After 13 months and 4000 nautical miles of continuous cruising in over 12 countries and 50 islands we are proud to be interviewed for the Newly Salted project featuring cruisers from around the world with less than 2 years of sailing experience, like us.
The Life Nimadik Family
Evo, Maya, and Mira
We are a family with Bulgarian origins currently living and traveling aboard a sailboat. We are Evo, Mira and 10-year-old Maya aboard Fata Morgana.
Our cruising adventures around the world, a voyage into a new and unknown way of life, started in July of 2013 with zero sailing experience aboard our first sailboat, a 38-foot Leopard catamaran Fata Morgana. We have left behind work, school, and home in order to prove that there are alternative ways of living, traveling and experiencing the world outside of the system , looking for ultimate freedom and adventure, and living off-grid visiting some of the most beautiful and pristine places on the planet on a ridiculously minimal budget.
Our journey is documented in our travel-adventure blog The Life Nomadik. You can also find us and follow us on Facebook.
1. What is cruising for you and why did you decide to cruise?
The night is falling slowly, inevitable. The wind is changing direction, becoming stronger from north. The sea gets rough. No land in view. Anxiety creeps in. We take turns on the helm, and we can’t really sleep with the waves crushing violently around the boat rocking her in every direction. The next day we are exhausted and hungry but the only thing we can prepare under these circumstances is instant noodles. At last we see land. We see the green shores of a tropical island and we know soon we will rest. Soon the boat will be still, anchored near a beautiful beach with palm trees and pink flowers. We will swim to the beach, we will snorkel in the coral gardens around, we will jump from the boat, we will hike to the mountain and visit the village to buy ice cream for Maya and beers for Evo and me. We might meet new friends, we might learn new things. And then, after a few days, we will keep sailing further. To another island, another beach, another country, another adventure.
This is what ‘cruising‘ means to us. It is a way of life. It is not as crazy or heroic as some might think. It is just an alternative to the other more conventional land-life most of us have accepted as ‘normal‘. But to us ‘crazy’ and ‘heroic’ is to accept the routine of 9 to 5 Monday to Friday, the morning and evening traffic jams, the bills at the end of the month. Cruising is just living differently, simply, sometimes better, sometimes worst. For those like us who love traveling, nature, the sea, who want to learn about the world and its people first hand, who want to live off-grid and escape city-life, who don’t mind washing their clothes by hand and eating instant noodles from time to time, cruising is the better option. And before we decided to do it, we dreamed about it. It was our next dream in a series of dreams-come-true.
2. What is the most important aspect of your cruising lifestyle?
Visiting places we never even dreamt about, remote, beautiful, breathtaking, places accessible only by boat; meeting people from different cultures, exchanging stories with them, learning from them, getting involved in their local communities, and sharing some incredible adventures together; meeting other travelers/wanderers/wonderers who inspire us so much; overcoming obstacles, conquering fears, growing and becoming. All these are some of the best characteristics of the cruising lifestyle that most of the cruisers appreciate, but for us this is not all.
For us the most important aspect of our cruising lifestyle is being self-sufficient spending as little money as possible, living off-grid outside of the system and in harmony with our natural environment. We strictly sail and don’t turn on the engines, we produce solar electricity and freshwater, we catch and eat a lot of fish, we wash the few clothes we have by hand, we prepare our own bread and food, and we don’t go to bars and restaurants much.
3. What is the best thing about your boat?
Our boat, Fata Morgana, is a 38-foot Leopard catamaran built in 2001 in South Africa. She is a small catamaran but very spacious and comfortable, perfect for our family’s needs. It’s the owner’s version with three double-bed cabins, two heads and big shower. Everyone’s favorite’s space on the boat is the huge cockpit for which we built a hard-top and an enclosure. Fata Morgana is heavy-built and even heavier after we loaded up all our earthly possessions. She is not fast at all but, we hope and believe, she is stable and safe, which is more important than speed for us. But the best thing about Fata Morgana is something we added after we bought the boat making her our off-grid water-world type of vessel.
