From the outside, the cruising life can look like it’s all sunny sailing in a tropical paradise, but ask anyone who’s done it and they’ll tell you there’s a tremendous amount of work to be done before casting off. Four of the sailing community’s favorite multihull vloggers weigh in on choosing their boats, making repairs and what it means to leave it all behind.
Poly, Neel 50
Ania, Bartek, Kuba and Julian Dawidowski
In 1997, a then 23-year-old Bartek dreamed up an alternative way of living, but did not yet have the means to realize it. Nearly 20 years later, thanks to perseverance and the support of his wife, Ania, the project has now taken form as a stunning trimaran. The key was acquiring a concept boat from then-fledgling Neel Trimarans—the Neel 50—which presented some serious challenges as the boat was not yet ready for prime time. However, Bartek and Ania also saw it as an opportunity to buy at a deep discount and fully finish the vessel exactly as they wanted it, according to a long list of specs Bartek had compiled in his years of sailing.
To this end, Ania and Bartek spent June of 2014 in Fort Pierce, Florida, checking off all the safety-related items on their list. Bartek then upgraded all the electrical and electronic systems himself, only outsourcing rigging jobs. Throughout this process, the two thrifty DIY-ers loaded up on discounted materials and equipment, mainly from the local boat junkyard. Finally, at the end of the month they sailed Poly, as they had christened her, to New York. Aside from an autopilot issue that Bartek fixed underway, it was an uneventful trip.
From there they continued on to Poland, crossing the Atlantic comfortably in just 14 days. However, more repairs were on the horizon, and the next year proved to be one of the most challenging times in their lives, as they disassembled the trimaran to bare superstructure and completely refitted it.
Specific projects included new steering, rigging, repowering, a further update to electronics and electrical systems, and a completely new interior. All the while, Ania was running a company, Bartek was working as an airline pilot, and their family was continuing to grow as Ania gave birth to their second son. Still, all their hard work eventually paid off, and when they left Poland a year later, it was aboard a completely new vessel.
In the years since, they have covered over 43,000 miles around the Atlantic, generally spending winters in the Caribbean, springs in the Bahamas and hurricane seasons in the United States or Suriname. They’re planning for more Caribbean plus Europe and the Pacific in the next few years, but there’s no pressure as they are exactly where they want to be in life.
Most important of all, they are absolutely in love with their little ship and say they would not trade either it or their life’s dream for anything: all the more so because Poly has proved the perfect platform for living a life off the grid in harmony with nature, while bringing up their kids with as much freedom as is possible; spending their time mostly at anchor or on a mooring, powered by solar and wind energy.
Last year they also started a YouTube video blog called SailOceans, which covers everyday life aboard. In it, they share the amazing places, people and adventures they’ve experienced while promoting the idea of a sustainable lifestyle and conscious living through meditation and tantra. They also make a point of motivating others to discover their dreams and go after them no matter how impossible they may seem.
For more, see sailoceans.com.
Zingaro, 1984 Crowther Spindrift 38
James Evenson and Kim Jensen
When James was searching for his go-around-the-world boat, it was love at first sight with Zingaro, a homebuilt performance-oriented design by Lock Crowther. Only once did he look back. It was July, and the Tuamotu Islands should have been warm and moderate, but instead the entrance to the atoll James was aiming for—just 300ft from the boat—was quickly disappearing behind a wall of water. The 47-knot gusts made it impossible to steer the boat toward safety inside the atoll. “It was the only time I regretted being on a catamaran. I was cursing the windage of the catamaran,” James says. “A monohull would have made it through the entrance by motoring, but not us. Instead, we had to run with the storm for several days.”
In fact, he says there was a steep learning curve involved in sailing the multihull in other ways too. “I thought I was a pretty good sailor before I started cruising, but since Zingaro was my first catamaran I soon realized I had no idea. These boats are less forgiving of clueless captains than their single-hulled counterparts. We sailed way too fast the first year, not realizing the stress we put the boat through,” he says.
“We had shackles explode and stanchions rip out and broke nearly every piece of our standing rigging. Now we start reefing at 15 knots.” Then there were other disasters—both rudders shearing off at the hull, the autopilot breaking on the way to Easter Island with 2,000 miles to go and a broken latch that caused a locker to fill with hundreds of gallons of water.
Still, the couple remained optimistic when confronted with each new problem. “It was tough in the beginning because Zingaro was a coastal cruiser her whole life,” says James. “When I bought her she didn’t even have a bimini or VHF radio. I spent a couple months refitting her for sea, but it’s hard to get that right the first time. It’s trial and error at that point, pure evolution. We had to upgrade so many things that first year that we came up with the motto: Break it, bail it, fix it, sail it!”
