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Old 02-09-2020, 14:59   #1
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Working a fulltime job aboard your boat whilst in the Carribean or Keys?

All -

Long time dreamer of getting aboard the boat for a longer period of time and COVID + working from home has had me thinking much more about hopping aboard this winter and trying to land somewhere tropical. I am up in Chicago and have always dreamed about the Carribean and Keys. Options for boat would be to either buy or rent something for multiple months down there.

But my questions would be for anyone who is working in a 40+ hour a week job that requires calls and wifi.

How is it aboard the boat?
Aside from there being a lot of distractions how have you found it to be?
How has the need for a decent wifi signal (to support videoconferencing) limited your freedom? Did these limitations change how much actual sailing you thought you would be doing?
Did you end up grabbing a slip somewhere or have you been able to find wifi whilst anchored?

More than anything just curious to see how people have managed it and what the overall opinions are.

As far as where I would go - I would monitor the COVID restrictions but also hone in on places where wifi would not be an issue.
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Old 02-09-2020, 15:56   #2
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Re: Working a fulltime job aboard your boat whilst in the Carribean or Keys?

I've been doing this for 7 years - if I hadn't told anyone they wouldn't have known. Forget the wifi and get an unlimited cellular plan... wifi is generally very unreliable with the exception of onspotwifi in marinas up and down the US east coast. I cannot speak about other areas in the USA or other nations.

Your options for unlimited cellular are:

1) unlimitedville.com...Expensive but really truly unlimited in every way except you must use their mifi.
2) cricket has 100gig plans for $90 a month but you need to use their device
3) Your current cellular provider. We use t-mobile and I happen to have both unlimited hotspot on my plan and an additional 22 gig hotspot plan on my mifi router.
4) there are various less expensive plans in use commonly by RV people. In some cases they depend on devices that only have access to very few frequencies, which is how I think they get so cheap.

Here is a good list of unlimited plans on the cheap - scroll down...

https://www.rvmobileinternet.com/gea...-rental-plans/
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Old 02-09-2020, 16:12   #3
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Re: Working a fulltime job aboard your boat whilst in the Carribean or Keys?

Quote:
Originally Posted by jpeac2 View Post

How is it aboard the boat?

Aside from there being a lot of distractions how have you found it to be?
This feels like the same question. It's not as comfortable as a proper office and desk. However, the view is significantly better. Your laptop and hotspot will require power periodically through the day. I run a generator in the morning and the afternoon.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jpeac2 View Post
How has the need for a decent wifi signal (to support videoconferencing) limited your freedom?
I don't do video conferencing, but I do engage in Webex's and conference calls on a regular basis. Yes, you will need either access to a decent wifi signal or a high data volume hotspot. I wouldn't count on wifi. You will need to be in places with decent cell signals for the hotspot.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jpeac2 View Post
Did these limitations change how much actual sailing you thought you would be doing?
Absolutely, but I honestly think you already know the answer to that.

1) IF you're working M-F during the day, your not going to be sailing much, or very far at night, so this limits you to days off and weekends.

2) Very popular areas sometimes have a lot of people pounding the bandwidth of the cell tower(s) as they try to stream movies, and browse the internet. For example, one anchorage I work from is fine, with the exception of major holidays (July 4th (US)) when the place is packed.

3) You are limited to places with decent cell coverage.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jpeac2 View Post
Did you end up grabbing a slip somewhere or have you been able to find wifi whilst anchored?
No wifi when anchored. Cellular hotspot. Even in a marina, wifi is sketchy and can't be counted on.
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Old 02-09-2020, 16:22   #4
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Re: Working a fulltime job aboard your boat whilst in the Carribean or Keys?

The previous posts have already outlined some of the technical solutions so i wont go into that.
I will make a comment from a different side , might not apply to you right now.

I am semi retired and do work my investments but that i can do on and off but since covid came i have my wife on board and she works M-F 10 hours per day from the boat. The cellular hotspot with a dedicated modem gives us all the banwidth we need even for video conferencing BUT it drives me crazy because like someone else already mentioned , i now have to do sailing to a schedule and not to weather conditions and i can not leave very far unless i know the cellular coverage. I accept this in the current situation of course even that i do get grumpy from time to time but in all honesty i am looking forward when my wife can go back home so i can have my own life on my boat again.
This might not apply to you but you can keep it in mind as it might also effect any partner of yours in the future.

Good luck and i strongly encurrage you to go ahead as living/working on a boat is one of the most amazing times i have so far had in my life.
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Old 02-09-2020, 16:25   #5
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Re: Working a fulltime job aboard your boat whilst in the Carribean or Keys?

All I can say is it won’t be what you are dreaming of.

