What magic it is when you make new friends who share the same crazy dreams. In our case it was to “throw it all in and go sailing”. Introducing the Captain & crew of Sailing Vessel Catalpa. We’d seen them on YouTube and felt like we knew something of them. They knew nothing about us other than we’d too bolted from the treadmill of working too much and feeling underwhelmed with the rewards. The poor guys have been stuck in Dili harbour for 6 weeks (so far) while errant parts arrived from across the sea and let’s just say that there are better places to parked. Their days are mundane, hot & sticky as they dream of pulling anchor and again donning snorkels & fins. In the mean-time we’ve been lucky enough to haul them around in the hope that they too would experience the sweet sting of Timor-Leste. We led them up the mountains where they walked into waterfalls, Bella did cartwheels, Taj patiently posed for selfies with local boys, like a true film star.
We subjected them to drives through rural villages and among Portuguese ruins and they grinned through the whole experience. We shared stories, gin & tonics and a lot of laughs. I’m positive that they didn’t leave Australia over year ago in this relaxed state but the people who they are now are chilled out and content.
These guys think that they’re fairly unremarkable. They are, in fact, truly remarkable. With a strong belief that their family would be better living an adventure-filled, unmaterialistic life on the water, they sold it all and sailed away, leaving the usual number of naysayers behind. They truly don’t care what people think of them as they tread the path less-travelled. The balance to that is the welcoming community of supporters that they have encountered as they started building an internet presence which they hoped would keep them sailing for as long as their dream pulled them along.
Sara openly describes the steep, and sometimes hurtful, learning curve that is being a social media ‘player’. She warmly advises me how to build a thick skin, should we go down a similar path. But generally, she says, people are incredible and generous, in spirit and with their spare cash. Her softly spoken & reserved husband nods in agreement when she says that she wouldn’t change it for the world.
Their teenage kids are boat-schooled although it’s obvious that their lifestyle educates them in a deep way. They, like other boat kids, can confidently hold a conversation with adults and kids from different cultures. They are athletic, lively and interested in the world around them. Our boys have loved hanging out with them and will be sad to wave them off (we refuse to say goodbye to yachties as we hope to share an anchorage down the track soon). They strike you as a genuinely content & bonded family as we all sit in the cockpit today, proudly chuckling at each other’s stories of recent travels.
Life on board is certainly challenging them, they’re the first to admit it. Funds run low when you least need them to, gear breaks when you’re not near a store and life throws everything at you when you’re at your weakest. From what we gather, their first week in Dili harbour was a brutal stint in hell but they clenched their teeth, sought help, dug their heels in and stuck it out, with smiles on their tanned & healthy faces. Many weeks later their boat parts have nearly all arrived, visas nearly ready and we’ll have to watch them sail away but we refuse to be sad; they have absolutely earned a departure, and a surf in the crystal-clear waters of Roti Island is waiting for them.
So, I find myself adding these remarkable humans to the growing list of those who we’ve been fortunate to meet. It also leaves Brian and I deeply pondering our next move. Sara openly describes the level of fun that $15,000 per year can afford you on a mid-sized yacht in Indonesia. I quiz her on their YouTube channel, their Patreon account, and their other social media presence; the time they invest and the returns that are not only personally rewarding but which also fund their vagabond lifestyle. Her & Lee generously share what they know and humbly quiz us back on things they’d like to know.
You won’t be seeing us on Youtube any time soon. We don’t even understand the algorithms, the views, the AdSenses or the uploads but it’s been fascinating hearing all about the life they have had the courage to create, from very little. Full-time escapees seem to vary the recipe but the base ingredients are courage, vision, a desire to see what’s around the corner and a healthy dose of delusion, that “it will all just work out”. Oh, and you need a boat and a good sense of humour. If the Crew of Catalpa’s story reinforces anything it’s that kind spirits dwell everywhere and it’s definitely worth taking the plunge.