Sailing La Vagabonde: Navigating Life’s Ever-changing Seas

By: Cruising Tips, online course, Sailing Story, Schools, women on the water

Elayna and Riley can be found sailing across your screen on the internet. They are living the life that so many sailors aspire to. They set out on a journey to live life on a sailboat and travel the world. Drop everything, start a new life, and call the ocean your neighborhood and a boat your home. The dream is attainable, and the goal is simply a few decisions away.  

How we move from part-time sailor to full-time cruiser might seem like a giant leap, but consider a career change or a move to a new city. Essentially, life decisions are large events in our lives. American Sailing spoke to Sailing La Vagabonde about their career arc leading up to their upcoming online class, From Zero to Full-Time Cruiser, where for the first time they will turn their SLV Essential Sail Guide into a class format with a live Q&A in partnership with American Sailing.

A view of the simple life aboard La Vagabonde.

Sailing La Vagabonde with Riley Whitelum and Elayna Carausu

Sailing is more than just a mode of transportation; it’s a way of life that allows adventurers to traverse the world’s oceans, embracing challenges and finding beauty in the journey. No one embodies this spirit quite like the crew of Sailing La Vagabonde. With over 1.8M YouTube subscribers, they’ve become a sensation that has taken the world on a captivating voyage across the seas.

“With so many years and experience in the sailing lifestyle, how have you evolved? As people? As sailors? As a family?” The response from Riley Whitelum, the charismatic captain of the vessel, hints at the profound transformation they’ve undergone. Their voyage is a story of evolution—a tale of sailing, growth, and the bond of family. “This would honestly take an entire book to unpack, but briefly, we have been through several evolutions.”  From militant vegans to quasi-antisocial sailors to becoming parents while living aboard, they have evolved to a place where they can deal with most of life’s struggles even from the deck of their new trimaran.

Parenting while sailing — Elayna masters the juggling act with grace.

Life Aboard

Imagine a daily routine where you rise and fall with the sun, where the sky above is your constant companion, and the vast expanse of the sea stretches endlessly in all directions. Life aboard Sailing La Vagabonde offers a unique blend of adventure and discipline. Elayna reflects on their daily life: “We eat healthier on the boat and move more day to day. We are more in touch with nature as we rise with the sun and go down with the sun.”

However, life at sea isn’t just about leisurely sunsets and tranquil moments. The crew’s days are filled with work, from filming their adventures to editing content and attending to business calls. It’s a life that demands both passion and dedication, and they have it in abundance. As Riley notes, “Having that drive and people relying on you is good most of the time.”

A healthy lifestyle and big smiles all around.

Challenges of the Open Ocean

The allure of sailing to far-flung destinations is undeniable, but it comes with its share of trials. Elayna opens up about one of her most challenging aspects: sleepless nights on rough seas. The “donkey slaps,” the grinding of winches, and the relentless rocking of the boat during night passages can leave even the most experienced sailors tossing and turning. Yet, it’s a challenge they’ve learned to face head-on, knowing that endurance brings its rewards.

Amidst the vast canvas of the open ocean, there are destinations that capture their hearts. For Riley, the Bahamas stands out as a place of extraordinary beauty and significance. It’s a locale where he honed his spearfishing skills and formed a deep connection with the sea. It’s a spot their son Lenny has essentially called home. The Bahamas represents the essence of their adventures—a place where isolation is outweighed by awe-inspiring landscapes.

Self-sufficiency ranges from spearfishing to engine repairs.

In the world of sailing, self-sufficiency is essential. Riley has mastered the art of handling maintenance and repairs in remote locations, prioritizing mission-critical tasks and displaying patience when necessary. “You are fairly motivated to fix the engine or stop the boat from sinking if that is what is occurring.”  When faced with adversity, the crew’s unwavering determination to keep their vessel afloat is a testament to their resilience. 

Setting Sail

Before embarking on long ocean passages, meticulous preparations are a must. Riley emphasizes the importance of having a well-thought-out plan and fostering a positive crew dynamic. It’s not just about the technicalities; it’s about creating an environment where every crew member feels valued and empowered to contribute, ensuring a safe and smooth journey. Riley shares, “People often tend to forget to have a good attitude, a warm smile, and instill respect in your crew. I still do occasionally. If you create an atmosphere where people feel comfortable and able to show initiative, you’ll have a much better crossing.”

Life on a sailboat means living within the confines of limited space. To maximize comfort and functionality, they’ve adopted a minimalist approach. Everything has its place, and items not used in over six months find new homes. This deliberate simplification allows them to focus on the essentials and savor the beauty of their surroundings.

Making the absolute most of every moment!

Mental Health Matters

The open sea can be both awe-inspiring and isolating, which underscores the significance of mental health. Riley acknowledges that mental well-being is paramount for sailors. “We did a safety at sea course and were informed, retrospectively unsurprisingly, that mental health is the number one safety hazard for a cruising sailor. Humans crave community, and we are social beings. I think that much of the glorification of single-handed sailors or vaguely misanthropic people living only remote and avoiding people has been a little detrimental for the sailing culture and milieu.” While some might romanticize solitude, the crew of Sailing La Vagabonde recognizes the importance of community, exercise, meditation, and therapy in maintaining their mental health. Their commitment to each other’s well-being is a pillar of their journey.

Hanging out, taking a mental health break!

A New Adventure Beckons

A new vessel awaits them—a 60-foot, 90% carbon marvel that promises to redefine their adventures. Riley’s excitement is palpable, describing it as “ridiculous” and “vaguely arousing.” This vessel will not only offer exhilarating speed but also enhance their safety in challenging conditions—a development that has them eager to push the boundaries of exploration. When asked about the new boat Riley’s personality shines through, 

“Dude. Come on. It’s ridiculous. It’s 60 ft long, 90% carbon, and will sail circles around anything in the water. It’s funky mustard with a carbon-rotating mast, and if I’m honest, it’s vaguely arousing just thinking about it. It’ll sail at 1.3 times the speed of the wind, which is seriously cooking and like seriously, most people don’t understand how fun that is, but also the safety factor when faced with a difficult forecast. This is unproven at the moment, but I think she’ll be about 2x the speed of the Outremer on most points of sail, so if there is an area of the ocean that is going to be unpleasant or dangerous in the next 2 days you can REALLY make sure you aren’t going to be there. That is a MASSIVE safety boon. Doing 15 knots in 12 knots of breeze in a flat ocean is not something that will get old. It just won’t. It will accelerate my learning as well, which is almost the most exciting thing, but no I think it’s the flat ocean 15 knots thing!”

The new trimaran is not only incredibly exciting but a major safety upgrade.

Charting the Future

The journey of Sailing La Vagabonde has evolved over the years, reflecting a shift towards mindful exploration. They’ve decided to slow down, focusing on creating content they are passionate about. Their diversification into American Sailing School Vagabonde Adventures, Elayna’s book publication, and the development of an app with the YCA demonstrate their commitment to offering more to their community.

In the world of Sailing La Vagabonde, each day is a new adventure, a new opportunity to discover the beauty of the open sea and the depths of human resilience. Their story is a reminder that life’s true treasures lie not in the destinations reached but in the journey itself. It’s a tale of evolution, passion, and a family’s enduring love for the sea—a story that continues to captivate the hearts of adventurers worldwide.

Life’s true treasures lie not in the destinations reached but in the journey itself.

Register now to hang out with Riley and Elayna and hear their tales first-hand, and perhaps set that spark ablaze in your own soul to venture out in to the great blue wonder that is the world’s ocean.