It’s just going to be the same sh*t with a different view and a lot more headaches (mechanical failures, internet going down, a full day to grocery shop, anchoring restrictions, squalls rolling through requiring and anchor watch when you are mid zoom call, etc)

Mark those words.

I know it’s the dream, but once you are actually doing it, it’s just normal life. And a much harder life than land life. It requires a lot of your time.
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Old 02-09-2020, 18:40   #6
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Re: Working a fulltime job aboard your boat whilst in the Carribean or Keys?

As Dingo points out, cellphone coverage can be spotty, let alone wifi. We went for a cruise in Maine and found it wise to send text messages because they use less bandwidth and get through when voice gets garbled or cut off. Coverage in the Caribbean may not be as extensive. Chotu mentions how "boat reality" and chores can interfere with the business work ethic, and Dingo complains about how the business work ethic interferes with boating. Perhaps try working from hotel rooms on different islands over a few weeks to ask colleagues "can you hear me now?". That would show you where there was viable cell service so that you could return there in the boat. Staying put during the week and moving weekends might get boring, but it might be more fun than winter in Chi-town.
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Old 02-09-2020, 18:59   #7
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Re: Working a fulltime job aboard your boat whilst in the Carribean or Keys?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chotu View Post
All I can say is it wonít be what you are dreaming of.

Itís just going to be the same sh*t with a different view and a lot more headaches (mechanical failures, internet going down, a full day to grocery shop, anchoring restrictions, squalls rolling through requiring and anchor watch when you are mid zoom call, etc)

Mark those words.

I know itís the dream, but once you are actually doing it, itís just normal life. And a much harder life than land life. It requires a lot of your time.


what he said. there ain't no easy way out. much tougher than being on land.
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Old 03-09-2020, 06:42   #8
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Re: Working a fulltime job aboard your boat whilst in the Carribean or Keys?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chotu View Post
All I can say is it wonít be what you are dreaming of.

Itís just going to be the same sh*t with a different view and a lot more headaches (mechanical failures, internet going down, a full day to grocery shop, anchoring restrictions, squalls rolling through requiring and anchor watch when you are mid zoom call, etc)

Mark those words.

I know itís the dream, but once you are actually doing it, itís just normal life. And a much harder life than land life. It requires a lot of your time.
This is the absolute reality of it. You pay a price to be in a paradise that you don't really get to enjoy as much as you'd think you would. Once I log off, it's boat chores (water, provisioning, garbage, cleaning, cooking, sleep.....do it all over again).
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Old 03-09-2020, 06:57   #9
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Re: Working a fulltime job aboard your boat whilst in the Carribean or Keys?

I agree with all the above. I've worked from home for over 20 years and can usually stay focused and productive even for long work days. Last summer I was on my boat up in Maine for the summer. I thought I would stay anchored some days and work all day, but the first time I tried, I gave up after a few hours and went sailing. It was just too appealing to sail and work did not have the same pull. So all I did over the summer was the minimum required work, which wasn't very much work. I do agree that either work or pleasure will almost certainly suffer.
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Old 03-09-2020, 07:14   #10
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Re: Working a fulltime job aboard your boat whilst in the Carribean or Keys?

I'm not really sure what these guys are talking about because my working remotely on the boat has been a great experience. There are nuances like communications you need to be aware of but for the most part it's been great.

When we were in the Bahamas I had one experience where the whole cell system went down for 3 days... that was exciting to deal with and I ended up having to take some sick days. But this has only happened once in 7 years. So instead we went snorkeling!

It's worth investing in a good external cellular antenna and you can hook these directly up to most mifi antenna connections using an SMA cable extension. Sometimes a booster helps but a good quad diversity antenna is generally better. We have a poynting antenna (link below). However, it's quite large and they make new low profile antennas that are large pucks.

https://poynting.tech/antennas-and-a...nnas/omni-402/
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Old 03-09-2020, 08:36   #11
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Re: Working a fulltime job aboard your boat whilst in the Carribean or Keys?

Iím a civil engineer in the Miami area and due to COVID I have been working from home since March. The up side of that is that the 1988 38 ft Island Packet my wife and I bought has turned into my second office.

I researched the best way to get unlimited internet on the boat and I wanted it to be versatile enough to allow me to travel the East Coast and possibly the Bahamas while working. I found that a cell setup is the best way to go compared to WiFi (unreliable) or satellite (expensive). I ended up specing the following:

- Shakespeare 5239 Cell Antenna ($130)
- Custom Times Microwave LMR-400 Cable ($43)
- Wilson IoT 5-Band Direct Connect Amp - DC (in line cell signal booster, $250)
-Pepwave Max BR1 MK2 w/ Cat 6 LTE Advanced (MAX-BR1-MK2-LTEA-W-T) (Cell modem and WiFi router, $599)
-N/Female to SMA/Male Adapter (RSA-3452 ($12))

The cell modem/router is expensive but worth it as its plug and play and works very well. It has two slots for SIM cards and you can plug them in and be up and running. This allows easy switching if youíre traveling to different countries.

