SV Delos’s videos (svdelos.com) have become an internet sensation. Since 2009, Brian Trautman, who later met Karin Syrén in New Zealand, and his brother, Brady Trautman, have been sailing the world on Brian’s 53ft Amel Super Maramu, Delos, filming their adventures along the way. Developing somewhat of a cult following, they found a way to make a living doing what they love and inspiring others to do the same.
What got you into sailing?
Brian: I was working for a phone company in Seattle, Washington. I was the guy that climbs the telephone poles. During a break, I went to the library and found this book called Three Years in a Twelve-Foot Boat. A number of years went by. I had the house in the suburbs, the business—all those things. One day, I wasn’t feeling content with my life, I felt like there had to be something more. At this point, I really loved sailing and traveling, and I figured if I could sail around, and take my home with me, that’s the coolest concept ever. The original plan was to go for 18 months or maybe two years.
How did you and Brian meet?
Karin: My girlfriends and I were on a mini-holiday in New Zealand and happened to go to the Mexican restaurant where Brady was working. His friends started giving us free margaritas, and we went back to the boat Brian and Brady were staying on, and I started chatting with Brian.
Brian: I pulled the old, “Do you want to come sailing for the weekend?” game. It worked.
Karin, had you sailed before?
Karin: No. In the end, I actually missed my flight home, and stayed an extra three weeks, I think. I was hooked. It was amazing to see the self-sufficiency and the way that you can travel and bring your home. The connection with the ocean and with the wind and everything around you was mind-blowing.
What was the hardest part to adjust to?
Brian: At first it was having time. I always felt guilty for having free time and felt like I should be doing something. I went from working these crazy weeks trying to save up money to go sailing to literally sitting at anchor and wondering, “Should I write a blog post? Or take a picture of something or just sit here?”
What were you studying, Karin?
Karin: Landscape architecture. I had a clear view of what I was going to do. My plan was to go to Australia, study for three years and then probably head back to Sweden. Then I was going to get a little house or something and work in some firm.
When did it become clear to you that wasn’t going to happen?
Karin: When I flew home after those three weeks in New Zealand I realized that it was possible to actually do something completely different if I want to.
You two and Brady are the core, you guys are Delos, right? How does Brady fit in?
Brian: He’s my younger brother. When I was living in Seattle, he would always visit. At some point, he was working summers in the Florida Keys at the Sea Scout base. He got his diving instructor and his dive master licenses and was teaching Boy Scouts how to dive. Then he got his captain’s license, so he was taking the boats out. I was in Mexico at the time, and I asked him to come out and help sail to French Polynesia.
At what point did the videos start to become a thing?
Brian: When we got into Australia, close to Brisbane the boat needed a lot of repairs, and we were super broke. Karin was living in Melbourne, so we put the boat on the hard. I rented a car on my credit card and the four of us drove to Melbourne, where sailing friends had a house. Before this, we really hadn’t done any filming. There was some sporadic stuff with little point-and-shoot cameras, but we were writing blog posts. We wondered what it would be like if you could actually show people what cruising is like through video. At that time, nobody was doing it. Especially not on YouTube.
Karin: We started filming, and it became this really awesome thing to do because it was something to work together on as well. Working on something creative as a group and filming was really cool.
Do you have times where you put the gear away?
Brian: Yes. We have conscious no-filming times on the boat, especially when it comes to crew interactions. But we always bring a camera just in case. So, if you sit in this little village for six hours doing a time lapse of the tide coming in, all the locals are going to come up to you and ask you what you’re doing. You’re going to get a whole different experience.
At what point did it become something that wasn’t just for yourselves?
Karin: Actually, not that long ago. When we left Australia, we started to put up some videos, mostly for family. Then we got a Facebook message from a really good friend—he was our first fan. At some point, the cruising kitty was dry again. So, we came home to Sweden and lived with my mom for four months just editing.
How long did it take till that started showing some promise?
Brian: Within a few weeks. We didn’t know it, but during this whole time, people were subscribing on YouTube. We had gotten just over 10,000 subscribers. Then we decided to go on a regular schedule and release every two weeks. We decided to fund it from the people watching the videos.
Karin: That was two-and-a-half years ago.
How do you divide up the work?
Brian: We switch duties. If we’re working on a video, and that’s your job, then you own the entire video and you can do whatever you want. You can edit it, do the voice-over. You can do animations if you want. The story is 100 percent yours.
Karin: We all do the work on the boat. Everyone does the editing, everybody does the filming. Everybody does the cooking, cleaning, everybody helps.
Do you have a plan going forward?
Karin: I don’t really think we have a plan. What’s so amazing with it is that the three of us really like this, and we all want to do it.
Brian: Contributions from people have been able to fund the gear, upkeep of the boat, living expenses and the production expenses and internet.
And sometimes you have people come out and sail with you?
Brian: We did a draw where people bought a raffle ticket, and then we picked one out of the bowl and they got to come sailing for two weeks.
Karin: And we did a competition so we could have somebody out that wouldn’t be able to go otherwise. At this point, we get enough funding from people that we can say that these people can come out. If they pay their flight, the rest is paid for.
Brian: Seeing the reaction of somebody the first time they’ve raised the sail or the boat starts to heel, or they’ve made their first passage or night watch is really special. When we ran our competition, we put out this thing that said, “Send us a video of why you’d make the best Delos crew, but make it less than 60 seconds.” It took us five days to watch 300 video submissions. We ended up picking six. They were from Brazil, Austria, Germany, America, Estonia, Russia and South Africa.
How has this experience changed your outlook on the way you see the world and life in general? Could you see yourself doing anything differently now that you’ve discovered this lifestyle?
Karin: No, not really. All the opportunities and people that we meet have been absolutely mind-blowing. When making these videos, it opens up the opportunity to meet people in a way that they approach you like you’re their friend.
Brian: I don’t think I’ll ever stop sailing and traveling.