Boat Life

Lessons learnt so far:
10 tips if you want to Sail Away

Written by Renato Matiolli

As we mentioned before on previous posts, a few important people helped us to make this dream come true. We are truly thankful to them. So we wrote this post with a few sailing lessons learnt so far during this past year. This is an attempt to maybe inspire a couple of crazy wild souls out there to follow their dreams too.

The suggestions bellow are not the absolute truth, but our perspective of things. We wrote it in good faith to try to answer a series of questions we received during this past year.

We have written in black our suggestion and in blue what we have actually done.

  1. Start planning as soon as possible
  2. Save up the most amount of capital you can
  3. Make sure you like the lifestyle and make a decision
  4. Put 100% of your effort into making it happen
  5. Be very selective about the people you are getting advice from
    • Run away from the people who say you can’t do it
    • Get close to the FEW important people you trust
  6. Be systematic about buying the boat
    • Hedge your saving in a strong currency
    • Do not use all your savings on the best boat you can buy
    • Chose between buying a new versus an used boat
    • Chose between buying a mono hull versus a Catamaran
    • Select just a few brands, ideally only one
    • Decide which additional equipment you will have on the boat
    • Create a long list of boats you are interested in and compare them
    • Let brokers know you are a serious buyer and what you are looking for
    • Buy the boat at the right place and correct moment
    • Buy the boat from trustworthy people
    • Do a proper trial before buying the boat
    • Do not hire a surveyor
  7. Get some cruising experience and be open to learn
  8. Think how you will financially maintain the dream going
  9. Start safe & easy
  10. Test yourself and your boat

1. Start planning as soon as possible 

The earlier you get thinking about this, the sooner the idea will take off and the smoother the transition will be.

I always had this dream. However I actually start seriously planning the trip a few months before we bought the boat. I don’t recommend this as the initial months were overwhelming and it still is. We are still learning a lot of stuff on the go. 

2. Save up the most amount of capital you can

Stop buying things you don’t need or overpaying for services that are not really necessary. Work hard on your current job and save up all the capital you can. You will need it to get the dream going. It won’t be easy to find a bank or an angel investor who will finance and quickly start this project for you.

We have worked all our lives to save the money that supported the initial purchase of the boat. We do not spend much on fancy restaurants or clothes. The only real expenses we had prior to this was with travelling around and vacations. 

3. Make sure you like the lifestyle and make a decision

This is certainly the hardest part. Taking this leap of faith and deciding that you want to completely change your lifestyle and live a different life seems easy, but it is not. Maintaining the status quo always seems to be the easiest solution. But not always will be the one that make you happiest nor fully accomplished. I think the best way to help you get some courage is to spend a few days with someone who is going around to world. Try to learn a bit and to see if you like the lifestyle. Ask what they like and do not like about it. Are they planning to stop or keep going forever? Why? What do they miss about their previous life?

Before we bought the boat we spent around 10 days in San Blas (Panama) with Daniel, Anna and Vera. They are a Swedish couple and their dog who are sailing around the world on their 380 Lagoon Catamaran, the Bay Dreamer. Before the end of that trip we had decided that it was exactly what we wanted for our lives.

4. Put 100% of your effort into making it happen

Once the decision in made, focus your efforts on making the project take off. The search and purchase of the boat, the learning, the planning and the execution are at times overwhelming and very time-consuming activities; it is almost impossible to do it while still continuing with your current job.

Unfortunately we weren’t able to quit our jobs straight away. We decided we were going to work until the last minute possible, as we needed the money coming in. It was really overwhelming and tiring having two full jobs, our current and our project.

5. Be very selective about the people you are getting advice from

  • Run away from the people who say you can’t do it

Quitting your stable job and living on a boat is a crazy idea for most of the people out there. But you already know this. Right? So do not ask for public opinion, the answer will not be positive.

