Dan and Kika are a young couple committed to learning as much as possible about themselves, each other and the world – by traveling. Dan grew up in a log cabin in a tiny Canadian community and Kika hails from Haiti’s capital, Port au Prince. They met and teamed up at an architecture school just north of Atlanta in the United States, first as business partners – they opened a design studio together – and then as a couple.
“We were spending every hour of every day together, and as our personalities were so similar, we fell for each other,” recalls Kika. While they were both set on making the most of their architectural skills, they realized they couldn’t do that from an office. They needed to get out and see the world. “We believe architecture and travel go hand in hand,” explains Kika. “We realized the best way to learn isn’t through books, but by being present, experiencing different cultures and different ways of building around the world.”
So they followed the advice of a friend of Dan’s who said, ”If you want to travel the world, don’t buy a couch.” Instead they saved up and bought a 1972 Pearson, 36-foot yacht. “She’s perfect for us,” says Dan. They christened her Uma, the Portuguese word for one or first. ”We wanted a name that both inspires and reminds us why we bought her in the first place. She is our first step.”
But why a boat? “Although I grew up hundreds of miles from the coast, my Dad taught us navigational skills and instilled a sense of confidence in adventure that I’ve taken with me to sea,” explains Dan. Unlike her partner, Kika had a view of the ocean from her brother’s bedroom window. “My Mom worked in the commercial port, so I used to watch the container ships coming and going. I would close my eyes and imagine myself traveling the world. I was a dreamer, and my dream has come true,” says Kika with a smile.
The couple left Florida in 2016 and headed for the Caribbean islands. “Our favorite was a small island called Saba in the Netherlands Antilles. Our time there felt like a dream, from the moment we saw the island until we left,” Kika remembers. “The towns were quaint and clean, the food was amazing and the scenery breathtaking. We only stayed a short time, but we will definitely go back one day.”
Next, Dan and Kika plan to head to Europe. “We’re planning to sail across the Atlantic and spend a year or maybe two exploring Europe and the north coast of Africa,” says Dan. “As architects, we’re fascinated by old buildings and historic cultures.”
Since they first set sail, Dan and Kika have gradually made Uma more comfortable, and Dometic has played a part in the upgrade. “On our first trip we didn’t have a fridge or a stove or a shower, we didn’t even have a toilet. But we’ve gradually installed equipment that matches our lifestyle – from suppliers we trust. Dometic products include a toilet, freezer and an alcohol stove. In fact, the new stove is not just an added convenience, it’s also made Uma a lot safer. We spent the first two years cooking on a two-burner camping stove. One evening, Dan was preparing a meal just as were getting ready to hoist sail and head for the Windward Islands. There was a pot full of cooking oil on the stove when a ferry passed by and its wake made Uma rock. The pot flew off the stove (which wasn’t secured), spilling boiling oil everywhere. Luckily, Dan didn’t get burned and we ended up wiping the floor for months before the oil was all gone. That incident made us realize how important having a proper stove is.