Cruising With Less

Hannah under full working sail off the coast of Labrador the day we (Phyllis and John) met Mick and Bee the first time.

“Hannah” under full working sail off the coast of Labrador the day we (Phyllis and John) met Mick and Bee the first time.

There’s a whole genre of books and articles on how to buy a boat and go cruising on very little money. But really, how often do you meet people who have actually made it work for any length of time?

In reality there are only a few people with the courage, flexibility, resourcefulness, and just plain raw grit to take on the challenges of full-time ocean cruising on very little money. And make no mistake, it takes real courage to live this life without the safety net of savings, insurance, and perhaps a base ashore, that many of us enjoy.

JHHOMD1-070008Our friends Mick and Bee are members of that select group, having lived aboard and cruised their ferro-cement gaff rigged ketch Hannah for some 15 years and 70,000 miles, including two visits to Greenland and five trans-Atlantics.

In the next couple of days we will be publishing a real treat: Mick’s story of how the two of them have made it work on just US$15,000/year, including buying and maintaining the boat.

Don’t miss this one, it’s truly a wonderful story; and we will be publishing it free to all, so tell your friends too.

Spread The Word

Talking of which, if you enjoy Attainable Adventure Cruising, you can really help us by using the icons below to spread the word through your social network of choice, or you can click on the envelope icon to email a link to the article to a friend.

To put it bluntly, to keep up this level of articles, both quality- and quantity-wise, and properly compensate our writers, we need more members.

Like what you just read? Get lots more:

Meet the Author


John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

25 comments… add one
  • jim clifford Mar 8, 2016, 11:33 pm

    Hi John & Phyllis,
    I wonder if part of the solution to being able to pay contributors more for their articles would be to charge a membership fee more in keeping with the value of the knowledge and information contained in the site. In Australia we pay about $20 for a single copy of Yachting Monthly and while the quality of photography is impressive there is more, well researched information in one of Attainable Adventure’s books than a year’s magazine subscription.
    I count the current subscription as the best value $20 that I have spent in many a long year and think that increasing it by 50% would not change that .
    Maybe other members could add comment here to see if this change has widespread support.
    Regards Jim Clifford Wonambi 2

    • Coen Mar 9, 2016, 2:37 am

      I agree and fully support this proposal. The information available here is the best value I have come across.

      Regards Coen

      • Andy Mar 9, 2016, 4:32 am

        Hi John & Phyllis, I wholeheartedly agree with the above comments.

        Maintain the quality of what you do, but charge more for it. Your site has the best content of ALL sailing subscription sites out there.
        If you reduce your input to save costs in an effort to make it pay you will spoil what you have created…

    • John Mar 9, 2016, 8:32 am

      Hi Jim, Coen, Andy and Denis,

      First off, thanks for the kind comments. The idea of putting the price up is certainly one we think of. The problem is that the internet is extraordinarily price sensitive. You guys know that AAC is worth more than $20/year, but you are already members. The problem comes with communicating that value to get a new member. For example, for the first six months of membership (beta test) we changed just $9.99 and sign-ups were great. When we went up to $19.99 they dropped off dramatically. We managed to fix that with better marketing, but it’s not a lesson we have forgotten.

      On the other hand, only about 1% of our 250,000 visitors annually are members. So if we can improve our marketing (we have some ideas, but needed to build the new site first) and say double that percentage, things would be reasonable good revenue wise.

      Summary, given the ratio of potential market to actual number of members, we think that expanding the membership will be a more practical alternative that battering our heads against the wall of internet price sensitivity with a price increase.

  • Mark Rooney Mar 9, 2016, 4:56 am

    Yep, I’m cool with that.


  • Denis Mar 9, 2016, 7:18 am

    Fully agree, a price increase would not hurt, a drop in quality would!

  • Florian Mar 9, 2016, 1:14 pm

    I am new to the forum, my first subscription ever to a blog that charges. I thought it could not hurt so I signed up due to the small cost. Didn’t regret it a second and would pay more happily. Here in Norway bloggers make money on adds, but I really like that you don’t. I will try to spread the word and maybe one day would be good enough to be able to contribute a line.

