The Plan




What do you mean, the plan? We don't have a plan. Maybe I should call that part of the website "serious matters" or something equally intimidating, but since most people usually expect some kind of plan in all things, I'll stick to the name as it draws the crowds.
The thing to understand about Karaka and crewing on her is that plans and schedules are tentative at best. If you want me to be honest, they are in fact pretty much nonexistent. We go with the flow, we turn back when we feel like it, we stay when it is pleasant and we leave when the next port seem more interesting than the one we are in. We usually have a rough idea of what ocean we want to be sailing in, but even that is not always clear. Most of the time we don't know for sure where we'll be and what we'll do a few months in the future. It doesn't seem to be a problem for the crew members we had in the past, since we tend to go slow and so it is fairly easy to have a rough idea of where we will be in the near future. We organize long crossings in advance so we do not undertake a big passage without the crew being aware of the possibility of it before they come.



As far as schedules go, it is very hard to keep one while sailing. We manage, with huge efforts and a lot of dedication, to be in the same country as the one the coming crew members fly in, but it has happened that we were not in the right country when a return flight was due. For that reason, we prefer crew members who have no obligations, no set return dates, no return flights, no reasons not to stay in that lovely little island for another two weeks. It makes life for everybody much easier. At the same time we understand that the reality of modern life might be at odd with such an attitude so we always do our best to accommodate.

It was just to say that if you want to come and crew with us you need to be flexible about plans, and especially about schedules.

Another thing that is important to understand is what this is all about, what's going on with Karaka, what's special about it. The answer is complex but here is an attempt at explaining:

In our modern society, people tend to conform. It is getting increasingly difficult to be independent. There are virtually no unexplored areas. The medias impose upon us the images of what is "ideal", what is "the norm", to such an extent that all else is deemed undesirable (or even worse, "not real"). Overpopulation makes most landlubbers subject to ever more invasive laws and regulations aimed at ensuring peace between the multitudes. Economic realities prevent a vast majority of the population from devoting any kind of significant time to activities that are rewarding yet deemed unproductive. You know what I mean, things like star gazing, or spending a few hours lost in thoughts while sitting on a rock, hanging out with friends, reading a book cover to cover without stoping, etc. Rare is the person who is free to do what he wants, when he wants, with no associated guilt and no stress from a deadline. Consuming and producing are the back bones of modern economies, the wheels need to be kept turning, who is not busy at it is not pulling his weight. Such is the reality of life ashore.

Mostly unknown to the struggling masses, there are many marginal alternatives. I won't dwell on the others here, and will keep on the one that concerns us: sailing. It is not one available to everybody, not one to everybody's liking either, but one that offers such rewards for so little compromise that I am certain that if more people were offered the chance to sample it, there would be a lot more tiny sailboats all over the ocean. Sailing, or voyaging by sea, is in this day and age one of the most rewarding lifestyle I am aware of. And I've tried a few.

A clarification is due. By "sailing" I am not, I insist, NOT, referring to "yachting", also known as "messing about in boats". No, no, no, I am referring to actually turning a sailboat into a home, and taking that home over the horizon with no return date, schedule or itinerary in mind. It is about living on a sailboat as opposed to using a sailboat for recreation. It is closer to wind powered vagabonding as opposed to engaging in a fancy hobby. The differences are significant. The main difference is that sailing as I mean it is accessible to everybody, even the young and poor. Especially the young and poor I am tempted to say. I am not talking about a rich man's hobby, a retired couple's last hedonistic throes or even an adventurer feat, but about a radical lifestyle choice. This is not for an elite only, as I hope the Karaka example shows clearly. Granted, it involves sacrifices and a certain attitude of humility, resourcefulness and independence that is not easy for everybody. It involves, quite literally, casting off and leaving everything behind, and not everybody is up for that, especially when lacking financial security. But for some, and you might be one of them, it is really worth it.

The sailing lifestyle is nomadic. There are few true nomads left today. A lot of people are satisfied with sedentarism, but in my experience at least, many of those home based landlubbers chafe at the bit and most, given the opportunity, thrive in a nomadic life style. We seem to be built for it. Actually there is little doubt that we evolved for it. It's in our genes. Yet in today's society, nomadism is of a new kind, one that has its perks and also its downfalls. Not everybody likes it. A lot of people actually look down on nomads as parasites, freeloaders, useless vagrants. We can't have 7 billions nomads on this planet either. So I'm am not trying to get everybody to do like me, far from it, but I, for one, can not conceive a return to a conventional shore based lifestyle.

People often ask me when I plan to return to "real" life. For a long time I was baffled by this question. Now I found an appropriate answer. I tell them that they are mistaken, this is, for me, real life. My life afloat is very real indeed. It is the mindless lives of the cubicle worker, the fast food franchise cook, the insurance salesman, and all the others, that I consider lacking the "real" factor. What is the point of toiling day after day, selling the minutes of your life away for a few dollars and a few comforts? What do you get for it at the end? The life I chose is more real than most, I live less of it vicariously through a TV or a computer screen. Instead of waiting for my next vacation, I chose a life I do not have to escape from. There is a difference between living and surviving. I may lack security and steadiness, I may struggle and eventually I may go down in flames, but at least I will have lived, not merely survived. Not to say that you need to go sailing to lead a real life, there are many other option, but to consider that my life on Karaka is not "real" life is simply failing to understand what life is about. To me, "real" life is not defined by what the majority does, life is "real" when it is made the most of, when it is not wasted. Whatever that means to you.