Regarding the unlimited data I looked at the RV websites, standard cell company offerings, etc. I tried OTR Mobile (popular with RVíers) but it was slow (2nd tier t-mobile network). I then found an unlimited data sim/plan on AT&T network on eBay. This works much much better and costs $80/month. eBay is a good place to find these unlimited first tier plans (I recommend avoiding second tier plans from resellers). Unfortunately I just found out my unlimited plan will now be limited to 400 GB/month so Iíll be shopping for a new one myself.

This setup works great in Miami and the keys. I went out the other weekend and got full signal strength at Elliot Key (notorious for bad signal strength) and got about 20 mbs download speed. In my home marina I get about 30 mbs which is fine for me.

Feel free to reach out with any questions.
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Old 03-09-2020, 09:04   #12
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Re: Working a fulltime job aboard your boat whilst in the Carribean or Keys?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chotu View Post
All I can say is it wonít be what you are dreaming of.

Itís just going to be the same sh*t with a different view and a lot more headaches (mechanical failures, internet going down, a full day to grocery shop, anchoring restrictions, squalls rolling through requiring and anchor watch when you are mid zoom call, etc)

Mark those words.

I know itís the dream, but once you are actually doing it, itís just normal life. And a much harder life than land life. It requires a lot of your time.

Thatís why it works well as a Rerirement plan, gives you something to do everyday.
Now since the Virus we are sitting in a Marina, and itís driving me nuts, not having all of the other issues to worry about, unlimited water, unlimited power and no anchoring issues and weather not really being a concern doesnít leave me much to do.
Front AC gave up the ghost last night, so at 4AM I ordered a new one from Defender, but other than that itís been boring.
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Old 03-09-2020, 09:20   #13
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Re: Working a fulltime job aboard your boat whilst in the Carribean or Keys?

We moved our boat from Lake Michigan to North Palm last year. We are in a marina with really good wifi...onspotwifi. We also changed our cell service to Google Fi recently and it's working VERY well down here. The upside to Fi is that your data and calls work in around 130 countries with no additional fees. I had to get a new Fi capable phone because my Sprint Galaxy would not port (thanks Sprint). The Pixel I got allows for the Google cell hopping. Google uses At&t, Verizon and T-Mobile (was Sprint) and the phone automatically grabs the best signal. The hotspot is fast. Unlimited everything is $60 per phone. Speeds do slow down after around 22GB (I think) but, as yet, we haven't gotten close to that since we are on wifi most of the time. Haven't used it yet in the Caribbean yet but I know the major players work in all the US islands. We will be adding satellite for passages when we head off in a few years to the islands as well but that will be for testing, email and weather while underway.
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Old 03-09-2020, 10:04   #14
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Re: Working a fulltime job aboard your boat whilst in the Carribean or Keys?

You'll have to review a lot of factors here;
1. If you can work well at home, then working from a boat - in a marina (forget anchoring/mooring) would be more than possible - can even be fun.
2. Location - depends if you need to travel and how often. Travel to and from the Caribbeans is expensive, frequently limited and time consuming. Also remember the hurricane season, at least June-September. You need to either move the boat or haul out and get something on shore.

Cellular coverage: In most places (Marinas) you can check in advance the cellular coverage. I had very few communication issues in St Lucia, Martinique, St. Maarten and the Bahamas, but not a good experience with WiFi. Florida cellular coverage should be fine in most places, but you want to check that in advance (The most expensive marina I have been at in Jupiter, had absolutely zero cellular coverage by both AT&T and Verizon as well as spotty WiFi)

Apart from that, you want a pleasant boat, good A/C etc. as you'll spend a lot of time on board without moving that much.
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Old 03-09-2020, 16:18   #15
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Re: Working a fulltime job aboard your boat whilst in the Carribean or Keys?

I did it for nine weeks as a feasibility test. In addition to the comments above, this is what I experienced:

1. Being in scheduled calls, meetings and WebEx sessions conflicts with sailing life. Squalls don't blow through between meetings, they happen during important client calls. The result was that I only got to sail on the weekends.

2. Working, sleeping and eating within 40', day in and day out, made the boat become claustrophobic. Not having air-conditioning at anchor meant that on hot days, with no breeze, working a my desk below became a literal sweat shop!

3. On a more positive note, I came to look forward to my "seamanship" hour at the end of each day.

After my trial working cruise, I decided that I liked sailing more than working, quit my job, and became a full time cruiser...
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