Blue Turtle Cruising

Running a business (and working full time) while living aboard

This May marks our 7th year living aboard Blue Turtle. During this time, Randy and I have both worked full time. While Randy works for a company as a regional sales rep, I have been running my business, Blue Turtle Graphics, from the boat. Last year, my company celebrated its 10 year anniversary and it’s hard to believe that 7 of those years were while living aboard.

Our little home office

It’s not always easy

I know, I know… how can I possibly complain about working from a boat? It’s actually a pretty cushy gig. I hate to say it, but on days when I don’t go to the gym or have to be anywhere, I actually grab a cup of coffee and the laptop and head back to bed to work with the wiener dog. It’s much like working from home at times, however, there are some challenges.

Challenge #1 – wifi or Internet Connectivity

This one is huge and perhaps the most important. So many people have asked how we get wifi and how good it is. As you might not know, my company provides businesses with graphic design and web design and development services. The majority of my business these days is web design. So good internet is critical and my usage is quite above the average person. While many marinas offer wifi as part of their amenities, we all know that it can vary a great deal depending on the facility. It can also vary with the location of your boat in the marina. When we were at Snookbight, we were located on the furthest dock from the building where the wifi antenna was located. We installed a wifi booster which seemed to help for a while until the internet would go down which is quite often in marinas. With no internet, there is nothing to boost. While we can connect the booster to another signal, it needs to be an unprotected/public one and those are very hard to find these days. It’s hard to find consistently good wifi while working full time on a boat. My best advice is to always have a backup plan and a backup to that backup plan.

My backup for when the wifi goes down has always been my unlimited Verizon data plan. It costs a small fortune ($250/month with 2 phones and an iPad connected) but it keeps me up and running. To me, it’s just a cost of doing business on a boat. Luckily my overhead is pretty low so I don’t have an issue paying for it.

Of course, unlimited isn’t really unlimited. Verizon states that once you’ve used 15GB tethering (hotspot) per device the data speeds are reduced to up to 600 Kbps for the rest of the billing cycle. They also say that after 22 GB of data usage on a line during any bill cycle they may prioritize usage behind other customers during network congestion. Just for an example, our marina wifi has been down for 2 weeks now and I have been heavily relying on my data plan. I’ve already burn through 15GB on my iPad as a hotspot and am currently tethering from my phone. Total data used this month is currently at 33.08GB with 2 billing cycle days to go. Having an additional device (the iPad) to use as a hotspot has given me 2 options for tethering at 30GB. Thankfully, the speeds are still good since we must not be in a fully congested area as I am not getting prioritized behind other customers. I guess if we were located in a larger metro area this might be a huge problem for me. If ever I was prioritized because of maxing out on the data, I would need another backup plan which would be physically relocating myself to a nearby coffee shop, library or my parent’s or sister’s house.

Challenge #2 – Noise and Distractions

If you manage to tackle and solve the whole wifi thing, there’s other obstacles such as marina noise and distractions. This is especially difficult in the winter months when we have all the doors and hatches open. Trying to have a conference call while the marina forklift is backing up with that loud beeping noise is near impossible. Our next-door neighbor in the marina is a fishing charter boat captain and when he returns his customers are excited about their catch and standing right outside our door on the dock posing with fish. Our dog Sophie sees them and of course goes bananas barking. If I am to be on a call, I have to time it with their return or shut the door before they arrive so Sophie never sees them. Randy, who also works from the boat when he isn’t traveling, has had to shut himself down into the aft cabin in order to answer a call.

Winter is tourist season down here in southwest Florida. The dock we live on happens to be the main dock for charter boats and attractions. At the end of our dock we have a Pirate Ship cruise boat that goes out about 5 times daily. Needless to say, at any given time there are hundreds of people lining up and walking down our dock a day. It can be quite a distraction (sometimes a fun one) to see so many happy, chatty adults and children dressed in pirate costumes walking by. There are times I have to close the doors to shut out the noise and concentrate to get work done.

Challenge #3 – Weather

You wouldn’t think that weather could disrupt your concentration while working since you’re indoors, but unlike being in a home or building, you feel everything in a boat. In the winter, we have cold fronts that bring high winds and seas for days at a time. Depending on the location of your boat in the marina, this can cause a lot of rocking on board. It doesn’t happen so much now that we are at Salty Sam’s and closer to land, but when we we at Snookbight on the outside dock we would rock so much that I would start to feel queasy trying to work on my laptop. During the summer, we have afternoon thundershowers almost every day. At times, wind, rain and lightening can kick up very quickly. Loud thunder cracking and power fluctuations in the marina can be common. Needless to say, it can be quite a distraction. Then there are the gorgeous winter days when the humidity is low, the sun is shining and the temps are in the 70’s and I stare out our open side door and think, “how can I possibly work on a beautiful day like this?”

Where there’s a will, there’s a way

Distractions and and wifi issues aside, working from a boat is much like working from home. You really have to be disciplined and have a good work ethic. Otherwise you wouldn’t get anything done with so many distractions. Thankfully, I had some practice working out of the home a few years before moving on board Blue Turtle. Now I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love that my job is completely mobile and whether we are heading out of town on a road trip or cruising to anchor in one of our favorite places, it’s nice to know that I can still get work done if needed.

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