Greetings from Panama City! We’ve sailed about 4,500 miles since leaving San Francisco, and it’s hard to believe our first season of cruising is almost over.
But not before the most dramatic season finale ever. That’s right Chris Harrison, The Bachelor has nothing on us! No roses will be handed out, but our dramatic conclusion will be to take Pineapple through the Panama Canal! We are scheduled to transit the canal on June 2, and assuming no delays, we’ll arrive at Shelter Bay Marina (Pineapple‘s summer home) that evening or the following day.
I’ll be writing a lot more about our experience, but for now, we are just trying to wrap our heads around the fact that, because of this engineering wonder, we will say goodbye to the Pacific Ocean entirely and enter Caribbean waters. Sure beats Cape Horn! (And we’re feeling especially amazed after reading the epic Path Between the Seas, all about the construction of the canal.)
But now I’m getting ahead of myself—this post is a look back at April’s cruising costs.
We arrived in Costa Rica on April 2 and spent the entire month there. Due to crazy import taxes and the thriving tourism industry, the cost of goods in Costa Rica is extremely high, which I touched on in our Costa Rica recap. We knew it would be a challenge to keep our spending under control. But we were up for it! Coming off our most expensive month in March, we talked about our priorities for our time in Costa Rica and made sure we were on the same page.
Here’s how much we spent while traveling and sailing in Central America’s most expensive country.
Total spent: $2,118.60 U.S. Dollars
The official conclusion: We rocked it! This is our second-least expensive month since we started tracking. Keep reading for the breakdown and commentary.
Marina docking fees: $735.06
This number is pretty high, but I’m quite proud of it. Here’s why: We had planned to meet up with friends in Quepos, so several months earlier, we decided to get a slip in the marina there during their visit. Like every other marina in Costa Rica, it was very expensive. But since we knew in advance we’d be splurging, we structured the rest of our spending for the month accordingly. And then, you guys, we followed through on the plan!
In April, we kept other (non-marina) expenses to a minimum and prepared (emotionally and physically) to spend a month away from the conveniences and comforts of a marina. But then, on April 27, we arrived at the the luxurious Pez Vela Marina in Quepos. It was a classic case of “you get what you pay for”—the service and the amenities were top-notch. I didn’t want to leave. It’s really a shame they don’t offer a better deal for cruisers, because we loved the town of Quepos and the marina is in a central location for exploring inland.
Anyway, I’m proud of us because even though this category was expensive, we prioritized it, adjusted our other spending accordingly, and ended up happy with our grand total for the month. We enjoyed every moment of our stay at Pez Vela—yes, mostly because we had great friends visiting, but also because we could rest easy with the knowledge that we had made a spending plan and stuck to it.
Meals and drinks: $645.93
Not our cheapest month, but not our most expensive either. We tried our best to keep this line item reasonable, remembering the tourist-adjusted prices in Costa Rica. I think we went out for 14 meals in April, plus occasional drinks and coffee shop stops.
Boat parts and maintenance: $227.42
This was mostly spent restocking oil and fuel filters for the engine, and buying parts for a repair we need to make—all of which our friends Taylor and Carolyn kindly brought to Costa Rica when they visited. (Oh, and for the sailboat repair connoisseurs reading: We bought a Heli-Coil kit, which we’ll use to re-thread a screw hole where control hardware for our headsail lead track is pulling out of the deck. The screws were tapped into solid fiberglass but unfortunately the threads have started to strip.)
Phone and Internet: $173.38 through Google Project Fi. In April, we only had Wi-Fi at the marina, but we used our phones as Internet hotspots to stay connected nonetheless.
All the provisioning we did before leaving Mexico is finally paying off, and the timing was perfect! This is hundreds of dollars less then we spent on groceries in previous months. We arrived in Costa Rica fully stocked with non-perishable food and drinks, so in April we really only bought fruits, veggies, and a few other key perishables like eggs and yogurt. For this amount we got about six bags of food. Well, that’s not exactly true—it also bought us two giant tubs of cat litter. We were down to our last bag of the good stuff and were desperate to find some clumping litter for our final few months. Thankfully, a fancy grocery store in Playa del Coco had what we needed.
This is where Costa Rica TOTALLY WINS: Entrance fees for parks and other sights are an incredible value. I’m sure if you sign up for an all-inclusive guided tour it will cost you, but it was very easy to find cheaper options. One highlight: Curú Wildlife Refuge is a privately-owned, eden-like park where we spotted dozens of monkeys, birds, lizards, bugs, and mammals. We only saw two other humans out on the trails. The entrance fee was $12 per person and we were able to anchor Pineapple right off the park for free.
