“How we find remote work on a sailboat”

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(This is a guest post by Pam Webster with The Emotional Nomad)

When you strike out on a new and unconventional life do you break all your old ties? Or can you benefit more by relying on relationships you’ve nurtured for years?

My husband and I have worked remotely from our sailboat for more than three years. And that work has come to us from relationships we built while living in our dirt house.

If you want to support yourself in the nomadic life, you might want to consider it too.

How We Ended Up On A Boat

Pam, Mike, & Honey – photo credit: Alice G Patterson Photography

“Let’s learn to sail. We could sell the house, buy a boat, and travel.”

My husband didn’t object to my idea. So we signed up for sailing lessons at the community sailing program. Five years later, we bought a 34 foot Pacific Seacraft sailboat and moved aboard.

“Let’s learn to sail. We could sell the house, buy a boat, and travel.”

Selling our house in Ithaca, New York gave us the money to buy the boat and give us a small cruising kitty to start. But making repairs on a nearly 30-year-old boat diminished our savings quickly.

We needed to find remote work or return to land to make a conventional living.

Luckily we had built good relationships in our work and hobbies. And those relationships led us to remote work opportunities.

My Remote Work Aboard Our Sailboat

I’ve blogged about dogs since 2010. In that time, I’ve formed strong relationships with other pet bloggers and people in pet-related businesses. Several online friendships transferred into the real world.

In 2016, the owner of a pet travel website that I met first online and later in person asked if I wanted to work as a virtual assistant (VA), doing research and keeping her large database of pet-friendly sites up to date. I continue to work as a VA and contributing writer on the site.

Since my boss lives and travels full time in an RV, we share a good understanding of the challenges any nomad faces.

My pet travel boss recommended me to the owner of a pet-technology business. I worked briefly for the company setting up its Pinterest strategy.

Long before we moved not the boat, I did what many nascent cruisers do—research, research, research. I joined Facebook groups for sailors and cruisers and commented on helpful blogs. My comments even resulted in being offered a few guest posts.

When one of my favorite sites offering practical tips for cruisers advertised an opening for a VA, I was one of 72 people applying. Yes, I had all the qualifications the site owner was looking for. But I believe that developing a relationship with her by commenting and writing for her site let her know I’d be a good fit long before she reviewed all the applications.

And both being sailing cruisers, we shared the same world.

Besides the dog blog, I had also started a website related to my work on land. It gave irreverent advice to first time home buyers.

Obviously, I’d struggle to stay current on changes in mortgages and the economy while living on the boat. Luckily I had left on good terms with my last employer, a nonprofit housing agency. I even continued to teach homebuyer classes for them while getting ready to move onto the boat.

Therefore, when I reached out to their marketing person to ask if they’d like to buy my website, they were thrilled. They knew I’d be giving them killer content they could incorporate into their own web presence.

Obviously, spending years working and playing online made my transition to remote work fairly easy. But would it work for my husband who worked in a location-dependent field of architecture?

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My husband’s job as a remote work architect

My husband’s last land-based job was for a small, but busy architecture firm in Ithaca, New York. As we moved toward selling the house and buying a boat, Mike decided to tell his boss about our plans far in advance—two years in advance.

During that time, he helped her tie up projects he had worked on. And left her in good shape moving forward.

So when it became obvious that we’d need to increase our earnings on board, Mike reached out to his last boss. He asked if she needed help writing reports or proposals or even drafting up materials based on field measurements she had already done.

Since Mike knew the office standards and client expectations, it was an easy sell. He got to work remotely from the boat. And his old boss got help for busy times who she didn’t have to train.

He even traveled back to Ithaca to work in her office for a month while I stayed with the boat in South Carolina.

The extra income was nice. But as anyone who lives on an old boat knows, it will cost you as much as you have to keep it in good repair.

So Mike reached out to the Philadelphia-area firm he worked for before we had moved to Ithaca—more than 15 years ago. He had kept in touch with the office, reading their newsletters and sending occasional emails.

And before he left, he had given his boss about a year’s notice that we’d be moving out of the area. Once again, allowing his firm time to wrap up projects he had been involved in.

