Swift

Working Remote from the Boat

We always thought that when our savings ran out, we'd simply dock the boat, liveaboard, and get jobs for a few years, and then go cruising again. However, when our savings started looking pathetic, the idea of commuting to a "real" job just seemed beyond depressing.   But, can we get remote jobs and keep the boat going all while still enjoying the cruising lifestyle?

We've been really lucky. I immediately became an independent contractor to teach English to Chinese children via videoconference and have been able to pay 100% of our expenses (day-to-day expenses like food plus maintenanace, replacement parts, and boat upgrades) without tapping our savings. 

Remote Work that Works for Us and Weekly Income
VIPKID, 20-25 hours a week: $420-$525
TextBroker and Other Freelance Writing, 15 hours a week: $100-200
Stock Photography, 0 hours a week: $10

Matt experimented with UpWork but between the amount of time spent to "bid" for a "job", the jobs completed, and the pay scale, it simply wasn't worth it to continue. 

Day to Day Cruising
It was much easier to work and cruise in the Bahamas. We could, for instance, easily work in a 4 mile cruise from Man O War to Hope Town. Simply raise the sails and go, arrive, gleefully use up data at 70 cents per GB, swim in clear water, walk to the store and buy eggs.

Cruising the US is actually tougher than cruising the Bahamas.  Calculate ICW mileage for the day: 60 statute miles. Look up bridge schedules. Calculate time and distance to that bridge with the 5 knot current. Use up inordinate amounts of diesel fighting currents. Glare at constant, crazy weekend boaters trying to terrify. Pay $7 a GB for data. Arrive tired. Look at muddy, currenty water and decide to shower instead. Rent a car or get an Uber to get eggs. 

It's always horrifying when the alarm goes off at 5:25AM, however, I really enjoy having a significant amount to daylight to travel or enjoy. For instance, when my family stayed onboard, I worked from 6AM-10AM, but still had the whole day to move the boat to a new anchorage, go snorkeling, and go out to dinner.  

Waiting for Weather
I prefer to keep the same work schedule week to week. I have Monday and Tuesday available to make passages. We were able to cross to the Bahamas on a day off, and cross back to Florida on a day off. We'd have to wait a little longer than the schedule-less to make bigger island hops like Abacos to Eleuthera, but we got there in the end. 

We've been "stuck" in Fernandina Beach for over 2 weeks waiting for a weather window that matches my days off. If I wasn't working, yes, we would have made it further. And, of course, we could just take the ICW after work each day, but we don't feel like it.

Being stuck isn't all bad. We've been using the extra time to get a heap of boat projects done. It's been very handy to be able to get packages at the marina and use their laundry machines. We've got a perfect, free, river anchorage and didn't move an inch during a 70 knot thunderstorm. We were happy not to be in the Gulf Stream for that! On our days off, we walk to the Cuban cafe for cafe con leche and cheese and guava pastries. On Saturdays, we stock up on fresh produce and African curries at the farmer's market. We're constantly joined by dolphins. Matt points out manatees and roseate spoonbills from his daily climb up the mast to "attempt to fix the wind instrument but just get hot and bruised instead". We've been documenting a growing family of alligators in the marina.

Other Work Options
We could still dock the boat and get boring jobs or career jobs. A boring job simply doesn't pay enough to make it worthwhile and career jobs are still very unappealing when you add in commuting and office politics. 

Lessons Learned
I've learned valuable lessons about working on-camera. For instance, always wear bug spray and have a fan on in the summer. There's a whole generation of Chinese students who think Americans say "cat" while hitting themselves in the face. They also believe it's culturally acceptable to start a conversation standing up and end it hunched down, trying to hide growing sweat stains.

Moving Forward
We're quite happy with the sustainability of our work/cruising life balance.  Next year we plan to take June off and do a long passage to Maine, and then take a month off between October and November to get south. Waiting for weather on specific days and clawing our way past currents while working is pretty tiring and I'm hoping for a sweat free summer next year! 

Hastings knows how to keep cool! 
What's your ideal work / life balance? How do you keep cool in the summer? 










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2 comments

  1. I'm so glad that working remotely from the boat is working out for you guys. I laughed at the part about hitting yourself while saying cat. What do you do when you say dog? African curries - I'm intrigued and hungry. What kind were they? From what African nation?

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  2. I'm so happy this balance is working out for you both, and I can see why it is more enjoyable to be in the Bahamas than in the US. And, I totally envy your energy to stick with it (for now)! Your income is certainly quite high in my book. And, keeping up with it while hosting family? Wow! Will you go to the Bahamas again this winter?

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