This one smarts a little. We did laundry only once (once!) in Costa Rica and this was the damage. During April, we cleaned our clothes in a bucket on the boat, but by the time we arrived in Quepos, we had collected a few loads worth of dirty towels, sheets, etc. We dropped it off with the marina, who provided a good and prompt laundry service at a high price. For the deep-pocketed sport-fishermen or yacht owners, the cost per kilo isn’t an issue—but for the cruisers, ouch!
Another score for Costa Rica! This cost is entirely from Nicaragua—it’s what we paid to check out of the country before continuing south. When we arrived to Costa Rica, the check-in process was quite an ordeal. We spent the better part of a day visiting the Port Captain, then Immigration, then back to the Port Captain, then taking a 45-miunte bus ride to the airport (!) for Customs, and then back to the Port Captain once more. But the cost was $0, so can’t really complain about that.
Buses and taxis around Costa Rica. We took taxis when we were out at night, and they were actually pretty reasonable. We also benefited from riding around with our friends in their rental car (for free, of course). Bus fare was about $2 per person.
John got a haircut in Playa del Coco. They did a great job for just slightly more than we’d been paying in Mexico. We were pleasantly surprised to find that haircut prices had not been adjusted for tourism! I guess not many tourists get haircuts while on vacation?
Observant readers may notice that we are missing a couple categories this month, like Fuel and Medical. Indeed, both of those came up zeros, which helped us keep the total cost so low. After adding up the rest of the categories, I breathed a big sigh of relief: We can be frugal in expensive places and still enjoy ourselves.
Don’t miss a post! If you enjoy Particular Harbor, consider subscribing below—we’ll deliver each and every new post to your inbox.
John. Love the stories. Keep them coming. Can’t wait to hear about the Panama Canal. Stay safe!
Thanks Drew! We’ll definitely write about how it goes and post tons of photos.
Thanks for sharing this info! Can I ask what your insurance payments are and what company you use? Still in the budget planning stage! Also, how did the Helicoil work? Is there an option to do a through bolt with a backing plate? I hope it all works out! Laney
Boat projects are part of the agreement when cruising. Some expensive, some not so much but required nonetheless. They are also a part of your story. Many bloggers and vlogers depart from what might be perceived as mundane details about sail trim, failed parts, flaws in boat design, things that could be better, etc. But for those of us that are mechanically inclined and planning on joining you out there in the next few years, these things are a very relevant and important part of the whole equation. Not to mention the fact that flaws you may discover while using the vessel can be communicated back to the builder for future improvements or changes in the build process. I really like the Outbound 46! We got to step aboard one at Annapolis this year. Wow! What a boat! I am very interested in how the boat performs and stays (or doesn’t stay) in one piece while being actively cruised. I have enjoyed your blog very much and appreciate your sharing. I hope you will continue to share your story and add even more details about your experience with the boat and it’s systems as time goes on.
All the best,
Thank you Mike! We try to share interesting stories and avoid glossing over the details. We but also try to keep in mind that the primary reader of this blog is not a current or future cruiser. We’ll be back on the boat next month and will resume the updates then 👍
As for the boat… well, it is great! We’ve been very happy. The Outbound performs well under sail and power. We’ve never sailed a full-keel or cutaway-keel offshore, so I can’t compare the Outbound’s modern hull to that experience, but it tracks well and is quite comfortable. One feature worthy of special mention: Because the rudder is all the way aft and HUGE, the boat steers really well. Which is handy when you need to turn (duh) but also because it means the autopilot doesn’t have to work hard at all. The stock Raymarine autopilot drive the boat with ease in all conditions—even surfing down big waves offshore.
My only complaint about performance and comfort is that the boat is quite stiff, motion-wise. Large ballast and low center of gravity means that when the boat rolls in a cross sea, it “snaps” back quickly—especially if there’s little wind. This isn’t a huge issue, but it got uncomfortable motoring through light air in big Central American swell.
The build and equipment quality are top notch. After 4500 miles in 8 months, we only had a few problems:
– Genoa lead adjusters stripping out of deck (NOT the tracks or cars themselves, just the position adjusters)
– Failed gasket around inspection port on top of fuel tank (diesel in the bilge… yuck)
– Water thermometer (in Raymarine depth transducer) stopped working
– One cockpit light is intermittent
– Deck light is intermittent
– On-engine fuel filter chafing against fuel line (we caught this right away and adjusted it; it was too tight because of second alternator)
Thanks again, and let me know if you have more questions.