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Cruising through retirement on less than $18,000 a year

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Imagine a yearlong cruise stopping at resorts like Italy’s Amalfi Coast, and most people would think that is beyond their financial reach.

Yet, to the contrary, a report by proposes that all this and more can be had for under $18,000 a year.

A growing number of people are choosing to retire on a boat — much as many Americans tour national parks lodging affordably in their campervans — and finding that the vagabond lifestyle provides them adventure in exotic locales, a community of likeminded expats and access to their essential needs — all at prices they can afford.

Expat boating provides access not just to the essentials but even to luxuries that that the wealthy pay steeply to secure, according to the publication’s new report on the boating retirement trend:

“On the cliff overlooking our anchorage was a hotel that charges $342 a night,” the report quotes Carol Witt, who with her husband, Kent, has been cruising Capo Palinuro, south of Naples. Witt says these well-heeled tourists also need good heels to access the beach they are docked at.

“Guests have to walk down a rickety network of several hundred steps to reach the cove that serves as the resort’s beach. At night we went ashore and enjoyed the fancy hotel’s sunset views and ambience for the price of a cocktail.”

And in a quote that Ernest Hemingway would surely approve, Theresa Collins, who with her husband Curtis galavants among various Caribbean and Central American locations, put it this way: “There are no schedules. We hang out in a place until it’s not fun anymore.”

So how do these young-spirited seniors do it?

The report says a well-equipped, 40-foot sailboat has more than enough room for 2 people and can be had for as little as $89,000.

Living expenses, depending on location, range from $1,000 to $1,500 a month, including marina fees, which run from $150 to $600 a month, with Asian and Central American docks on the low-cost end and European ports on the higher end. Those fees generally include water, power and Wi-Fi.

Then there’s the matter of operating the boat, which International Living assures is “easier and safer than ever” thanks to modern GPS and radar.

“With GPS for navigation you always know exactly where you are, a safe route to get where you’re going and how long it’ll take to get there,” the report says. “You program in the destination just like with a land GPS. You have radar for monitoring weather” in addition to systems that help you stay clear of large ships.

Would-be cruisers start by taking a sailing class, as did Gary and Julie Pierce, quoted in the article.

“Over…four years my wife Julie and I prepared, taking the baby-steps approach to sailboat life. I read everything I could get my hands on about sailing and cruising. We started taking sailing lessons in Kemah, Texas, 90 miles from our home.”

Basic classes cover safety and basic seamanship, but future cruisers will need to also learn skills like engine repair.

Advisor Scott Leonard took 2 1/2 years off to sail around the world — without losing a client.

Those with basic skills in reading the weather and navigating and maintaining their boat may want to join a “crewed charter,” working with a professional captain and crew on a Caribbean or Mediterranean location before taking on a “bareboat charter,” where you rent your own vessel for a first foray into cruising.

Once a “professional,” expat sailors can read up on the world’s various cruising desitations, equipment sales and favorite restaurants. links to a variety of such resources.

The report offers some snapshots of the cruising life close to home — in the Caribbean — as well as the European and Asian scene.

For those who might find some aspects of this daunting, the report helpfully notes: “By the way, although plenty of people do it, there’s no need to cross the Atlantic on your own. You can have your craft shipped over and meet your boat on the other side.”

Other handy bits of advice include the knowledge one gains from experience (preferably that of others), such as the benefits of a safe haven in the Atlantic during hurricane season.

One couple quoted in the article favors Guatemala’s Rio Dulce during that June to November season — “a place of natural beauty where steep tree-covered cliffs line the river before you arrive at a large lake where more than a dozen marinas and related services cater to boaters.”

Indeed, the cruising life need not be one of constant wandering. Some couples, like the Collinses, maintain a home (theirs is in Guatemala) which they alternate with cruising places like Panama’s Bocas del Toro archipelago.

Some benefiting from the cruising life, depending on their taste, favor classical music performances in ancient Roman amphitheaters in cobblestone Italian towns while others enjoy tapas and bar hopping in Spain or exploring a North African souk for souvenirs.

Apart from destinations, lifestyle options include “dry sailing” — spending a few hours or a day on the water but then seeking the comforts of landed life at dusk — or making your boat your house docked at a marina.


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