Cryptominers' $9.5M sea utopia foiled by actual risk of bio shock

Rapture as it was meant to be, with bitcoin moon
(Image credit: 2K games)

Imagine a utopia where cryptominers, cryptocurrency enthusiasts, and investors alike could be free to live, far from the ever imposing reach of mankind's laws. This was the vision of bitcoin fanboys, and utopian idealists, Grant Romundt, Rüdiger Koch, and Chad Elwartowski. These three were determined to make their dream of crypto-Rapture a reality. That is until they realised some hard truths tied to running a floating colony.

The plan was simple: Buy a $9.5 million retired cruise liner > pop over to Panama > build a utopia > profit! Sounds easy right? What these three idealists didn't foresee, however, were the number of hoops they would need to jump through, in order to make their paradise a reality.

Fueled by the romantic ideals of Patri Friedman et al., the three started off strong with their 'Seavilization' project. First, they Christened their ex-cruise liner (previously the Pacific Dawn) The M.S. Satoshi, after the godfather of bitcoin—perhaps willing some of his luck to rub off for a successful mission. Though, according to The Guardian (via IFL Science), the successful renaming of the ship was the first and final triumph.

I was thinking a week into the job, 'I can see I’m going to be resigning.'

Captain Peter Harris

The three soon discovered that the seas, contrary to popular belief, are not completely lawless, free-build areas. There are strict regulations to be followed, especially for huge cruise liners also planning to run a crypto-business. 

Romundt lamented to the Guardian, "We were like, 'This is just so hard.'"

This wasn't Romundt's first attempt at founding a seasteading community, either. You'd have thought the guy would have packed it in after he and his girlfriend were forced to flee for their lives from the coast of Thailand after a previous floating community was declared a threat to the country's independence—an offence punishable by life imprisonment, or even death.

Back to the Satoshi's noble embankment: Soon after they set sail, seasoned British cruise captain Peter Harris became concerned. “I was thinking a week into the job, 'I can see I’m going to be resigning,'” he told The Guardian. When asked about Koch the captain admitted he seemed like the upstanding sort, if somewhat naïve. "He didn’t understand the industry." Harris explained, "He just thought he could treat it like his own yacht."

Further hurdles mounted, with the pursuit being deemed uninsurable by Panamanian authorities. "They wouldn’t even tell us why we weren’t insurable, they just kept saying no," Romundt noted. "It’s kind of hard to remedy something if you don’t know what the problem is." Although no official comments were made to the crew regarding their denial of insurance, Captain Harris surmised their plans to run a bitcoin business may have had something to do with it.

And while the three had managed to get the Panamanian authorities to agree to a permanent mooring for the Satoshi (as long as it remained designated as a ship), another snag emerged: where they were allowed to dump their sewage.

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They discovered that, so as not to break the law they were trying their damndest to avoid, they would need to sail 12 miles every few weeks to offload the human waste in international waters. That's where the entire operation ran afoul.

It was around this time Romundt and company finally caved. Defeated, Romundt put his dreams of Seavilisation behind him and spent the holidays sipping wine and exploring the Satoshi. He even went around enjoying the waterslides by himself, as Harris said he turned them on especially for the festivities.

So, while the three didn't manage to create a lawless crypto-fueled utopian paradise, hopefully, they've invited a sense of realism into the minds of anyone considering a similar feat. As it turns out, building Rapture is hard.

Katie Wickens
Hardware Writer

Screw sports, Katie would rather watch Intel, AMD and Nvidia go at it. Having been obsessed with computers and graphics for three long decades, she took Game Art and Design up to Masters level at uni, and has been rambling about games, tech and science—rather sarcastically—for four years since. She can be found admiring technological advancements, scrambling for scintillating Raspberry Pi projects, preaching cybersecurity awareness, sighing over semiconductors, and gawping at the latest GPU upgrades. Right now she's waiting patiently for her chance to upload her consciousness into the cloud.