People also sometime ask me what I am doing with the boat. They wonder why I don't have any ambition. They are baffled that this slow unproductive life is enough for me, an educated man full of potential...

My ambitions in life are to enjoy myself, travel, sail on a magnificent ship, keep fit, eat tasty healthy food, meet a lot of interesting and beautiful people, love, share my life with a wonderful woman, learn as much as I can about myself and the world, think on my own, live according to my beliefs and never take orders or trade my time for money.

As it happens, my lifestyle fulfills my ambitions and I find those ambitions much more worthwhile than such ambitions as making a pile of money, having a career, secure a good retirement, get a bigger car that my neighbour, have 2.7 kids, buy a flat screen home cinema, or such. Each his own, but I actually find these kind of ambitions ridiculous and shallow. I don't think even fulfilling those ambitions would make somebody happy. I think those ambitions people don't see in me are the ambitions that make people waste their lives. Karaka provides me with a good lifestyle that is very rewarding.

I think it is a mistake to put up doing what you really want to do until the end of your life. It might means giving up comfort and tradition but there is a life worth living to gain in the bargain. Deciding to do what you want with your own life is not a luxury afforded only by an elite, anybody can do it. The people who ask those questions don't seem to understand that there is no need for a home, a career or a steady income when living the life I lead. This life is fulfilling enough in itself on all points. I am doing good for myself and honestly I believe we are better off that most people who lead a more conventional life, even if they are probably more secure and wealthier than me. I think I have more freedom, more control over my own life, more excitement, more time, more adventures, and less compromise, less hassle with law and government, less obligations, than most people. What other lifestyle provides so much and requires so little back?

Some of the rewards of this lifestyle are obvious, some are not. If you are reading this it probably means you have considered the obvious ones, the remote islands, the turquoise waters, the palms swaying in the trade winds, etc etc, yet joining Karaka is more than joining for a sailing trip in exotic locations, it is also a peek into that nomadic sea going lifestyle's less obvious rewards that I enjoy and want to share. Curiosity about that lifestyle has to be one of the reason you are considering writing to me, otherwise, you are missing the entire point.

One of the great appeal of the sailing mode of travel is without doubt the low negative impact it has on the environment. Granted, there is always an impact on the environment. But when sailing, you are de facto limiting that negative impact, and you can push it very far if you are so inclined, although usually at the expense of comfort and convenience so that a compromise is necessary. But compared to most other lifestyles, the sailing lifestyle offers enhanced opportunities, such as catching your own food, drinking rain water or using the wind to move around, to limit the guilt of affecting the world in a negative way.

Another way sailing affects a person is in the rhythm of life. Not to generalize, but most people in modern western societies ashore are pretty frenetic, mostly because of schedules and deadlines and obligations and all that sort of things. On a boat like Karaka, you free yourself from those. The resulting peace of mind is hard to describe. Some can't cope with it, they positively need a constant stimulus, but the true nomadic sailor just takes it easy. It is not so hard when sailing in the tropics, as most local populations, the ones in remote areas anyway, tend to take it very easy too. The "no rush"attitude is prevalent in the tropics. And by slowing down, you appreciate things more. You see more. You live more.

Another important aspect of the lifestyle, maybe the best reward sailing brings, is what I like to call: "the diet of the mind". While there are plenty of opportunities to visit and enjoy busy places with a lot of social interaction, even in the harbor of a bustling city, you are somewhat removed from the pressures and demands of aggressive marketing and media propaganda. There is something very refreshing in not being constantly exposed to advertisement and television. It takes a while for most people to get used to it, as rare is the modern person who is not addicted to a constant stimulus, but eventually sailors wean themselves of it, by necessity. It is hard to describe to the frenetic media addict what happens to your thought process when your brain is left to its own device for weeks on end. We lost track of how much the media has grown on us, and it takes a radical removal from it, such as a few weeks offshore or a few months in some remote islands, to appreciate how much it limits us, mentally, creatively, socially... It is very hard to think deeply or be very creative when constantly exposed to television and mass media. When is the last time you wrote something profound on facebook? How many hours do you spend everyday watching mindless entertainment? Yet when sailing offshore, with no or little stimulus to interfere, your mind is left free to wander. What comes out is different for all of us but for some it is like a rebirth, they change tack, so to speak, turn off the autopilot, and take control of their life. Creativity is enhanced, philosophy becomes interesting again, eyes start to sparkle anew, and the result is often glorious. It is like a veil lifted from your eyes. You see the world differently, as a place full of wonders and opportunities, the sky is your limit, the horizon your friend, time your ally. Then of course you have to deal with that, and that can be another addiction. But I think the change is positive.

Those are part of the reasons we, sailing vagabonds, do what we do. I could go on for another few pages but there is a sunset going on, and I'm going on deck to have a shot of rum to celebrate the end of another amazing day with the rest of the crew. Somebody is tuning a guitar and I hear the clink of the glasses, it's time to go. If you want to know more, you'll just have to come and find out by yourself how it is "for real".


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For the other aspects on living on a boat without much money, I have put together a collection of hints and advices, check PDF version.