Boatlife: The families selling up to live – and work – at sea

Discussion in 'Luxury and Lifestyle' started by themickey, Oct 19, 2021.

  1. themickey

    themickey

    Simon Usborne Oct 19, 2021
    https://www.afr.com/life-and-luxury...ng-up-to-live-and-work-at-sea-20211014-p58zyf

    A growing armada is taking advantage of the remote labour arrangements ushered in by COVID-19 to escape the rat race for a life of marine adventures.

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    Hakon Amdal on Hello World. He and his girlfriend, Marte Loge, sold up and took to the sea after becoming bored with life in Oslo.


    Andrew Siegal had a nice life. He lived in a pleasant house in Napa with his wife and two young sons. He made good money in the California wine trade. But there was always an itch.

    Siegal, 51 and originally from New York City, had long been inspired by Henry David Thoreau, the American thinker who turned his back on materialism “to suck out all the marrow of life” in the woods. “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” Thoreau wrote in 1854 in Walden, his personal declaration of independence.

    “I swore when I read that book as a young man I wouldn’t be that person,” Siegal tells me. “Yet here I was, in my 40s, thinking this can’t be it … I can’t just do this and then find myself as a 70-year-old wishing I’d had some great adventure.”

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    Andrew Siegal and family on Long Island, Bahamas, in April. @sailingonetusk

    If a nearly 170-year-old book was the inspiration for change, the pandemic was the trigger. Siegal and his wife, Sara, 37, had already felt drawn to the freedom of the sea, despite barely having sailed before. But they had not felt ready to cast off.

    “Then COVID hit,” Siegal says. “Our kids were reduced to being treated like germs, and we were Zooming into school. We both just looked at each other and said: ‘If we don’t do it now we never will.’ It was the perfect opportunity to shake up everything in our lives.”

    Weeks later, the family had sold their house and belongings and driven to Florida to buy a boat. When we talk by phone, Siegal is at the helm of One Tusk, a 45-foot catamaran that has been his family’s home for the past five months. They are sailing east from Puerto Rico to Culebra, a sleepy Caribbean island and honeypot for rat-race fugitives.

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    The Siegal boys in the Bahamas. When they’re not studying, they’re sailing, fishing and diving. @sailingonetusk

    The Siegals have joined a growing off-grid armada. While the ultra-rich retreated to superyachts in record numbers to navigate the shifting border controls that came with pandemic restrictions, couples and families of more average means are themselves setting sail.

    The “boat life” lifestyle was already buoyant, gaining pace on “van life”, its landlubber equivalent. Just as demand has soared for motorhomes and vans that are being converted into Instagrammable bases for work, adventure and personal branding, the market for yachts is humming.

    The pandemic has added a gale to the #boatlife trend. Despite adding complexity to any kind of travel, it has also triggered a shift in attitudes towards digital nomadism – the unmooring of workers not only from offices but time zones, too.

    American couple Behan and Jamie Gifford, who left dry land 13 years ago and have raised three children on a yacht, run a coaching service for newcomers.

    “For about a month last March, we figured income would dry up but the exact opposite happened,” says Gifford, 51. “It has been absolutely insane.”

    Sailing Totem, named after their yacht, advises on buying and fitting out boats, as well as schooling, tax and insurance. The couple had about 15 clients before the pandemic. They now have 62. “We are seeing a normalisation of what was once a fringe lifestyle.”

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    The Gifford children on deck in Bismarck archipelago, Papua New Guinea, in 2012.

    Yacht brokers are racing to meet demand for vessels of all sizes. Fraser Yachts, one of the biggest brokers, says sales of 79-foot-plus boats leapt 18 per cent from 2019 to last year – the Monaco firm’s best year for more than a decade. Gifford, who is from San Francisco, says sellers are increasingly also bypassing brokers on listings sites and social media.

