How to make a living on your yacht

Phil Johnson talks about working from your boat looking at the best tech and skills needed to make a living while at sea

In late 2018 my wife, Roxy, and I took a few suitcases of belongings and moved aboard our 47ft Cheoy Lee monohull to start the cruise of a lifetime. So far, a familiar start to a familiar sounding story. Except unlike most liveaboard cruisers, we took something else with us onto Sonder: our careers.

We are not sailing vloggers, or working in the marine industry, but 30-something entrepreneurs running a consumer retail business who stumbled onto the realisation that we can do what we do (running a company making pop-up 3D greetings cards), from literally anywhere.

Phil Johnson has proved that with the right connectivity you can work on board from almost anywhere in the world. Photo: Phil & Roxy Johnson/@sailingsonder

There have been digital nomads working from beach bars and converted vans for years, but the combination of improved digital infrastructure and huge swathes of the previously office-based workforce now working remotely has created a unique opportunity for sailors to take their jobs with them on the water.

Over the last couple years of cruising, we’ve talked with similar ‘workaboards’ with careers as varied as real estate, engineering, tech start-ups, and even airline pilots who have taken to the seas when off rotation. This is some of the advice we gleaned on combining cruising with a career.

Reality bites

Picture the scene: you’re walking down a narrow, sandy path, lined with overgrown Bahamian shrubs, heading towards the sound of reggae music. You come upon a beach with a legendary rum bar, dotted with a few dozen sun-drenched partygoers dancing around a jumble of tables and hammocks strung up between palm trees.

It all sounds lovely, except it’s Monday and you’re just there to grab the wifi password and try to concentrate on getting some work done.

“We learned some valuable lessons,” said Victoria and Mike Stenhouse about their first season blending work and cruising life.

Mike and Victoria Stenhouse run a UK-based property development firm from their 40ft Fountaine Pajot catamaran. Photo: insidepropertyinvesting.com

The Stenhouses run a real-estate development firm based in the UK and produce a podcast on property investment (Inside Property Investing) while cruising in the Mediterranean aboard their 40ft Fountaine Pajot catamaran, Havanesey Day.

They moved aboard in 2019 to be able to work from any location of their choosing, but quickly realised that the pace they’d set for themselves in that first year – some 5,000 miles from La Rochelle, circling the Med – simply wasn’t sustainable combined with the day job.

“Trying to move too quickly or see too many places will lead to far more stress than is necessary,” Victoria explained. There’s real value in travelling slower and at a pace more in-step with your work life. It might mean not circumnavigating in a year, but instead you have the flexibility of time to explore the places and cultures you’re sailing to more deeply.

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