YouTube Sailing Videos: You either Love’em or Hate’em.
To me, YouTube is perhaps one of the biggest marvels (so far) of the early 21st Century.
Nowhere on this Earth can you learn so much, in so little time, about how to do most anything you’d like to do, or learn about how to do, with as little effort, as it takes to just the enter a short search query and the click of a button.
Whether you would like to bake a cake, learn photography or field strip a 1939 Walther P-38. It’s all there.
How about learning to fly or just following Elon Musk on his way to Mars?
Ok. So you’re more down to Earth and you’d like to know how to Camp in extreme weather or learn some new Excel formulas. YouTube has numerous channels for those skills also.
It’s all in there and much more. It has become the “go to” tool for a lot of people. On both sides of the camera.
Including those who use it (or it’s viewers) as a source of income. Your interests, dreams and imagination are the only limit.
For me and for some not so small part. It is YouTube Sailing Videos. A (Mostly) 2 hours a week time wasting pastime and something of which most people don’t even care about. Just about everybody that knows their way around the water and boats know that the vast majority of cruising sailors and water people out there don’t have time to create such nonsense because they are busy doing what they set out to do in the first place and that is to work on the water or live out their dreams on the water. Not to make Soap Operas about it. But for some viewers, when winter rolls around and the tired old bones need a good warming up, I’ll settle in and follow many of my favorites as they sail off into Tropic oblivions. I really like a few of them and have even established distant friendships with a few of the creators.
I’m mostly just curious to see how these channels deal with the everyday demands and challenges that living aboard a Sailboat can provide. Everything from learning to work with fiberglass to cooking on a boat. At last count, there were about 800 Sailing Channels on YouTube, of which, I subscribe to about 100. Yes, I suppose that qualifies as being “mildly” addicted.
Normally, most of the videos are about 12-15 minutes long and some channels only post bi-monthly or monthly. But at least I’m not just watching someone else do it. I learn a lot and lead a pretty active onboard lifestyle myself.
Admittedly, I do watch YouTube about 6 hours a week. 2 hours of which are dedicated to sailing related content. The remainder is split between discovering all the ways that the foreign media is trying to convince us that Russia is getting their Ass kicked by Ukraine and watching instructional videos done by the professional photographers I follow. Only TikTok is more entertaining. Thankfully, I haven’t watched even 1 minute of Network TV in over 4 years now. Finally having the time to devote to the growth of my photography business online has provided me the schedule to do so. Where else would someone with an insatiable thirst for knowledge go to learn so much in such a limited time?
The Human Drama
In watching the sailing channels, I’m also interested in the human drama that can and does unfold inside of 40 feet or so of these floating “Peyton Place(s)”. Admittedly, drama can unfold even in the small world of a solo sailor such as myself but more often when two or more personalities are involved. Especially when you throw in the dynamics and challenges of boat ownership, weather and relationships. Watching this weekly reality show starring mostly unskilled, content starved and a few personality disordered individuals is entertaining at times and writing about it is even more fun.
I’ve watched enough to know that I’m sure glad I don’t have to deal with all the depicted drama that sells these videos as “normal” sailing life. That much drama in my life would drive me nuts.
I follow many of the sailing channels on a regular basis and find myself contemplating seriously on a question recently posed by an admin in one of the online Sailing Forums I frequent. That question is what gave birth to this blog installment and one of which I thought merited deeper insight. The question and post on the forum was generally about what everyone’s favorite sailing channel might be and why. (you see.. I’m not the only one that wastes his time on this).
In choosing a favorite, I take a lot of things into consideration and also write about a few things here that I had been noticing more and more of, as late.
For myself personally, I’ve gained a lot of entertainment from watching many of the channels. Primarily because of an appreciation for the growth of technical quality in many of the channels and real-world value received resulting from their content. I admire the photography and story-telling skills of many of these “creators” and I’ve learned a lot about boat-handling, rigging and repair work from experts with more experience than I. I’m just geeky that way and we do have that in common.
