3 years have passed since we moved a board our sailboat ForTuna. But not one day passes were I do not think back to how all this started. How the idea of becoming sailing digital nomads was formed. How we went from the idea of liveaboards to moving on board of our Beneteau Oceanis ForTuna in only 6 months.
The first snow has fallen in Helsinki, and the sun is struggling to stay above the horizon for at least some hours a day. It’s not so cold yet. At least by Finnish standards. My days are mostly spent on the computer writing my Master’s thesis. Michael is preparing for his last sailing license exam. It has been over a year since we moved to Finland, but we can both feel that our time here is coming to an end. We loved living here, and we grew so much personally and as a couple. We both loved seeing each other bloom, respectively in the academic and in the Start-up world. But the weather, oh the weather here is just too much for us.
We know this is not going to be the place we settle down.
Settling down… a concept quite estranged for us Millennials. Somehow it tastes like giving up. And somehow, we are not ready for it yet. But what next?
We both love travelling. It is what brought us together. That drive to explore something new, that thrill of searching for something not touristy yet. Over the last years, we have watched, thanks to Social Media, multiple people transforming their travel passion into an income stream. But would that work for us? Are there not already enough travel accounts out there, no matter the platform? And do we even want to share our lives daily?
Through his sailing class, Michael stumbled upon “Sailing La Vagabond”. It’s strange to think that only 4 years ago, I had no clue who they were. One day he came home, and the conversation went something like this:
“Look at these people. They are living on a boat! We should do
“Well, we could travel the world without taking an airplane AND we can bring all our stuff with us. And we would be living on a boat!”
It felt like a joke. Honestly, it seemed like the weirdest idea ever. We had never before heard about anyone living on a boat. Anyone living the sailing digital nomad life. But somehow, somehow it also felt right.
- We would have a home
- We could travel the world with that home
- We could travel the world eco-sustainably
- We would finally be forced to find a location-independent stream of income.
Location-independent. There it was. The feeling we had been chasing since we met. We don’t want a holiday life. We love working and creating something. We are not running away from anything and need to relocate to a new country. No, we wanted to create a work-life which needs no location. Which gives us the freedom we have been seeking. Freedom from a place to settle.
But where to start? And how to become sailing digital nomads?Michael had almost finished his sailing license, and we did our first charter together with him as skipper, so we were not totally lost on the sailing part. But what about the boat? And most importantly, what about the finances?
how much does it costs to live on a boat?
Buying a boat
A first look at the boat market quickly made us realise that we definitely don’t have the budget for the boats we are looking at. 38-42 feet, built in 2000-2010, no charter boat, preferably a lot of sailing stuff, comfy living space. We could downgrade our wish-list, buy a boat that needed a lot of work or put the dream on hold and save more money. All these options did not sound appealing to us. We needed to find another option.
What if we split the costs? Most boats stay in the marina a whopping 80% of the time. Or even more, if the owner does not live close by. What if we found someone who would buy the boat with us? We would not only reduce our initial investment, but we would also split the risk of purchasing a boat. On the other hand, the second buyer could buy a sailboat double his own budget and save on yearly marina fees as we will be on it the whole year.
It is a sweet deal for both sides. And it worked.
In December, Michael and Simon, the future co-owner of ForTuna, went to see the first boat. In the Netherlands. In the snow. It was a great boat. But it was not the boat for us.
In January 2019, we visited a boat in Rome. We all liked it. Custom build, super speedy, lots of sailing gear. We put in an offer. Somebody else got the boat.
It was a shitty feeling. We have been scouring the market for 3 months, and even with our bigger budget, nothing seemed to fit. Until I got a message on Instagram. We had decided to get serious with our Instagram account (which we saw as first step to becoming sailing digital nomads) and started to share our boat buying journey. The message told us about a couple who lived on their boat for 7 months but now wanted to sell it. The boat was located in Sardinia and had been on the market for a while. The technical specifications did not align with Michaels wish list, but the boat was close. By December, we had moved in with our parents to save up money, so every excuse was good to escape for some days.
The first time we arrived in Olbia, we would have never guessed we would come to know this little town so intimately. The boat was located in Porto Rotondo. Beautiful marina and town. Buzzing with fancy people on their yachts, strolling the seaside in garments which could probably buy you a boat. But only from April to September. It is literally dead the other months of the year.
We arrived at the dock and felt enthralled by the vibe. There was no one around, but it was a mild winter day. The sun was out, and the sea was calm. It just felt like in a movie. We spotted ForTuna on the visitor’s dock, almost on her own. We greeted the dutch couple who owned her and stepped on board. Michael was immediately in his tech zone, asking the guy all possible questions regarding the technical equipment of ForTuna. He lifted floorboards and mattresses, stuck his head everywhere to get a feeling for the boat. We had visited some boats, so he was in his routine.
I, on the other hand, was quite struck. This boat did not feel like a cave. It felt so much bigger than you would ever expect from the outside. And the stripes. Oh my god, the stripes. It seems like the most stupid characteristic of a boat, but those stripes on couches, curtains and mattresses just made it perfect.
I can not recall a lot else about this first visit. Only the moment we sat down for a drink after the visit. We both were quiet. We both knew. We are people who rely heavily on their gut feeling and both our guts told us: this is your boat and the start to our sailing digital nomad life.
After this first visit, there were a lot of calls with Simon, the technical surveyor, the marina, and the soon-to-be-ex-boat owners. The actual technical survey of ForTuna, lifting her out for the first time and looking at her hull to make sure all is fine. The anxiety in the price discussions, the relive in signing the buying contract, the pure fear when all that money left our bank account.
April 2019 – Sailing digital nomads
We had bought ForTuna 1 month earlier. We went back home to pack our stuff, say our goodbyes, and are now back in Porto Rotondo. This time we were the owners of one of the boats. This time we had no intention to leave that boat again. This time our sailing digital noamd life had started.
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