Since leaving, Mike’s Philadelphia boss had started volunteering with the Coast Guard Auxiliary. So when Mike told him we were living on board a boat and he was looking for remote work, the firm’s owner was intrigued.

I’m not sure he would have seen the advantages of hiring a remote worker. But the boating connection triggered something. And he decided to give it a chance.

Mike has been working for two of his old architecture firms ever since.

How We Work Remotely

Pamela & Mike’s home office aboard Meander.

Working remotely for other people has changed our travel life.

I can’t do my work unless I can connect to the internet. If I know that I’ll be spending time in an area with notoriously bad connectivity (like northern North Carolina), I work ahead.

I also work early every day for at least some time so I don’t fall behind. Sometimes that means getting up at 4:30 a.m. to do little work before pulling up the anchor on a long travel day. But it’s the price I pay for working in the most beautiful office ever.

My husband can’t dip in and out of his work as easily as I do mine. He needs hours of concentrated time. And he prefers to work hooked up to a dock with unlimited electricity. We have solar and a generator for anchorages but it—and walking the dog by dinghy—take more management. So if he has the option, he prefers we visit a marina.

Single night marina stays are expensive. So when my Mike has a big project, we land at a marina with a good monthly rate.

Once or twice a year, he’ll also travel to work in the offices of the firms he usually works remotely for. It helps keep the relationships strong and allows him to earn more by working more hours in a concentrated time.

I’ll stay with the boat to continue my own work.

Long marina stays have definitely cut into our travel schedule. But it’s our life, not a vacation. And we do what we have to do.

Do you wonder if your past relationships could lead to remote work while you’re traveling? Maybe, if you start now.

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Build Relationships To Gain Remote Work

When we look back over our lives, we find a few threads that led to us getting remote work later.

Build ties before you leave

First, we didn’t burn bridges with former employers.

You might consider my husband’s two-year plan to leave his last firm extreme. But the long lead time made the transition much easier for this boss.

I also eased out of my last land-based job by continuing to work on a part-time basis.

If you’re working in a toxic workplace or for a terrible boss, you might relish the thought of a quick exit. But things change. Perhaps one of your co-workers will go to a new job that would be great to work for remotely. Or the terrible boss might get canned.

Leave your job with the grace you’d like someone to give you if you were the boss. You never know if it might lead to a good opportunity later.

Be generous

Second, help others.

I’ve met bloggers who constantly worry about their competition. But like a restaurant district that makes every eating place stronger, content creators benefit from helping each other.
When you’re willing to help people and introduce them to others who can help them, they’re more likely to want to work with you.

Touch base

Finally, keeping in touch is so easy with email and texting. If you see something that a colleague or former boss would find interesting, drop them a line.

Like my husband who intrigued a former boss when he shared that we live on a boat, you might find a new connection with an old employer.

Living Our Dream on our Sailboat

I have to admit. I sometimes feel poor compared to the wealthy retirees we share our cruising grounds with who have pensions, huge stock portfolios, and income-producing rental properties.

On the other hand, I’m relatively young and have many years of cruising ahead of me. All I have to do is work underway.

It’s a small price to pay for living our dream.

And by nurturing relationships, past and present, we’re able to continue working remotely from beautiful settings we’d never have seen working full time from land.

Bio: Pamela Douglas Webster cruises the eastern and southern United States with her husband and dog on board their Pacific Seacraft 34, Meander. She writes about the emotional aspects of full-time travel at Emotional Nomad.

How to work remotely FREE email course!

Ditch your desk job and work from anywhere with my free 5-day course. You'll learn about the top remote work jobs, online skills you need, and what employers are looking for.

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. (*You'll also be subscribed to The Wayward Home's email list, all about van life, RVing, sailing and living smaller. Welcome aboard!) Powered by ConvertKit

3 thoughts on ““How we find remote work on a sailboat””

  1. Love your POV!
    My husband and I have just started doing our research and we are so excited about this new chapter in our lives!
    Thanks for sharing!

    Reply

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