There is an ongoing debate in the cost of sail vs. power cruising. The initial response most people have is that power is more expensive… I mean you pay for fuel and the wind is free, right? Well, as with most things, there is more to it than that.
Sailing craft still (usually) use fuel. Many of them actually wind up motoring more than they sail. There is the cost of sails themselves, which have a definite life before they require replacement. The rigging, winches, etc. all are more expensive and involved.
The last close comparison that I ran across showed the cost to actually be very close.
The rising cost of fuel in the recent year or so may have changed some of these calculations yet again.
Dan Gill of the BackyardBoatbuilding mailing list recently posted on this subject, and pointed out the Dashew’s comments on this subject (down at the bottom under "After 15,000 miles"). In essence, they say that "…the operational costs on a per mile basis are a fraction of what we’re used to with sail." Other posters pointed out that the Dashew’s have been in the "gold plater" world for most/all of their cruising career, but cost per mile is cost per mile to me. I find it very interesting that they find power much lower cost than their sailing days. Still other posters mention the belief that the rising fuel prices will cause sail to be cheaper.
My previous post on Why Electric may make some of these comparisons mute, but I don’t think so… there are still costs involved. It would be interesting to see all three modes compared.