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Old 02-25-2015, 12:43 PM   #1
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Operational Cost Comparison Cruising Sailboat vs Cruising FD Trawler

Heard many comments over the years as to the cost comparison. Has anyone actually seen a study or numbers? I am talking five years of at least four months per year and moving from anchorage to anchorage. Lets say at least 200 hours on a trawler engine or 1500 miles on a sailboat per year. Picked a full displacement trawler on the basis of the two gallons (three) per hour for operation. Size in the sweet spot of 36 feet to 50 feet.

I have been surprised at the upkeep for the cruising sailboats with respect to rigging, dodgers, and sails.
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Old 02-25-2015, 12:55 PM   #2
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I have been surprised at the upkeep for the cruising sailboats with respect to rigging, dodgers, and sails.

In my experience I agree...My old Bristol 35.5 was brutally expensive to maintain and improve. I got all my money back in the end (always buy quality boats and stuff with good reputations), but $20K in 4 years seemed a bunch looking back.
I suspect my (new to me) CD28 will be a drop in the bucket in comparison, even with the increased fuel costs and engine maintenance....
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Old 02-25-2015, 01:10 PM   #3
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The only comparison I recall was by Steve Dashew. He compared the cost of running his sailboat vs the FPB design. As best I recall, the numbers came out equal or slightly less for the power boat once one factored in the cost of sails and rigging. However, the comparison was to a very specific boat. In our experience comming from sail to power, we definitely pay more to run the powerboat for our type of boating. The extra money goes to increased maintenance costs (buying oil by the gallon instead of quart) and fuel. That said, the cost differerence isn't much in terms of the overall cost of boating for us. Moreover, the pleasure of having a pilothouse instead of being out in the elements is certainly worth the added expense (although i still miss sailing for the sport and challenge aspects).
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Old 02-25-2015, 01:46 PM   #4
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Heard many comments over the years as to the cost comparison. Has anyone actually seen a study or numbers?
I have been surprised at the upkeep for the cruising sailboats with respect to rigging, dodgers, and sails.
Dashew did one a few years ago and came up with a well outfitted sailboat costs no less to maintain. The biggie is sail replacement costs as they generally lose shape/power before they rot away.
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Old 02-25-2015, 02:26 PM   #5
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From all I've had over the years, on a mid size full displacement boat like the Kadey Krogen, I think the costs are about the same over the long run for similarly equipped 42' sail boat.

But as the size goes up, the power boats start costing more.

Conversely, as the size and comforts go down, the sail boat costs less. Because st that point the main difference is fuel.

Also the KK 42 is one of the most efficient power boats out there, so with a different boat, the crossover point is probably lower.
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Old 02-25-2015, 02:43 PM   #6
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Dashew has a bit of the discussion here about the cost comparison, of course with fuel costs down to $50/barrel the cost equation may have temporarily shifted back to sailboats:

"With fuel prices flirting with $100 per barrel, are you concerned with the cost of cruising on the FPB?

When we first looked at designing an Unsailboat we spent a lot of time running operating costs numbers, looking at cost per mile, and per year, and relating these to different speeds. Since we had never done this with any of our sailboats we decided to go back and check what it cost per mile for their operation, taking into account amortization and repair of sails, rig and rigging maintenance, and the engine room gear. Turns out that the FPB running at 11 knots is about 60% of the cost of operating a sailing yacht like Beowulf, so we stopped worrying about the per mile costs.

When we stopped in Hawaii to rest up and top off our tanks before our leg to California, we paid US$3.00 per gallon, the most we’ve seen so far for diesel. This works out to $1.82 per nautical mile running at 11 knots and burning 6.7 US gallons per hour. Add in another fifteen cents per mile for oil changes, a yearly check by a mechanic, and rebuilding engine and transmission at 20,000 hours and it is still much less costly than sail.

We are headed to the UK this spring and will be paying probably double what we’ve been used to for fuel. We can offset this by slowing down from 11 knots to nine.



