Meet Ocean Nomads Skipper: Eoin | Kayaker, Surfer & Professional Sea Hippy

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“The ocean is the boss; if it’s calm, it’s time to go freediving; if there’s wind, it’s time to go sailing; if it’s too rough to sail, then there’s probably surf somewhere.”

Eoin Keyes

“The ocean is my means of transport, accommodation, sustenance, employment, entertainment… For a long time now it’s been at the core of everything I do.”

Eoin! What’s your story? 

I grew up in Limerick, Ireland and was involved in outdoor sports from a young age. For as long as I can remember I’ve been surfing, hiking, camping and spending as much time as possible outdoors. I got involved in kayaking in a big way when I was a teenager and started travelling a lot, spending my summers on road trips across Europe to discover new rivers and work as a raft guide and kayaking instructor. Entering kayaking competitions was a good excuse to go traveling and see new places, but working in an office so that I could go on kayaking trips on my holidays got boring pretty fast. I wanted to kayak full-time, but kayaking just doesn’t have the industry behind it to allow that kind of thing. I discovered sailing in 2015 when I started crewing on boats in local regattas. I absolutely loved the buzz of racing, and immediately saw the potential alternative to the 9-5 engineering job that I was doing at the time.
I quit the office job and moved to Greece, where a company taught me to fix boats before putting me out on the water as a flotilla engineer, living on a little 30ft lead boat and doing all the maintenance on a flotilla of twelve charter yachts. I did that job for over a year before leaving to do some delivery work and then bought my own boat (a 1969 Hurley 22) and spent a summer sailing solo on the west coast of Ireland and crewing in as many regattas as I could. After that I started working as a skipper, starting off as a flotilla skipper in Greece and then spending the winter in the Caribbean doing engineering and skippering work for a small charter company. I also did some work in Croatia and Ireland, whenever the funds were running low. Since then I’ve spent three months sailing with friends around Spain/ Portugal/ Morocco and did another three months of solo sailing in Ireland. It’s starting to get pretty cold and wet in Ireland now so here I am, following the sun for another season.

Why are you excited about joining the OceanMinded – Ocean Nomads fleet?

After spending years seeing ocean pollution first-hand, witnessing the total lack of sub-marine life in certain areas and the continuing destruction of what remains in others, I am really looking forward to spending time with people who are passionate about solving these issues. Hopefully people who enjoy the simple life, and value sights and experiences over luxury. I am looking forward to being out of phone signal for days at a time, disconnecting from the online world and life revolving around the absolute basics of ‘when am I on watch again’ and ‘what is my next meal going to be’. These days, offshore sailing is an almost unique opportunity to escape the incessant flow of Facebook updates and Instagram stories for days at a time. …yes, I know I could just turn my phone off more often but I lack the self discipline, and I do enjoy seeing what my friends around the world are up to!

Why are you passionate about sailing?

Sailing offers the chance to travel to amazing places in relative comfort with surfboards and other toys, just like a camper van but causing no pollution and not spending loads of money on fuel, tax and insurance. Yacht racing is a great adrenaline buzz and offers great satisfaction when you get a whole crew of people working seamlessly together. And jobs on boats tend to be in amazing sunny places where you get to meet lots of like-minded people and have a lot of fun together. I can’t think of any other activity which combines so many amazing qualities so closely together.

What has been one of your most epic sailing adventure thus far?

In April this year I was put in touch with a friend of a friend who lives on board an old 33ft steel cruising boat. At the time she was in Portugal and was looking for some people people to go sailing with her. So me and one of my best friends who had never sailed before went and spent the next couple of months sailing with a crew of five amazing young people from Portugal, to Spain, to Morocco. We had our share of ups and downs along the way, including contrary weather around the straits of Gibraltar and getting caught in fishing nets along the west coast of Morocco, but everyone on board had a great attitude when things went wrong and the rough times were more than made up for by the surfing and the hiking, and the Moroccan people that we met along the way. Around the straits we saw more whales, dolphins, turtles, sunfish, bioluminescent jellyfish and tuna than I’ve ever seen before, and in Assilah we saw commercial swordfish and tuna fishing on a horrifying scale that I wouldn’t have believed possible. It was a trip of so many contrasts and intense, unique experiences that it will hold a special place in my memory for a long long time. There are many more stories from that trip which I’ll save for night watches somewhere between Gibraltar and the Canaries; see you there!

What does the ocean mean to you?

The ocean is life! The ocean is my means of transport, accommodation, sustenance, employment, entertainment… For a long time now it’s been at the core of everything I do. The ocean is the boss; if it’s calm, it’s time to go freediving; if there’s wind, it’s time to go sailing; if it’s too rough to sail, then there’s probably surf somewhere. If you want to go west and that’s where the wind is coming from; well, you had better have some good books on board because there’s no point fighting it. There’s no point making plans and then getting stressed because they’re not working out, you do that a few times before realising that there’s no point making solid plans because they’re just going to change anyway. Better to give yourself options; wake up in the morning, stick your head out of the boat and see what the ocean is telling you to do. If you keep doing that there’s no knowing where you’ll end up, or what adventures you’ll have along the way.

What’s your wildest ocean-related dream that you would love to experience in your lifetime?

Solo offshore racing! I love racing, and I love sailing solo. Someday I would love to combine the two and enter the Mini Transat race, or something like that. …it’s not that I don’t love crewed sailing too, but the feeling of independence that you get from sailing solo is pretty special; and entering a singlehanded race is something that I’m not sure I’ll ever have the funds to do.

Come and meet Eoin on departure, arrival or on the OceanMinded – Ocean Nomads fleet soon heading from Mallorca to Tenerife. 

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