A more common interest to everyone I suppose, is the inevitable drama that life brings to every human being. How the individual channels deal with the “human drama” is more interesting to me than the quick video that was shot up or down somebody’s wife’s or girlfriend’s shirt.
“What”??!! You ask…”Did I read that correctly”?
It’s true that there are many channels that snag a viewer’s interest with the more “traditional” methods of scantily clad women, alcohol consumption and sensational attention getting thumb nails (also known as “clickbait”) Curiously, but keep in mind, like many other public social venues, YouTube has built in to it’s algorithm a way to “flag”, suppress or outright bury a channel’s content if the content produced doesn’t align with it’s own tech giant standards or thought think. This is both scary and not surprising when you realize how polarized our society has become.
No doubt the tiny bikinis and barely concealed boat nudity provide some interest and probably result in hundreds of subscriptions, but like sand on a beach, there’s plenty of it out there both on and off the ‘Tube.
After all, that’s the approach of how one of the oldest and most successful channels got it’s start over ten years ago. Displaying a Hedonistic and carefree lifestyle, island hopping their way around the world, The Series, and it’s primary actors, are all grown up now. Having finally put ashore the partying brother and his steady troupe of in and out wayfaring lasses, The Captain and female First mate have found the time (and space) needed to produce some crew of their own in the form of a cute baby girl, They have recently settled into a more believable lifestyle, cruising into US ports of call where they wear a lot more clothing and are better recognized. Last I read, they are hauling down almost $16k per weekly episode now. That ain’t chump change.
Personally, and among a few other things I will mention, I’ve lately become disinterested by the current Sailing Channel phenomenon and all the associated “B” roll footage that is being focused in the direction of having and dealing with babies onboard. I love babies and kids. But like a lot of Sailors who once enjoyed the pre-kid videos, I seem to agree that spending 30% or more of a 12 minute video on the eating, sleeping, crapping and behavior habits of a baby is irrelevant in a sailing video and only slightly appeals to a small segment of viewers. It also shifts focus away from the more valuable content I think the majority of sailors prefer. I’ve lost track of the number of channels this has just recently become a focus of. (At least 8 or 10 at last count)
If one follows a lot of channels such as I do, it’s easy to see where patterns start to develop on the various feeds and it is this that interests me and one that has prompted me to write about such an undiscussed topic. Being a regular viewer of all these channels makes one very attune to patterns, trends and sometimes outright plagiarism. between the channels. It’s incredible how the entire culture can take on a life of it’s own. If one popular channel offers up a particular subject, you can be sure others will soon follow, almost in lock step to duplicate a similar scenario, cover the installation/rebuild of a particular piece of equipment or to complain about the same challenges. For example, Covid got way more than it’s share of coverage and blame. I say “more” in this case because a lot of the individual’s complaints stemmed from the result of poor or nonexistent planning on the participant’s part during the Pandemic.
The competition has gotten very fierce for the viewers time and money. The talent for creating consistently good and interesting content has gotten very small in respect to the number of channels that are now out there. It’s surprising to see the number of channels following this latest move and now, how it has extended itself into having babies and other things mentioned later here.
“Keeping up with the Joneses” YouTube style.
In reality, I realize that most of these couples are young, most are still in love and are in their respective child-bearing years just like a lot of their viewers, plus, being in remote, or romantic places certainly helps. After all, Sailing is well known to be 90% boring and 10% sheer terror and that one-sided statistic probably contributes a lot, too.
With the recent “baby explosion” that is now coming to light on many of these channels, I really find myself wondering what the heck is in the water they are drinking or floating in. It’s getting to be as tired a subject as Pig Beach.
Ask, and Ye Shall Receive!
Another interesting (to me) pattern that is just now beginning to become regular fare is the number of channels that are starting to outright ask for money to fund another bigger or better boat. Is this now becoming a new trend too? The comments that accompany these videos and that I see in the forums from the older crowd who watch these videos, (most of whom were chained to a 9 to 5 for decades before earning their retirement), depict having a difficult time identifying with the plight of Young, healthy and in many cases, obviously some well-to-do but “dropped out” couples who regularly show no shame in begging for your hard earned dollar.