The matrix above is for the FPB 64 at various speeds with an allowance for auxiliary consumption (generating power and hydraulic loads). This covers only fuel costs and will show the relationship between cost and speed.

One other factor to consider is fuel capacity, range, and the ability to wait until you get to places with better fuel prices. For example, Wind Horse sits with half tanks right now because a couple of hundred miles south, in Ensenada, Mexico, we can buy good quality diesel for a third less than where we are presently located. The last time we filled the tanks was on the Alaskan Panhandle, a long way away!

There is much more information pertaining to this under “Range” on the sidebar above."

Source: SetSail » Blog Archive » FPB 64 – FAQs
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Old 02-25-2015, 03:28 PM   #7
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Being relatively new to the Trawler side I don't have a firm answer on it. However knowing what our 43 and then or 50 cost to sail, and reading some of the above, I think there's a lot to be said for what sailboat and what trawler is being compared. It could go either way it seems. Compare it to say, a Fleming and I think you could run a small armada of sailboats for the fuel burn alone on the Fleming. Compare it to the KK 42 and (apparently) the scale could tip the other way.

There is more to the story though. For example, on our 43, we knew the sails were blown out, but we still used them for a few years more. We lowered the cost by keeping them longer and accepted the performance loss. Rigging costs, we had very minor rigging costs over the last 11 years actually (Sandy damage aside). On the Trawler I have a much larger engine, a second engine comparable to the sailboats main engine, and a large generator. Who's doing all the service on it? DYI and costs are not tremendously more. hire someone to do it and the costs are much, much larger on the Trawler. Even the cost of zincs is way more on the trawler. It's these other costs beyond fuel that I think can add up.

There are also systems on some trawlers, i.e. stabilizers, that sailboats don't have. Then there are systems such as steering, which are much more complex on at least our trawler.

As I said, we haven't had our Trawler long enough for me to speak from experience, but I think it depends on the trawler and sailboat being looked at. For us we fully expect the trawler to settle into a larger cost of ownership than our sailboats were. Hey, if I'm wrong we'll be pleasantly surprised.

Oh, for the record, on our 50ft sailboat we burn 2 gal/hr to make 5-6 knots. On our Trawler we're burning 6.5-6.8 gal/hr to make 7.8 to 8 kts. Not including cost of running the genset. So right off the bat, even assuming I'm under power at all times with the sailboat, it's still more for the trawler. Tack on maintenance of larger and more complex systems and I don't see how it won't be more.

Could getting carbon sails replaced tip the scales, Sure, but who would cruise with them anyway. I could bottom paint the trawler in gold leaf too
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Old 02-25-2015, 03:37 PM   #8
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Another TF discussion that if you don't narrow down the discussion to one vessel versus another....what the heck?

Power versus sail per foot, per purchase price, per operating mile, per performance versus economy rig....etc...etc...

2 new boats compared...or 2 wrecks wrung out till they are scrapped....total costs....way too many variables to ponder....pick 2 specifics and compare...better but still a million variables.
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Old 02-25-2015, 03:52 PM   #9
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psneeld: agreed.

I feel if comparing average vessels of similar length, and similar age. Overall the total cost of ownership will be higher with a trawler usually.
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Old 02-25-2015, 03:58 PM   #10
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psneeld: agreed.

I feel if comparing average vessels of similar length, and similar age. Overall the total cost of ownership will be higher with a trawler usually.
Not really what I meant...if you want as much storage and interior space in a sailboat as trawler....look at the different possibilities.....sure a 40 trawler versus 40 sail versus 40 cat anything are different...exactly my point...where does one draw a line and start the discussion?

there are so many misconceptions in boating...every day I am amazed at what people post.....
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Old 02-25-2015, 04:03 PM   #11
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... Moreover, the pleasure of having a pilothouse instead of being out in the elements is certainly worth (it) ...
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Old 02-25-2015, 04:51 PM   #12
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Just so everyone knows the background of why I asked if anyone had seen comparisons we are currently in Le Marin cul de sac, Martinique. This is the location in the Windward islands to get work done.

