Many of you know that Seth and I are living in Hawai’i. As a good friend of mine put it after our housewarming party, we finally set our “land anchor” after many years afloat. Of course, that isn’t the whole picture, because we haven’t really been sailing full time since our circumnavigation on our previous floating home HERETIC. We undertook our Alaskan adventures in the summers between academic years working and studying in Switzerland. But after leaving Switzerland in 2016, we did live aboard CELESTE for almost two years. Unlike our voyage around the world, however, when we only took on seasonal work during the hurricane months, aboard CELESTE we were also trying to work (career-type work, not seasonal jobs) at the same time.
We’re both lucky to be able to work remotely, meaning that it was in fact possible to live aboard and sail CELESTE while keeping on top of deadlines. But it wasn’t easy.
During the the winter of 2016/17, we were living aboard in a marina in the Pacific Northwest, working on all kinds of repair and maintenance to CELESTE and also working at our freelance contract work. The advantages to the marina live-aboard situation were: grid power (we paid for it, obviously, but it was nice to be able to use our laptops and a space heater without worrying about the boat’s battery bank), and excellent cell coverage. Oddly enough, the marina had terrible WiFi, but using our cell phones as hotspots was good enough.
The big disadvantage was that we weren’t sailing anywhere. Some people like the live-aboard life but Seth and I don’t, particularly. We like sailing. If we’re going to be in one place, we definitely prefer the space and amenities of life ashore. It didn’t help that it was the coldest winter the Pacific Northwest had had in decades. So our living space was confined to CELESTE’s small, dark cabin.
Needless to say, this wasn’t an ideal work environment, so we bounced around between the public library (pretty much unheated = distracting), coffee shops in town (music and conversation = distracting), and even the not-trendy, unpopular bar (no conversation, but the beer was distracting…). When we totally lost concentration in those locales, we came back to CELESTE but unfortunately cabin fever is distracting too….
Obviously it wasn’t all bad or we wouldn’t have put up with it! For one thing it was cheap. The slip was very affordable, the electric bill minimal, and living aboard means you avoid many of the bills of land life. More importantly, though, we made some great friends among the other live-aboards and sailors in the marina. And the Pacific Northwest is a beautiful place in winter as well as summer.
We got out in the Olympic Mountains as often as we could, hiking and then snow-shoeing (our ski-touring stuff was still in our friends’ attic in Switzerland). The Olympics are gorgeous, wild mountains with a great trail network, so that was a real saving grace.
When spring came, we started sailing again. It was a relief to be underway and remember why we were living on CELESTE in the first place. Keeping up with work while voyaging around Alaska wasn’t too hard, as none of our passages were that long and, between different SIM cards, we had decent enough cell coverage in enough places to keep on top of things. The same was true when we started south in the fall, leaving the Pacific Northwest for California and then Mexico’s Baja Peninsula.
For our crossing of the Pacific Ocean last May/June (I know — I still haven’t written about that on the blog — apologies!), Seth took a month off work, so we could disconnect from the world and just sail. It wasn’t completely like our first crossing when our communications had been nonexistent (well, almost: limited to VHF radio, with a broadcast range of 25 miles), but our outside communications were still minimal: just weather charts and an email here and there. It was wonderful. There’s really nothing like being completely focused on your immediate environment. My attention span gets longer, my mind gets calmer, and I just feel so much more at peace.
By that point, though, we had already decided to move ashore. Seth’s workload was increasing and it wasn’t feasible to continue as we were. We both missed the home office we had had in Switzerland. One of the costs of working from home is that you never walk away from it. You never leave it behind at the office. It’s always right there, ready for you to get back to, which makes it really, really hard to put it out of your mind. So it’s important (for us, anyway) to differentiate work space and work time from home space and home time. On the boat, that’s impossible. It’s just too small.
The other problem with working from the boat is that, in the remote, wild places that are a big part of our reason for voyaging, internet is often hard to come by. And then you stress out, miss deadlines, and even lose contracts — or at least opportunities.
The great advantage to remote work, though, is that — within limits — you can do it anywhere. Which is why we can live in Hawai’i, a place that’s not exactly known for its wide array of career opportunities.
We only had three basic requirements for where we’d “set our land anchor”, as my friend put it. The first two were easy to fulfill: It had to have high speed internet and it had to be in American territory, as that’s our only nationality. The third is a lot more difficult: It had to be a beautiful, remote place without too much development. That narrowed it down a lot.
Why Hawai’i, though? What happened to the high latitudes? All that describes Alaska, doesn’t it? Yes, and we did think about it. We both love the far north, the Arctic, and all the rest of Alaska. We love the wilderness of the Great Land, the wildlife, the rugged landscapes and seascapes, the warm people, the vibrant communities.
And we’re also skiers. We love winter. We love snow. We loved our years in Switzerland, playing in the Alps every moment we could get free time.
But we’re not exclusively high latitude / cold climate people. We really just love being out in nature, wherever we are. This blog is heavily weighted towards Alaska because I started it in 2014 when we were getting ready to sail to the Arctic. But for years before I began writing this blog, we sailed in many other places, including two wonderful seasons in the South Pacific, from French Polynesia to New Zealand, from Fiji to Australia.
It made an indelible impression on both of us, possibly partly because we were so young. We both became interested in Polynesian, Melanesian, and Micronesian cultures and especially their incredible history of seafaring and navigation. We’re also scuba divers. We love coral reefs, rays, sharks, turtles….
And that earthy smell of the jungle in the sun after a rain will always remind us of our very first landfall in the Marquesas, after our first ocean crossing, 27 days at sea. So in some ways, it’s equally natural that we should return to the tropics as it is that we should stay in the North.
So here we are, in Hawai’i. And what a lovely place it is.