The Journey Within — Cost Breakdown
By Peter A. Janssen
Photography by George Sass Sr.
Dollars and Cents
Every time I mentioned doing part of the Great Loop, the person I was speaking with, sooner or later, would ask how much it would cost. Here are some real-world answers from our 10 days.
We filled up the boat’s 211-gallon tank when we started in Petoskey, Michigan, taking on 151 gallons of diesel fuel for $633.00. Starting with that full tank, our fuel consumption for the trip itself:
1. Pentwater, Michigan: 150 miles. 134.6 gallons. $573.66.
2. Saugatuck, Michigan: 80 miles. 70.6 gallons. $305.19.
3. Chicago, Illinois: 86 miles. 81.9 gallons. $423.36.
4. Seneca, Illinois. 75 miles. 52 gallons. $240.76.
5. Peoria, Illinois. 87 miles. 64.5 gallons. $290.55.
6. Grafton, Illinois. 164 miles. 116.48 gallons. $500.77
7. Hoppie’s, Kimmswick, Missouri. 60 miles. 35 gallons. $195.64.
555.08 gallons of fuel.
$2,529.93 cost of fuel.
$4.55 average cost per gallon.
1.26 average nautical mile per gallon.
This includes many hours running at a sweet spot of 15 to 16 knots plus many more hours at idle waiting for locks or bridge openings. Using a very conservative estimate of 168.8 gallons (80 percent of the 211-gallon tank), the boat’s range at 1.26 miles/gallon is 212.68 miles at the speeds we were running. You can greatly increase this range by dialing back to a consistent 7 or 8 knots. We never ran the genset until two days after Chicago, and then perhaps a total of only four or five hours.
This is the area where there can be some personal preference. Do you want to tie up at a marina every night or just some nights? Do you prefer to anchor out, when possible? Our preference was to tie up, both for convenience and because we wanted to sample as much of the area we were passing through as we could; we wanted to get off the boat easily and wander around, to see what there was to see. Here’s what the transient slips cost per night at each stop for this 34-foot boat:
1. Leland Township Harbor, Leland, Michigan: $68.
2. Snug Harbor Marina, Pentwater, Michigan: $51.
3. Coral Gables, Saugatuck, Michigan: $85.
4. Chicago, Illinois. Here we were guests of Lou Sandoval of Karma Yacht Sales at the Chicago Yacht Club for three nights (there were special events for two days involving both the boat and yacht technology). The transient slip cost at Burnham Harbor Marina, where we fueled up, is $79.90 per night for a 34-foot boat. You obviously don’t need to spend three nights in Chicago, but I suspect that most cruising boat owners would want to sample the city. Cost for three nights: $239.70.
5. Spring Brook Marina, Seneca, Illinois. As in Chicago, we were guests here, courtesy of the marina, but a transient slip for a 34-foot boat is $34.
6. East Port Marina, East Peoria, Illinois. Transient rate is $35.
7. Illinois Riverdock Restaurant face dock, Hardin, Illinois: $25.
8. Hoppie’s Marina, Kimmswick, Missouri: $42.50.
Total Dockage: $580.20.
Unless you start at home, you have to get to where the boat is. Many people who cruise the Great Loop actually do it in segments, staying on the water for a few months and then returning home for holidays or special events, and rejoining the boat later on. In terms of planning a loop cruise, I think you need to factor in at least one airfare from your home to the boat; that, of course, will vary enormously, so I won’t give a dollar estimate here.
One constant, however, is the need to get to the boat from the airport. In our case that cost was:
Hertz car rental from the Traverse City, Michigan, airport to the Bay Harbor Lake Marina near Petoskey: $111.58
Avis car rental from Hoppie’s in Kimmswick, Misssouri, to the St. Louis airport: $88.60.
Total land transportation: $200.18
The other major cost is food, which again is a variable. After all, you have to eat at home too. This is such a matter of personal preference (do you want to cook dinners on the boat or, as we did, eat breakfast and lunch on the boat and then sample the local fare to get a flavor (bad pun) of each community for dinner? You’ll have to figure this out for yourself.
Known costs for 702 miles of the Great Loop, from Petoskey, Michigan, to Kimmswick, Missouri, on a Beneteau 34 Swift Trawler with a single 425-hp Cummins common-rail diesel engine:
Transportation to and from airports: $200.18
This does not include any costs for oil or oil changes, engine maintenance or boat upkeep and repairs. All of these are widely variable, depending on your boat and whether you do this work yourself or have it done at a service yard.
To extrapolate the above experience for the entire 6,000-mile loop (since these figures are only for 702 miles of it), I divided 6,000 by 702, arriving at 8.54. Then multiplying 8.54 by $3,310.31, gives a Great Loop total of $28,270.04. For the entire 6,000-mile voyage, it seems reasonable to assume that most people would have more than one trip home, so that would be an extra cost. Plus the cost of having family or guests onboard, or simply of crew changes. It’s also reasonable to assume that some time during a 6,000-mile cruise, there would be a need for boat maintenance or repairs, so that would be extra too.