Seldom anybody in German sailing doesn´t know the names of Cati and Johannes Erdmann. These two guys are widely known here. This young couple may be a role model for all of us who seek at least a long time-out from their ordinary lives to trade the daily routine for a life full of sailing adventures, blue water sailing and a life at sea – with their beloved partners. It seems that Cato and Johannes are achieving exactly what we – well, myself at least – can only dream about.

Two years of refitting a boat: That´s what bonds together

I met both in the hotel back during the Duessedorf Boat Show 2019 and jumped to the chance to talk to them. Now that they are back in the Caribbean where their sailing catamaran is based, we managed to chat a bit about their view on this topic. I was particularly interested in who they are coping with those things we all know very well about which can make a relationship very complicated – and how it is like to live a dream on a boat as a couple.

“I´ve checked for myself if sailing could be a problem for me.”

Lars Reisberg | NO FRILLS “Cati let´s start with you: Johannes did have already a past in sailing when you met him first time. How long have you been together when you realized that having a relationship with him wouldn´t be an “ordinary” love?”

Cati Erdmann: “Well, it was clear to me from the onset that having a relationship with Johannes would inevitably mean a profound change of my life as well. At that time Johannes did complete his solo crossing of the Atlantic Ocean and he was shortly before departing to his second crossing. When we fell in love I of course couldn´t foresee that I was going to be spending so much time on the water but I was aware of the fact that sailing was occupying a big part of Johannes´ life. And because of that knowledge I was reflecting about the question if this passion was maybe going to create a problem for me – before we became a couple.”

Finally leaving for the big trip: Cati & Johannes in 2014 „Did you have had any previous experience with yachts, sailing and … well, sailors?“

Cati: “No, not at all! I knew of course that there ships out on the oceans but that was pretty much all. I must say that I did not know much about people crossing the oceans on small yachts. You know, I used to study in the City of Kiel so it might have been obvious that I would have taken a sailing class but to be honest at that time I thought I was constantly going over board so, I guess, I needed somebody to introduce me to that whole topic.” “Cati, back in the days when your husband used to be employed by Europe´s largest yachting magazine, the German “Yacht” – how did you guys agree on a design for live that was deviated in so many respects from an average live in the first place? How did you manage to persuade her to follow you living on the waves?”

Cati: “Luckily, we didn´t have to. Since Johannes´ return from his first voyage it was clear, at least for me, that he was going to leave for another time for sure. The question was not if but when he could realize this. When a proper boat would be at hand and when the financial background would be somewhat sufficient. The employer of Johannes knew that too although it took him almost six years to do so.”

“The good old knocking off hours look very tempting from afar.” “Johannes, most of my interview counterparts who dared to leave the classic way of live for a life at sea so far did this just for a brief period of time, and most of them when they where still very young, let´s say, right after the studies. You both are an exception, looking at how long you are out on the oceans. Was that your dream? Did you plan to have a life like that?”

Johannes: “No, not really to be honest. I of had hoped that I would be able to finance hoisting the sails for a couple of years before settling and becoming “reasonable”. But suddenly our 2 year sabbatical turned into a whole new way of life and of living under sails. You know, we are running a small charter business on our catamaran now. But I don´t see that this is forever because we feel too strongly connected to our families back home. We are going to quit this live in October this year for a start and we are heading back to Germany for a more settled life.”

High seas – high time for the relationship?

Johannes: “And believe me, the good old knocking off time after a 9-to-5 day looks very tempting from afar! I know there are charter skippers who are doing this for a living for their whole life and it works for them and they are happy. We are very happy and the time we look back upon was great for sure – we´ve had great people aboard. But now we feel we have to go back and find some rest, take off some of the pace out of our lives. You see, if you run a charter business with a very high emphasis on quality and service it´s a tough and hard job. A full-time job! See, during normal days we have half an hour for us in the morning and another 30 minutes in the evening, that was all. Just three guest-free evenings per month. Believe me, that´s tough on you and also on your relationship.” “How did Cati step into your life?”

Johannes: “We got to know each other in Kiel during our studies. I was into naval architecture at that time and she was studying law. I think we´ve had a pretty casual relationship – being friends for some half a year before we realized that we might be a good team.”

