An Interview with with Riley and Elayna of Sailing La Vagabonde

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Elayna and Riley in Panama

The couple puts their new boat through its paces

Australian sailors Riley Whitelum and Elayna Carausu are known around the world, thanks to their social media accounts and YouTube channel, Sailing La Vagabonde, in which they document their experiences afloat—at the same time using the power of crowdfunding to help cover their costs. They recently decided to make the switch from a monohull to a catamaran.

MHS:How did you come to discover sailing?

Riley: I’ve always loved the water and enjoyed camping, so I was pretty confident I would enjoy sailing. I was planning to purchase a boat once I had saved up enough money from my work on oil rigs as a rigger/dogman. When I finally bought La Vagabonde, a 2007 Beneteau Cyclades, I was trying to learn as I went. It was a pretty steep learning curve—to the point where when I unfurled the headsail for the first time I actually didn’t know to furl it back in.

Elayna: I grew up in a tiny town in Western Australia on the beach, which meant I spent a lot of time in and on the ocean growing up. I spent weekends fishing with my step-dad in his dinghy, and we learned to sail on little 10ft yachts in school. So I guess I had a tiny bit of a clue what boats were all about.

Elayna and Riley in Panama

Elayna and Riley in Panama

MHS:How did you meet?

Elayna: It was June of 2014. I was working for a travel company, playing music on the Greek Island of Ios. We met by chance in the main square, got chatting, exchanged numbers and spent the next few days sailing La Vagabonde around the island. A strong relationship developed over the next few weeks, and before we knew it, we were leaving the island for good, to attempt to sail around the world.

MHS:Where have you sailed thus far and what are your future plans?

Elayna: We have sailed through the Mediterranean, crossed the Atlantic to the Caribbean and the Panama Canal, and gone across the Pacific and around the Pacific islands to New Zealand. Riley singlehanded the trip from Tonga to New Zealand, something he has always wanted to experience. We aren’t big on planning ahead, but we have been talking about Europe for the summer of 2017, the Caribbean for Christmas and then heading to the United States in 2018. We regularly change our minds though, so don’t hold us to that!

MHS:How did you come up with the model to fund your cruising lifestyle and how does it work?

Riley: We can’t take credit for the model, it happened organically, really. I had a good camera laying around and Elayna had a history of making short videos to keep as memories of her travels. What was intended for friends and family suddenly had people from all over the world asking for more regular content. When we ran out of money and hauled out the boat to go back to work, viewers suggested we setup a crowdfunding website. We were hesitant at first but began to realize that people just wanted the opportunity to thank us for sharing this unique experience. In return, we try our best to include them in as much of this crazy crowdfunding supported video production as possible. 

MHS:You just got a new boat; how has the transition from a monohull to a multihull been for you so far?

Elayna: We just recently moved into our boat, an Outremer 45. It has been really exciting after living aboard a monohull for almost four years. The most noticeable difference is the overall comfort and space.

MHS:What advice would you give newbie sailors when it comes to passagemaking?

Riley: That depends on how foolhardy they are. I guess if they’re like me then I would say slow down, ask around, research on the internet, watch some videos. It’s not easy. Understandably, most people are hesitant. But I would say that with minimal planning and a seaworthy boat you can get there. 

Check out their YouTube page, Sailing La Vagabonde here

MHS: Summer 2017

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