Most people will have no idea what they are talking about, nor will not understand you. They will think it’s insane and dangerous. Probably will only point out the barriers and try to convince you that you just can’t do it. People tend to avoid the unknown and will often question if you have enough experience. Or will tell you that you need to start with a really small boat in an enclosed lagoon, and move on from there. With this pace, by the time you are 95, you will probably have acquired that so called experience to handle the boat you want and cruise the world. Unfortunately by then you will have used all your money in buying and selling boats. You will also have drained all your energy.

It is true,you are not experienced enough, but who is? How do other people know about what is being experienced enough?

We have tried to avoid people who told us we could not do it. Instead we focused on those who were thinking together on how to remove the barriers to make this dream possible.

Interesting enough it was that the most knowledgeable ones were the ones who told us we could do it. And the ones who did not know anything about the sea or sailing, were the ones telling us that this was impossible. So pay attention from where you are getting advices from.

Select wisely what you take in and what to ignore. There are all sorts of people out there… Believe it or not, the only so called “experienced” person who actually tried to discourage us was a Sailing teacher in Brazil. He actually told us that to cross the Atlantic you need a boat of at least 150 feet long to be safe. Can you believe that?! By now I’m pretty sure that 99% of the cruisers out there do not have a boat that big. Of course, his next suggestion was for us to spend some 10 years learning from him, attending his theory classes with hundreds of other students who will very likely never set sail because of the horror stories about the ocean this so called “professional” tells everyone.

Of course it’s not an easy thing. Of course there is a risk and we could actually die out here. But having said that, we could also have died in a car accident on our way to work back home, or on a traffic light robbery, or at home from a terminal disease. We can’t fully control our destinies, can we? Taking the leap to this adventure we are just trying to control the part we can. Life is too short to be scared away from chasing your own dreams.

  • Get close to a FEW important people you trust

On the other hand, find those few crazy ones who are as stupid as you are and think that this is a great idea. Get close to these people and exchange ideas on how to make things that seem impossible to become possible.

Our two main trusted advisors and craziest friends on this subject are Daniel “The Pirate” Mattson and Lorenzo “The Pilot” Berna. They have experience, are unbiased and are bloody smart and freethinker dudes. I truly respect this type of people.

6.  Be systematic about buying the boat

  • Hedge your savings in a strong currency

Most yachts are priced in EUR or USD. So if you are not living in Europe or in the US, make sure you invest your saving in a fund that will protect you from exchange rate fluctuations. You may win or loose money in your currency, but the important thing is that once you know how much money in USD or EUR you will need, it is better to put this money aside in a protected account.

Since we were living in Brazil, once we decided we wanted to buy a boat we put all our “boat money” in an US account so that in case the Brazilian currency would devaluate we could still afford the boat. Luckily we did that, because the Real devaluated around 30-40% against the USD and EUR while we were looking for the boat.

  • Do not use all your savings on the best boat you can buy

It is very tempting to go ahead and spend all your money on the best boat you can buy, but don’t do it. Remember you will need to spend a lot in equipping the boat; maintaining, documents and enjoying life after you have the boat.

We used up just a portion of our savings to buy the boat so that we could add all the equipment we thought were necessary for cruising and also to have piece of mind to run the boat for a while without any income.

  • Chose between buying a new versus an used boat

Of course this will depend on how much money you have, but for me the advantages of owning a new boat are:

  • Visual and design: Obviously it is new, clean, no scratches, newer design, etc;
  • Interior space and performance: New boats tend to use internal space better and some brands have improved their performance
  • Customization: You can get exactly what you want;
  • Warranty: A good portion of the things that will break will be under warranty;
  • Less initial maintenance cost: this is only in theory as many new boats come with a lot of problems. You are not buying a Toyota with 100% quality. Many new boats have problems as well as used ones;
  • Finding spare parts: It is much easier to find spare parts of an new boat when compared to an used one
  • The disadvantages of purchasing a new boat are:
  • Costs: New boats are quite more expensive than used ones;
  • Timing: You may have to wait in a line for your boat to be ready;
  • Initial service: New boats have to go through a lot of early scheduled services not to loose the warranty and if you are not close to the purchasing place this may be a hassle;
  • Post-service: If something goes wrong in the boat and you are not close to the place where you bought, who pays for the marina where the service will be done? How long will it take to be ready? Who pays for the service?
  • Confusing equipment pricing: The pricing of boats can be very confusing. It is very hard to know what you need to have and all additional equipment are very expensive if you buy at the manufacturer. Some optional equipment are not really optional, they are quite basic and every used boat will have it;
  • Higher time spent with initial maintenance: this is very debatable, but some new boats have even more problems than used ones. Usually previous owners of well kept used boats will have gone through the hassle of fixing a lot of minor initial problems.

