For those of thinking of moving to Portugal, here’s something different to consider.
The Algarve Daily News recently reported on the uplifting story of Portuguese woman Carla Fowler (nee Magalhães Oliveira), who, together with her British husband Simon and their cat Dobby, has just made landfall in Vilamoura, – the very port they departed from 2.5 years ago – after sailing 22,000 nautical miles and visiting 45 countries around the world.
54-year-old Carla had never sailed a day in her life when, just two days after their wedding, she suggested to her new husband Simon, 61 and a retired events manager, that they should sail the world.
Before their wedding, living a regular life in London, Carla was working five jobs and 80 hours a week as a personal assistant. But she decided that, for her second marriage, she wanted life to be more exciting and spontaneous.
“Simon had always dreamt of spending the summer on a boat, preferably in the Mediterranean, but he had never had an opportunity to do so, let alone the money or the time. We were both at the beginning of a new wonderful relationship, so I wanted to make it truly special. I started to dream of the sun and the beach and then I just came out with it, never thinking Simon would just say yes!”
While Simon had no idea how they would make it happen, he immediately agreed with Carla’s madcap plan. The couple worked tirelessly for the following 18 months, buying and selling real estate in an effort to generate the funds for their trip. They sold or gave away all of their possessions and eventually decided to sell their home, too. They purchased their yacht, a Lagoon 400, in Croatia, which they named Ocean Fox.
Due to Carla’s work schedule, she didn’t step foot on her boat until the day she flew to Croatia to begin her new life.
“We were planning on departing in 2019, and we were going to spend our last few months renovating two more houses in order to raise enough money to pay for the boat. But by the summer of 2017, the property market in the UK had stalled. That meant we could have risked having even less capital if we waited. So we sold the rather nice brick-and flint-cottage we were working on in the spring of 2018 and bought the boat.
On the day we told our grown-up children of our decision, it went down with mixed feelings. Some were scared for us, some didn’t understand why we would want to do this. and one described us as “irresponsible teenagers”. But with time they came around to the idea and since then they have had amazing holidays on our yacht in superb locations.”
After purchasing their boat, Carla and Simon knew they had to find a way to sustain their adventure. With the rise in popularity of YouTube channels, they decided to try their luck at filming their unique lifestyle, in an effort to create videos that would inspire others to live a life less ordinary.
So, despite being older than the average You-Tuber, they created a YouTube channel called Sailing Ocean Fox, in order to share their daily adventures with friends and family. They now have over 11,000 loyal subscribers.
“At the time there were channels on YouTube making good money, and we figured we needed about Euros 1,000 a month to keep up with the cost of this sailing lifestyle”, says Carla.
We also wanted to share the experience with our friends and children. We have reconnected with many old friends and extended family through the channel.
Running a YouTube channel also gives us purpose. We spend a lot of time at anchor, not sailing, so it’s good to have a hobby and a way to stay connected to the world.
We were concerned that people wouldn’t want to watch a couple of retirees on YouTube, so we were both taken aback by the reaction. People thought it was wonderful that we were living on a boat, despite our stage of life, and we really started to connect with a new audience. We have suffered some criticism, either personal attracts or attacks about the way we do things, but we just try to shrug it off as “armchair sailors” hiding behind Facebook or YouTube. We now have a great loyal following, with people interacting and willing us on each and every day.”
So how have they changed after sailing 22,000 nm together?
“We see life as something special now, our relationship too, and we support each other and love each other so much more. I can’t imagine we will ever go back to a normal life. We have proven there is another way to live and with social media and the internet, it means we can work without being near an office or a desk. It’s all so much more exciting.”
The couple plan to remain in Portugal and the Atlantic coast of Spain for the remainder of 2020, before heading east through the Mediterranean, eventually sailing through Egypt and the Red Sea. So what advice do they have for others hoping for a sea-change?
“As long as you are active, it’s never too late to enjoy this lifestyle. The only regret we have is that we did not do it earlier. So, if you are thinking about it, start making plans, not for ten years’ time, but for sooner rather than later. Travelling the world by boat is fun beyond your wildest dreams, better than you can ever imagine.”
For more on Carla and Simon’s sea-borne life in Vilamoura see