In the beginning we invested in a huge solar power installation producing 1500 watts. We installed a desalination machine producing freshwater from seawater, and solar panels and lithium batteries capable of producing and store enough electricity on board for our fridge&freezer which runs 24/7, for all the lights, appliances and devices, and for the watermaker. We don’t have a generator and we don’t have to run the engines in order to make electricity. We can spend a week or a month or a year in the most remote anchorage of the world and we won’t need to fuel or buy freshwater, we won’t need any facilities.
Thanks to the solar panels, lithium batteries, watermaker, and sails, our boat has become a unique vessel, ready for some serious apocalyptic events.
Read more about our solar installation here.
4. Is there something that you do differently from most of the cruisers?
Apart from the fact that we were born and raised in Bulgaria and have a very different mentality from most of the North American, Australian, and Western European cruisers, we strictly sail and we use a kayak instead of a dinghy. We turn on the engines only in life-and-death situations. This means a lot of tacking especially during the last months going against the tradewinds and it also means that sometimes we drift with ridiculously slow speed, under 2 knots, or even sit and wait in deadcalm in the middle of the sea for the wind to pick up. In such deadcalm situations Evo would even deploy our kayak in front of the boat and pull the boat at 0.5 kt speed. But it also means that we fuel only 2 times a year spending very little money for fuel (last year we took about 150 gallons of fuel and we still have 60 gallons in the tanks left) and it means that we don’t contribute much for the ever-increasing pollution of the environment.
If you ask any cruiser if they throw their plastic garbage in the water they will say No! immediately. They are very conscious about throwing garbage in the sea. But if you ask them when and why they turn on their engines (thus polluting the water and air) you might find out that most cruisers “motor-sail” all the time, even when they have perfect winds. Their reasons for doing so are many: to get there faster, to charge the batteries, because the wind is coming from the wrong direction and they don’t like to tack, and even because they don’t want the boat to heel, or because pulling ropes and adjusting sails is too much work. They have the choice yet they choose the engines and thus, apart from polluting the nature, spend tons of money for fuel each month.
We have invested in alternative energy systems and we have pledged to sail the boat always. We are very proud with this. And if we can inspire other cruisers to do so too our mission will be accomplished.
5. What do you find the most exciting about your cruising life?
We swim in the most beautiful waters and snorkel in coral reefs, we hike in spectacular rainforests and explore lakes, waterfalls, rivers, and caves. We met howler monkeys, sea crocodiles, swimming pigs, whales, flamingos, sea turtles, and manatees. We learned to sail, snorkel, fish, surf, and dive. Almost everything is exciting about our cruising life. The beautiful places we get to visit traveling for free, the things we learn about their histories, culture and nature, but most of all the people we meet on the way, locals and fellow-traveling gipsies like us. You can only meet such people when cruising really.
Before we started cruising we thought that we are about to do something completely insane and that not many are doing what we are doing. But it turned out that there are so many people out there on some incredible journeys, and crossing paths with them is definitely the best and most exciting thing about cruising.
6. What mistakes did you make as you started cruising?
We left Key West for Havana without provisioning the boat. We were determined to buy and eat local. Big mistake. We showed up in Cuba without food and the Cuban officials inspecting the boat couldn’t believe it. First time people coming from America without food. And for the first four days we couldn’t buy anything to eat there. It was a national holiday followed by a weekend and all the stores were closed. And when they opened we realized that there is not much we can buy anyway… The Cuban stores are a sad desolate landscape. After about a week they announced on national TV that „eggs will be distributed tomorrow in the entire country“ and we waited on a long line for eggs and I bought 100 eggs…(Reminded me of the good old times in Communist Bulgaria…)
First lesson learned: Always provision the boat especially when leaving from the USA and especially when heading to Cuba.