    Although cruisers typically used to be retirees and experienced sailors, Gifford says this shift is being driven by younger newbies with jobs, who need all the help they can get. She lays out for clients the joys and pitfalls of marine life, which can scuttle marriages and bankrupt the naive. Gifford is talking from Puerto Peñasco in Mexico, where Totem is being renovated. Works include a new $US25,000 ($33,740) engine.

    Siegal had sailed dinghies as a kid at summer camp, but he was not a sailor. A Florida broker found his catamaran in the US Virgin Islands. It cost $US700,000 – enough for a plush 2019 model. Siegal flew to the Caribbean to collect it last August, hired a captain, and got a crash course on the nine-day voyage back to Florida.

    The family spent four months preparing and fitting out One Tusk with solar panels and a machine to make seawater drinkable. In January, they plotted a 3200-kilometre course from Sarasota to Grenada via islands including the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic.

    When we speak, Siegal’s sons, Austin, 10, and Arthur, eight, are at school below deck, where they are enrolled in a distance learning program. When they’re not studying, they’re sailing, fishing and diving. Siegal hopes to drop anchor in time to catch a mahi mahi for dinner. Austin has become proficient with a scuba mask and fishing spear.

    The Siegals have enough savings not to have to work for a while, despite annual costs of more than $US50,000 for supplies and maintenance, including more than $US15,000 to insure the boat. Sailing can be a full-time job. But this is not deterring new sailors with much smaller budgets and a need to work.

    Marte Loge is a 29-year-old software developer from Norway. Her voyage began before the pandemic, when she and her boyfriend, Hakon Amdal, also a developer, became bored with life in Oslo. A year earlier they had sailed in Croatia and fallen in love. When the time came to buy a new apartment, it suddenly felt too “permanent”, Loge says.

    The couple sold their flat, car and belongings in the spring of 2019 and bought a boat. By November, they were sailing south past France and Portugal, and across the Atlantic to the Caribbean on Hello World, a 43-foot monohull yacht worth about £100,000.

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    Marte Loge with a catch. Formerly a freelance consultant, she is now a developer at SafetyWing, an Oslo-born insurance company dedicated to remote work.

    They did no work during the crossing, but the pandemic left their options for sailing and tourism increasingly limited. So, they went back to work full-time – in dockside cafes with Wi-Fi, or on the boat using data via local sim cards.

    Loge is at anchor in Antigua when I reach her via Zoom. Behind her, I can see Falmouth Harbour, a large bay fringed by verdant hills. There are fewer yachts than normal. “But these are mostly people living this lifestyle,” she says, looking over her shoulder.

    In September last year, Loge got a new job in the burgeoning industry that has sprung up to meet demand – boosted by the pandemic – for digital nomadism. Formerly a freelance consultant, she is now a developer at SafetyWing, an Oslo-born insurance company dedicated to remote work.

    Affordable travel and medical insurance has traditionally been a problem for nomads. There are visas and taxes to think about, too. Loge pays tax in Norway, and has to be careful not to be liable a second time by staying too long in certain countries. The French Caribbean islands are part of the EU for tax purposes, meaning Loge could stay for six months without coughing up. She says many boat lifers try to wing such affairs.

    Other cruisers make money by chartering their yachts or hosting visitors. Branding the dream is a burgeoning alternative – and has a self-fulfilling effect on the trend. The biggest boat life YouTube channels get millions of views per episode. They now have their own PR firms and subscription accounts via sites such as Patreon.

    Erin Carey, an Australian former government communications executive, has half a dozen clients at Roam Generation, her waterborne PR company. She says their YouTube channels exploded as pandemic portholes for housebound dreamers. The revolution in work is now tipping armchair sailors into action.

    “I spent 15 years pushing to work from home and could never get it approved, then suddenly we’re all doing it,” she says. “It frustrates me because I could have lived this lifestyle years ago.”

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    Erin Carey runs her PR company, Roam Generation, from the family’s boat.

    Carey, 40, is herself a boat lifer. She and her husband, an aviation engineer, were inspired by a documentary about Laura Dekker, the Dutch teenager who in 2010 fought in the courts to be allowed to sail solo around the world.

