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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
The only aspect I'm concerned with is whether I'll be able to sit down with my laptop and concentrate on the work for 20-30 minutes without interruptions, at least 4 hours total a day. Will this be possible in a single-handed offshore passage?

I have never been on a sailboat (planning to take courses in the summer), but from reading the forum it looks like this might be a problem.

Is there anyone else who's earning a living on a computer while cruising? I'd be very interested to know about your experiences.
 

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Jeanneau 57
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Although difficult at first, using a computer while in motion is not impossible and there will be extensive periods of time during a passage where the boat will be becalmed and as still as if you were ashore. The problem I see is that communications are expen$ive while offshore. A BGAN connection is far too expensive and using my Iridium costs me only $1.50 minute but at about 2400 Baud it is awfully slow.
 

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Bombay Explorer 44
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IMHO forget about trying to do this on passage. I left the UK heading for the Caribbean and had visions of completing my dissertation while rolling down the trade winds. Never happened.

However I wrote a few programs for pay out there. I did the systems analysis on site got a signed off spec. then anchored off the Tobego Cays, snorkeled all day and coded at night. I could even get pizza delivered [ cold ]
 

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Well Brother, Is it possible? Certainly, however, I am prone to think you may be putting the cart before the horse.

"I have never been on a sailboat " There is a learning curve involved with single-handed sailing. Even long time sailors continue to learn new lessons (and usually not from books). Rare is the person who can take courses this summer and set sail alone straight away after receiving whatever diploma or certificate of achievement they get.

That being said...

If you are a stereo-typical programmer being comfortable spending long periods alone shouldn't be a cause for concern (it is for alot of people). And you will have lots of time; since the advent of GPS, gone is the need to greet every sunrise and sunset with sextant and stop watch and calculating and plotting ones position (wonderfully satisfying). Myself and most solo sailors I have known have their day well organized and there is lots of time for reading or pondering or I suspect, as you want, working on a computer. And the time blocks you are asking are not a problem. One can expect on a typical passage there will be periods wherein alot of such work can/could be accomplished and days with little or none. I can remember days wherein the paper plates from meals several days before were still within sight. Days when I sanded and varnished the tiller... I wasn't expecting any change in conditions. It isn't all F6 and above although there are some.

And once you get to where you are headed there are other issues. I suspect it takes a special person who can work like you are suggesting as most fall victim to some variant of what we only half jokingly called "Poynesian Paralysis". "Never do today what can be put off until tomorrow and mabe not then." How you spend your time, how dedicated you are to doing the work both while underway and when you arrive at your destination will probably be a bigger problem.

I have encountered cruisers who made their living as writers but those were days before personal laptop style computers and I never asked how they worked (the writers not the computers..but frankly I really haven't a clue how computers work either).

Just my thoughts on your idea.

Bests,
Wiley
 

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I occasionally toy with a similar idea and while I haven't been on any offshore voyages, I can tell you I haven't gotten it to work on coastal trips. We have our own version of Polynesian Paralysis (love the term) up here. Plenty of times I've taken work with me (either coding or paper-writing) and never gotten a scrap of it done. There's always more pressing matters, like sail trim, repairs, or cooking, or playing the guitar, or taking a nap on the foredeck... in part we sail to get away from the world and once you get on board you kind of say "screw it" to whatever's going on on land.

Then again it could be that on longer offshore passages when you're not dealing with heavy weather there's a lot more time to kill and you end up looking for things to fill it with. Let me know if you can make it happen :)
 

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ancient mariner
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it seems to me the biggest problem single handing on an off shore voyage would be getting enough sleep.
 

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It might take some work to keep a good watch while programming. Would you expect to work below decks, or take a laptop on deck where you can keep an occasional eye on the horizon? Most of the laptops I have used are pretty hard to read in sunlight, and I would be worried about banging it or losing it overboard if I had to drop everything to deal with some boat issue.

I'm curious about the business side of this sort of thing. Are you a contract programmer? An ISV? If you are coding to customer specs, are they okay with having rare or even no face time? Would you let them know that you were offshore? Would they care?
 

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hello brother
I am considering something similar and hope it works. I am planing to quit summer of 2011 and move onto my boat. Right now I enjoy my Island paket 37 but I am considering to exchange her for a "owner version" moderate cat. Living in one hull and outfit one of the staterooms in the other hull as an office is quite tempting. As of now I will be singlehanding [although one never knows...] and looking into options of taking care of the lookout portion of passage making. A combination of AIS, Radar and video cams comes to mind. I would love to stay away from more tech stuff and the plan was to retire with a decent cruising kitty but the economical downturn shattered all these dreams and the only options are to wait [ don't like that at all] or to make some money underway.