They do this mostly by suggesting that you “buy them a beer” or becoming a Patron on their Patreon account where you can “support” their efforts in producing these videos in such “challenging” conditions. There are beginning to be more and more of these channels who are just out right begging for your money. They have no qualms whatsoever in telling you that they need your dollars to help buy that $4000 windvane so that they can continue to provide you “quality” content. What ever happened to working and saving your money to be able to have the things you want? Surely, with some of the highly paid occupations that I hear them brag about abandoning, they would never have had to suffer the corporate world to retirement age. So, unless they are already in their 50’s, their mantra of “Go now” doesn’t cut a lot of mustard for some of us.
Not surprisingly, Covid and the resulting economic conditions seem to have contributed greatly toward these numbers and industry statistics bear that out in no uncertain terms. Many of them justify their asking by consistently trying to convince you into believing how much time goes into the making of these videos, Obviously, some do take quite a bit of time to put together and it’s obvious in their production standards. Or, just maybe they have more talent than a lot of their peers..
Other reasons that are common are equipment needs or how “hard” it is to come up with interesting content week after week. These are all featured in the weekly pleading for your cash.. If it’s that difficult, you can bet that it shows in their quality and my question for them is then why do it? These channels are the ones who rapidly earn an “unsubscribe” click from me and many others.
It used to be that YouTube would allow you to demonstrate your dislike for content in the form of a thumbs down icon that came equipped with a counter so that you could also determine how many other folks felt as you did about the video. Reminds me of the sort of a “rating” system like the Romans used in their Gladiator sporting events when they wanted a defeated combatant killed by his competition at the end of the bloody match. YouTube has tried to change this by making it no longer possible to give a “thumbs down” due to some screwed up “woke” thinking that is now programmed into their algorithm.
However.. It has now become possible to download an extension to your browser that rightfully returns that choice (in a limited) but satisfying way. You can find it here as it is an extension to Google Chrome. I highly recommend it.
A Few Examples of Patterns Emerging and a Few Bones to Pick.
I first noticed the “begging” while watching the drama unfold of the careless passage-making skills of a guy and his girlfriend who came close to losing a poorly prepared, ill equipped and decrepit catamaran in heavy seas off Hawaii. This is probably the reason he lost his girlfriend as well in the process and I don’t blame her for jumping ship at her earliest opportunity. He almost got her killed along with himself. I would have bailed on him too.
Now..months later, he shows up with an older, in need of repair, but much bigger and much more expensive luxury yacht that most people could never afford provided by some sort of Go-Fund-Me program or handout scheme. You can bet that the repairs and refit of this yacht will be handled in the same financial way with the accompanying “clickbait” of unsuspecting and beautiful young ladies to feed the dreams of his naïve and predominately Male Patrons.
This above occurrence was very soon followed by another like minded channel because the Captain’s insurance wouldn’t cover a reported irresponsible recent loss of the use of his yacht. Somehow or another, during the entire debacle that actually occurred in near-coastal waters, which also involved an on-board fire and the risking of lives by the USCG, he managed to get it all on film which he later put out as a $5 Pay-per-View drama. 3 weeks after the rescue, unashamedly asking for over $100k in repair funds so that he can continue his journey toward warmer climes producing the bikini and drinking binge content he is so famous for.
I know Captain Ron said “If it happens, it’ll happen out there” but this sounds like a setup to me and obviously to many others.
And then… just a short time later..one of what used to be a favorite channel of mine, was asking for purchase funds to replace a small but sturdy little “pocket yacht” they have been living on and extensively refitting for the past 4 years for a Pacific crossing because of all things…
Their reason? A Termite infestation.
The entire restoration effort has been extensive and videoed for all to see on dozens of episodes spanning months and months. Did they just now figure out they had bugs?
