Can we work from our boat?

cimota

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27 Oct 2009
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Northern Ireland and soon Almeria
I started working from my boat in 2019. And living on it.

I really prefer it. But frankly it's too cold in Ireland for winter work. So I'm going to move to Almeria and have the opposite problem - too hot in summer. That I can handle as I can winter in Ireland again...
 

Bristolfashion

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Floating around the UK
Having done almost every combination, I'd say it's possible, but so is eating soup with a fork.

If you're fixed on living on a boat, need to work & are ok with staying around one place, how about a tiny shore based office? We've spotted these in a few places near to nice spots to keep your boat - it may also give you storage for things you don't want on the boat. Much nicer than trying to balance a laptop on a chart table whilst dealing with boat motion, power issues, wi fi & all the rest.
 

st599

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If the 90 in 180 days is observed, no problems probably. Over 183 days introduces income tax liability, etc..
There's also the tax liability of the employer though. I know mine allows only 10 working days abroad - if you can prove you have a right to work in the destination country. For most 90 in 180 isn't enough as that allows access for a very limited set of reasons (business meetings, conferences etc.), unfortunately. For working beyond those reasons, each country has its own rules.
 
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Baggywrinkle

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Ammersee, Bavaria / Adriatic & Free to roam Europe
My partner did a week of work-aboard this summer holiday in the Adriatic, and I was also connected, but for entertainment, not working ... some of the things in the previous posts we can vouch for ....

1. Heat - can confirm, some days were very hot, made it difficult to concentrate.
2. Sleep - Heat/Mosquitos/Weather being the main culprits.
3. Energy - Running a couple of laptops with their chargers going permanently adds a not inconsiderable draw on the boats batteries - I have almost 400Ah and it was noticeable that the solar was working harder.

We both missed our comfortable remote working setups from home - multiple screens, big desk, comfy chair.

We ran the whole thing off an iPhone with a 4g connection running as a HotSpot - there were some anchorages where there was no reception, and of course, you don't know until you get there - as with when you are underway - if the meeting is important then stay still is my advice - better still in a marina with a solid WiFi. One anchorage without reception didn't have another suitable anchorage within 2 hours - so stuck - there was nothing ashore either.

The authorities are getting more and more aware of "digital nomads" and some countries, like Croatia, offer a "digital nomad" visa ... Temporary stay of digital nomads - this is a bit of a double edged sword.

I don't know about you, but my employer has a remote working infrastructure that allows remote-working from Germany or any site the company owns within the EU. What is expressly forbidden is remote working from foreign countries via WLAN HotSpots, local sim cards etc.

There are also work insurance complications and complications relating to the ergonomics of your workplace - you will not get a suitable ergonomic workplace on a sailing boat - and if your employer allows you to work there as anything more than an occasional case, they may be liable for any back, eye, RSI injuries you sustain.

Your mileage may vary, but we did look at the details of doing this ourselves and due to our employers rules, and the VISA required for the Adriatic we gave up.

... of course if you are self-employed or your employer has no such rules then it's a different story.

Finally, you need local SIM cards as EU free roaming is intended for short stays and a SIM that ends up roaming for too long (I think more than 3 months) will get disconnected.
 
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ryanroberts

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I have been working on a boat for years, though admittedly quite a few of those were on a narrowboat, and always in the UK. My employer is currently a small scale startup, so not big on rules.. I was interviewed by 3 other sailors. Power demands are managable for me using an M1 and 150W of crappy flex panels, and have been managing things mostly at anchor for the last month or so. With my planned solar upgrade I can't envisage any problems at all for May - Sep power wise.
 

webcraft

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Cyberspace
.

Lots of cruisers do internet-based freelance work. The chances of running foul of a foreign tax system are small unless you have residency. Just continue paying UK tax and dont; tell anyone where you are working from.

HIgh speed 4G is available nearly everywhere now, get a 4G modem and a cheap data sim and you are good to go.

- W
 

truscott

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6 Feb 2006
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I'm currently WFH and my home just happens to be our boat. I agree with the comments that ergonomics are rubbish on the boat compared to the office I have in our current land base. I also agree with the comments about intermittent internet access, wifi and 4g, as well as the issues with heat etc... When we moved aboard full time, I intended to try working from the boat as much as I could, then that changed to trying to work just the winters when we were pretty much marina bound. Now we just do the same as regular land based folk, we're back working fulltime contracts abroad and spend as much time cruising as we can in the summers. This of course means that we face all the challenges as before. In terms of equipment that we started with, what doesn't get used at all is my Wifi booster and the boat wide wifi (although I do have a Yakbitz wifi for passing AIS to Navionics). Wifi access is pretty much universally rubbish in Greece now, and 4G packages are decent (currently using Unlimited Vodafone for 10 Euro for 30 days). When you're being paid to be online, that's not really an expensive option. Different argument when you're no longer earning.
 

laika

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Having WFB as a liveaboard I'll return to the ergonomics point in post #4. We all have our individual musculoskeletal limitations and everyone's work is different but laptops are an ergonomic nightmare in the first place, and saloon seating and tables really aren't set up as a workstation. Short of a superyacht, you're not really going to fit your Herman Miller Aeron on board. If your work consists of banging out a few emails interspersed with making a few phone calls and Thinking Big Thoughts you may be fine but a tall person doing a marathon coding session is asking for neck, arm and back issues. If you're a programmer, writer, or someone else spending 8+ hours a day at a laptop keyboard, you're asking for health issues.

