Using my iPad to navigate our way through a busy anchorage, I noticed an email alert slide down from the top of my screen – "Hi Erin, we’d love to feature your client…" It took all of my strength not to tap on it, but I was responsible for keeping us away from the precarious rocks that felt alarmingly close to our fiberglass hull.
My husband was on the bow, ready to drop anchor, my three children were nearby in the cockpit, exclaiming the clear turquoise water that surrounded us.
Anchoring required concentration, and I didn’t need the distraction, but my mind raced as I tried to remember which outlet the journalist worked for, crossing my fingers it was a large one.
I had never intended to live on a boat; in fact, I never imagined I’d be running a PR agency afloat, but it’s funny how life turns out.
It was a documentary on sailing that sparked our interest one fateful night. We had never owned a boat before – never entertained the idea of selling it all and sailing away. But a young girl called Laura Dekker had sailed around the world at the age of 14, and if she could do it, why couldn’t we?
Over a period of two years, we learned how to sail, sold most of our belongings, and eventually flew from Australia on one-way tickets to the Caribbean, where we saw our newly purchased vessel in the flesh for the very first time. She was a solid seagoing yacht, capable of taking us around the world.
At that stage, we had no idea what we were doing, but we knew we’d figure it out.
Eighteen months later we left the Caribbean and sailed 2,500nm across the Atlantic Ocean, arriving to the sight of green pastures and terracotta roofs. The archipelago of the Azores was like nothing like we had seen before – nine volcanic Portuguese islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
Finding my niche
I was in the early days of my business, freelancing for a few clients and writing for sailing magazines on the side. I didn’t even have a business name at that stage, let alone a dream of running a PR agency.
With a background in government communications, I had no idea what I was really doing.
So, when the world's second-largest YouTube sailing channel asked me to help them with some ’marketing’ after interviewing them for a magazine article, I almost fell off my chair. Before I knew it, I was Googling the difference between editorial and advertorial, pitching editors, and securing collaborations and major features.
I eventually grew my new client's channel by over 180,000 thousand subscribers and realised that PR was perfect for my skill set and personality.
In February 2020 life changed for everyone, and we found ourselves back home in Australia, trying to work out whether boat life really was right for us. After 12 months in the familiar confines of land life, we knew the answer was a resounding yes.
Taking the plunge
We sold our home and everything we owned, applied to the Australian government for permission to leave the country and returned to the vessel that had previously been our floating home for almost two years – ROAM.
By this stage, my PR agency had grown considerably and I spent my days juggling clients, building a team, and navigating our way safely through cerulean waters by day and cobbled streets by night.
We sailed to mainland Portugal while I conducted client calls, and along the Spanish coast, while preparing proposals and prepping pitches. I worked flexible full-time hours during the day and wandered town squares and sipped sangria by night.
The rough with the smooth
Running a PR agency from a yacht sounds idyllic, but it can also be challenging. Sure, I might visit the beach during my lunch break or sunbake on the deck after a mid-morning dip.
But I also have to deal with the lure of a new city outside of my cabin on sweltering hot summers days, knowing end-of-month reports are due and the exploration with my family will have to wait. Or deal with the rumble of the generator over team meetings when power or water on the boat is low.
However, living on a boat is just that – living. I feel alive on the water, constantly challenged and inspired by our changing environment and the people we meet.
Agency chief or part-time pirate?
While COVID-19 has been there in the background, we have been in our own bubble, barely affected and blissfully unaware.
Life is simple on a yacht, leaving me with the mental capacity to run my business without having to wear a thousand hats. And how better to relate to our clients than to literally live the lifestyle we represent? With a solid internet connection thanks to local sim cards and a 4G modem mounted on our mast, I am able to work from almost anywhere in the world, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Following our crazy idea allowed me to find my dream career – PR agency owner and part-time pirate!
Erin Carey is the director of Roam Generation, a travel and lifestyle PR agency that works with marine and travel-based brands including yacht company Sail LUNA, tour company WorldTowning Voyages, and safe boating app Deckee.