Every other week we publish one in-depth story from an Ocean Nomads member. To learn more about each other, to learn from each other, inspire and be inspired, and to accelerate our journeys.
This week we shine a light on Eoin Keyes. He just refitted his own boat, budget and resourcefulness style, he’s been captaining one of our flotillas, and he’s a fanatic surfer. He dreams and he does. Let his story inspire you!
Read the Full Interview and connect with Eoin on our Membership portal. Not a member yet? Learn more and join our global network of impact-driven ocean adventurers here.
Relaxed, confident, hard-working, logical, impatient. Eoin is the living proof you don’t need to be rich to live your dream life.
Eoin threw him self into sailing 100 percent in 2016 with very little experience, and since he turned it a lifestyle and career, gaining experience and qualifications along the way.
Originally from: Ireland.
Current basecamp: Wicklow Ireland
Outdoor & Ocean Sports: Sailing, Surfing, White water Kayaking
Favourite ocean film: Laura Dekker’s documentary, about her journey as the youngest person to sail around the world singlehanded.
Current big life dream: To keep my life revolving around the outdoors and sailing/ surfing/ kayaking as much as possible
What’s your story?
This is a difficult one because it changes so often! I recently started a job with the Vikings TV show. I spend my days driving Viking longships around some lakes in ireland, and shipping the boats between different locations. Over the last few years, I’ve worked as a sailboat skipper and engineer, lived on board my own boat, and taken a lot of time off between jobs to go on different sailing trips.
When and how did you fall in love with the ocean?
For me, the stand-out moment was the first time I stood up on a surfboard at the age of twelve. I still remember it vividly, and it sparked a passion that I’ve felt strongly ever since.
What was your first multiple-day sailing adventure?
It was a remarkably Irish weekend adventure to a good pub. Not the most hard-core sailing trip of all time, but definitely one of the most fun! We sailed on a little Beneteau from Fenit on a Saturday morning towards the tiny village of Smerwick harbour, where the pub has a reputation for an excellent atmosphere and even better Guinness. We arrived in the evening, anchored just off the pier and rowed to shore in a tiny, heavily overloaded inflatable dinghy. After many pints and a lot of dancing we squeezed back into the dinghy, now dangerously unstable thanks to the impaired coordination of the crew, and rowed back to the ship. The most memorable part of the whole trip was the phosphorescence which we saw in the water on the row back. It gets very intense in Ireland at that time of year and the conditions at the time were perfect! The next morning we set sail towards Fenit again. Some more beverages were consumed along the way, another boat resupplied us along the way when we ran out and I learned how not to use a marine toilet when I tried to pump it with a seacock shut and blew a hose off. One of the crew was handy with fixing stuff so I escaped cleaning up the resulting pool of shite. I think karma has definitely paid me back in kind over the last few years, being the designated toilet guy on sailing flotillas!
Why and how did you decide to become a boat owner?
Owning a boat was kind of a far-off dream, but in the end it happened because everything fell into place and it just felt right at the time. I originally left the rat race/ office job to go surfing, and I travelled and surfed until I ran low on money. I started working on sailing boats after that because it sounded like a more fun way of earning some cash than sitting in an office. When I left the first sailing job I had some cash saved up again, and someone offered me a spot on a round-the-world sailing trip. I jumped at the chance and the next spring I was setting sail along the south coast of England on a Prout Snowgoose catamaran with three people and two German shepherds on board! I had been assured before I joined that the dogs were boat trained and comfortable with sailing and that turned out to be 100 percent not true! Instead of using a designated area of aft deck as a toilet like they were supposed to, they would hold it in for as long as possible and then take a massive dump in the boat owner’s cabin. They were also uncomfortable whenever the boat was at sea, so instead of skipping down to the Mediterranean in a series of multi-day voyages as planned, we were reduced to just day-sailing our way down the English coast and across the channel. Admittedly we had an amazing time exploring the Channel Islands along the way, but things obviously weren’t working and when we reached Les Sables d’Olonne in France a few weeks later the boat owner finally called it quits. I was basically abandoned in Les Sables d’Olonne, but luckily was able to put my new-found “offshore unsupervised night-watch” experience to use on Crewseekers, and found a delivery going from Gibraltar to the UK which would pay for my flights from France and back to Ireland afterwards. Sorted!
