Working While Cruising

Notice:  I have added photos to the previous posts since we arrived in French Polynesia.   So, if you would like to peek back at some older posts, you can see the visual support for our stories.

Land Ho!

Sailing Hiva Oa and Fatu Hiva

Sailing Tahuata and Nuku Hiva

Reflections on the Marquesas

The Dangerous Archipelago

Working while cruising has its pluses and minuses. The obvious plus is that you have a bit of cash coming in.  One of the challenges – you end up hunting WiFi like a blood hound.  You also end up having to cruise on a schedule a bit more. Inevitably this means that you move faster through areas you might have chosen to hang out in. It also does push you to make passages when you might rather choose to wait for a better weather window.  Of course we would never put ourselves in danger but when you have a passage between you and a flight to catch, it’s hard not to be influenced by your schedule.  We do work hard to plan ahead so that we’re never pushed to make a passage when it’s not safe.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the WiFi in eastern French Polynesia (the Marquesas and the Tuamotus) is as fast as it was in the early 90’s.  The app store won’t even open on any device, that is how fast it is.  One photo being uploaded totally shuts down you and the 10 people around you trying to get more important things done online at the WiFi place.  

To illustrate this, I’d like to tell you a story.  But it’s a boring story so I’ll cut out most of the beginning.  

We were trying to send an international wire transfer from the US to Canada in order to pay our taxes on time.  See… boring.  We had three weeks to get this done.  Sounds like plenty of time, yes?  No…. This small fact governed our lives for about three weeks.   I’ll spare you the details of the beginning.   Suffice to say there was an application process, a lost application, two inter island passages, calls from payphones and sat phones and a host of different bank representatives who (understandably) couldn’t wrap their heads around the fact that I didn’t have a US phone number or access to WiFi.  

I spent A LOT of time in phone booths.

This three week process culminated in the final day, literally almost the last hour before I would be able to transfer this money and have it arrive on time.  I’d worked on this daily after arriving in Fakarava, walking between the phone booth and the Wifi place, trying to get this up and running.  This final moment saw me trying to log onto a secure web portal from the WiFi hut while on the VHF radio to Cameron who was on the boat and also on the sat phone to his Dad in Indiana (a US phone number we could use).  When I click “login”, up pops a code on my screen that I’m supposed to punch into the phone.  They then call Cameron’s Dad and I have to get the code to Cameron and Cameron has to get it to his Dad and his Dad has to answer the automated call and punch the numbers in perfectly otherwise…. the login fails and your account is frozen and you have to walk to the phone booth (a 10 minute walk) to call them and ask them to please unlock the account again so you can attempt this modern game of telephone one. more. time…  Then you walk another 10 minutes back to the WiFi place and start over.  I think it took us about 5 tries before we perfected our technique.  There were tears.  

The walk between the WiFi place and the phone booth was at least a pretty walk.

Finally I managed to get logged in, I managed to get the wire written up in this cumbersome program, I approved the wire from another account I had to set up (each time you log in and out you have to do the game of telephone with Doug), and I went back and forth with a representative to make an amendment to the wire.  It was all done… or was it?  Luckily I stayed at the WiFi place and kept working on other things instead of packing up and going home for a tall cocktail.   As I was finally getting ready to head back to the boat, I notice a new email from someone else from the bank.  “Call me because I’m not sure this wire is really real and If you don’t call me by the end of day today (2pm my time), I’m canceling this wire”.   WHAT!?!  Thankfully I had the sat phone by this time and called her and approved the wire.   Really?   I did need a very tall cocktail after that.  

I have to honor Cameron’s Dad, Doug.  He does a lot of little things for us. “Doug, can you mail my taxes.” “Doug, do you mind spending most of two days with me on the phone trying to accomplish this online wire transfer shenanigan?” “Doug, can you print this out and send it to someone?”  He has been AMAZING through all this, happily making himself totally available and doing whatever he can to help. Doug, THANK YOU FOR BEING SO AMAZING.

Thanks to all of our parents, Bruce, Libbey and Barbara who all help us in myriad ways so that we can live outside the box. 

Pretty huts in South Fakarava

P.S. I’m moving to a different bank.

P.P.S.  If you are going cruising or long term traveling, make sure your bank is set up for any eventuality.  If possible have a personal banking relationship with someone that can do just about anything with a simple email or phone call.  This is what we’re transitioning towards.  First Republic and Schwab are great.  Bank of the West was NOT great.  Many banks force you to use internet or app interfaces which is difficult in remote locations.  

P.P.P.S. If you want a US phone number that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, that works all over the world, then keep reading.  Check out Google’s Project Fi.  For $20/month you get free texts all over the world and unlimited calls within the US.  It is usually $0.20/min to call back to the States when you are abroad, and $10/GB for data world wide.  If you use the below link to purchase your service, you save yourself and me $20 on your next bill.  The only downside is that you can’t use your iphone… but it is totally worth it.  You can port your number and use your own approved device.  If I had had this service, I would not have had to play that modern game of telephone.  AND with all the text verification that is happening these days, it is invaluable.    Thank to Behan on SV Totem for cluing me in.  

If you love Behan from Totem like I do and want to throw her the $20 bone, use her link

Or you can use our link and give us a break on our bill.




  1. Jennie Cunningham says:

    We have Project Fi phone service! That is good to know for our next sabbatical, which will hopefully take us overseas.

  2. Barbara Vawter says:

    Anne, Cameron, Adelaide & Isa, you are an amazing sailing family, so adaptable in multiple ways, we can’t even imagine. We certainly appreciate all your updates, videos & keeping in touch. Thank you.

  3. Richard Ednie says:

    I know your situation. Being a banker for 40 years I sent money to distressed customers in many places. Can you believe by voice recognition. Those days are gone. Continue to enjoy your travel news.

  4. Janis and Fred Blue says:

    Hi Kids, Just goes to show that a so called idyllic adventure isn’t all relaxation, stress follows one everywhere, but you all are doing great! Kudos to you Annie for hanging in there. I found my world map from Nat’l Geographic and found where you are, making it more connecting to you. The “Blue” family is also growing as is the “Vawter’s. Son Brian got a step Grdau in Mar, Son Mark got a Grson in May, and Son Brian got a Grson in July..makes us 8 gr grchildren. Love reading your blogs. Hugs to all of you! A Janis & U Fred p.s. We’ve had the tropical heat here, but not the beautiful scenery to go with it.

  5. Joanie Schumann says:

    I can’t imagine all of your
    incredible patience.
    What a family adventure I am including your parents too
    Safe sailing
    Joanie Schumann

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