More than half of our close sailboat friends are having major work done for things which don't exist on a trawler. One is having his 12 year old rigging replaced. Another a 15 year old dodger. A third is replacing his back stay. A fourth is having the welders fix his wind vane. I am ignoring all the work on things like engines, generators, water makers (curses), and windlasses which are similar to the work on trawlers. This trip no one is replacing a sail, but several are being repaired.

When I hear the prices these repairs cost many are in the ballpark for 1000 to 1500 gallons of fuel.
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Old 02-25-2015, 05:17 PM   #13
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But those repairs can last ten years. Considerably longer than the fuel will
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Old 02-25-2015, 05:21 PM   #14
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We did a major trip in our sailboat from 1998 to 2005 (40+K miles) and we then did a 16K trip in Hobo from 2007 to 2013. Both boats were 42 feet. When we left the PNW, each was in like new or as close to new condition as we could get: good mechanically, both had separate fridge/freezers, NL generators, new watermakers, electronics, a new set of sails, rigging, etc. Both boats have exterior canvas and dinghies/obs and insurance was pretty much a wash.

The sailboat was cheaper for us on an annual basis and we kept pretty good records. The big cost difference was fuel. Fuel for the 16K miles was about $20,000. Sail replacement after 7 years was less than $6K. Painting/renewing the exteriors was cheaper on the sailboat just by virtue of having less square footage. We replaced the fuel tanks on the sailboat without having to remove the engine or any interior joinery. I did/do all the mechanical work. Why did we sell the sailboat? We wanted more/comfortable interior space over a given length. The cost difference to operate? priceless!
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Old 02-25-2015, 06:10 PM   #15
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Some guys will repair standing rigging without a hiccup...yet not touch a valve job on a lehman....paying yard rates always make boating a rich mans sport.




There are so many things to consider...how can anyone even begin to discuss the differences in costs without pages of limiting parameters...?????
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Old 02-25-2015, 07:07 PM   #16
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No matter what the running costs are there can be a big difference in resale down the road. Power boats seem to depreciate much more than sail boats. There is also the usual difference in the size of engines with the smaller sailboat engine cheaper and easier to DIY maintain and repair. Many power boats have large electrical demands resulting in gen set running and more docking all related to the power boats tending to be much more to the right on the boat/cottage scale. My personal experience having owned several sail and several power boats is that once you get over 30-35 feet sail is less costly.
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Old 02-26-2015, 07:01 AM   #17
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Most sail expense is from improper weight of cloth , to save some ca$h when the sails are built.

As cruisers seldom ghost in 3K winds , why have sails that will let you go "faster" in 3K winds? Most use the Iron Topsail instead of ghosting.

The other expense is the window shade sail. The concept being from 3K to 40K its just a matter of rolling it up .

BS , to be polite , with the correct weight of hanked on sails , and a Sweedish Main (so double reefing the mainsail is not needed) Sail Death comes from sunshine or abrasion.

Modern Dacron will last 5 years in sunshine , so if covered in port should take one round the world 2x before needing replacement.

The biggest savings in sail voyaging is the low initial cost for a genuine offshore vessel.

Almost all quality sail can go offshore , perhaps 1 in 100 Motor boats have the proper design,construction and outfitting to go in for Blue Water Voyaging.

Decide if Blue Water is the game , and buy the right vessel for your Desirements..
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Old 02-26-2015, 09:17 AM   #18
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there are so many misconceptions in boating...every day I am amazed at what people post.....
Amazing what a glass of scotch and an IPad can bring forth.
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Old 02-26-2015, 09:25 AM   #19
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....there are so many misconceptions in boating...every day I am amazed at what people post.....
But how do you react when you see something or someone posting something that is or could be dangerous? Some of the suggestions on here absolutely boggle my mind! (But I keep coming back for more...)
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Old 02-26-2015, 10:31 AM   #20
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But how do you react when you see something or someone posting something that is or could be dangerous? Some of the suggestions on here absolutely boggle my mind! (But I keep coming back for more...)
Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat? You mean not everything written here is true? What is a wannabee to do?
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