    All the best Florian

  • Rene Mar 10, 2016, 12:03 am

    As you mentioned John, present members know AACs value, outsiders don’t.
    So, one of the solutions is for present members to spread the word.
    A little help from advertisers wouldn’t bother me.
    Keep up the good work and stay the course.

  • Dave Mar 10, 2016, 9:47 pm

    I am new to this site. I first signed up for the free posts. Your marketing worked perfectly and I signed up for three years. Why three years? It was the most economic. There is such a thing as price resistance and when you cross that line you loose hard earned subscribers. The cable company and fast food restaurants know this all too well. The dollars I used to subscribe were at the expense of a sailing magazine that I had for some years. If subscription growth is the object, be very careful, and it seems that you are. It’s all about perceived value.

    • John Mar 12, 2016, 7:41 am

      Hi Dave,

      Welcome and thanks for joining and for the confirmation on our pricing and marketing, very useful.

    • Marc Dacey Mar 18, 2016, 3:50 pm

      Same here. Three years made sense, even if being off the dock may make updating problematic before then. Or so I hope.

  • Mark Mar 16, 2016, 1:40 pm

    Is it just me or Have I noticed that some of the usual chest thumping types with the btdt* T/ shirts are unusually silent from the comments put forward here with these comments ( please I am not a trolling angry head ). It is just that, well I do not understand the silence from the usual legends
    Phyllis and John this site is fantastic. The people that have bothered to write here really appreciate your work and we are happy to pay for it. I will say this just put up your subs, it will work and silent majority can just be dragged kicking and screaming with there wallets OPEN. P/J you are Brill and breathe fresh air into the sometime ego driven world that we all love and enjoy. I just wish to say a big thank you and please do not stop. Just do not go on a diet trying to make it work. G’day from Down under to you both and to Jimmy Cliff onboard Wonambi 2 well done with the bounce down?Respect!

    * btdt t- shirts Been There Done That t- shirts

    • John Mar 17, 2016, 8:20 am

      Hi Mark,

      Thanks for the kind words. And yes, we are truly fortunate to have incredibly valuable and civilized input we get from members that comment.

  • Coen Mar 16, 2016, 9:16 pm

    Hi John,
    You have probably thought of this, but is there a case to be made for new members to join at a reduced price (or possibly for free?), for a limited time. It seems to me that the perception of value is high amongst the members who have commented and that this may be a way to increase the number of members who would then continue at the “normal” higher membership rate after the initial period. As a “old” paying member I would not be mind this, as my interest is that the site keeps going with the current high level content contribution and that it becomes worthwhile for all the contributors and for you and Phyllis. I note the internet price sensitivity that you mention above, so maybe this is a way to lock in curious non-members once they realise how much value there is in the membership only content? Of course I have no idea about how technically difficult and how time consuming this may be, so this may make this a non-starter.


    • John Mar 17, 2016, 8:28 am

      Hi Coen,

      Yes, we do think about free introductory memberships from time to time. The big issue is administration and support. Having said that, we have really streamlined our support with our Help pages, so it might be worth trying.

  • Rene Mar 17, 2016, 1:50 am

    Coen makes a few good comments, but as he already mentioned, it looks like a lot of paper work involved to keep track of it all. If the majority of members were students, then the subscription probably is something to think about. However, for owners with boats in the $50K to $500K and more, then I fail to see $20 per year for 3 years term is an obstacle, considering the possible savings you likely to make when you do some work yourself, will be many times that amount.

    Stay the course.

  • Steven Schapera Apr 25, 2016, 5:33 am

    It’s always easier to get more from existing customers rather than recruit new customers. Perhaps increase existing subscriptions by say 50% to $30, and reduce entry cost for new subscribers by 50% to $10 for a 12 month period to make it really attractive. Also, consider some “reward” for existing subscribers who can introduce new subscribers? Personally that wouldn’t motivate me, but it might others. The value of a subscription increases with time as the archive of information accessible increases with time. I have stopped buying ANY yachting magazines.