I don’t mind if you embellish a little. All sailing stories start out with “you’re not gonna believe this.” But seriously….Don’t insult my intelligence and disrespect the hours of time and “likes” I have given to support your channel. Give me a break.
If you follow this channel, it has been obvious for quite some time that the female of the couple has been unhappy with the challenges of living on a small boat and the partner, who is very knowledgeable, ambitious and capable, is finally realizing how foolhardy the idea would be to even consider such a voyage on this boat given the couple’s self-proclaimed limited experience, and the age, condition and size of their boat. It has also been obvious for quite some time that they have been rethinking their bold declaration to cross the world’s largest ocean. Most experienced viewers were pretty confident that it would have been foolhardy to ever follow through with such a poor plan. They are brave, intuitive people and seem to be deeply in love. They just got themselves backed into a corner. But they are not stupid.
A few hours after their “begging” video aired, their pockets had swelled to over $50k and was still climbing. From Rags to Riches in 3 short months. I don’t know, or care how much they finally ended up with. To me, it all just smelled like a “set-up” for cash and I quickly unsubscribed. Termites my ass. At least be truthful with your viewers. By the way, as we read.. Baby #1 is on the way. Just in time to take advantage of the extra space on their new-to-them but very expensive 40 ft. “Blue Water” ocean going yacht.
Does anyone see a pattern here? It’s beginning to reek of just another form of street begging. With a digital cardboard sign. And I think I my YouTube habit is about to run it’s course. . At least of some of the sailing video parts of it. I’m sure that in the comments I will be reminded that “it is my choice to watch” and the unsubscribe button is there for a reason. Thank goodness for that but like I wrote at the outset of this post, watching all this drama unfold and seeing patterns like these emerge in these reality show type settings is fascinating! I guess you could say that it is the sub-culture that attracts and holds my attention.
Even more amazing is watching these channels burn themselves out because of soon discovered unrealistic expectations about living aboard (as they say, it’s not all bikinis and rainbows) Anticipated revenue amounts that can’t sustain the lifestyle or failed relationships that come to light when two people try to unsuccessfully get along aboard only 40 feet of boat. I’ve gotten to the place I can almost pick these out of the pack from the very first series of episodes. That’s why I personally gravitate toward channels that feature older creators that are closer to my own age. Their expectations are lower, they are more established and they seem to realize better the value of a close relationship while still managing to retain an individual personality.
Before anyone accuses or judges me my view, First of all I don’t really care. These are just my own thoughts and musings. But importantly, I don’t consider myself bitter, jealous or a “hater” by any means, because I am very happy, proud and thankful for what I have earned and I have genuinely and wisely learned that always trying to retain a positive attitude pays off in big dividends. In addition, being happy for others always pays back good fortune.
But I am strangely amazed in some way with this trend toward undeserved and what I perceive as instant gratification that some of these channels are applying themselves to. A very surprising fact is that people of all ages and financial standings are participating. On one hand, you have a couple that consistently brags about having “a 5 thousand dollar Craig’s List Boat” and on the other, is a couple sporting a new 54 foot Swedish luxury cruiser that tips the scales at about $800k. Why the Hell do these people need YouTube revenue or a Patreon account? They must have a pretty boring onboard life to devote so much time toward making videos instead of just enjoying the well-to-do life they have built. Would they even notice if I “bought them a beer?”. For the latter couple, they obviously don’t need the money.
