Tips for Identifying Great Places to Work Afloat
- Long tourist visas
- Good mobile data networks
- Affordable standard of living
- Accessible marina facilities even at anchor (key for getting fuel and freshwater supplies)
- Low level of boat crime (Noonsite offers excellent security figures and advice http://www.noonsite.com/)
European Atlantic Islands
The European island chains of the Azores and the Canaries offer great working environments for sailors. With many modern marina facilities that are considerably more affordable than in mainland Europe, these island chains are excellent for digital nomads afloat.
The Canaries especially are a wonderful place to sail. With thriving cities and old beach communities, these islands are warm all year round but never too hot thanks to the ocean breeze.
The internet is easy to find with cheap data SIMs available, reasonable marina WiFi connections and good internet in most cafes. Boat parts are relatively easy to find and provisioning is outstanding on the larger islands.
Issues: On a Schengen Visa, non-EU citizens can only stay for 90 days within the Schengen area. Both the Azores (Portugal) and the Canaries (Spain) are Schengen areas. Different visas will have different conditions.
The Bahamas is just a stone’s throw from the States, making it an excellent place for US sailors to head to. With many islands, a vibrant cruising community and warm waters, the Bahamas are many sailors’ dream location.
Because the Bahamas is located in a hurricane belt, sailors can only safely stay from November to June. During the summer you can sail to the US or Canada, cross the Atlantic to Europe, sail south to Trinidad or south west to Panama.
The Bahamian marinas are very expensive but anchoring is easy and there are sheltered stops in most islands. The Bahamas has generally poor WiFi in cafes but excellent mobile data if you buy a data SIM. The islands are flat and you receive 3G almost anywhere. The data is more expensive than many other countries but not so much that you’d feel it if you were working.
Issues: There are unique weather patterns in the Bahamas that mean you’ll have to change anchorages possibly at least once a week. Often, you’d need to merely re-anchor a mile or two away and return after a low has passed through. Food is also very expensive.
The USA has some very affordable marinas and you can live anywhere from New York to Florida. With a vast liveaboard population, this can be a great place to spend a few months or live permanently onboard.
Marina facilities tend to be very good and WiFi and mobile data are easy to come by. You can migrate to different states with the seasons or even live between the USA and the Bahamas or the French West Indies (good internet).
Issues: Unless you have the right to live and work in the USA, you may struggle to stay for a lengthy period. There are a range of visas available.
The Mediterranean has a large cruising community thanks to its huge variation in destinations. For EU sailors, the Mediterranean is a place that you could never get bored of.
Islands like Mallorca have a range of marinas, from super-yacht pontoons to smaller, liveaboard marinas, and there’s something for everyone.
WiFi availability is good and mobile data is cheap. With the new EU regulations, you might only need one for any EU country. For more information you can see our article How to Buy a Data SIM Abroad or check out the EU Commission’s advice (https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/faq/frequently-asked-questions-roam-home).
The Med is mostly warm all year round and you can island- and country-hop every month and find facilities to work.
Issues: Educating yourself about the migrant situation is wise so that you know what to do if you encounter a migrant boat. Again, the northern coastline of the Med is Schengen, as are most of its islands.
Thailand has excellent mobile data coverage and, in tourist hotspots, you’ll never be short of WiFi. With endless cruising grounds and some reasonable marinas, Thailand is a country that attracts sailors looking for the ultimate dream life.
Thailand is cheap to live, which allows digital nomads to massively cut their expenditure. Working here will be much more anchorage based than marina based and when you can simply jump off into the sea after two hours in front of the screen, it’s hard to argue with.
With monsoons and typhoons at certain times of the year, it’s important to keep a good eye on the seasons and the weather.
Issues: You must have an AIS B transponder to visit Phuket. Electronic charts are known to have inaccuracies in some areas; an updated pilot book is advised.
Digital Nomadism is a fairly new way of working and living and it can cause visa conflicts. It’s always best to do some research on visa rules for the country you wish to work from. Most digital nomads working for businesses in countries outside of the one they are working from, happily exist on tourist visas.