    Carey had been ridiculed as a child when her father dragged her to a small lake to sail dinghies. “All the cool kids were in speedboats and called me ‘sailor girl’ as an insult,” she recalls. “Now I’m sailor girl and proud of it.”

    She is talking to me from Roam, a sturdy 47-foot British monohull yacht built in 1984. “It’s all wood inside like an English pub,” she says.

    Roam has been home to the couple and their three sons, aged six to 12, for three years. Carey started writing articles about life at sea, which led to an interview with Brian Trautman. The former Microsoft analyst runs Sailing SV Delos, one of the biggest yacht channels on YouTube, with 710,000 subscribers. He became her first client.

    While marine living involves close confinement, boat lifers tell me the social side of cruising is as rewarding as the act of escape. They join growing online communities and friendly flotillas.

    “Their life in the Caribbean was idyllic,” Carey says of her boys from their current mooring in the Azores, 1500 kilometres west of Portugal. “They’d go to the beach every day, building forts with their friends.”

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    Roam has been home to the Carey family for three years.

    No one seems to fear stepping off the ladders of grown-up life: career, property, education. “People have to not be scared of breaking out of societal norms because there’s so much out there,” Carey says. “Even if for some reason we could never buy a house again, I can’t imagine us being on our deathbeds going, ‘Gee, I wish we hadn’t spent 10 years sailing around the world,’ because it’s amazing.”

    Gifford, whose children are 17, 19 and 22, found that when their eldest, Niall, was applying for university, admissions departments saw his unconventional educational background and decade at sea as an advantage rather than obstacle.

    Homeschool stigmas are fading, she says. “People used to think we were ruining their future. But I think they’re more confident and socialised.”

    Andrew Siegal, who briefly pauses our conversation to check his bearing as he sails on to Culebra, is hoping for a similar outcome. The family decided to spend a year at sea and go home if it didn’t work out. Five months in, they’re thriving and plan to keep going for years.

    The change was partly inspired by them coming to realise how quickly the boys’ childhoods were flashing by. Now, Siegal loves nothing more than watching Austin diving with his spear.

    “We’re in the middle of the most beautiful pristine water on the planet, and he’s charging after grouper,” he says. “You should see the smile on his face when he comes up. It’s hard to convey how gratifying it is to see him in that environment doing something like that.”

    — Financial Times
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2021
    mlawson71 and Overnight like this.
  2. Overnight

    Overnight

    Cool article, very inspiring. Thanks for posting.
     
  3. deaddog

    deaddog

    I read somewhere that being on a boat was the same as being in prison with the added danger of drowning. :)
     
  4. ... while standing under a cold shower tearing up $100 bills.

    Stuff always breaks on boats and lots of maintenance is required.
     
  5. Whatever makes people happy. I couldn't live like this though, I get seasickness from car rides alone.
     
  6. newwurldmn

    newwurldmn

    I think it does the kids a disservice.
     
    vanzandt likes this.
  7. Big AAPL

    Big AAPL

    I've been on boats all my life. From Navy ships to big sporfishermen to center consoles. Fun to be on for recreation, but to live in such a crowded space 24/7...someone in my family is gonna die. I don't care what type of amenities there are.
     
    themickey likes this.
  8. themickey

    themickey

    Agree, it looks glamorous but reality is different.
    The pic of the 3 pale skinned kids, they're gonna get fried by the sun and from glare off the water.
    In time, the skin gets to age very quickly, huge possibilities of skin cancers and troublesome moles.
    Being on a boat so long, like being in prison, not for me. :)
     
  9. destriero

    destriero

    I bought a catamaran last year and plan to trade from it when the kids re all out of the house.
     
  10. Overnight

    Overnight

    Two words, evilmouse.
    ---------------
    Sunscreen.

    Ports.
    -----------------
    End of line.
     
    #10     Oct 22, 2021