A second to others who say "Don't rely on marina wifi". Never mind picking it up, many marina wifi implementations share a not-so-big pipe which can be saturated by people streaming netflix. Moreover when there's an issue with it, the marina isn't an Internet service provider so it won't be their number 1 priority to fix it. Unlimited mobile data plans these days are cheap and a deductible business expense. If your work relies on connectivity have two (ensuring the underlying carriers are actually different) with wifi as your 3rd backup.

As above, many companies will have restrictions on where their employees or contractors can be physically located so some discretion on sharing your location may be wise.
 

Doge

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15 Sep 2021
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I have the same issue. I need to be online at all times. Are you guys aware of the rugged Starlink kit SpaceX is developing? Googling will bring it up. Its specifically designed to be fitted to boats and other vehicles and will withstand harsh conditions. With this it will be possible to have internet access even in the middle of oceans. Starlink is in beta testing right now and is very expensive and not very fast but the finished product will surely be the perfect solution.
 

roblpm

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Having WFB as a liveaboard I'll return to the ergonomics point in post #4. We all have our individual musculoskeletal limitations and everyone's work is different but laptops are an ergonomic nightmare in the first place, and saloon seating and tables really aren't set up as a workstation. Short of a superyacht, you're not really going to fit your Herman Miller Aeron on board. If your work consists of banging out a few emails interspersed with making a few phone calls and Thinking Big Thoughts you may be fine but a tall person doing a marathon coding session is asking for neck, arm and back issues. If you're a programmer, writer, or someone else spending 8+ hours a day at a laptop keyboard, you're asking for health issues.

A second to others who say "Don't rely on marina wifi". Never mind picking it up, many marina wifi implementations share a not-so-big pipe which can be saturated by people streaming netflix. Moreover when there's an issue with it, the marina isn't an Internet service provider so it won't be their number 1 priority to fix it. Unlimited mobile data plans these days are cheap and a deductible business expense. If your work relies on connectivity have two (ensuring the underlying carriers are actually different) with wifi as your 3rd backup.

As above, many companies will have restrictions on where their employees or contractors can be physically located so some discretion on sharing your location may be wise.
Good points. Though I have just been abroad working for seven weeks on my laptop. I find a laptop stand and a dinky Bluetooth keyboard and mouse make it OK. Lack of a second/large screen is an issue though.

I have now been working on board my boat for the last three days. My boat in this case is a cruise liner though (don't ask). So I have been replicating the hot weather experience in the Bahamas as a test. I have been working on the balcony of my cabin which is fine in about 32 degrees. I can't imagine working down below in a yacht in this sort of heat though. The sun is relentless.

So..........

No mab for me when I do this. A big awb with a massive bimini and a sizable cockpit table for my big screen (I use a 27 inch screen at home which I like in lieu of 2 screens) , laptop, keyboard and mouse setup. Work outside. Has anyone done this successfully? I have an aforementioned M1 Mac which seems pretty power frugal.

I also originally was thinking of living aboard in Scotland first but equally I now can't imagine working down below in the Scottish winter. Maybe the summer would be OK.

So. Working outside as opposed to down below?
 

PlanB

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5 Sep 2004
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I found that even in shade, the outside light and reflection made it impossible to see the screen properly for any meaningful amount of work activity (Med).
 

BobnLesley

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1 Dec 2005
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Aground in Yorkshire awaiting a very high tide
Hi everyone - my wife and I are both employed in fully remote jobs, and are considering buying a boat and living full time around the Mediterranean.

Any advice on feasibility for our idea would be very helpful! Thank you!
I can't see a problem, we had European friends who successfully worked their jobs for a couple of years whilst cruising the US east coast and the Bahamas; mostly via mobile phone signals, but as one was a graphic designer they occasionally had to go to a marina, or more often just found an internet cafe for major up/down loads.
 

roblpm

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I found that even in shade, the outside light and reflection made it impossible to see the screen properly for any meaningful amount of work activity (Med).
Interesting. I wonder why it is fine on the balcony of my cruise liner! I think some experiments are needed! 😂 I think would need bimini with optional sides!
 

ryanroberts

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Fancy MFDs can often take a laptop video input now. You can get portable low power displays, but annoyingly nobody seems to make outdoor monitors for less than £stupid. TRIO & TRIO Max
 

roblpm

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Fancy MFDs can often take a laptop video input now. You can get portable low power displays, but annoyingly nobody seems to make outdoor monitors for less than £stupid. TRIO & TRIO Max
ProdCat - Sunlight Readable Monitors

This says brightness is important for daylight viewable. Maybe HDR will save us? There appears to be an HDR 1400 standard. All expensive. But prices will drop. 1400 nits might do it apparently. In shade under the bimini with tonnes of solar to power the guzzling screen! 😂
 

PlanB

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Interesting. I wonder why it is fine on the balcony of my cruise liner! I think some experiments are needed! 😂 I think would need bimini with optional sides!
Might have something to do with the fact that my shade in the cockpit was only overhead - no surrounding walls on three sides.
 

roblpm

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Might have something to do with the fact that my shade in the cockpit was only overhead - no surrounding walls on three sides.
OK that's encouraging. I'm not quite defeated yet...... 😂
 
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