Five Things I’ve Learned Since We Sailed Away

Portimao anchorage sunset

When I started bugging Ryan with crazy plans for an escape route from our routine a little less than two years ago, I would have never imagined I’d be now sitting in Kittiwake’s saloon, typing away on my laptop, in a boatyard. I didn’t even know cruising was “a thing.”

After a year of preparations and 10 months of living on our little floating home, I can’t help but reflect and think about how much life has surprised me since we left the UK. Here are five unexpected things I’ve learned since we sailed away.

1) Paying it forward, pays back

One aspect of the sailing community that really struck me is how helpful fellow sailors are. Whatever their budget, people often go out of their way to help another cruiser out. It may be that you need a tow into port, or you don’t know how to fix your outboard. People will try and help if they can.

We’ve fully embraced this culture and try to help other people when we can by offering parts or things we don’t necessarily need to keep on board, towing people whose outboard broke down if we can, lending our outboard out in times of need, and sharing what we learn along the way through our blog and YouTube channel.

Fellow cruisers

The more we do for other people, the more we get back. There is a trick though – it’s rare we get a favour back from the people we pay it forward to. There isn’t enough time to do that when you’re on the move. More often than not, we receive a random act of kindness from a stranger, a cruiser we’ve never met, or someone on the internet. If we can’t give the favour back, we make sure to pay it forward in some other way. Call us hippies, but this is the way the cruising community works and it’s the very reason why it feels like a big family.

2) People are incredibly generous

While living a normal life, I admit I thought most people were rather selfish. I’m not entirely sure why, but that’s what I assumed when going about my routine. Then, we started sharing our journey and what we learn through this blog and our YouTube channel. And wow. We were overwhelmed by how generous people have been.

Complete strangers put their faith in our video production and sailing skills and decided to support our channel on Patreon, a lovely guy sent us his old cruising guides for the Mediterranean, a follower bought us a new ensign when he saw how tattered ours was, and occasionally, out of the blue, someone gets in touch to say thank you for our content and makes a one-off donation to our PayPal. How amazing is that? It’s only thanks to them that we’re able to set aside time and money to create this content, which we massively enjoy, while cruising and working.

Patreon page

3) You can do anything you want

When I was stuck in my office job back in the UK, I thought the only way to escape the 9 to 5 and spend more time outdoors was to win the lottery. How wrong I was. You don’t need to be rich to change your life, job, or address. Of course money helps, but it’s not a necessity.

Once we figure out what we want in life, the only thing left to do is to figure out how we can make it happen, with our resources. Our dream was to cruise on a boat in hot climates and spend lots of time rock climbing, snorkelling, and exploring nature. We didn’t have much money, a passive income, or a house to sell. We certainly didn’t want to wait until retirement to live the life of our dreams.

Elena bouldering

So we adapted our dream to our resources and needs – we found a small boat that was achievable to buy, we set a leaving date that would allow us to set aside enough money, we decided on a monthly budget that was easy to earn consistently and calibrated our expectations. And we’ve done it. We’re out here, on a catamaran, sailing towards the sun.

Whatever dream you have, don’t wait for a lottery win that may never come. Think about how you can make it happen, within your resources, and set a deadline for yourself. It won’t be easy – you might have to work 7 days a week or in the evenings for months or a year, give up holidays, and cut your expenses by half (just like we did). But the result will definitely be worth it, I promise.

Ryan on bows under spinnaker

4) Happiness hits you at unexpected times

I never really thought about this before, but since I’ve been living on Kittiwake I’ve really come to appreciate the notion that happiness hits you at unexpected times. I know I’m happy, but every now and then I get this rush of happiness through my veins and it really hits home: I’m living my dream!

Here’s a few of my happiest moments since we started this adventure:

  • The day after we decided to commit to do this, I was high on happiness when walking to work.
  • The first time we raised the sails and we turned off the engine on Kittiwake, I started jumping and dancing around like a maniac. It felt like the best thing in the world (yes, I had sailed on other boats before).
  • One time I was reading in the cockpit, while the sun was going down on beautiful St Agnes (Isles of Scilly). I kept looking around at the light blue water and smiling like crazy.
  • The first time we sighted dolphins playing with Kittiwake’s bows I was shouting like a kid.
  • Often when I jump into the water from Kittiwake’s decks I keep on saying “this is truly living.”

Ele + baby dolphin

5) We are tougher and more adaptable than we think we are

When you start doing things you’ve never tried before, you realise how much strength there is in you. Sailing can be a challenging business – the weather forecast isn’t always 100% accurate, or there might be no way to escape a storm. Many unpredictable things can happen. While it may sound scary, once you’re in those situations, you’ll surprise yourself. You’ll be calmer and more practical than you think you’d be and you’ll adapt to the changing situation almost seamlessly.

By deeply challenging you, sailing will reveal your true self to yourself. There will be a couple of times when you’ll disappoint yourself, but most of the time, you’ll be surprised at your resilience and calm and can-do attitude.

sunset silhouette Ry

What have you learned while out cruising? Let me know in the comments.

  • Carl Richardson

    Just found your site, love the content. My wife and I are in the process of preparing to sail away on our Cape Dory 30. We are in a similar situation, not wealthy and fairly young, and your story has given me reassurance that we can do It! Keep it up!

    1. Sailing Kittiwake

      Yay! That’s exactly why we make videos and write blog posts. Wooohoo! Let us know how you guys get on. Fair winds.

  • Craig Simmons

    We did a similar journey on our HT in the early 90’s. Have fun.

  • Craig

    Thanks from bringing back memories. We sailed a Heavenly Twins from the U.K. to Portugal in 1993 when we were aged 28 and 34.

    1. Sailing Kittiwake

      Thanks for reading and commenting Craig!

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