move on.
10. Keeping in touch:
I do it "on line". This goes from keeping in touch with family and friends, to banking. I pay for everything I need with a Visa Debit card on a dedicated
. I never have more than $100 cash in my pocket. Laptops, WiFi, Internet, and Cell phones are wonderful. With WiFi and Nation-wide minutes, I
am very - very seldom out of cell phone range. Even when anchoring out, I plan my nightly stops to be within WiFi and cell phone coverage. Last year
(2012) I can't recall a single night without coverage.
11. Go Now
If you're waiting for the perfect time to go. . . Like anything and everything else, there will always be reasons, issues, situations, circumstances, and
"things" to overcome.  Don't wait until everything is perfect - it never will be!  
12. Cost
Obviously, it is not free (as some think) if you have no money and no income, this isn't going to work out for you. You can't do this without lots of cash
in the bank or a regular income. If living on a boat (cruising or not) is your dream - keep in mind the REAL purpose of making money then becomes
buying you time away from having to make money. It is NOT to buy you "stuff". Most likely, that "stuff" won't fit on your boat anyway.
Depending of course, on the size of your boat:
A 36 footer will cost you about $400 a month in Marina fees in most areas. Of course, you also need money for your food, beverage, clothing, eating
out, entertainment, insurances, gifts, souvenirs, rental cars, etc.  But again, it is all about one's own lifestyle, philosophy, and pocketbook. Depending
on your location, you can expect to pay $10.00 X the length of your boat, plus a reasonable utility hookup fee for keeping your boat at a Marina.
When cruising, you can expect to pay about $1 a foot x the length of your boat, plus possibly a $10 hook up fee for staying overnight.  Obviously, in
both cases above, fees vary by region, location, and Marina.
Your lifestyle:
Cruising or not, it is critical that you remain in your comfort zone and maintain your lifestyle. For me, eating out, and good wine keeps me happy.
I also love seafood, so I am frequently fishing my way around the Loop.
Seldom does my menu not include "the fresh catch of the day".  If it wasn't for
eating out so much, I could indeed save a bundle,  As most all my  food provisions on the boat are for things such as pasta, potatoes, rice, beans,
carrots, onions, spices and fruit. As a result, what I eat on the boat is really "cheap eats" that go well both alone, or with the seafood I catch.
On the ICW:
We catch everything from Amberjack, Tuna, Flounder, Pompano, Sail Cat, Redfish, SeaTrout, SeaBass, and Shark. We are also (in most locations)
able to catch more blue crabs than we can possibly eat.  In some locations, the same is true for netting large schools of Shrimp. On the Gulf ICW, and
around Florida we dive for Scallops and Lobsters.  On the Great Lakes, we catch Salmon and Lake Trout, as well as Walleye. On the Inland rivers of
course, we catch more Catfish and Bass than we can possibly eat. More often than not, we are catching and releasing fish until we get the right kind in
the right size to make a meal for that day's dinner and have enough left over for the next day's lunch.
Point is, if one likes to fish, and has the desire, equipment to do so. . . It is very possible to have fresh seafood on your plate all the way around the
Loop or all the way around the world. Beans, rice and pasta with the right spices, butter, garlic, or sauce all work well by themselves on those few days
you might not catch anything, or simply don't feel like fishing.
© 1993 - 2017 CaptainJohn.org
Living aboard & Cruising on a Frugal Budget
It may be an Oxymoron. . . "Cruising on a frugal budget" - It seems
to fit right in with "Military Intelligence" and "Jumbo Shrimp". . .
Because. . .
Fact is, it takes an awful lot of money to cruise on a frugal budget.
For sure it is NOT something that can be accomplished under any kind or
impoverished circumstances or financial hardship.
Cruising on a frugal budget means everything in and on your boat must be kept
in top ship shape condition at all times. That requires money! Those small
seemingly harmless flaws, wears and tears, chaps, scrapes, cuts and gouges,
along with that occasional hiccup or hesitation in your engine is a quick and easy
inexpensive fix if taken care of immediately. If not, it can result in a tow or boat
rescue, a haul out, and a major repair bill if neglected.
In addition, "cruising on a frugal budget" has nothing to do with being cheap. It
requires a top quality boat and equipment. That however, does not mean
everything has to be brand new. It just means you need to start with quality, new
or used.
Maybe it is not so much "cruising" on a frugal budget as it is simply buying a
frugal boat.    
Great Links
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America's Great Loop
www.captainjohn.org                                                                      - Cruising America's Great Loop - Once Around Is Not Enough -
www.captainjohn.org                                                                      - Cruising America's Great Loop - Once Around Is Not Enough -
www.captainjohn.org                                                                      - Cruising America's Great Loop - Once Around Is Not Enough -
www.captainjohn.org                                                                      - Cruising America's Great Loop - Once Around Is Not Enough -
www.captainjohn.org                                                                      - Cruising America's Great Loop - Once Around Is Not Enough -
displacement hull recreational Trawler or Tug boat. Otherwise, your cost of fuel can be a real budget buster.
You will also want to keep your boat and everything on it as simple and uncomplicated as possible. Many of today's amenities such as: clothes washer
& dryer, satellite TV, air conditioners, etc., can often be much more trouble than they are worth; especially in vessels under 40 feet that are really not
built and equipped for high demand electrical components.
Keeping things simple means less work, less stress and less worry, as well as less expensive. That of course results in a happy voyager!
Having a 110v air conditioning unit(s) for dock side shore power works great for those really hot nights, but you really don't need air conditioning when

If you are indeed planning to cruise America's Great Loop vs sailing across oceans, you need to be prepared to spend a lot of money ashore. Lots of
tempting and interesting attractions line your path ashore all along your way on the Great Loop. While we are all different and we all have our own
boating philosophies, interests and pocketbooks. . . FYI - I spend far more eating out and seeing the sights on shore along the way than I do on ALL my
boat and boat related expenses.
Think of it as a vacation. I think we all have a history of somehow spending more on vacations than we planned. Between inviting restaurants, tempting
shops, neat stuff, souvenirs, unexpected things to do. . . Somehow it all amounts to doing more than we planned on, and inevitably we spend more
money doing it. This is exactly why my goal has always been to keep my boat fuel and expenses to a minimum - so I have more to spend on the things I
enjoy seeing and doing ashore.