After reflecting on her life, Elana Manighetti decided it was time to make her dream of going on a sailing adventure a reality… despite limited funds and very little experience! We caught up with her as she prepares for the big launch of her new life on a boat. How has she actually made it happen?

New Life on a Boat

Name: Elena Manighetti
Home: Currently Manchester, but soon on a sailboat
Age: 29
Environment I like most: The ocean!
Best place I’ve visited: The Maldives – heaven on Earth
Fav adventure: Swimming with wild dolphins (for now)
Dream adventure: Diving at the Great Blue Hole
Can’t go on an adventure without? A pair of fins!

Tell us a bit about you.
I grew up in Italy, in a village near the town of Bergamo, which is close to the Alps. I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors – hiking, snorkelling, diving, rock climbing, … In 2010 I moved to the UK and since then I’ve built a career in digital marketing. I’ve lived in London, Bournemouth and Manchester over the past seven years.

 What made you suddenly decide to pack everything in?
A lot of factors came into play. I attended a course where they invited me to reflect on my priorities and work/life balance. I didn’t like what I saw. I also lost a childhood friend to a car accident and realised I needed to finally live the life I dreamed of!

Why a boat?
Living on a boat is a great way to be more connected to the natural world. I love the ocean, and living on it means that I have constant access to it. It’s also rent-free to anchor out at night, so it can be a very affordable way of life if you are willing to put in some work. And it means that we can live more sustainably while travelling the world. 

Have you done many adventurous things before?
Sort of. I’ve rock climbed on sea cliffs, swam with wild dolphins and dived with reef sharks. But no adventure I’ve been on comes close to this one.

Do you or your boyfriend have any experience with boats?
I have very little experience. I’ve done a Start Yachting course and a Dinghy Level 1 course and sailed Kittiwake a couple of times. Ryan, on the other hand, has sailed over 400 nautical miles. He’s sailed all around Cornwall and to the Scilly Isles already. He’s also studied navigation. So I’ll be learning a lot from him in the first few months, while I build up my confidence handling the boat myself.

Isn’t buying a boat really expensive?
We paid a little under £10,000 for our boat. We’ve also spent a bit fitting it out for living aboard, adding solar panels for electricity for example. In terms of maintenance, it really depends on how complicated your boat is – for example, if you have a big boat with three toilets and complicated electronics, it can be very expensive to maintain.  However, if you have a smaller, simple boat and are willing to do the maintenance yourself, then it’s much more affordable. We’re slowly learning everything ourselves, which is very rewarding as we get to know the ins and outs of Kittiwake.

How much do you intend to budget when you are sailing?
We intend to spend under £500 a month. This will go towards food, the occasional marina fees (although we plan to anchor 99% of the time), a little fuel and boat maintenance. If we make more than this through freelancing, we’ll splash out on occasional meals out.

How long do you plan to sail for?
We don’t have a plan, which will keep things exciting. Over the next year, we hope to sail from Falmouth (UK) to Malta, but beyond that we just want to go where the winds will take us. If people have rigid plans, then it can lead to dangerous situations like going out in bad weather to make up miles to stick to your plan. By being flexible, and going at a pace dictated by the wind and weather, we hope to keep it safe and relaxed.

Has there been anything that has taken you by surprise since starting this journey?
It’s surprised me how achievable this lifestyle is for everyday people. When we started investigating it, we realised that there are many people out there, living happy frugal lives in beautiful little anchorages. You don’t have to be rich if you’re willing to work along the way.

Are you scared, excited, nervous?
Yes, all of the above! I’m a little scared because as of 30th April I’ll technically be jobless and homeless. Excited because we’re about to set off on a great adventure and I cannot wait to explore remote coasts. And I’m of course a little nervous, as I don’t have much experience of sailing. However, this feels like the best decision I’ve ever made.

What advice would you give other women who want to follow in your footsteps?
Volunteer as crew as much as you can and get lots of experience sailing. Also bear in mind that there is much more to this lifestyle than just the sailing – boat maintenance is a crucial skill, so if you need to get stuff fixed, then having the confidence to try to do it yourself is a great asset. There are also plenty of friendly, experienced boat owners around who are usually more than willing to help out, especially if a cold beer is on offer in return.

Also make sure you understand what living aboard on the cheap entails – limited fresh water, no fridge, microwave, washing machine or shower and no hot water. If you’re fine with all of this, then get out there and learn how to sail. If you occasionally suffer from seasickness, don’t despair – a lot of people just need to find their sea legs.

What would your advice be to your 10-year-old self?
Dream BIG! Don’t let society limit you. Follow your heart and ignore everyone else.

What are your long-term goals, what do you hope for the future?
We don’t really have any plans at the moment. We don’t know whether we’ll be back on land at some point or where we’d live. We don’t want to make any plans – we want to keep our options open and live spontaneously.

You can follow Elena’s journey on her blog, Sailing Kittiwake.

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