Besides buying Lamborghinis, going on cruises and attending thousand dollar-ticket Bitcoin Conferences around the world, what else do BTC’s early adopters do with their money? In the case of Chad Elwartowski, ex software engineer and retired bitcoin investor, the answer is pretty novel, and indicative of the amount of creativity, curiosity and bravery that many crypto investors have: seasteading.

World’s first inhabited seastead in international waters. Source: Ocean Builders Facebook group

What is Seasteading?

Seasteading is the idea of removing oneself from the confines of society and government by building an unregulated, nationless house in international waters. This can be accomplished by anchoring a livable platform to the ocean floor with a steel cylinder, otherwise known as a spar. The design is similar to an oil platform, but for the purposes of housing a single family, much smaller and less costly.

Additionally, seasteads are better suited for shallow and calmer waters. Like bitcoin, they make the most out of modern technology, capable of supporting internet, satellite TV, solar power and water desalinization to assure a steady supply of fresh water. They are also reserved for serious, dedicated individuals who are willing to give up certain luxuries of society, and even though secured against big waves and storms, are not for the faint of heart.

On February 4th, 2019, the world’s first habitable seastead was set up and raised in international waters, just beyond 12 nautical miles from the Thai province of Phuket. Its residents are Elwartowski and his girlfriend, Nadia Summergirl. Elwartowski goes by the user name Elwar on the Bitcoin Forum and is one of its earliest, still-active members, registering in July 2010. His company, Ocean Builders, is now ready to accept orders for the construction of seasteads, having learned much about the building process during the construction of his prototype. The “bare bones” model will cost about $150,000, with basic amenities (such as a water pump and interior fixtures) costing about $200,000.

Diagram of the spar platform. Source: ocean.builders

 

Why Become a Seasteader?

When asked on the forum about the advantages to living in a seastead as opposed to living in a house boat, Elwar answered “Sovereignty.” One gets the feeling by reading Elwar’s posts on the forum that, after establishing a degree of financial mobility, freedom becomes one of the most important things that money can buy. This includes freedom from government regulation and societal restrictions, as well as a clearer control over one’s own destiny.

Having said that, Elwar also states that he and his girlfriend aren’t planning on doing anything that would be considered illegal or, for the most part, that couldn’t be done on land. He does have plans to build a prototype for a new form of society that can exist beyond traditional borders, similar bitcoin’s ability to act as a currency without the traditional caveats attached to state sponsorship.

In his Bitcoin Forum thread about the ins and outs of seasteading, Elwar expands on how seasteading can bring about a new degree of personal freedom for its owners:

“The sovereignty allows for a clean slate in starting many different societies. I don’t want to have a single seastead nation evolve from this. I want hundreds of small communities to choose from. Each with its own benefits. But each so much better than anything on land.

The production versions will have active mooring which will allow you to move your home as you see fit. If you don’t like your neighbors… just move.

I have no plans on becoming a nation. The first 20 owners will be laying the ground work for future governance. If they want to move in that direction then that will be the direction of seasteading in the near term.

Personally, I don’t want to be a citizen of any country that would have me.” – Chad Elwartowski

Breakfast on the platform deck. Source: Ocean Builders Facebook group

 

Interview with a Bitcoining Seasteader

We caught up with Elwar online, who was kind enough to grant us an interview about his revolutionary project.

Coin Clarity: I read in one of your earliest posts [on the Bitcoin Forum] that you bought your first BTC at $16 a coin, in July 2011. As an early adopter, it seems like you were a pretty firm believer in bitcoin since the beginning. What was compelling to you about bitcoin that made you see it as a long-term investment?

Chad Elwartowski: I didn’t like the idea of having my money in a currency that loses value over time as a feature. I had researched gold and tried to find a way to use gold as a currency, but any options out there required that you pay fees for storage and fees every time you used the card. Too much to be practical. For me Bitcoin isn’t an investment, it’s my new currency that doesn’t lose value as a feature.

CC: Would you consider yourself as libertarian-leaning before your discovery of bitcoin? What life experience(s) / observations would you chalk up to directing you toward that outlook?

