They took friend’s advice: “If you want to travel the world, don’t buy a couch” and bought sailboat instead

Have you already heard about sailing Uma? Are you in for an amazing story about two architects who have decided that is much more important to build the life of your dreams rather than some tall buildings in the middle of the city? Then you’ve come to the right place! Meet Dan and Kika (sailing Uma) who are exactly that. Two architects travelling around the world on their boat – sailing Uma.

Have you always been in love with sailing and when did this love exactly happen? What was the trigger that made you leave everything behind and do it?

We often joke about how different our childhoods were, Dan being from British-Colombia Canada, and I (Kika) being from Port-Au-Prince Haiti, yet they led us both to the same place in time. Our existences merged in Architecture school in Atlanta GA. When we met,  neither of us knew anything about sailing. Honestly, it was never even a topic in our conversations.

Dan and Kika

Not long after graduation, we were contemplating about what our future would be, and many times the subject of “freedom to travel” would come up, still not knowing what that really meant. Around that time, a friend gave us the most important advice we ever received, he said “If you want to travel the world, don’t buy a couch.” The more we thought about it, the more it made sense. The couch is a metaphor for settling down and being tied to “stuff”, making it hard to live a mobile lifestyle. And so we started to define what freedom meant to us.

And THAT  freedom, became  our Priority.  One thing was certain, we both dreamt a bigger world existed than the one we grew up in and longed to see it for ourselves. With this binding ideal, we set our sights on achievement. By working backwards, we came up with a plan. By the end of the summer of 2014, we had sold the majority of our materialistic ties to our past lives, and purchased a sailboat (sailing Uma), our new home. 

Sailing without the engine must be hard. How have you decided to do it without a motor? Is it just because the love of the environment or are there other reasons to it?

We are asked many times “why electric?” And our answer is not as simple as “because we love it.”

In the beginning, we honestly thought we would, like most boats out there, have a Diesel engine. When we purchased our boat, the engine was seized. Her original price on the market was $21,000. But, since we had a replacement we found on eBay for $3,000. We also put an equal offer of $3,000 for the boat, and to our surprise, the owner accepted. Unfortunately, the “replacement diesel” was built as a generator and when at first we thought we could swap parts between the two engines, it was not a possible option. Fast forward a few months, we sent the boat (along with the 2 non working engines ) to Florida on a truck in order to keep working on the refit.

Out of money, and out of ideas for the engine issue, we took a break and flew to Haiti for 3 months for an architecture project. It’s during those 3 months in Haiti that the electric idea sprouted. Many of the houses in Haiti are “off grid” relying on their own power, either with a generator or solar panels to charge their batteries. And we started to ask ourself “Do we really NEED a diesel?”

Lets first take a look back in time when “production” boats became popular in the late 60s early 70s, the intent was to make an inexpensive boat the average family could afford and handle with limited sailing experience and knowledge. As a result, one of their requirements was the ability to move the boat in difficult situations. This is where the “auxiliary engine” was coined. But, for many, it has become the primary means of maneuvering their boat. Yes, there are places in the world you can’t sail, like the Panama Canal. But, there are often alternatives where you CAN sail.

The answer was right in front of us. After all, we own a sailboat. They are inherently slow. We are not in a rush. We love the idea of being self sufficient. For those who sail with schedules, are short on time, lack the patience to sit out a wind hole, feel the need to power their boat to hull speed, enjoy maintaining a diesel engine or are just set in their ways, then an electric motor probably isn’t the right choice, but for us, and our needs, it was perfect. 

When we came back from Haiti. We removed the diesel engine, and used our DIY skills to rebuild and upgrade our sailboat, while starting a life at sea. With solar to power our everyday needs along with our electric motor to power our boat, sailing Uma is 100% off grid. We have very rarely used our motor for more than 30 minutes at a time and pretty much always sail in and out of harbours and on and off anchor. 

When and why have you decided to buy a boat, what type of a boat is it and how did you come up with a name?

Sailing Uma is a 1972 Pearson 36. We named our her UMA, inspired by the Portuguese number 1, to us she represents hard work, patience, and determination—putting one foot in front of the other, she is the first step of a life long journey.

You are both architects and you have met in college? How is architecture built-in (intentional pun) your lives? Or is it whatsoever? Do you plan to work as architects when your adventure comes to an end?

