When we write the history book of how electric sailing began, Dan and Kika from Sailing Uma definitely will have a chapter. For years, they have been sailing around the world with an electric sailboat and sharing their story with the world. They have helped us all learn that electric sailing is possible, even for a young couple who didn’t know how to sail when they started their journey.
Hundreds of thousands of us around the world watch their videos. But what’s it like behind the scenes sailing with Dan and Kika? This blog post reflects my experience sailing with them for five days in December 2020 when I met up with them in Croatia to test sail hull #1 of Salona’s new S46 with twin Oceanvolt electric motors.
First, they are both some of the kindest people I have ever met. They are kind to others, but just as importantly, they are kind to each other. In the five days that I was with them, I saw a couple that genuinely loved each other, had fun together, and supported each other. After we stopped sailing each day and were down in the cabin, Dan and Kika sat curled up together on the settee or around the dinette – and this affection is after they have spent years on a sailboat living and working together. Kika still laughs at Dan’s jokes and Dan is still as impressed with Kika’s intellect and empathy as when he first got to know her.
Second, they work hard at the professional side of Sailing Uma. They put a lot of time and thought into planning what they want to film. They literally call ‘business meetings’ with each other to discuss the shots they want to get on this or that day or other matters as a way of separating their personal and professional life, which is hard when both take place in the confined space of a sailboat, not to mention with the world watching.
When they film, they use multiple cameras simultaneously so there is more than one angle. This gives us the varied cinematography we experience. Rather than use the auto settings on their digital camera to measure and process light intensity, they shoot raw footage or uninterrupted light without it being transformed by the camera. Then in a process called debayering, they manually put color into the image in order for their video to truly capture depth, contrast and the richness of color. You may see Dan tinkering with the Uma boat systems in videos, but no one sees the twenty or more hours that Kika spends on video production for each video they put out weekly for us to enjoy.
Naively, before this trip I thought they just casually recorded things on their camera, edited it together and put videos out. One of my biggest surprises from the trip was how much effort and time they put into all the little details of each video they produce. I asked them why they did this and they almost didn’t understand the question because they are so emphatic about the importance of producing great videos. Almost as good is not an option for them even if achieving really good is a heck of a lot harder. They truly feel committed to all of us. For example, I asked them if they were interested in participating in an upcoming boat show and they said, “only if there is something in it for our subscribers.”
Third, they are both good sailors. Each of them can single-hand sail a boat on their own. Their videos show Dan sailing more because of how they do their filming, but both of them are capable in all the different aspects of sailing: from helming, to navigation, to trimming.
Even with six years of sailing experience and tens of thousands of sailing miles under their belts, there is no air of expertise, but rather a desire to help, learn, and share. Sometimes this is missing in sailing as we have all been on boats with folks who have an air of expertise. Dan and Kika are humble team players and being in the limelight of Sailing Uma has not changed them one bit in this regard. They are fun to sail with and I truly enjoyed the experience of sailing with them every day of our trip.
I don’t know why I’m surprised, but in the end, Dan and Kika behind the scenes are who we see in their videos. There is no show or façade. There is no alter ego off camera. They are truly the kind, informative, and fun couple we see in their videos.
Before the trip, I admired them for what they have done as electric sailing pioneers.
After the trip, what I really admire is who they are as people.