CE: I was already a libertarian, even running for US House for the LP [Libertarian Party] at one point. When I first went to vote I didn’t know which party I supported so I went to watch Bill Clinton speak at my school. I realized then that I was not a Democrat, so I voted Republican. It wasn’t until Harry Browne, who ran for president as a Libertarian, that I discovered the party that (at the time) truly supported liberty.

CC: How did you first hear about seasteading, and what made you decide that it was something you wanted to try out?

CE: I was supporting Ron Paul’s campaign back in 2007-2008 discussing many liberty based projects on the Ron Paul forums when someone posted a link to Patri Friedman’s speech on seasteading. I had always had a vision for living in spheres on the ocean floor but seasteading seemed like a great path forward for achieving liberty.

CC: Were you always a pretty adventurous person? Do you have to be in order to be a seasteader?

CE: I’m not adventurous at all. But I guess I push myself to get out and do things so that I can have life experiences that can make me grow as a person. I don’t want to look back at my life and say, “I was able to watch a great amount of TV, it was all worth it.” I have kept a post card from every place I’ve visited once I left college. That stack of post cards is the heaviest thing in my suitcase.

CC: How much prep and planning was involved before you began to put things into action?

CE: We have evolved the plan over time. Even now we’re fixing and changing things on the prototype to see what makes things better. Yesterday we added chains to the anchor lines so it’s anchor/chain/rope/chain. There were tiny jerking motions in big waves. That should clear those up.

CC: Why did you choose to get started in waters off Thailand?

CE: The Andaman sea is ideal for the first seastead due to low waves, no hurricanes or typhoons and our location is close to modern conveniences and an international airport. The labor here is also cheap and the government pretty much leaves people alone to work without asking permission.

Sunset on Elwar’s seastead.

 

CC: Sorry, I have to ask: what do you plan to do to fend of pirates? What kind of defense plans do you have in place?

CE: Pirates are just burglars on the sea. Except it’s a lot harder to get into our house than a house on land. If someone wants to steal our laptops and cell phones it’s a lot easier to break into a hotel room than moor your boat, get into your dinghy, climb up 2 meters with no ladder (if they can do that I’ll give them my laptop as a reward for being impressed). Plus we would be sitting there for 10-15 minutes watching from our deck as they do this. We have IP cameras covering the whole place as well. And guns are legal in Thailand. And even more legal on the seastead.

CC: Let’s say somebody ponies up the money for an Ocean Builders seastead. Do you want them moving in right next door to you, or, how do you propose communities be formed?

CE: I look back to the small towns I lived in in the Midwest. Everyone is not on top of each other. They’re spread out. I see no reason for people to need to walk on a bridge to get to my house. They can get in their dinghy and drive over. Even the busy marina anchorage here has boats spread out a bit. I want people close by, but I think early on we will be nearby but not right on top of each other.

But we’re not in the business of deciding what a community does. We’re building seasteads. We’ll leave the formation of communities to the buyers.

CC: I saw that Ocean Builders is only accepting bitcoin (or Thai baht) for payments for those who want to build their own seastead. What kind of a role do you see bitcoin (or cryptocurrency in general) having among international water, un-governed type communities?

CE: That thread was a bit tongue in cheek. I was saying that our seastead only accepts baht and bitcoin. The seastead being just Nadia and I. And that’s all we use for currencies. I make some pointless decrees as ruler of my seastead such as officially recognizing taco Tuesday as a holiday and such.

But Ocean Builders will likely accept dollars, euros and bitcoins to pay for the seasteads. We want to make it as easy as possible for people to buy. But we wish everyone was using bitcoin so we wouldn’t need to go through all of the difficulties we need to face to get a bank account in a country that doesn’t want their piece of our business.

CC: What advice do you have for people who are considering moving outside of traditional forms of governance?

CE: I’ve been outside the US for 6 years now. Every country has different laws. Most of them come into play when they want your money. Just buy bitcoin and hodl it so they can’t get your money. Don’t invest in bitcoin. Convert from your legacy currency to your new currency. Figure out how to use that as your main currency and don’t look back.

CC: Thanks Elwar! The more I read about it the more intriguing the whole thing becomes. Best of luck to you.

CE: Thanks. Looking forward to the article.

For more information on seasteading and how to purchase your own seastead, please reference the following links:

https://ocean.builders – the official Ocean Builders home page

https://www.seasteadtalk.org/ – for discussion and information about all things seastead-related