Another even bigger mistake we made in our first days of cruising caused by impatience, over confidence, inexperience, and ignorance was sailing unprepared and without checking the weather and researching the marine conditions. Apart from having zero experience we had no auto-pilot and no windvane. We hand-steered and we had no idea what is the wind force and exact wind direction for the first 1000 nautical miles of our passage between Florida, Cuba, Mexico, Guatemala and back.(But it was a great learning experience too. Remember, we strictly sail.)
When we showed up in Havana people asked us: „So how was the Gulf Stream?“ We didn’t notice any Gulf Stream we answered. We were lucky then. But not so lucky on our way back between Mexico and Cuba in the Yucatan Chanel where a storm almost killed us because we didn’t wait for good weather.
There is an old Inuit saying: To wait is not a waste of time. The patient man succeeds.
The Inuit people from the frozen North hunt seal for food, oil for the fire and leather for clothes and shoes. When the hunter finds the hole in the ice where the seal comes out for air every now and then, he prepares his spear and waits silently, sometimes for hours, for the seal to emerge. Only after a long time of waiting he can kill it. Patience is essential for his survival.
Patience is the most important thing in cruising too, I would say, and we learned this lesson the hard way.
We didn’t take the weather forecast seriously, we were too much in a rush and we got hit by a horrible storm in the Yucatan Chanel off the coast of Mexico. Sustained winds 30-35 knots from north, the powerful current flowing the opposite direction. Until then we hadn’t seen such big and confused waves and we didn’t know how to deal with the situation, especially at night, we got so scared. We had to go through this nightmare that lasted for two days. After that, we made a solemn promise to ourselves that, from then on, we will check the weather forecast and be very careful, and we will not rush anymore.
In cruising, the biggest mistake is to have a time schedule. You can’t. You have to wait for the best possible conditions and you have to be able to turn back if the conditions are not favorable.
Read more about our Yucatan Chanel misadventure here.
Mira „sailing“ the kayak with an umbrella
7. What advice would you give to parents thinking about taking their children cruising?
When we started this adventure we were four. Our 17-year-old son Viktor spent over a year with us aboard Fata Morgana and was until recently also a part of this journey, but after a few months of cruising and sailing he decided to return back to Canada, where we used to live, to continue his education and start his own life. At his age he didn’t want to be on an adventure with his parents and little sister, stuck on a boat with them 24/7. And even though he enjoyed a good part of our adventures together: swimming in a dark cave in Guatemala, hiking up the highest Caribbean mountain Pico Duarte with mules and a guide, visiting Mexico and eating tacos every day, snorkeling in the Thunderbolt Grotto in the Bahamas and many more, he wanted to go back to his friends and his old way of life.
Maya on the other hand is only 10 and she enjoys living aboard, cruising, homeschooling, making new friends everywhere we go, exploring, and going on adventures with us. She is learning so much by traveling and being curious about the places we visit.
People always ask us about the kids schooling, and always tell them not to confuse the school institution with education. Education is found through experiences in the world. A kid who is traveling has so many more experiences than a kid who sits in a classroom. Reading about a place, its culture and history, is not the same as being there and experiencing it. Yet, I think that as soon as the kids become teenagers it is already too late to take them away from their familiar home environment and friends and put them on a boat, as we did with Viktor, unless this is what they want.
So if I have to give one advice to parents thinking about taking their children cruising it would be:
Traveling is a great learning experience that will change you and your children. It is the best thing for young kids. But don’t wait too long for the kids to be older or to finish school. The younger the child the better.
Riley, Maya (in the middle) and Wren with a huge lobster aboard Fata Morgana
8. How do you keep in shape while leaving aboard?
Life on a boat can get really lazy at times. When at anchor or sailing there is not much space on the boat to move around and there is a big chance to become a „boat-potato“. In order to keep in shape we try to move as much as possible. We swim, snorkel, hike, and we do exercises on the boat or on shore (sit-ups, squats, push-ups and pull-ups). We even like to go jogging on the beach in the morning. We also kayak on daily basis from and to the boat instead of using the dinghy and we walk a lot. For us taking a taxi is not an option, it’s a question of principles. We hitchhike or take the bus if the distance to where we want to go on land is too big, or simply walk, sometimes for hours, and for many miles. Apart from being a great exercise, we believe that only by walking, and not by driving or even riding a bicycle, one can truly experience the land. Good thing we are generally not in a hurry.