“Life on MAVERICK TOO showed us that we´ve made the right decisions.” “Let´s talk about you guys setting sails for you great adventure on MAVERICK TOO. There is even a documentary on that first part of your voyage available on YouTube. Johannes: Watching the documentary one can clearly witness your strain, the weight and burden of being responsible for both the boat and Cati – did you have some tension between each other during that journey?”

Johannes: “We started in September 2014 and it wasn´t a particularly easy project. The boat, our MAVERICK TOO, had been in refit for two years now and it hadn´t seen water again until just a few weeks before departure time. We simply didn´t have had enough time to thoroughly test the boat – and so we had to do it on the voyage. Cati had been very, very seasick during these first weeks. But that wasn´t a reason for arguments at all, because, in the end we both wanted to do the trip and agreed on jumping onto this adventure very deliberately. What was a cause for trouble was the constriction of the small boat. Particularly when I had to perform some maintenance or work Cati just wouldn´t stop chatting around …”

Downsides of a life at sea … “Cati, these first days or weeks of the trip did wear you off hard. How was it to be seasick constricted to the berth and not being able to do anything? Sorrow? Doubts?”

Cati: “Oh, both! I was very sorry for not being able to be of help in any way for Johannes. In fact, I had my doubts that I could be of any help at all! I didn´t had any doubts of the trip but more of myself if I would be the right person for that venture. But I wanted to cope with it so badly! So I found strength in the fact that others were able to deal with much more difficult situations.” “How did you manage – in spite of all those obstacles – to keep alive the passion for sailing and for a life on the seas? The will to carry on?”

Cati: “It is the sum of all those fantastic places we were able to visit, of all the great people we had the honour to meet and simply the fantastic ability of sailing every where we wanted. That motivated us so profoundly and showed us that we had made the right decisions.”

“Love on 33 feet.” “How does love work on a boat that is just barely 10 metres long? How do you cope with tension, how do you solve conflicts?”

Johannes: “Well, because neither of us can leave a situation we have to talk about issues. It´s talking, talking, talking. Of course, this is not everytime very pleasant, but just because it is so cramped there is simply no room for an argument. So we tend to prevent it to solve problems in the first place before they become bigger.”

Being able to see all those fantastic places “In a normal relationship – at least I feel that way – you have a huge respect and maybe fear that moment when routine kicks in. And when this daily repetition of ordinary routine starts to maybe affect the passion for each other. Rose-coloured glassed taken off and a clear view on the foibles of the other sets in. How is this on a boat? And what´s your recipe to not have daily routine kill the love?”

Cati: “Well, I am not particularly sure if there necessarily is a difference between sea and land in this respect. It´s just simply realizing if a relationship is working when the rose-coloured glasses are being taken away. When we set sails we have been a couple for over five years already and that was a sign that we were functioning in a proper relationship. That wasn´t really the question. I think our way of live was a bit different, but you as well have obstacles on land: Building a house, getting children or one becoming sick. But I don´t think that there is a recipe or something like that. I think the most important thing is that both partners want to have a relationship and that they cherish that the other is happy. Even if that means that one has to back down for the other.”

Johannes works as a professional skipper now

“We skipped a free life on the Ocean.” “You sold MAVERICK TOO and acquired a catamaran where you guys are running a small charter business. How did becoming “professional” change your life and influenced your view on a free life on the ocean?”

Johannes: “That´s simple as that: There isn´t a free life any more. If have to state this very clearly. We have to be working for our guests. If guests turn out to be displeasing we have to grit our teeth and get through. We have to avoid conflicts and remain friendly, welcoming and servicing. There isn´t almost any private life on the cat anymore and we simply have to skip things for later because strangers are with us all the time. That´s very, very hard. But as I said, we work our way through it because charter business is our way to earning money, to maybe some day return to a free life on the waves.”

Their new home – and workplace Last question, Cati, Johannes – do you have some hints for sailing couples?”

Both: “To take anxieties of the other seriously and working on them. That´s as well sailing skills as couple-wise. And on a boat, both are very often inter connected …”

Thanks so much, Cati, Johannes, for sharing this intimate insight in your relationship!

Love at Sea – just do it!

Both are now starting their Atlantic crossing on their catamaran to sail back and re-start their lives back in Germany. But I am pretty sure, that this life won´t be so ordinary as one might maybe think. Godspeed for the crossing and I am looking forward to meeting you guys again.


Also very interesting interviews:

Sailing 3.000 miles in the Baltic Sea – as a Rookie

A King´s Cruiser in the Med

Sailing (half) around the world