Despite everything, Zingaro ended up being the perfect match for the couple’s cruising life. “Sailing is so much fun on this catamaran. Our fuel bill is less than $60 per month, mostly because we can sail in 5 knots of wind,” James says.
James and Kim have also been documenting their experiences on YouTube since 2016, sharing their joys and frustrations with the world. It’s not always pretty, but they’re making it work.
If you want to learn more about their adventures, find them out on the Pacific or on svzingaro.com.
Nahoa, Lagoon 410
Ben Brehmer and Ashley Stobbart
Often life is defined by a few key decisions, a few moments of bravery. Ben and Ashley will be the first to admit they were scared when they first quit their jobs, sold their house and sank their savings into a boat. They were also scared when they rode out their first gale and terrified after deciding to make it their mission to sail around the world. But after four years at sea and half of their circumnavigation already done, most things have become routine. Playing weather systems to their advantage and making overnight passages are often a weekly occurrence. What doesn’t become routine is experiencing new cultures or stumbling into the next remote village and being accepted into families all over the world.
But are they happy with the boat they chose? And why make videos? Living aboard longterm is a completely different scenario than a multi-month cruise through the islands, they say. Your boat is all you have and your sanity depends on being comfortable and at ease.
Thinking back, they remember the many stories they heard about boat performance, seaworthiness and epic tales of survival at sea. Sticking to the tradewind belts above and below the equator keeps them, for the most part, pointed downwind. Upwind sailing performance is simply irrelevant. It’s less about speed and more about keeping the crew rested, happy and alert.
Nahoa is a production Lagoon 410 catamaran built in 2005. She’s not the newest cat out there, but she is more than adequate, and Ben and Ashley strongly believe she is the perfect blend between comfort, performance and cost.
Sharing videos of their travels on YouTube has not only opened up a new way to fund their circumnavigation, but also give them a platform from which to share their experiences with the many different cultures they’ve encountered. Only recently, for example, while exploring Papua New Guinea, the Nahoa crew was shocked and excited to find trade to still be the primary means of exchanging goods and services. Fish hooks, clothing, rope and light sail material were highly valued and traded for fresh fruit and vegetables. Relying on YouTube income has also forced them into situations and cultures that would have never been available to them before. It’s opened up a whole new world.
After 30,000 miles and over 30 countries, Ben and Ashley say they feel they have only scratched the surface of what the world has to offer. Their adventure thus far has taken them from the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal and across the Pacific. After a stop in Papua New Guinea, they sailed to Palau and the Philippines and are now in Indonesia. Next up is the Indian Ocean and there’s even talk of a second lap to visit all the places they missed their first time around. Their advice? Be Bold. Be Brave.
For more from Ben and Ashley, visit sailingnahoa.com.
Zatara, Privilege 58
Renee, Keith, Anna, Jack, Finn and Kate Whitaker
The Sailing Zatara YouTube channel began when a U.S.-based family of six decided they were tired of the typical nine-to-five, monotonous way of life in the suburbs and on a whim, picked up their entire world and moved it onto a sailboat. With absolutely no prior sailing experience, they taught themselves as they went along. After three years on the water, they are all now full-fledged sailors.
The first leg of Zatara’s adventure began in July 2016. Having purchased a 55ft Beneteau monohull in Florida, the Whitakers spent three months moving onto the boat and then set off. Their first trip across the Pacific Ocean was wild, exciting, terrifying and an all-around huge life lesson. When they reached Australia in November 2017, they also decided that a monohull was just too small for them, so they sold it then and there in New South Wales and purchased their next floating home in Greece—a 58ft Privilege catamaran.
The second year of the family’s open-ended sailing journey began in June 2018 in the Mediterranean. They had a wonderful time exploring Europe and then crossed the Atlantic to the Caribbean. In February 2019 they set sail again across the Pacific, and as of this writing, are en route to their next destination, New Zealand. After that the goal is to explore southeast Asia and circumnavigate as much of the world as they can before they get tired—or until all the kids move out and Renee (mom) and Keith (dad) have no more crew, whichever comes first. They started their YouTube channel to document their adventures around the world for posterity and to laugh at back on dry land. Renee does everything video-related: filming, editing and maintaining the channel. Keith is captain of the boat, and their four children—ages 12 to 18—are all dutiful deckhands.
Sailing, the family says, has brought them all closer together than ever before. They also hope to educate and inform with their videos, introducing other people to the world of sailing and suggesting alternatives to and an escape from a land-based life. Nothing makes their day more than when they’ve been told they’ve spread life-changing inspiration to others!
For more from the Whitakers, check out youtube.com/sailingzatara.