And of course, we watch out what and how much we eat. We are not some healthy-food-freaks nor vegetarians and we eat and drink pretty much everything but we are conscious about quality and quantity trying to balance a healthy diet. We eat a lot of fish which we catch by trolling every time we go sailing and we also love those coconuts that we find all over the place. We buy fresh fruits and vegetables every time we stop some place. Lately we aet a lot of cabbage for example. We love fresh cabbage grated or finely chopped with some dry dill and lots of lemon, and it is one of the healthiest fiberest foods ever.
Mira and Evo
9. What is the price you have to pay for being on a ‘permanent vacation’?
The past one year was incredible. We visited Che Guevara’s house in Havana, Cuba. We walked among the Mayan ruins in Tulum, Mexico. We were the first white people to enter a sacred cave full of human skulls in the remote Sierra de las Minas mountains in Guatemala. We met a humpback whale in the Bahamas. We jumped from waterfalls in the Dominican Republic. We ate mofongo in Puerto Rico. We snorkeled in the most beautiful coral gardens in the British Virgin Islands. We walked across an impossible road in Saba. We met monkeys in St Kitts&Nevis. We saw what a volcano can do to a city in Montserrat. And this is just a small fraction of all the things that we have done in all the places that we visited in just 13 months.
But there is a dark side to cruising too, and bloggers don’t normally write much about it. The dangers and risks of the life at sea, the constant maintenance of the boat and everything on it, dealing with officials every time we have to check in and out of a country, the nostalgia for home family and friends, even the small inconveniences of not having an air conditioning or a washing machine or a hot water shower, the lack of unlimited freshwater or electricity, are all part of the bitter price we pay for all the enjoyments we get while cruising. But we have accepted the deal and we know: It is all worth it!
In other words, it is about 5 dollars per day.
Maya in the cockpit
10. What are your plans now? If they do not include cruising, tell us why.
We will keep cruising until we are tired of it, or until something prevents us from doing it. There are so many things that can go wrong on a boat causing for any plans to change very quickly. But n the best case scenario, we are hoping to sail through the entire Caribbean region, from Antigua where we are right now south to Grenada and Tobago. From there, after the hurricane season, we will head west to Columbia and Panama. Once there we will cross the Panama canal and head to the Galapagos Islands. Next, we will sail across the Pacific to Tahiti and French Polynesia and do a few years of cruising around Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, India and beyond.
We are also hoping to be able to work for a few months in Australia if possible, as we don’t have income right now and even though we are all about self-sufficiency and off-grid living we still need a bit of money to buy food and repair the boat when needed. We are both Evo and me professional long distance truck drivers. We used to drive big tractor-trailers between Canada and USA. (We were nomads always.) It was a great way to see these two huge countries, to travel and make money at the same time. So we are hoping to do the same in Australia. We heard they need drivers there for those long four-trailer trucks crossing the desert. It will be fun again and we will get to explore the interior of this beautiful country for which we have a very old crush.
And then, let’s dream a bit further in time, when we are really tired of traveling (i don’t think this will happen any time soon, but it probably will some day) and we find the perfect place, we will stop, build a small cabin, build the furniture for the cabin, make our own everything (dishes, cups, pillows, etc.), plant billions of fruits and vegetables and herbs, get a bunch of beautiful chickens and a couple of goats, and install a few solar panels. Then, after I finish making the raspberry jam, we will sit back on the porch and watch the sunset remembering all the places we have been to, telling the most incredible stories to our grand kids running around chasing the chickens.
Well, this is all for now. It was great answering those questions and participating in the Newly Salted Project. And if you are still curious about us you can like us, follow us and contact us on our blog TheLifeNomadik.com and Facebbook Page. It’s always a pleasure when someone writes to us with a question or a comment. Thank you!