We chose an used one since this was the only way we could afford a bigger boat and still have spare money to add a lot of additional equipment. Moreover we really couldn’t understand which were all the add-ons that must be included into a new boat. Finally we heard a series of horror histories of problems with new boats and we wanted to get sailing straight away and not keep doing services close to the purchasing place of a new boat like ours (northern France).

  • Chose between buying a mono hull versus a Catamaran

Of course that this is also very debatable as well and will depend on personal preferences, but in my opinion the advantages of owning a mono-hull are:

Upwind performance: they do a much better job going upwind

Style: they look like a proper sailing boat and not a floating house

Overall performance: this is also debatable, but if you compare a mono hull and a catamaran of the same price, the mono hull will most likely be longer and therefore have a better performance

Lower marina fees: for mono hulls vs. a catamaran of the same size;

Lower prices: it is possible to find mono hulls capable of doing long crossing for quite a descent price;

The advantages of having a catamaran are:

Comfort: the boat rocks a lot less, mainly on anchor and downwind and it is much easier to cook, eat, read, write, sleep, basically live;

Interior space: nothing beats the space of catamarans. This means larger rooms, more storage area for surf boards, SUPs, dive and kite equipment as well as boating equipment such as extra sails, water-maker, generator and dive compressor;

Lower draft: catamaran can go to shallower water, meaning more places;

Safety: this is very debatable as well, but my take is that catamarans are safer for four main reasons:

  • They don’t have a heavy keel made of lead, so their density is much lower and less likely to sink;
  • They have isolated compartments that can get filled with water without sinking the boat;
  • They have a lower draft and wont’ hit bottom where mono hulls will, they can also ground over a sand bar without damaging the boat or tilting to the side.
  • They have double systems, so you may lose a propeller, a rudder, a fuel pump, an engine, drain a battery… and still get the boat going as you have double of basically everything (but unfortunately this also means double the costs too).

We chose a catamaran because we did not have much sea experience and we were going to live aboard. So comfort was very important. We also need to receive guest to help with the cost and we need a lot of storage space for boards, dive equipment, SUP, water maker, etc. So internal space was very important. Furthermore we want to go to tropical paradises with lots of reefs and shallow waters. Catamarans are ideal for these. Finally since we were not too experienced, we though that safety was even more important for us.

  • Select just a few brands, ideally only one

Finding a boat is overwhelming because there are a lot of variables to consider (e.g. Price, Brand, Model, Size, Year and extra Equipment)

If you know how much you want to spend is a great way to get rid of one variable. If you are buying a new boat and know which equipment you want is another great way. In any case you will be dealing with a lot of variables. It is easier to get a good deal if you try to fully understand the market you are getting into. By narrowing the brands you are looking at, will also help you better understand the alternatives and make a better deal.

After looking at every boat in the beginning, we later decided to go with only Lagoon Catamaran on our final search for a few reasons:

1) They are famous for being safe and sturdy;

2) The have a really good usage of interior space;

3) They are the most sold catamaran in the market. Which in theory meant three things:

a) Better economies of scale and therefore best value for money;

b) Larger owners community and easiness to find a friendly advices;

c) Easiness to find spare parts and professionals that know how to fix your boat.

Probably the main downside of the Lagoons is that they are known for not being the fastest catamaran on the market.

  • Decide which additional equipment you will have on the boat

Decide which additional equipment is important for you, how much they cost and that are not always included in the boat. For example solar panels are important for cruisers, yet not every boat has them, so you need to check this. On the other hand, auto pilot and chart plotters are important but every boat has them, so do not worry about checking for this. Once you have your list, make an estimate of how much they cost (including installation fee) and put it in the price of the boat that do not have the equipment so that you can compare all your options in a similar base.

