In 2008, Matt and Jessica Johnson were living a 'regular' life. They were married high school sweethearts, had a house, and stable 9-to-5 careers. Living near the Great Lakes in Grand Rapids, MI, they figured they would buy a sailboat in order to spend more time on the water that was so close to them.
Neither had any sailing experience, and had previously only spent a short amount of time on small power boats. Besides traveling within the US and a trip or two to the Caribbean, Matt and Jessica hadn't traveled much until Jessica’s dad moved to Vietnam for work and they visited her parents in 2007.
"At that point, we had left our jobs and sold most of our belongings, along with our house, so we decided might as well make our travels longer."
The Johnsons started their own blog in 2012, as they prepared to head off, wanting to inspire others the same way they had been by cruisers such as Bumfuzzle and SlapDash.
"Seeing other people with no experience making it work made us realize our four-year timeframe was doable for us as well."
Jessica with Elements, docked in a marina in south Florida while doing a refit
Exclusively using their savings at first, though, made it a little depressing watching their bank account being depleted. Through the boatyards, they learned of other cruisers, like Sailing SV Delos, starting their own YouTube channels to help supplement their incomes. Once Will and Kat Marks from Monday Never explained everything they had done to start up their channel a few months before, the switch became more appealing.
"I was against it, but Jessica was determined. She’s the videographer, editor, and producer. I’m just the talent!"
The Johnsons enjoying a sunset off the coast of Thailand
Their lucky break came mostly because it was so early on and few cruisers were on YouTube at the time. It helped that they already had so many loyal followers from their blog, too, and were even interviewed by The Today Show.
Years of adventures and videos later, the Johnsons decided it was time to upgrade and build their dream boat home. Finding the Max Cruise Marine Max 42, an electric catamaran, they made plans for the build.
Renderings of what Matt and Jessica’s new Max Cruise Marine Max 42 will look like once complete
Originally going down to do the build in South Africa, where there are many others doing the same and saving costs, their plans were derailed as the COVID 19 pandemic swept the globe.
Matt and Jessica admire their work after getting the decks down
They were on lockdown in England for a few months, able to sell their boat there after a long process before their visas expired and they had to come back to America in September. As they had a year-long wait for their new boat to arrive with all the delays, the Johnsons were surprised they turned Annapolis, Maryland, into their home.
Jessica applied TotalBoat 2-Part Epoxy Primer to the cabinets in the guest berth
"We thought it would be too expensive to build here, but we lucked out with our Annapolis Boat Show connections, including Jeff Bach, who introduced us to a marina owner who lets us stay here while we’re building. Definitely helps motivate us to finish quicker!"
When they started their build, TotalBoat products were right there to help from the ground up. So far, they’ve been relying heavily on Polyester Structural Repair Putty and Polyester Fairing Compound. TotalBoat Polyester Resin, 2-Part Epoxy Primer, and TotalBilge paint have also started getting more use.
Matt and Jessica used TotalBoat High Performance Epoxy to glass their daggerboard case
"The personal touch is great – we get emails returned immediately and everything ships out the same day. It becomes like a family – we can even count on getting technical help from Mike Mills."
Ever since they started on YouTube, the community that has grown from watching their videos has blown them away.
"Before, we spent the years cruising and not knowing anyone, now people are welcoming and want to show us around their towns while we're visiting. Those local experiences have been the biggest bonus."
Shortly after docking in Crosshaven (Ireland), the Johnsons spent time with locals Justin and wife, Patricia
After finishing the fairing and painting on their boat, Matt and Jessica are looking forward to making it feel more like a home. After so many years away, their plan is to launch in early 2024 and head up the east coast, back to their roots. Then they'll put their boat to the test, heading toward the Caribbean before sailing across the Mediterranean.
A reminder the Johnsons keep on board during their build
"We're so grateful for TotalBoat's support of the entire YouTube community – even the smaller channels can count on them."
Fellow cruiser, James Evenson of @sailing_zingaro, visits the boat build before heading off to Ibiza