sabbatical year: how much does it cost?

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A sabbatical year is a privilege; however, it isn’t just for millionaires. There are any number of examples; amongst those who have set off are: craftsmen, employees, civil servants, professionals – you will find all sorts anchored in the West Indies, where those who took the plunge like to meet…
In the opinion of all those who dared, the most difficult thing is taking the decision to leave. After that, you manage with the means available. But what is the minimum sum which will allow you to envisage leaving, reasonably comfortably?


Whether you are leaving for one year or five, whether you have chosen a new 70’ catamaran or a second-hand 35-footer, your budget will be based on the same four main headings: the purchase of the boat; its preparation; the crew’s personal spending during the voyage and spending on the boat…


Many potential voyagers call us at the magazine, to find a catamaran for long-term charter. This is often the first reaction: can we charter a catamaran for a year in the West Indies, and how much will such a charter cost? Charter companies offering this service are quite rare… And we can even say that they hide themselves. To find the real gem, you have to dig deep, telephone, try and persuade…and be lucky. Otherwise, there are also owners who will agree to charter their boat for a full year. In general, the price fluctuates around 40,000 euros for a year, for a 12-metre catamaran. But to this sum must be added costs of wear and tear, to be negotiated with the owner. This sum should be compared with what the purchase, the preparation and the re-sale of your own catamaran would cost you. Two years ago, one of our readers sailed around the Atlantic aboard a Lagoon 380, which he bought new in France and sold in St Martin. The difference between the purchase and resale prices, including the equipment, was 40,000 euros! But this sum can be reduced to less than half in the case of the purchase of a second-hand boat, prepared basically but reasonably. The case of the Nieutin family (see their book ‘Histoire de Partir’) aboard their Nautitech 395 is a good example.
So as not to lose too much money on a new catamaran, you must choose it well: a catamaran from a well-known big name, easy to resell and above all, a ‘latest generation’ model. The best example is that of one of our readers who was looking for a second-hand Lagoon 410 for his sabbatical year. He finally yielded to the temptation of a new Lagoon 440, which he equipped himself. Finally he sold his catamaran for a good price and above all quickly, after he had returned. This was a recent, well-equipped boat, which was rare on the second-hand market…
One of the solutions for keeping the costs down is to buy a new boat, charter it for a season in the Mediterranean and then leave aboard it… You will not be able to use your boat from April to October, but the charter can provide you with up to 30,000 euros… Enough to leave with no worries…


As you are going to have to buy, it is up to you to choose between a new catamaran, which will have to be completely equipped, and a second-hand catamaran which, by definition, has already been cruising. In the case of a sabbatical year, the purchase of the boat is not an expense as such, as you are going to resell it. The real cost of the boat will therefore be the difference between the purchase and resale prices, reduced by the refitting and preparation costs.
Purchase of a new boat offers appreciable security: no risk of hidden problems, the boat will be ready to go at the agreed time. In addition, if you entrust the preparation to the dealer who sold you the boat, you will know your probable departure date well in advance. On the other hand, delivery times are sometimes very long, and certain people order their boat two years in advance…
Choosing to buy second-hand allows you to leave on a boat which is tried and tested. A good refit, a bit of work and equipment and you are ready to go. On the other hand, in the case of a sabbatical year whose departure and return dates are fixed, you have to be lucky to find your dream catamaran at the right moment. It’s not always as easy as it seems… Many of our readers have left on a boat they didn’t envisage buying at the beginning, because the boat of their dreams was quite simply not available on the second-hand market in the six months before their departure.
To avoid prohibitive costs, the ideal is to choose a second-hand catamaran about five years old. If possible, a catamaran which has just completed the type of programme you yourself are envisaging. If you invest 200,000 euros in this type of catamaran, you will sell it at almost the same price. You will just have to pay for a suit of sails and the maintenance. You can reasonably expect your boat to cost you between 15 and 20,000 euros, for a programme of from one to three years…


