Monday, August 7, 2023

I gave up my tech job in Seattle to live on a sailboat. I've fought off pirates at 3 a.m. and it was terrifying — but I'll never go back to my old life.

Brian Trautman lives on a 53-foot sailboat with his wife and their daughter. 
photo : Brian Trautman

From Business Insider by Brooke Morton
  • Brian Trautman has spent the past 14 years living on a 53-foot sailboat, sailing to 46 countries.
  • He quit his tech job and sold his house to embark on his journey, where he met his wife.
  • The couple fund their adventures by creating content about living on the boat.
This as-told-to essay is based on a transcribed interview with Brian Trautman, a 47-year-old sailor and content creator who lives aboard a sailboat with his wife and daughter.
It has been edited for length and clarity.

I started working for Microsoft after graduating with a degree in electrical engineering in 2002.
I quit to start a software-development company with friends in Seattle.

During this time I stumbled upon a book about how to cross an ocean in your own boat.
That idea, though seemingly unattainable, stuck with me as an amazing thing to do.

Trautman has sailed through the Caribbean on the boat where he married his wife.
photo : Brian Trautman

One morning in the late 2000s I was stuck in traffic on my commute when it hit me that my favorite part of the day was staring out of this bus window.
It was the only time I wasn't consumed by the thoughts of customers and developers.

I immediately knew I didn't want that life.
I gave my business partners my year's notice in 2008 and started selling everything to buy a sailboat.

I had some experience sailing.
I'd owned a small boat that I took out on a lake many afternoons — but that wasn't much to prepare me for crossing an ocean.

Starting my lifelong sailing adventure

I bought SV Delos, a 53-foot Amel Super Maramu sailboat, for $390,000 in 2008.
I sold my house in Redmond to make a down payment and got a marine mortgage to cover the rest.
The boat was eight years old at the time, so it was cheaper than buying new.

I set off on my sailing adventure in August 2009 with enough money to last 18 months.
My initial plan was simply to make it to New Zealand.

The SV Delos.

I figured that by then I'd be mentally prepared to return to work in Seattle, sell my boat, and reenter my previous life.

But by the time we landed in New Zealand, I'd fallen in love with sailing.
When the initial money ran out, I took on engineering work on superyachts to refill the coffers.

Auckland is a big refit center for yachts based in the South Pacific, so it was a great place to make several hundred dollars a day working on engines and troubleshooting electrical problems.

We also took on crew members who paid a share of our expenses to be part of our next sail to Fiji.

Four months into my time in New Zealand, I met Karin, my future wife, who eventually joined me sailing full-time.
I've now traveled to 46 countries on the boat.

Karin, Trautman's wife, diving off the sailboat.

We work up to 4 hours a day creating content to finance our travels

We finance our travels by relying on crowdfunding and Patreon support and on our YouTube.
We have 832,000 subscribers.
We also sell SV Delos merch.

But some of the best times we've had on the boat were at the beginning when we had no money.

When we couldn't afford fuel, we had to sail everywhere, and that led to adventure.
We've had times when we traded magazines for lettuce and tomatoes, and we learned to make our own beer.

Trautman has sailed to 46 countries on the Delos.

Now our days are spent creating content for our YouTube channel, which we launched with regular content in 2012.
The channel wasn't profitable until 2015.
During that time we used savings to fund the journeys and keep us afloat financially while we filmed and edited content.

On any given day it's a mix of filming and giving notes to video editors.
I also do behind-the-scenes work like invoicing vendors and paying bills.

If you exclude boat maintenance, I work three to four hours a day, as does Karin.
We have plenty of time to spend afternoons enjoying the beach.

The Trautmans working aboard their sailboat.

We also now have a remote team of seven employees who help produce videos.
They also ship Delos merch.

What does it cost to keep the boat running?

We're paying $10,000 a year to insure the boat.
Fuel costs vary widely from year to year depending on how far we travel.
On average, fuel costs us $3,000 a year.

The living area inside the 53-foot sailboat.

Our monthly costs for food and living run about $3,500 to $4,000.
Generally, anchoring a boat is free.
If there's a big storm coming that requires us to lift the boat out of the water, it'll cost $1,200 to get it out and back in.

The bedroom and storage.

The boat's kitchen.
We do have some luxuries on board, like 2,000 watts of solar power and lithium batteries, a freezer that can store enough meat to last us four months, and stills to make our own moonshine.
We make our own fresh water and take hot showers.

The bathroom on the boat.

Starting a family onboard

The couple adjusted to life onboard with a baby.

Karin and I had been sailing for nine years together when we found out at the start of 2019 that Karin was pregnant.

Karin's from Sweden, where there's great free public healthcare.
We left the boat with my brother and his girlfriend, who continued to sail Delos across the Atlantic to Antigua.

Karin and Sierra Trautman.

Karin and I flew from Florida to Sweden for Sierra's birth in August 2019.
When she was 4 months old, all three of us flew back to Antigua to reboard Delos and sail the Caribbean.
We got married in Antigua that year.

Trautman's daughter has lived on the boat since she was 4 months old.

Sailing the world has highs and lows

One of my favorite memories on the boat was after we'd just sailed 3,000 miles in 19.5 days from Mexico to the island of Fatu Hiva, part of French Polynesia.
We were so excited just to be walking on dry land.

We met a local who gifted us bananas and grapefruits.
His generosity was so touching.
We then went swimming under a waterfall — it was a perfect day.

The SV Delos at sail.
Sailing can also be dangerous.
Our boat has been boarded illegally three times — in the Solomon Islands, western Papua New Guinea, and Madagascar — always at about 3 a.m.
It's terrifying when this happens, but we scream bloody murder and the thieves flee.

This happened in 2011, long before Sierra was born.
Karin happened to be away at school.
Before that, we never locked anything when we were off the boat, and we'd sleep with the doors open.
We've since been more careful, including instituting night watches with a spotlight when sailing in areas where we felt uncomfortable.

We keep machetes and fire extinguishers as weapons in the event of another emergency.
But so far, having that spotlight to signal that people are awake and vigilant has been enough to deter criminals.

The hardest part is acknowledging this is not a wise financial decision

A boat is a depreciating asset.
But with our YouTube channel, we've found a sustainable way to make money along the way.

For us, this choice has been well worth it.
This is our life now, and we plan to keep living on the water indefinitely.

The Trautmans.
Brian Trautman

To anyone who's considering taking on an adventure like ours, or any adventure whatsoever, I say: Go before you're ready.
You'll never be 100% prepared for any journey.

No comments:

Post a Comment