If you have not heard about Erik Aanderaa yet, you have probably missed out on some of the best sailing videos on YouTube. With every clip, Erik offers a pure look into what sailing is like. Not even bad weather can stop him from exploring the cold North Sea. In addition, he does all of this single-handedly. His motto and the name of his YouTube channel: “No Bullshit, Just Sailing”. And he delivers.
I had the opportunity to interview him recently, here’s what I learned from him:
Rob: Hi Erik, thanks for sparing the time. Let’s get started by giving people an intro to you as a person. What do you do for a living?
Erik: I’m an instructor for offshore safety courses, covering emergency situations on oil platforms and ships.
R: Seems like a good fit for your adventures. How long have you been sailing and how often do you get to sail currently?
E: I’ve been sailing for 25 years, I’m 35 now. I go out sailing about once a week all year, more or less.
R: You are known for videos of your single-handed storm passages. What inspired you to do them?
E: Well, sailing in harsh conditions developed over time, during the first 3–7 years of me sailing, and just came by itself as I went along. I am a very curious and adventurous guy — and testing my limits is a part of seeing what me and my boat can take.
R: How come you prefer single-handing so much?
E: I prefer single-handing because having crew on board means more responsibility and much more to take care of. All that is gone when solo sailing — it makes me completely free to do and go / leave whenever / wherever I want in all kinds of conditions. Nothing ruins a fun trip more than a seasick, complaining crew member that wants to go home.
R: Fair point. Another thing that sets your videos apart from the rest are the drone scenes. Did you expect your drone footage to be that good before buying one?
E: When I saw how good the Phantom drone was, I decided in advance that I would do anything to get the best drone flying pics of the boat offshore. I couldn’t find any drone sailing videos online when I got the idea, so I decided to make my best shot and be the first! And I think I have hit it pretty hard, haha.
R: You impressed me for sure. In the videos, we have seen a number of destinations throughout the North Sea. What is the destination you would recommend most?
E: I would definitely recommend Shetland, Orkney, Fair Isle and Faroe Islands. The last ones are just out of this world beautiful! (Take a look at the video)
R: And where are you headed to next?
E: My next project is to solo-cross the North Sea again to cover Fair Isle, south of Shetland. Unbelievable scenery!
R: Sounds like another ambitious project, I can’t wait for the video! If someone wanted to become as good a sailor as you are, what advice would you give him?
E: I recommend to buy a boat, get out and gather experience in calm waters, rather than spending too much time on reading and watching videos. Then add some more wind and waves. Get comfortable with yourself and your boat. Then add more wind and waves again. Step it up a notch every time. You have to want it, of course. If you overdo it, you risk getting scared. So take it easy and get confident with every step uphill.
R: Very pragmatic advice, it is also what I try to do and recommend to others. You mentioned buying a boat. How did you approach this when it came to choosing yours?
E: 11 years ago, I was searching for a boat that could take me from Norway to the Caribbean alone. When I saw the Contessa 35 I instantly fell in love with her and knew that was the one. The seller recommended me to get another one, he said it was rigged to be sailed by a big crew. I didn’t listen to him, was too much in love and bought it the day after. Once I saw how easy she was to sail alone, I fell even more in love. We are like a couple to this day.
R: Wow, sounds like a great catch indeed. What did you change about the boat to better suit your needs?
E: In 2006, I had a poorly working autopilot, bad sails and old rigging. It didn’t feel safe for long ocean passages alone. Over time, I updated the old parts to new ones. Apart from these things, I haven’t done anything special to her, she is all original.
R: And what happened that dream of the Caribbean?
E: The Caribbean dream ended outside Morocco. Me and my (ex-)girlfriend sailed from Norway to Shetland in 2006. Without any further plans and a lot of free time - 4 weeks on/off working on a supply ship - we decided to just head south. We got to Brest, France where things started to become complicated. She wondered how far I wanted to go. I said at least to the Caribbean. Then we went off to cross the Bay of Biscay. During the crossing we had a lot of arguing and when we reached the La Coruña (Spain) we weren’t a couple anymore, hehe…she went home and I was devastated wondering what to do alone in my boat far from home. I decided to proceed southward alone. I got to Tarifa and planned to head for the Canaries. During that trip I got a lot of bad weather against me. The boat wasn’t equipped for extensive solo passages at that time, so I got tired of it all and set my course to Norway where I got back in 2007.
R: I guess there is something to the saying that longer passages make or break relationships. So the Caribbean did not happen, but if you could have your boat moved to any other place in the world nowadays, where would you put it?
E: I would put my boat way north to the ice areas to search for new adventures. Svalbard and north of that I think.
R: Sounds nice. I recently listened to a piece about Matt Rutherford exploring the Arctic, it seems to be a challenging, but rewarding area. And another topic change: How do you see the sport of sailing evolve in the next years?
E: I think catamarans, on-board space and speed will rule the sailing sport in the near future (it already started). Its amazing what they can make today. Personally, I am amazed by the IMOCA 60 boats with tilt keel and hydro-foils to lift the hull. That is just insane and I dream of trying this out someday! I bet mono-hull cruisers will look like that not far away in the future.
R: I’m looking at those in amazement as well, but it seems difficult to get onto one. Apart from that, what are your goals in the sport?
E: I have no particular goals in that regard, just to stay healthy and proceed to have fun doing this!
R: Sounds like a good attitude, good luck with that! Any last words you’d like to leave with our readers?
E: For all the readers: Don’t use to much time thinking about sailing - just go out and start learning. Be curious and hungry!