Stalking the crew of S/V Delos

Delos in New England. It’s safe to say that few 53′ Amel Super Maramus are kitted out similarly.

By Christopher Birch
For Points East
In the first 35 years of running my boat repair business, I installed exactly zero convection cooktops. Then one Monday morning two years ago, these ranges were suddenly all the rage. Three customers called me before I had drained my second cup of coffee, inquiring about having one installed on their boat.

I finally asked the third eager customer, “Why is there a run on convection stoves today?”

“It’s probably because S/V Delos just installed one and they were raving about it on Delos Friday,” she replied.

“What exactly is Delos Friday?” I asked.

“Do you live under a rock?” she inquired. “S/V Delos is this amazing sailing show on YouTube that follows this boat and her crew as they sail around the world’s oceans. They upload a new episode every Friday.”

So, I started watching.

S/V Delos is by no means the only sailing YouTube channel out there, but they were among the first and remain among the best. More than 600,000 people subscribe for free to receive the videos every week. This number is nearly twice what it was just a year ago. These short, simple videos may not have a Hollywood budget, but they are the perfect blend of sailing information, entertainment and inspiration.

When compared to a book, the video medium is tremendously versatile. Unfortunately, the internet is littered a foot deep with untrustworthy junk. The secret of Delos is that her two owners, Brian Trautman and Karin Syren, have managed to earn our trust. We’re impressed with their ambition and fearlessness and have learned to value what they have to share.

Headed to a new cruising ground? Delos is there for you. Search by geography and the videos function like a cruising guide. Have a question about your cruising boat? Delos is there for you. Search by your interest, such as heavy-weather sailing, replacing your standing rigging, sailing with a baby onboard, electricity management aboard, provisioning for an ocean crossing or choosing a convection cooktop. There’s a free informative video waiting for you. Have a burning desire for some tropical sailing in the dead of winter? Delos is there for you. Sit back in the comfort of your own living room as the adventure at sea unfolds almost in real time.

When I was young, I learned about sailing from books. The cruising adventures of Lin and Larry Pardey, Robin Lee Graham and Tristan Jones hooked me on the sport. Now, people learn about sailing by watching YouTube. So perhaps it’s a fitting nod to the change of the guard that the same week the aging Larry Pardey died this past summer (July 27), the young crew of the S/V Delos sailed brightly into my home waters of New England.

In the videos, Delos has always been far away. Like really far away. Like the Indian Ocean far away. But in recent years, and especially in recent months, the boat has been inching closer to waters the Points East reader sails.

Eventually it occurred to me that I might actually get to see the fabled boat and her movie star crew in person in my back yard. Then there she was one day anchored right next to me in Cuttyhunk, Mass. I must confess, I’m not above using AIS as a stalking tool, so this happenstance in the Cuttyhunk anchorage wasn’t entirely a surprise. A month later, I was startled to see her sail past me for a second time in Maine’s Fox Islands. Spying crew on deck that day, my wife and I rowed half the length of Seal Bay, me sporting my blue Delos shirt (my wife wishing I wasn’t) to thank them in person for the work they have produced. I’m glad to report that her crew is as gracious and charming in real life as they are on TV.

The sailing industry, especially the cruising boat segment of it, has been flat for the past decade or two. A generation came and went without latching onto the books by Lin and Larry Pardey quite the way I did.

The 1970s boom in cruising boats was coupled with the cultural revolution of the period. The values centered around freedom, connecting with Mother Nature, and minimalism could all be lived out on a cruising boat in a more uncompromising way than could be easily accomplished ashore.

The fire died down in the ’80s and ’90s. Now I feel it building up again as another generation prioritizes the environment, cuts ties with the demands of corporate life and embraces minimalism. Once again, the cruising boat is an obvious way to live those values. Add in all the improvements in safety and comfort and communication aboard since the ’70s, plus the pandemic-dodge feature, and there is ample reason to believe the cruising sailboat industry will boom again.

The crew of the S/V Delos is stoking the fire and inspiring the next generation of sailors by maximizing the use of the tools of that generation: the video camera, the drone and the internet. Convection cooktop day proved to me that it works. This boat is a marketing windfall for sailing.

What’s the difference between a ship and a boat? The terms are loosely defined and the answer isn’t easy, but I think this summary is apt: A ship can carry a boat, but a boat cannot carry a ship.

The question gets more complex when we try to tease out the difference between a S/Y (sailing yacht) and an S/V (sailing vessel). For me, a yacht is a non-commercial pleasure boat, while a vessel is a commercial or professional boat. People are shy about the word “yacht,” though. To some, it may sound pretentious and they are more comfortable defining their boat as a vessel. When such a hesitant owner of a Catalina 30 opts to take on the S/V designation, and throws themselves into the category with fishing vessel, research vessel and naval vessel, I feel they are fighting above their weight. The way I see it, the Catalina 30 is a S/Y and not a S/V.

Delos is a successful commercial and professional boat and the S/V designation fits for once. She is perhaps the only Amel-built sailboat out there that has earned it. The irony is that she’s done so by portraying life on a S/Y in her videos. Almost as ironic as fanning the fire of enthusiasm for sailing with a flameless convection cooktop.

Thanks for coming to New England, S/V Delos. I’m glad you were here.

Frequent contributor and friend of the magazine Christopher Birch is the proprietor of Birch Marine Inc. on Long Wharf in Boston, Mass., where he’s been building, maintaining and restoring boats for over 30 years.