Most sabbatical year cruisers finance their boat through a loan or leasing. Why? Quite simply because this allows them to pay just the loan repayments for a year, as the boat will quickly be resold when they return. The more money you have available, the lower will be the monthly repayments and the less the cost of the loan will be a burden.
For example, if you want to buy an Outremer 42, whose price, equipped, is 350,000 euros exc. VAT. With a 30% deposit (125,500 euros) the monthly payments over five years will be less than 5,200 euros. If your deposit is 50% (209,300 euros), the monthly repayments over 7 years will only be 2,600 euros. If we consider that a new generation catamaran will lose around 10% to 15% of its value in one year of use, it will finally only have cost you the cost of the loan, plus this loss (difficult to calculate in advance…). On the other hand, you will have had to advance (2,600 x 12) + 209,300 euros, making 240,500 euros… The calculation is the same in the case of a second-hand boat, which if it is more than five years old, can be resold almost at the price you paid for it. In this case, it will only cost you the preparation and the refit before selling… It is important to use the services of a professional salesperson, as he or she will be able to make the ideal financial arrangements for you according to your financing capacity. Finally, (s)he will also give you good advice about buying your new or second-hand dream catamaran tax free, thus allowing you to make substantial savings!  


Have you chosen your boat? Excellent. All that remains is to equip it! Marie and Hervé Nieutin spent a year aboard a Nautitech 395. They wrote a fascinating book about it, that every potential voyager should read as a matter of priority. ‘Histoire de Partir’ explains in detail everything you need to know to have a successful sabbatical year. In the chapter entitled ‘Préparation du bateau’, we learn that the Nautitech 395 had been a charter boat – a catamaran that had to be completely equipped to become a ‘blue-water catamaran’… Their preparation cost 20,000 euros (genoa, lazy bag, bimini, tender + outboard, solar panels, refrigerators, davits, battery bank…). In general, it can be considered that you should allow between 10% and 15% of the purchase price, for preparation. But be careful, if you want to leave with new engines, a watermaker, a washing machine, and a diving compressor, and have a high-speed internet connection, etc… the bill can (very) quickly increase to 50% of the purchase value. And you should be aware that although this equipment may help negotiations when you resell, it will not for all that increase the real value of the boat.  Whether new or second-hand, we can therefore consider that to have a reasonable level of comfort aboard, without being excessive, you should allow around 15% of the purchase value in equipment.  


That’s it. You have negotiated your departure dates with your employer, you have your boat: all that remains is to complete your budget. To know how much you will spend during your sabbatical year, you must take into account the expenses linked to your life ashore. Taxes, possible loans, insurances, etc… These expenses are fixed and can be calculated from your bank statements.
Next there is life aboard… Under personal spending, you should include provisions for all the family, leisure, marinas and clearances. Here again, the sums you allow will depend on how you envisage life aboard your boat… Hiring cars, visiting the islands, eating in restaurants can quickly cost you dearly. Along the same lines, clearances in the West Indies can make a large hole in the finances. An example: Marie and Hervé Nieutin explain very well in ‘Histoire de Partir’, that the entry and exit taxes to the territories form a real budget: to stay in Los Roques Islands cost them 120 euros, to which must be added the 40 euros entry to Venezuela…
To these personal expenses must be added the spending linked to the boat: insurance, diesel, and the special budget for ‘unforeseen events’. ‘Théis’ completed an Atlantic circuit three years ago now. The catamaran was bought new and had to have its antifouling renewed after six months. Over and above the time lost, the bill came to 2,500 euros. All the more so if you leaving aboard a second-hand catamaran, you must allow for ‘the unexpected’, with a small amount of money which will allow you to repair and continue your cruise. A torn mainsail during a difficult manoeuvre, a diesel engine which has swallowed some seawater, grounding on a caye are all things which can happen and which should not put an end to your project. According to the age and the size of the boat, you must therefore have a small nest egg, ‘just in case’! Between 5 and 15,000 euros, depending on the case would seem to be a reasonable sum.


Although the purchase of your boat depends above all on your personal means, it seems that life aboard for a family of four people aboard a 40 to 45-foot catamaran costs between 1200 and 2500 euros per month. If you are cruising with two children and you prefer anchorages to packed marinas, and if you like fishing and eating your catch, you can reasonably allow 1500 euros per month for a sabbatical year in the West Indies. Certain people need much more; others have experienced fabulous adventures with half as much…
So a sabbatical year costs around 18,000 euros, plus the preparation of your boat, considering that you will sell it at more or less the same price… With a boat budget of 15 to 20,000 euros, you can therefore envisage leaving for a sum of between 30 and 40,000 euros…
We dare you!

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