    • John Apr 25, 2016, 7:27 am

      Hi Steven,

      Very good ideas, thank you. We are looking at some kind of recruitment reward program although the administration and technical hurdles are daunting.

      The idea of charging more for existing members is interesting, but given that existing members on automatic renewal or three year are the most desirable from our point of view—max return for minimum support and admin—I’m not sure we would want to put that fee up, since it might discourage renewals.

      • Marc Dacey Apr 27, 2016, 1:21 pm

        An interesting observation given the time and effort Practical Sailor is employing trying to incent me back into the fold. The plain fact is that a monthly paper read just doesn’t cut it for us anymore when I can get product information (which I’m better judging, having been a PS for about 15 years) online.

        I suspect the same applies here. You get renewals based on perceived continued utility.

  • Steven Schapera Apr 25, 2016, 7:34 am

    Yes, it might discourage renewals – wont know until you try it – but perhaps your existing subscribers are fair and honest bunch, in which case you could do a simple survey.
    An email blast to all existing subscribers, explaining the plan inthe context of the problem (how to further improve the site and the already-excellent content) and how this is solved by additional revenue generated from a mix of increased existing subscription fees and reduced “new subscriber fees”. I know which button I will click on, and if others do the same you will have a fair idea as to the risk. Just a thought. Its not often I tell anyone to put their prices up!

    • Rene Apr 25, 2016, 1:19 pm

      Hi John and Steven,
      Steven appears to be the marketing wizard, I’m more the technical, thinking in black and white. My earlier offer will be hard to implement for John and Phyllis . John, please contact me with my e-address to make a donation up front.
      As I don’t like paying taxes, where most of the money is wasted, as such prefer to donate to charitable organizations , and reduce my tax bill that way here in Canada. Not sure how it works in the USA. So my question, “Can you turn it into a Charitable organization??” May be not.

      • John Apr 26, 2016, 7:44 am

        Hi Rene,

        I don’t think we can, although having said that, we were talking just last night about the idea of making a fixed donation to charity for every new and renewed member once we get to a large enough membership to support such an idea. Might be a way for us, and the AAC community to give something back to the vast majority of people who will never be able to even think of owning a boat.

        • Marc Dacey Apr 27, 2016, 1:23 pm

          Boats are cheap these days…I know, I’m trying to sell one. If you are feeling charitable, however, I would talk to the RYA to see if you can organize Competent Crew or Day Skipper scholarships, because that builds a better sailor and a better crew for the thousands of undermanned boats out there lacking it.

  • Ernest Apr 27, 2016, 8:53 pm

    Hi John, I joined a couple of days ago only with a yearly auto-renewal. I have to say that I never – NEVER – found a place offering such a wealth of information and entertainment on a topic which interests me most 😉
    This said I have to confess that I wouldn’t bother if you charge the double price, however it might be a showstopper for curious non-members.
    Being in the Telco industry I would suggest to offer a (not too long) free trial membership, 3-6 months reduced membership fee (just as the Telcos are doing ;-)) and bump up the regular subscription pricing.
    If you fear that bumping up the regular price would scare away customers after the free and indtroductory period you might opt to leave it where it is – the free and intro period alone should suffice to lure more members, and your content is what keeps them aboard anyway.
    Try to find a software whiz to make the whole user and subscription management automatic.
    Just my 2c, and keep up the good work!

    • John Apr 28, 2016, 5:36 pm

      Hi Ernest,

      Thanks for the kind words.

      We have looked at free, or lower cost intro memberships. The problem is the support to revenue trade off. No matter how good our software or help files the fact is that a fair percentage of our new members require some personalized help with the process or joining and using the site, so it’s a balancing act.

      Having said that, it’s something we keep looking at, particularly since the membership package we use does support it.

      By the way, one thing we will never, ever, do is have any custom software developed. Bespoke software development was part of what we did at the systems integrator I founded and ran for years, and that experience taught me that custom software is only for those with very deep pockets, and even with a lot of money to throw at the problem it often ends badly—bugs, bugs, bugs.

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