I think it is doable. You have to start your sailing career soon to be able to do it. Should you be anywhere near Annapolis, MD let me know. You could join me on a weekendtrip to see firsthand what singlehanding is about and talk about this topic.

Good luck!
 

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brohter, you are planning to spend 4hours, about 1/3 of the daylight hours, below deck working on your computer?

That would mean that for 1/3 of each day you will not be keeping a proper watch, as legally defined. Should you be concerned with that? Only if the risk of sinking from collision bothers you. Otherwise, by all means, abandon command of your vessel and work on the computer belowdecks for 1/3 of each day.

If, like many programmers, you go into "flow time" when you are absorbed in something, your twenty minute bursts may stretch considerably. Or, you may be subject to constant interruption if you are using an alarm timer. So even if you invest in a daylight-readable screen and take your work abovedeck...someone is still supposed to be keeping a proper watch, with their eyes "out of the boat" at all times.

Better to cruise safely, and break out the laptop after you drop anchor, or go off watch.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks for the input, everyone. It's been a great food for thought. Now I'll try to answer question that were asked in this thread.

First off, I've been working remotely as a contract programmer for 5+ years. People who stay in this business for that long have learned to find work and manage their time. Customers don't care where you are as long as the work gets done, but this, of course, depends on how easy you're to replace, considering your specialty, quality of work and rates.

The internet is a necessity, though, even if not used extensively. I will probably be using BGAN for that.

hellosailor, I've been very concerned about working below decks too. I think I would prefer to stay atop, but I guess sunlight might be a real problem. I thought I can install a few web cameras watching in all directions and a simple monitor (or a few) in the cabin. Or even better, some kind of collision warning system hooked to a loud alarm. Has anyone tried any of these options?

I realize I might not be ready to single-hand through Atlantic after a month-long course, so I'll be cruising along the American coast for a month or two before I do. I'm planning to arrive to US in the summer, take sailing courses and buy a boat. And I'm sure I'll want to meat people I'll get to know via this forum.
 

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Cruising World had an article on this a while back (years). The impression I got from the guy in the article was that it was so much hassle, he didn't really get to enjoy himself. There were times where he had to actually fly to the customer site.

As a programmer (and sailor) I will say that one of the first things I'd love to do is sail out to the middle of the ocean, speak a few words of good riddance, and toss the damn computer overboard.

Okay, maybe just the case, but the symbolism would be important!
 

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I've been in software development for over 20 years and the short answer is I wouldn't even try it while underway, especially sailing singlehanded.
As has been pointed out you need to keep a good watch. You mention cameras but you still have to watch the cameras -- and loud alarms but for what. They probably will detect big ships pretty well but small boats, floating objects, changes in weather -- I don't think so.
Besides, if your anything like me and I expect most developers, once you get involved in an interesting problem you might very well not hear an alarm no matter how loud it is and you sure as hell won't be looking at cameras.
For me personally, my development style does not lend itself to isolating myself from the customer for long periods of time. I tend to put out a new build every couple of weeks and run it by the client and the end users to make sure I'm not going in one direction while they think I'm going in another and that the user interface satisifies the client's needs. However, that's me and everyone works differently.
The only time I've been able to program on my boat was when it was tied up at the dock.
IMHO, go to wherever your planning to go but do your work while at anchor or at the dock not while you're underway.
 

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Webcams: Nice if you could gyrostabilize them and waterproof them and rig windshield wipers to keep the abrasive salt spray off them. At their best, still no match for the "Mark I Eyeball".

Radar makes a decent way to keep a watch--but running that 24x7 would really eat up power, and that still leaves you vulnerable to floaters and anything in the water. Again...a good tool, but not the same as eyes on deck.

That's an ambitious program to take a month long course or courses, then immediately buy a boat, shake it down and go transatlantic. Most of the folks who try something like that, all in one bite, will either wind up needing to buy a new boat (to avoid used boat problems) or else find they've got to stop for two weeks here and there to make repairs during that shakedown.

There's a learning curve and "seat of the pants" that no course, no book, will give you the same way as a year or two of crewing on boats and talking to folks on them. Which is not to say you can't pull it off--but good luck to you, and let us know how it goes.
 

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At this point (from your first post) it is not apparent that you even like to sail. As a person with close to 30 years in IT (12 years programming, about a decade as an infrastructure architect, and the past eight years in security and regulatory audit) I understand your desire to get out of your house/cubicle to work.

But sailing is a passion. Regardless of the lessons you take, if you don't really have a passion for sailing, you will probably be miserable. Additionally, sailing is a learned skill. While lessons help with the fundamentals, there's only three things that can make you into a competant sailor; sailing, sailing and more sailing.