I’ve given this some thought and the only thing I can come up with is that these people either have huge egos OR they don’t want to be left out with what the younger crowd is doing. Either way, I am still trying to come to grips with understanding how all this begging under the disguise of putting out quality content is acceptable to so many viewers. The proof is in the phenomenally long lines to “kiss the ring” at the YouTube Sailing Video Booth every year at the United States Sailboat Show in Annapolis. After watching a few channels coverage of the event this year, I get the distinct impression that an invitation to and scheduled placement therein is reflective of “Oscar Night” in Hollywood. Indeed, there were channels whom demonstrated they were a tiny bit bitter about being excluded this year. It was hilarious and quite interesting to see the “Star Struck” look on the faces of many creators, new channel actors and the surrounding mobs of worshippers
My observations, for the purpose here, is what they are. No more, No less. Perhaps it is the “new” way of realizing benefit on the front end of sincere effort, planning and sacrifice. Perhaps it is the result of the present generation of sailors feeling as if they are individually entitled. Perhaps, I have just gotten older and wiser and also more of a Curmudgeon. Like it is said “A Bitchin’ Sailor is a Happy Sailor” but I truly believe that the “paying of real dues” never goes out of style.
I am constantly amazed that there are thousands who agree that a few years (or less) of making videos and the documentation of temporary vacations from their idea of a “normal” life, justifies the plentiful contributions toward financing someone else’s lifestyle. It is even more interesting (and sometimes perplexing) to watch how many very deserved people go without asking of any special help because they lack the technical and social media video skills of some of these YouTube channels or were taught to not rely on anyone but themselves. Asking for, or begging for money is just not in some of these people’s DNA.
If you’re interested, my list of channels worth a few minutes of your time include Drake Paragon, Eric Aanderaa, (No Bullshit, Just Sailing), Emerald Steel, Sailing Florence and lately. The Sailing Brothers. If you like true, unrehearsed sailing and unpretentious courage, hard earned Seamanship skills and valuable, informative “how-to” episodes gained by many years of hard knock experience, you might enjoy these. All are very respected and experienced Sailors. What they lack in slick salesmanship and an entitled attitude they more than make up for with rolling their sleeves up and attacking their problems with a can do attitude of hard work, smart choices, pride in themselves and of the lifestyle. Principles which all good seafarers have possessed for Millennia. If you like honest, thoughtful, informative and high quality video and story telling skills, Sailing Florence checks all these boxes. Go check them out.
After you watch and before you point out that all these ask for monetary consideration, ask yourself do you consider their efforts compensable. If you’re looking for great content, there are many more out there than the few that are mentioned here.
None of the aspects outlined at the front of this post will stop me from at least “checking in” once and awhile on these mentioned and other channels. Happily, I’ll stick around on all of these just for the entertainment value and to see the various circus’ transform themselves in ways I can never imagine happening in my limited world.
Without fail, the introduction or mention of a Political or Social view into their format is enough to make me set sail. And that has been known to happen. The Greta Thunburg case is a good example. A couple of the European and other foreign based channels made an effort to capitalize on her controversial fame by offering her assistance (obviously for more channel exposure) or defending her behavior through Social Media online. I don’t really care about your political or Social views and I won’t take issue with anyone’s. But don’t expect me to support your channel in anyway when you use your influence on Social Media Platforms as your soapbox.
If the channel or it’s authors make the mistake of getting involved in a Political Pissing Match on their channel or one of the many sailing Facebook groups they might be a member of, it can put the death knell into motion for sure in a YouTube Sailing Channel’s life. At the least, it could result in consistent “thumbs down” reactions from viewers to any future episodes they publish who do not agree politically or those viewers who just don’t like politics in their entertainment. Due to the current and sharp divisions within cultures these days, it doesn’t matter which side the the creators take. It could result in a revenue losing situation for the channel.
Supporting a Channel
To be honest, I have contributed a number of times to channels when I was able or felt a sincere need. Most recently to a lady sailor who lost her husband due to Covid while in S. Africa on a circumnavigation. Alone and frightened, I felt that she deserved help. Turns out, that in his absence, she has emerged much stronger and more knowledgeable than first appeared. Most times, I will just make a small purchase from a channel’s merchandise store for a T-Shirt or Amazon purchase through a link in their info column so that they realize a small cut. But will I ever help or contribute hard earned cash to any channel to buy beer, another boat, or finance the operation of the one they have? I don’t think so. Besides, Brilliant Cut takes all of that.