I (Sophie) was born in France and grew up at the very tip of Western France in Brittany. Ryan grew up in Des Moines, Iowa and both of us moved to Sweden in 2010 where we lived the expat life in our mid-twenties. Although our social circles intersected that whole time, we didn’t actually meet until we both swiped right on Tinder on a dark and cold night of March 2015.
One morning a few months after we met, Ryan texted me that he had read an article about a couple our age who quit their jobs to buy a boat and sail around the world. We did not know how to sail, had never been on a sailboat before and had really no idea what we were getting ourselves into. But with some time, perspiration and hard work we made our dream sailing adventure happen!
The Start of our Journey to Sail around the World
While the idea of a sailing adventure was more of a dream than a concrete plan for a few months, we took our formal first step towards life at sea in January 2016 when we took a two week sailing course via the RYA. We had promised ourselves that we wouldn’t buy a boat until we had known for sure that sailing was an interest and something we were excited about, but we actually almost signed on the dotted line while we were still learning!
The sale fell through though, as someone bought the boat we were looking at before us. But a couple of months later, we found Polar Seal in the UK, flew to Southampton for a sea trial and in May of 2016 we were boat owners in Stockholm.
Our Beautiful New Boat – Polar Seal
We didn’t know much about boats when we bought Polar Seal and looking back this was a bit of a blessing. We bought the boat the way we bought an apartment or house: with comfort in mind. This turned out to be the best approach for buying ours because, while she isn’t the fastest sailboat, she is in fact very comfortable to live onboard – and for one day that we spend at sea, we spend at least one week or two on anchor or at the dock.
We have been living aboard for four years now and we truly believe that comfort is sustainability when it comes to how long you can sail around the world. A beginner’s mistake that a lot of aspiring cruising sailors can make when they choose their boat is to fall in the “trap” of the “blue water sailboat” myth and choose a boat that is older, beefy and seemingly “forgiving” such as steel hull boats or older thicker fiberglass boats.
These boats can sometimes end up needing more repairs and maintenance than their modern counterparts. And because they were built at a time when cruising wasn’t as popular as it is now, they may not be built with comfort in mind. For a beginner, the heavier maintenance and repair needs can make the learning curve much steeper – especially combined with the lack of comfort onboard.
Polar Seal is a Beneteau Oceanis 40, two cabins version, which gives us a big galley for a boat her size, a fridge, a freezer and even a microwave. We love that it has almost all the comfort of a home on land such as an actual shower space, the ability to use appliances such as a toaster or an induction cooktop, as well as a big cockpit where we can entertain friends and the visitors we receive on occasion. All of this for only 40 foot of boat!
Sailing to 15 Different Countries over Six Years
Our first sailing trip aboard Polar Seal was a little nuts. We were so green and full of misconception, I cringe when I think about it! We had one week of vacation for us to sail and we believed that we needed to sail everyday. We ended up exhausting ourselves and coming back from our sailing “vacation” much more tired than when we started.
This was also the first time we spent the night on anchor. I remember Ryan waking up every hour because he was worried about the anchor, which looking back is hilarious because one: we had not properly set the anchor when we dropped it but two: there was absolutely no wind that night and nothing could have happened. But hey, we all start somewhere, right?
As of June 2022, we have sailed a total of 25,000 nautical miles in six years, to over 15 countries and counting. By far, our favorite destination is Portugal. From Northern Portugal and the city of Porto, to the Tagus River and Lisbon, to Southern Portugal and the islands of the Azores and Madeira, everything in Portugal is fantastic.
Portugal is closely followed in our hearts by Bermuda which is equally stunning, albeit a little expensive. Bermuda is a place that not a lot of people can locate on a map, but it has incredible scenery and the people are some of the friendliest we have met.
How to Sail around the World
For those who are inspired to sail around the world, we suggest moving out of your comfort zone gradually! We understand. You just learned how to sail, you got your boat and you want to take on the world and sail your ship across the first ocean available. We have been there and we are here to tell you: don’t do this. It is important that when it comes to sailing, you establish what your comfort zone is and move out of it gradually.
In our first season of sailing, we only day-sailed our way through the Stockholm archipelago. In our second season, we undertook our first overnight sail. In our third year, we prepared ourselves for our first several day passage as we left Stockholm on our sailing adventure. We crossed the Atlantic Ocean for the first time in our fourth season.
It sounds easy but trust me, each step you take out of your comfort zone feels like a giant undertaking. All that to say: do not underestimate how much it takes to go from one step to the next, and please take your time.
Creating a Sailing Community on YouTube
We never really set out to grow a following with Ryan & Sophie Sailing or to become “Youtube stars” and to this day we still don’t. For me, making videos of our sailing was first and foremost a way to explore filmmaking and photography, and to this day it fills the same function in my life.
Sure, these days, I am able to drive a small income through our videos but our YouTube channel mostly helps us connect with our community, make new friends and share our knowledge with anyone interested. I never feel the pressure to constantly publish. I think that this is what made our channel both successful and sustainable to work on!
What Excites us to Sail around the World
What Ryan and I love the most about our life on the water where we sail around the world is our perpetual connection to nature. From working with the elements to make our boat move through the water, to exploring the variety of landscapes and scenery we meet in different climates wherever we drop anchor – we have never felt so connected to the earth.
Apart from the obvious perks of the sailing lifestyle, we are also quite fond of some mundane aspects of our lives onboard such as commuting to shore in our dinghy, and the act of hauling her out on her davits at night and launching her in the water every morning.
One big myth about living and traveling full time on a sailboat is that we live a glamorous life of adventures and fun on the water permanently. However, the reality is that living on a boat can be tiring and sometimes we have really rough days. It is in these moments of connection with nature and the small mundane everyday acts of the day-to-day life onboard that we fall in love with our sailing lifestyle over and over again.