Guy Clegg and his wife Joanna together with their daughter, Jasmine, the family set sail early in 2021 to become full-time sea nomads

There is a myth that a simple life is too costly to pursue. I would like to debunk it. Clearly in the case of voyaging at sea, one must have sufficient resources to purchase a boat and to make her seaworthy. Travelling with my family, I also feel that sufficient funds to cover a few years travelling, with additional put aside for eventualities, is a prudent way to go. But many have ventured out to sea with far less, including big names like Joshua Slocum and Bernard Moitessier… true voyagers in every way.

Only you can decide how much you will require, but here are a few pointers: Smaller boats cost less. Simple boats with simple systems have less to go wrong, saving on repairs. It is estimated that one should budget for spending 30% to 40% of the boat’s purchase value on the initial refit; this held true for us.

It is regularly asserted that one should budget for spending 10% of the boat’s value in annual repairs, replacements and maintenance; we have not come close to spending this… so far!

Living simply, avoiding marinas, sailing and not motoring all greatly help to keep the costs down. In higher latitudes, spending prolonged periods in a marina over winter may be unavoidable, but some long winter stays are well priced and can be less than £1,000 for a full six-month winter berth, excluding electricity.

Approximately 50% of our annual budget goes on food and drink provisions. Additional costs, besides fuel, marina fees and repairs mentioned already, include insurance, mobile phone costs, overland travel and the occasional eating out.

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Depending on the voyager’s needs, many replenish financial supplies while travelling. Some work online, some work over the winter months doing temporary jobs from a marina or mooring. Some just get paid work doing anything whenever possible. I have met one past sea nomad whose travel tales were just one long list of jobs, in different ports and in different countries. Some have properties to rent out and others keep their sailing costs low enough to be covered by their pensions.

We had no property of our own but had accrued a few modest savings over the years and crucially shouldered no debt. The ending of our tenant farm business and the sale of vehicles, livestock, machinery and furniture provided the funds to purchase the boat, have her refitted and launched with a comfortable safety net for a few years of budget travel.

If we had stayed on our organic farm, we are convinced that the present climate, both political and environmental, would have seen us eating into our savings at the same, or a higher rate than we are presently doing. Of course, like most farmers, we would have sought a loan to keep our business afloat.

With the right equipment and a dash of fortitude, you could become a sea gypsy like the Cleggs. Photo: Joanna Clegg

Equally, our daughter, if following the more conventional path, would presently be accruing in excess of £60,000 of student debt while pursuing a typical three-year honours degree. It’s funny that we
see these scenarios as normal, acceptable and even affordable. The simple, self-sufficient life with few outgoings that we have undertaken would never be endorsed by a financial adviser.

Seeking adventure and exploring, becoming sea gypsies, having the chance to reset and to challenge and expand one’s self while gaining a deeper respect for nature, are all seen as valueless, foolhardy and even reckless from a purely economic perspective.

It has now been two years since we set sail, and despite having had one of the coldest and greyest summers in Scotland that most locals can remember, we still have no regrets over the path we have taken. We wish you good luck in choosing yours.

Guy Clegg and his wife Joanna farmed organically, close to the Atlantic Ocean in Cornwall, for almost 20 years before buying their Koopmans 39, Free Spirit. Together with their daughter, Jasmine, the family set sail early in 2021 to become full-time sea gypsies. Find them at Sailing Free Spirit on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.

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