Riley Whitelum and Elayna Carausu blog online as ‘Sailing La Vagabonde’ and say they have inspired a new generation of yacht lovers to ditch their office jobs and do the same.
Covering some 41068 nautical miles so far, they’ve made crossings of the Atlantic and the Pacific and spend their winters basking in the warm Caribbean sun.
In February this year Riley and Elayna also took possession of a new £500,000 catamaran after striking a deal with French firm Outremer.
Their enterprise is supported through crowdfunding platform Patreon, with fans pledging anywhere from $1 to $100 USD per month if they like what they see.
Now Riley, 33, and Elayna, 24, who gain around two million YouTube views a month, say they’ve inspired ’tens of thousands’ of others to pursue their own ocean-going dreams.
Riley laboured on off-shore oil rigs and in mines for eight years in order to be able to afford his first yacht, a 2007 Beneteau Cyclades, purchased in Italy in 2013 for around £60,000.
And speaking ahead of the London Boat Show, where they’ll be discussing their eye-catching voyages in the ‘Legends Theatre’, he said: “I’m proud of the work and sacrifices I had to make to be able to buy my first boat.
“I have some incredible memories out on the water with her. I definitely didn’t have everything handed to me on a plate but that makes our achievements all the more sweeter.
“For many people who watch our videos, it changes their life. We know because our viewers tell us and that’s a fantastic thing to hear.
“There is a lot of thought that goes into our videos to make them as creative, thought-provoking and real-life as possible. It takes up to four days in editing to produce a 15 minute video.”
Elayna maintains their 355,576 YouTube subscribers aren’t funding a lavish lifestyle – the money pledged is funnelled into boat maintenance and new filming equipment to continue producing high quality footage while also giving them enough cash to get by.
They source as much food as they can from the waters beneath them.
Musician Elayna, who retails an album of cover versions via Bandcamp, explains: “We receive a lot of emails from people telling us we’ve inspired a change in their lives, which is amazing.
“We have around 1500 patrons at the moment and those have typically been with us a while. They enjoy supporting the production of the videos and seeing the end result.”
And what’s so important for the couple is the knowledge that they’re dispelling the illusion that yachting is the preserve of the elite, as they claim anyone with the ambition should simply get out there and do it for themselves.
Riley, from Australia, added: “I think we’re changing the view that yachting is only for the privileged few.
“How many people have we inspired to start sailing themselves? Tens of thousands. I’m not even joking.
“If you added together the amount of emails we receive, it’s staggering.
“There are people who’ve been inspired to start sailing because of us, then there are others who’ve been toying with the idea for a while and we’ve given them a gentle nudge in the right direction.
“There hasn’t been a lot about sailing on social media. So we hope after people see our videos, they can buy into it, and think, ‘We can do that, too’. We’re just normal people giving it a go.
“And this is the advice I’d have love to have given myself as an 18 year old – you can cover so much ground, and have this entire experience of being a sailor, having not gone too far and not having spent too much money at all.
“We would love to push that message. Don’t wait, just get out there and do it because it’s achievable.”
Former scuba diving instructor Elayna, from Geraldton, Western Australia, grew up either in or on the water and even learned to sail during her school years.
But when it comes to being the skipper of a large vessel, neither Riley nor Elayna had any experience before they took to the oceans, having to literally learn the ropes as they went along.
The pair, who met on the Greek island Ios while Riley was sailing La Vagabonde single-handedly and Elayna was playing music for a travel company, say they’ve since enjoyed a whirlwind ride.
Elayna, who produces all the video content, says the real highlights for her, have been the big ocean crossings, first undertaken in the summer of 2014.
She said: “We’d never looked into big ocean crossings, and all of a sudden we were working out how to cross the Atlantic.
“The weather got really bad in Europe so we had to race out, heading down to Cape Verde instead where it was warmer.
“We first travelled from Gibraltar down to the Canary Islands, which is a five day sail, then from the Canary Islands down to Cape Verde – a further seven days.
“And those two crossings were just really good for me. We saw huge whales surfing behind the boat’s wake.
“Then came the day we set out to cross the Atlantic. Being honest, we didn’t really have a clue where to start. I’d to learn how to provision, had to update our supplies, and we were constantly monitoring the weather. It was pretty full on and I’d been nervous about it for a long time.
“But we had an amazing experience. We had strong winds all the way across. And when we got to the Caribbean it was everything we could have hoped for. We were so proud that we’d pulled it off.”
Riley, meanwhile, takes pleasure in the joy of overcoming difficulties as a captain… while revelling in their encounters with wildlife.
He said: “For me, the whole trip turned from me just hanging out with my friends in Europe – a summer cruise – into, ‘Okay, you’ve got this big boat that you need to look after.’
“It became a lot more serious, but with that responsibility you become a sailor.
“You can’t have as much fun as you’d like and you’re not just roaming around as you were. But that’s actually a good thing and a really good feeling.
“Being the captain of your own boat is more enjoyable and more rewarding than just messing around on the ocean.
“One real highlight for me came in Niue, in the South Pacific, at an anchorage in August 2016.
“All we could hear, through the hull of the boat, were humpback whales singing to each other. We’d be lying in bed listening to them communicating. It sounded like they were so close.
“Then, every now and then, one of them would breach next to us and you’d hear spray on the water. It was absolutely incredible.”
There has, however, been choppier water.
Just last month they ended up drifting out to sea off the Greek islands having become attached to another vessel via their anchor chain… in 40 knots of wind. They were eventually rescued by the coastguard.
In May 2016, their boat was approached by a group of what they believe were pirates while sailing close to the Galapagos Islands, off Ecuador – a situation Riley describes as, ‘one of the few times I’ve been out on the water and truly, genuinely concerned’.
Elayna, who’d hidden in a storage compartment during the terrifying nighttime incident, adds: “I’ve never been more scared in my life. I thought something terrible was going to happen to us, and I couldn’t hear anything because of the roar from the engines.”
Thankfully, the pair were able to accelerate away from the oncoming vessel before being boarded.
Then there was the night a horrified Riley struggled to locate Elayna on their 43ft yacht – fearing the worst and that she’d tumbled overboard in the pitch black.
Unbeknownst to him, Elayna had been plucking her eyebrows, at 4am in the morning, in a toilet cubicle they never used.
Riley said: “It was the worst 20 seconds of my entire life. I woke up and I wandered into the saloon and there was no one there.
“I went up to the cockpit and Elayna wasn’t around. I was like, ‘That’s a bit odd…’ So, I went back downstairs and I looked into our main toilet and she wasn’t there either.
“I didn’t even think to look at the other toilet as we never, ever use it.
“I went running onto the front outside – which I never normally do – without a harness, frantically looking for her. And she wasn’t there either.
“I was really, really starting to panic. And just as I was about to scream out her name, she walked out of the other toilet. We embraced and fell on the floor.”
Elayna added: “I knew what had happened without him even having to say anything just from the look in his eyes. It was the most scared I’ve ever seen him.”
And then there’s the difficulty of just functioning as a couple when out at sea and with no way to escape each other’s company.
Elayna, who also contracted the mosquito-borne and potentially deadly viral disease Chikungunya, said: “If we’re being honest, in the first six months of our relationship there was a lot of struggle just because I didn’t like being told what to do, and Riley didn’t like me telling him what to do.
“There was tension. Not only were we both learning how to sail, we were also trying to establish both an emotional relationship and a sort of working relationship. At a basic level, it was just figuring out who did what.
“But once we got into the swing of things it became much easier….
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