The type of architecture that inspires both of us was never the fallac tall buildings in the middle of a city, but the ones that act as catalyst for a bigger purpose. The architecture and innovations that forces us to redefine how we “think” the world works. Although we are grateful for our education, we realized that we cannot truly know how to help, if we do not know how, and school for us was not enough. And the only way to truly learn how, is to be there and be present.

That is our motivation to observe the world, learn from our experiences, and share every step along the way on our Youtube Channel. That is our current focus. We do not know what we will discover during this journey. When the right opportunities come our way, we embrace them. But one thing that is certain is that no matter what we do in life, our adventures will never come to an end, it shifts and evolves, and leads us to different paths.

What are your everyday difficulties with living on board? How hard is living on a boat?

Our determination guides us though the difficulties and toward solutions. Most things on a boat that might be considered difficult can all mostly be solved with time and money. We started out this lifestyle with very little money, but had plenty of time.

Our comfort level was very low and our determination very high, we had no toilet, no shower, no fridge, no windlass, the list was quite long… We were basically camping. But we knew it wouldn’t be this way for long, so we were ok with the situation. Since those first few sailing trips, we’ve been able to adapt and modify sailing Uma to meet our needs and provide a safe, dry home as we travel the world. The term “difficulties” is unique to everyone, but I guess for us, we don’t see them as difficulties but as inconveniences. Things like getting water, or taking a cold shower out in the cockpit might still be considered an inconvenience, but they too can be solved when they are no longer a want and become a need.

What is the biggest advantage living on a boat compered to living on land?

What we love the most about living on our boat is that we are traveling with our entire home! We get to have different neighbors and a different back yard every time we lift our anchor, and if we do not like a place, all we need to do is move our home. 

Do you ever plan on moving back to land? Do you think it will be boring now as you have experienced the other way of living?

We do not know what the future holds but one thing that is certain is that we will never force ourselves to live a life we do not wish to have. Dan and I often find ourselves overwhelmed whenever we head back to a city, where there is noise and traffic, and where everything is stressful. We enjoy visiting those places for a limited time, but we absolutely love living on the water and will continue this journey as long as we are happy doing it. If one day we decide to change the path of the adventure, we will. 

What does a person need if someone wants to follow your steps? Do you have some tips&tricks you want to share?

To achieve any adventure, dream, or passion, we believe the most important tool is “DETERMINATION”. We are where we are today because we were determined to start 4 years ago. Many seem to believe everything need to be perfect to start. The truth is, you only need a handful of things to build a good foundation to start from— a good anchor, sails, a solid hull, everything else is comfort. 

Because of our determination, our comfort level was set very low from the beginning. We focused on what we needed now vs what was more comfortable. Not having a shower, working toilet, or a fridge, to us was a luxury we did not need right away. Our choice was to leave now and upgrade along the way.

“SAILING AROUND THE WORLD” was too intimidating, so we started by learning how to sail to the horizon, which is only about 10 miles away. From there, we could sail to the next horizon, and just keep going. By breaking the journey down into little steps, it made the idea of years of travel into the unknown much more manageable. 

I see you are an experts on not buying furniture ? Is there all to it if you want to explore the world – just don’t buy a couch?

The term don’t buy a couch means much more than just a piece of furniture. The couch is a metaphor for settling down and being tied to “stuff” making it hard to live a mobile lifestyle

Where to have you headed next? Why have you chosen the Mediterranean as your next destination because I’ve seen not many insta-sailors sailing here but rather exploring Asia or the Carribean?

Dan and I (sailing Uma) always shared the passion for doing things differently, creating our own path instead of following others, which is a motivation for the routes we choose. However, going to Europe has been on our bucket list for a very long time, since before we moved onto a boat. We look forward to exploring the wonders of the Pacific Ocean, but having done the sandy beaches and palm trees of the Caribbean, we felt the need to see something different. Our plans this summer is to sail to Greenland and Iceland before entering the med. 

2 thoughts on “They took friend’s advice: “If you want to travel the world, don’t buy a couch” and bought sailboat instead”

  1. Hi… I have been following UMA since I seen it on YouTube.. I love their determination and drive. I hope they make it around the world. I sail also but only on Lake Ontario.My Dream is to sail to the east coast of Canada, and to the Caribbean.When I retire in two years!
    Good luck with your dreams!
    Long may your job draw!
    Stay safe…..Lloyd Brown

  2. Loving these vids. I feel like I am travelling with you. Your shots and the angles chosen are beautiful particularly shots across the waves at dusk. Such a peaceful time. We are kayakers in Oz. Maybe you will come out to the south pacific??
    Sail safely, Trish and Colin

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