While on that journey across the bay of Biscay I had time to think about what I was going to do next. Since I was a little surf-mad kid I had always thought it would be nice to do a surf trip up the west coast of Ireland on a sailing boat. With a year of boat maintenance experience under my belt, some offshore experience, some cash saved and an open diary ahead of me, everything seemed right to go for it. I started looking at the for-sale websites, searching for the Goldilocks boat which was cheap, in suitable condition to launch immediately and capable of doing some serious offshore miles in the future. Most of the boats in my price range were little Hunters and Pandoras, in questionable condition and missing essentials like engines and sails. They were boats which would be fun to sail but not really suitable for sailing any great distances in. Somewhere in this mix of boats a Hurley 22 popped up, somehow ticking the boxes for budget and sail-away condition. I started researching the Hurley 22 online and when I came across stories of Atlantic crossings, Jester challenges and Pacific cruising I fell in love. Before I even got back to Ireland I got my parents, who have never sailed in their lives, to go to the boat and look at a few things for me. Condition-wise the boat seemed okay, and before I had even arrived in Ireland I had agreed to buy it! I was delighted, and about a week later I launched and was living aboard and exploring Ireland’s south-west from a whole new perspective.
Tell us about your boat!
My boat is a 1969 Hurley 22. They’re solid little boats with a remarkable history of ocean crossings and long-distance cruising. I have owned her for about two and a half years, and usually spend a couple of months over the summer cruising around and living on board. Unfortunately this year Covid delayed a major refit I was doing and I only finally launched her a few weeks ago. My goal for the whole refit was to make her as strong as possible and as reliable as possible. I’ve reinforced the structure and simplified the systems as much as I can, for example by removing the engine and replacing the winches with 2:1 purchase systems. A lot of the modifications I’ve made are quite unconventional, such as Dyneema rigging with glassed on composite chainplates, fibreglass stanchions, removing the engine, removing the toilet, sink and all associated seacocks, fiberglass rudder tube, backup dyneema outer forestay. I don’t have any destinations in mind just yet, but I’m trying to make her capable of going anywhere.
I’ve also allowed myself to have a bit of fun with the modifications, so now she’s got an imoca-inspired carbon bowsprit and very loud painted black and luminous green sails. It’s not exactly understated! I’ve already had some very confused people come up to me soon after docking asking if it’s a race boat, so mission accomplished!
What has been one of the greatest and one of the worst moments of your ocean nomads journey so far?
There have been too many good moments to pick one, and no genuine bad ones. As corny as it sounds, the highlights are definitely some of the people I’ve met along the way. People who have travelled a long way on a tiny budget but with tonnes of guts, resourcefulness and determination. The times I’ve said “what on earth am I doing here” the most are definitely when bad weather shows up unexpectedly in the early hours of the morning on flotillas in Greece. You’re responsible for thirteen boats and the crews have barely sailed before. The phrase “character building” comes to mind!!
What advice do you have for someone looking to own a boat / start live-aboard life?
Just do it!! There will always be 101 valid reasons not to do it. If you analyse it from a practical, logical point of view it’s a stupid idea, no matter how experienced, uncommitted or rich you are. But doing it will bring you closer to the ocean, closer to like-minded people and will open doors in the future that are impossible to predict right now. Just do it, and set your life down that path.
Find answers to questions like:
What are some of the most important skills he developed?
A price breakdown of the boat and costs
How is he balancing his time with earning income / sailing / boat works / chasing dreams? And what are the struggles?
What are his tips on keeping the budget low? Which skills / tricks have saved him from spending lots of money?
What was his sailing (& other relevant) experience before he bought his boat?
What did he do to prepare before sailing away?
What characteristics did his boat needed to have? And why?
Does he take on crew?
What are the skills/traits he appreciate most from (potential) crew?
Knowing what he knows now, what would he have done differently if he had to do it again?
And much more words of wisdom from this dreamer and doer!
Thanks so much for sharing your story Eoin! We’re proud to have you part of our family.
Thoughts? Questions? Comment and connect!
Read the full story, follow and connect with Eoin Keyes on the membership portal. Not a member yet? Learn more here and apply to join.
Would you like to share your story? Become a member and reach out to a host. By sharing your story you will encourage, inform and inspire others towards a more adventurous alternative and/or conscious lifestyle, and you can show the ocean nomads community about your personal adventure and impact projects.