We created a list of what we thought would be important to have in our boat and checked if the boats we were interested in had these equipment so that we could account in the total coast. Our list included:

  • Solar panels
  • Water maker
  • Generator (Not super necessary. We just need it because we want to have a dive compressor, Air Con and a washing machine on the boat)
  • Air Con (I do not recommend having it)
  • Gennaker
  • Dinghy and outboard engine
  • Life raft

By the way, additional modifications we think are important to make to the boat, but which are not too expensive include:

  • More chain for anchor
  • Salt water pump in the kitchen to clean dishes
  • Salt water pump in the deck for cleaning the boat
  • AIS and a series of safety equipment such as EPIRB, PLB, personal AIS, life jackets, safety line, drogue
  • Create a long list of boats you are interested in and compare them

The majority of the boats for sale are listed on List all the options of the boats you are interested in and compared them in terms of prices, additional equipment, model/size and year. Also keep a track of new boats entering and leaving the market.

We made a long list of boats organized by model, price and year and how much they would cost after all the additional equipment we would want were installed. This way we could account and compare with the boats that already had the additional equipment. We also monitored to see which models were entering and leaving the market.

  • Let brokers know you are a serious buyer and what you are looking for 

Contact the broker who is selling the boat you are interested in. Let them know you will buy a boat in the next few weeks or months and that if a boat shows up with the specifications you want, you are ready to close the deal. They may contact you before they publish another boat on Yacht World and then you won’t have to hassle with other buyers.

This was how we bought our boat; we contacted a broker a few weeks earlier about a boat they had just sold. A few weeks later the broker contacted us telling that she had something similar and was wondering if we were still interested. We visited the boat before it was ever published for sale.

  • Buy the boat at the right place and right time

The best time tends to be at the end of the sailing season (in Europe this would be in autumn or in the Caribbean before hurricane season). Right before the beginning of the season prices raise and then they come down at the end of the season. These two regions have a lot of yachts and sellers have to compete to sell their boat so it is a more dynamic market and you may find a better deal. Also think about labor cost and quality, because after you buy it you will certainly have to work a lot to prepare your boat for your journey.

While we looked at yachts all over the world, we found out that the two best countries to buy were Greece and Croatia. We believe they are the two most beautiful coastlines in Europe and therefore have a huge fleet of sailing yachts.

  • Buy the boat from trustworthy people

Buy from people who will not try to push just any boat, who will give you their honest opinion about advantages and disadvantages of a certain boat and who has been in the market for a while with a good reputation.

In Croatia, Marina Poljak at Nava Boats (+385 98 4786 91 / was the person who really made our dream come true. She is super competent, very professional, works for a company who has been in the market for many years and will certainly help you a lot after the purchase has been complete.

In Greece, Eugene Theodoridis (+30 693 7234566 / helped us a lot. He knows the entire market, is very professional, a true entrepreneur, extremely honest about the situation of each yacht and very reliable. He will also help you on the after sales since he owns his own fleet and knows all the right people to get the works done.

We highly recommend these two individuals!

IMG_1798  P1180077_Fotor

  • Do a proper trial before buying the boat

I see that many people buy the boat that they have chartered before. Probably this is the best idea. You use it for a week, test it and then buy if you like it. However chartering a boat for a week may be expensive. One option is to get a few friends to share the costs and enjoy the week with you. Alternatively make a sea trial, with sails and then engines. Test all pieces of equipment the boat has and do not be shy about it.

We did not follow this through; we were very juveniles and did not do a proper testing of our boat. At the end of the day we were lucky about it, but things could have gone terrible wrong and I still recommend a proper sea trial. 

