To understand why three men bought themselves a cruise ship last fall, you need to know a little bit about "seasteading." It's the idea of moving to the sea, where, unbound by the land and the governments and regulations tied to it, people could experiment with new ways of living. Grant Romundt, Rüdiger Koch, and Chad Elwartowski met in 2017, united by their interest in seasteading. They founded the company Ocean Builders, funded a pilot sea home off Thailand (that ended poorly, which is a whole other story), and started manufacturing homes called SeaPods. A combination of slow progress on the pods and the impact COVID had on the value of cruise ships led them, in October, to spend a reported $9.5 million on a ship they redubbed the Satoshi. With the blessing of the Panama government they would dock it off that country's shores without owing Panama taxes. On board, they hoped, would be freedom-loving crypto-investors.
Just four months later, the dream was dead, writes Sophie Elmhirst for the Guardian in a lengthy look at what went wrong between the ship departing Cyprus for Panama on Oct. 29 and its Feb. 23 exit from Panama. There are reasons aplenty, from the challenge of getting wealthy crypto-entrepreneurs interested in leaving their luxe accommodations for a tiny cabin that didn't even have a microwave, to bigger problems like their inability to find insurance. They soon discovered that in their quest to escape regulations, they had become a part of one of the most regulated industries on the planet, and Panama was unwilling to let them drop anchor and de-register as a ship; they'd have to sail out to sea about every 3 weeks to discharge their sewage anyway. (Read the full story for more hiccups along the way, and to learn about the captain and 40-person crew who temporarily manned the Satoshi.)