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Karaka Costa Rica

Karaka is a sailing ship that has been sailing as a co-op since 2004.

The boat itself is an old school steel ketch, big, tall, wide, heavy, black, gnarly, full of character. She was found abandoned in Hong Kong, bought for 1$, and has circumnavigated since with a crew of sea vagabonds.

But Karaka is not simply a ship, it is also a concept. 
In an effort to share, learn and grow, we take as crew anybody motivated to join with an open mind, a willingness to become part of the team and a deep craving for this lifestyle. The boat is operated as a non profit cooperative. We run on limited funds from crew contributions, and so we are more concerned with keeping the ship functional, strong and seaworthy, than in keeping her shiny and overloaded with gadgets. 

The crew is usually composed of a healthy mix of nomadic wanderers and non-conforming individuals, regardless of nationality, age, gender, worldview, background, or financial status. Most anybody is welcome, attitude is what matters. This makes being part of the crew something more than just a cheap sailing opportunity. What this is, really, is a chance to experience what being a feral sea gypsy on a nice ship is all about.

Somehow, because of our exotic alternative lifestyle and eclectic past crew, plus a reputation gained in our younger and wilder past, people sometimes get the impression we are a full-on hippy boat. We’re not. We’re down to Earth, practical, no nonsense and responsible sea gypsies. We try to select crew with those attributes also.

We are now stuck in North western Madagascar. Mid march, the country closed its borders due to the pandemic. It hasn’t reopened yet. The few people we had on board were repatriated, and no newcomers could make it past the current travel restrictions. As a result the trip around the western indian ocean and East Africa we had planned for 2020 has turned into an extended off grid stay around the Island of Nosy Be with only two of us on board. We do our best to keep a low profile and stay out of trouble while we wait for things to clear up and return to some kind of normality. 

As it stands, travel is heavily restricted pretty much everywhere we could possibly go and we cannot resume our travels by sea, since all ports are closed and even leaving Madagascar legally is not allowed. Even if we left anyway, no port would grant us entry. As it stands, we’re stuck. Travel by plane is also heavily restricted so selecting new crew is useless as long as we do not know when they would be able to join, if they can even join. This is simply not a good time for international travel. 

If you are interested in joining us at some point in the future, we’ll be open to applications but we’re not taking crew at the moment and we have no idea when we will be able to again. We just have to wait and see. Our way of life as been severely cramped by this pandemic and like everybody, we’ll have to adjust to the new normal and see what we can do and not do in the post pandemic world. 

As I write this on july 14th, the virus is spreading like a wildfire in Madagascar and the surrounding countries, lockdowns are being reinforced, and I see no light at the end of the tunnel yet. Our ability to lead the life we do is based on our ability to move freely between countries, and who knows when that will be possible again. If it will be possible again. 

Only time will tell.