‘Digital Nomads’ cross the Pacific

Saturday 29 July 2017 | Written by Chris Taylor | Published in Local


‘Digital Nomads’ cross the Pacific
Self-described “Digital Nomads” Devine Lu Linvega, and partner Rekka Bellum of Montreal Canada. A chance meeting with a stranger in a bar in Prague while travelling a couple of years ago literally altered the course of Linvega and partner Bellum's lives. Now they are inspiring other “computer geeks” from around the world to “get outside” by circumnavigating the Pacific Ocean in their yacht Pino. 17071614

They call themselves “digital nomads” and their aim is “to drift around in search of inspiration, creating as they go”.

That search led two edgy creative gurus to the shores of Rarotonga, as they sailed into port last week from Tahiti, on their 33-foot Yamaha sloop Pino. Novice skipper Devine Lu Linvega, 31, and partner Rekka Bellum, 32, are digital game designers from Montreal, Canada. And they are very different from your average sailors. Just about everything about them resets the rules. In contrast to the majority of seafarers who drift across the Pacific in small yachts, these two nomads had never sailed a boat before they set out from Vancouver in May last year. With their trendy tattoos and facial piercings they would look more in sync in a hip urban setting than on the wharf at Avatiu. They describe themselves on their 100rabbits.com website as a travelling art studio on a boat. “Pino is our home, our office and our ticket to the world,” they said. The couple use their laptops making games, art books, music and recipes as they sail to and from exotic locations. The couple share their unique blend of travel and creative experiences in a monthly Youtube video blog, beautifully narrated by Bellum, giving inspiration to other computer “geeks” and anyone else watching from around the world to share their dream. Apart from selling their quirky digital wares via their website, in their version of a crowd-funding venture, they also invite people to get on board by showing financial support in a monthly donation to keep them afloat, literally. While they sail to new and exciting shores their “virtual crew” drift along with them online paying a monthly fee. So far they have attracted 175 dedicated “crew”, affording them around US$1100 per month. So far they have spent around $57,000 including their initial boat cost of $38,000 on their voyaging adventure. The pair are part-way through their three-year circumnavigation of the Pacific – starting in Vancouver Canada, cruising the west coast of America, onto Mexico, sailing across to French Polynesia, down to Rarotonga, Niue, Tonga, and then on to New Zealand. They then plan to bicycle around Aotearoa before sailing north to Japan next year, where they’ve also previously lived, and finally back to British Columbia where they started. A chance meeting with a stranger in a bar in Prague while travelling a couple of years ago literally altered the course of Linvega’s life. The man he was talking to simply shared that he lived on a boat. This turned out to be an exciting epiphany. Compared to Vancouver, where the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment is around $2000 per week, the idea to live rent free while sailing across the ocean became an attractive proposition. As a self-described computer geek, who hardly went outside and who openly admits he didn’t have a clue about the South Pacific, with its different islands and cultures; Linvega said he now has first-hand knowledge of the countries he’s visited in Polynesia as well as open ocean sailing. 1. He joked that he would have previously thought the Disney animated film Moana was not based on any Polynesian reality, and that islands like that, apart from Hawaii, never actually existed. Sailing through French Polynesia fixed that. What he previously lacked in geographical knowledge Linvega makes up for in other areas of intelligence – especially in computer programming and designing challenging digital games. He also happens to speak multiple languages – English, French, Russian, and Japanese. As well as the cryptic online games that they design and sell online, this knowledge also comes in handy when they interpret the multiple children’s art e-books, written by Linvega and illustrated by Bellum, that the pair also sell online. Their friends also interpret the books into Italian, German, Dutch, Greek, Arabic, Portuguese, Spanish and Hungarian. Linvega has even created his own unique language that is interpreted in book form for his followers and own amusement. The couple also design meal recipes and have a dedicated webpage grimgrains.com where they share their latest vegan specialities. They say finding fresh fruits and vegetables, especially in French Polynesia, was a challenge – where things like potatoes or cabbage were hard to come by, but ginger root and bread fruit were freely available. So, they got creative in their galley baking bread fruit and then cutting it into wedges before sautéing it with olive oil and seasoning, topped off with a mushroom sauce, to make do. Linvega and Bellum also track their dietary consumption to identify where they are becoming deficient. And as far as their actual highs-seas adventure is progressing they have a number of highlights so far, including, surprisingly, an old hazardous-waste-disposal-facility at Treasure Island, a small island near Alcatraz in the San Francisco Bay area, where, as you’d expect, the mooring was free. They loved the dock scene there which they described as something out of a horror film, staying there with several other “boaties” in a circle with their sterns tied together for a makeshift mooring, safely away from asbestos warning signs. Linvega especially liked the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia, with Avea bay in Huahine-Iti being his favourite spot so far, but not for the normal scenic appeal as you’d expect. He says, although there wasn’t anything particularly special about the location, it ticked all of their travel boxes – having a good sized dock and wifi access on their boat, a shop nearby to get beer, and a fresh water shower on the beach. “I was like, we’re not leaving. There was nothing there that I could think of that we’d need,” he said. And they were also able to speak French with the locals. They were, however, very excited to reach Rarotonga and have access to foods sourced from New Zealand to extend their culinary options, and Linvega said he quickly developed a penchant for Tui beer. The clever couple are also making a dossier of good sailing facilities that they encounter along the way that they share online with other sailors. Such as noting how expensive the internet is in Rarotonga, but is more reliable than French Polynesia. What is truly remarkable about this couple is the manner in which they learnt to sail – online, via youtube videos made by whitespotpirates.com. Having never sailed before, they are now confidently circumnavigating the Pacific Ocean having already covered 7313 nautical miles. “We didn’t even know if we’d be sea sick after a few days” Linvega said. They weren’t, and the only real challenge so far for the tech savvy couple has been finding reliable wifi access. The Pino and its zany crew have since departed from Avatiu, heading westwards where they're just content to keep drifting along “in search of inspiration – creating as they go”.