  • Do not hire a surveyor

foto 0I do not recommend hiring a surveyor unless you are really clueless like I was. The surveyors are very expensive, usually friends with the owner of the boat and they won’t find anything you wouldn’t find. However, it you decide to hire, make sure you hire someone from a region far away from where the boat is located. This will minimize the change of the surveyor be friend’s with the boat owner. Also be specific on what this person is going to do and to deliver. Can he guarantee his work; will he dive and check the hull? Will he climb the mast? How long will the survey take? Can he show you a report of the last survey he did?

We did hire a surveyor from another region to make sure he was not a friend of the owner. Nevertheless we regret it and felt like it was a waste of time and money. The work was very superficial and expensive. What we paid for him we could have fixed a lot of things that he did not notice on the boat.

7) Get some cruising experience and be open to learn

If you don’t think you are ready, do not go to do a course. Spend more time in a boat sailing with someone. You will not only learn how to sail, but be open to learn a lot more. Including things such as how to clean the boat, maintain it and resolve daily things. Important activities such as getting water, cooking gas and diesel, finding a safe anchorage spot, looking at the weather forecast, talking on the radio and many other things. There are a lot of people doing this who are willing to take guests. Find someone who seems interesting and who is in a location you want to visit and spend some time with them. Remember, you will never be 100% ready. At some point stop learning and start practicing on your own boat.

After we bought our yacht, I went to visit Daniel, Anna and Vera again in the Cayman Islands. There I got some more sailing experience on practical matters. Also before we left for good we had a skipper and a friend from Croatia, Fabijan, sailing with us on our own boat. So that we could really test what was good and bad about it, ask him a zillion questions, and then make the final adjustments to the yacht.

8) Think how will you financially maintain the dream going

People have adopted different alternatives for this. Some have saved up to live out of interests of their savings, others from the income of rented apartments, others ask for sponsorship, some create videos of their trip to post on the internet, some manage to continue their current job while at sea… There is a different answer for every person, but it is important to think how you will maintain this lifestyle. Just make sure you have thought it through, as the lifestyle is very expensive and not as easy as it may seem.

We have decided to receive guests, which will contribute towards sharing the costs of keeping a boat like this running. I bet there are easier ways to do this. But we haven’t come up with another alternative. So far we are happy with our decision, but it is certainly a lot of work. A lot more than we had thought before we were really living this life.

9) Start safe & easy

Do not buy a boat in Chile and cross the Cape Horn towards Argentina in your first journey. Try to buy it in the Mediterranean or in the Caribbean. Ideally in a place where you can sail close to shore, with mild winds, with not too many waves, good communication and descent rescue support. It is quite likely that everything will be ok. But it is good to have peace of mind knowing you can be rescued if needed.

We thought that the Mediterranean was a good idea. Though it may have quite strong winds in some places during the summer, there are not huge waves. You are most of the times close to shore. There are a lot of ships and coast guards who could eventually rescue you if needed. The Med has also good and easy communication. On top of that it is amazingly beautiful, has good food and interesting people all over the place.

10) Test yourself and your boat

Fabricate some small crossings. Go for a 1 -2 nights out at sea with controlled tough condition (20-30 knots of wind) before facing larger crossings. It is better to test how yourself and boat are going to behave in a tough situation before you face your biggest challenges.

Before we crossed the Atlantic we did a lot of smaller crossing within the Med. Some of the crossing had more the 30 knots of wind; some had side waves hitting us from the side; some had thunderstorms. So when we faced the Atlantic we thought that we, and the boat, were ready for the challenge.

Well, this is not a complete list of course. But this is the list we could think of during our spare time while doing to Atlantic crossing. We hope this will be helpful to someone.

About the author

Renato Matiolli


  • I totally agree that you should be careful who you get advice from. It is amazing how many people will tell you all that you could ever want to know about boating. All you have to do is mention that you are thinking about maybe learning how to sail. However, I am willing to bet that half of what I have heard is not true or won’t work for me. I think it is best to talk to people you trust and are willing to listen to your concerns and answer your questions. They tend to have the most reliable information and it is customized for you.

  • Your tips are surely something to remember when starting to sail away. An unprepared trip is a trip heading for disaster. Being able to know or grasp of its ins and outs would somehow prepare and let you have a calm mind when a problem arises.

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