My advice is to take it a bit slower. Sail on weekends. Crew for some more advanced sailers. Take up an offer to crew/sail in a storm (take a look a Gui's thread) to gain worst-case experience.

Then, if you have the sickness (like most of the people that post here) and really need to sail, work from you boat for a few months at the dock. See if the space you have to work/live really works for you.

Good luck - I hope whatever you decide works well for you.

Eric

Oops - I meant to reference the "Bene505" post regarding sailing in a storm. Sorry for the mis-reference. ER
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Great input again, everyone.

Sailing on weekends or anything like this isn't an option for me at this time for certain reasons not worth discussing here. But I will have a few months to learn by American shores when I come in the summer. Would be happy to meet and sail with people from this board.

I don't know if I like sailing per se, but judging from the forum, the sailor's lifestyle is certaintly for me. I like spartan conditions, being away from civilization, doing all kinds of stuff with my own hands and being constantly on the move. And I've been drawn to the sea since my childhood.

If I'm not ready to sail through Athlantic by the next autumn, I would consider hiring an experienced sailor to take me through the passage. Is this realistic? Can it be done for under $2000?

Regarding work, dealing with customers is not an issue as I never see 99% of my customers at all. We tend to meet on the Net and be located thousands of miles away.

If I have to anchor for working, that would be somewhat less convenient, but not a big problem. I've also found some sunlight-viewable LCD screens on the Net, though they're expensive side. There're also sun-blocking hoods for laptops. Has anyone thried any if this?
 

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Great input again, everyone.
I don't know if I like sailing per se, but judging from the forum, the sailor's lifestyle is certaintly for me. I like spartan conditions, being away from civilization, doing all kinds of stuff with my own hands and being constantly on the move. And I've been drawn to the sea since my childhood.
Being away from civilization? With Internet and computers 4 hrs a day?
I think the two are mutually exclusive, and that you will not enjoy the sailing part of it then.

If I'm not ready to sail through Athlantic by the next autumn, I would consider hiring an experienced sailor to take me through the passage. Is this realistic? Can it be done for under $2000?
Maybe, but I doubt it. Sometimes You might be able to find someone willing to do that. I think it would actually cost you more when being aboard yourself. You will not get a professional at that price, that's for sure.

If I have to anchor for working, that would be somewhat less convenient, but not a big problem. I've also found some sunlight-viewable LCD screens on the Net, though they're expensive side. There're also sun-blocking hoods for laptops. Has anyone thried any if this?
You don't anchor in the oceans, if you're at a that point in the learning curve, you need more experience than a month will give - No offense meant, we've all been there.
Don't think that ANY device currently built by man would survive 4 hrs a day for 20-30 days in the cockpit, unless extremely expensive. Even some (supposedly) waterproof chart-plotters die sometimes after heavy weather.
 

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Great input again, everyone.

If I have to anchor for working, that would be somewhat less convenient, but not a big problem. I've also found some sunlight-viewable LCD screens on the Net, though they're expensive side. There're also sun-blocking hoods for laptops. Has anyone thried any if this?
I had no trouble seeing my laptop screen working under my Bimini unless the sun was behind me (at which point I moved). I had planned to make a hood out of light plastic and velcro -- a bigger version of the hoods they sell for gps chart plotters but I found I didn't need it.
Since I always worked at the dock I had shore power so I never had to recharge my laptop batteries at sea. A good inverter should do it but I have no idea how much power it would draw.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Well, it looks like I can't count on coming to US in, say, June, and sailing back through Atlantic in a newly bought boat in autumn. If so, then be it, no problem. Better safe than soon.

Can I instead go along the coast to Ecuador or Costa Rica? I hope it's much easier, is it? I wanted to go there anyway, and for a long time.

Regarding monitor for cockpit use - it doesn't need to sit there all the time. One won't be able to work in any but a fairly calm weather anyway.
 

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Plan to sail when you sail and work when the hook is down. It is difficult enough to find time to do things when on a crewed vessel. When siglehanding, unless becalmed, you will have no time to spare.

I also completely agree with previous posters who stated that taking sailing lessons for a month definitely does not qualify one for singlehanding the Atlantic in a boat you just bought. Take it easy, learn the craft, lean the boat, then, if you like it and get good at it, go for it. It could take a year or more just to find a used boat and get it ready for serious offshore work (and crossing the pond is serious offshore work)
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
OK, I think I'm ruling out work and sailing at the same time, at least as the norm. Though I've seen a video on youtube of a guy that went transatlantic in his Contessa 26 and was sitting still for days at some points.

As for the boat, is paying like 5% above market price make my search much easier? I'd rather pay a few more grand upfront and be working/sailing for the next few months than still looking for a boat.
 
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