through potentially corrupted AC from the
docks or the generator to our sensitive office
equipment, we use a PROsine inverter by
Xantrex exclusively for the computer station.
It’s wired only to the batteries, not to a feed
from our AC system. We use another larger
PROsine 2.0 as our primary battery charger
and the supplier of AC throughout the rest
of the boat, when there is no generator or
shore power. It also passes through dock or
generator power, when it’s available, to that
less sensitive equipment.
When purchasing an inverter, check for
its efficiency rating during the inversion process. The more efficient it is, the less battery
power it’ll consume. Some inverters use a
transformer; some use other more sophisticated technology. The transformer inverters
are generally heavier and less expensive.
They may have a higher surge capacity, but
this probably won’t be needed for office
MAN AT WORK
TOM NEALE WORKS FULL TIME AT “HOME,” which for the past 32 years has been his motorsailer, Chez Nous, on which he and his wife Mel have also lived full time. Here’s how he’s set up his office.
ON CHEZ NOUS, we established an office space with an unused extra bed in the aft stateroom. We ditched the mattress and built a desk that slides in and out at the forward end
of the bed, leaving the after end for office storage. There’s a hatch for cheering sunlight,
but because my office is in the stern of the boat, it seldom gets spray. A small but comfortable and adjustable office chair minimizes fatigue. If Mel is at the helm and I’m in the
office, we talk with each other via intercom. We use plastic file boxes for paper storage.
They fit into unlikely spaces and we can keep files that we’d normally carry ashore in one
“House/Boat” box so that we don’t have to worry about sorting through papers when we
start or finish our cruise.
I’ve found that it’s critical to have a quiet place dedicated to my “office” work. A loud
space next to, say, the engine creates fatigue and makes phone conversations difficult. A
location in the bow may be uncomfortable when you’re underway. A navigation station
already has a desk, but if it’s immediately inside an entrance, you may find it hard to concentrate, and your equipment may suffer from spray, salty moisture, and sunlight.
Getting online while onboard is relatively
easy and reliable these days, especially along
most of the U.S. coast. I’m not referring
to devices such as iPads and smartphones.
Often to perform your work, you need
Internet connectivity to a computer with
which you can type documents, work with
spreadsheets, print, and so on. We use an
MY COMPUTER OF CHOICE
Most of my boat computers have been desktops. They’re easier to get into to
change components such as memory, drives, video cards, and power packs.
Warranty service does little good if we’re in a beautiful anchorage in paradise. But if I can replace a part myself, I’m likely to be able to save the day.
Some newer laptops are easier to access than older ones; most are still challenging.
A desktop tower can be tucked into a nook or cranny, with only the monitor and
keyboard taking desk space. Also, depending upon the layout of your boat and location
of your “office space,” you may be able to use the same desktop tower for navigation
An advantage of a laptop is that you can take it home and spare it from the excessive heat and humidity aboard while you’re ashore. If you use wireless peripherals such
as a mouse, keyboard, and printer, shipboard electrical “noise” may interfere with them
depending on location and equipment.
Buy only computers that come with repair, recovery, and program disks. This can
be critical should you have a major failure. You may not be able to download fixes while
cruising. Invest in a good Internet security program and familiarize yourself with the
computer’s onboard self-diagnostic tools. Obviously smartphones, Apps, iPads, and the
like are dramatically changing the scenery. But if you need to type a lot or do extensive
Internet research, a traditional computer may be your best tool.
Tom prefers desktops onboard
as in this USACE survey vessel. They’re easier to get into
to change components such as
memory, drives, video cards,
Digitization has vastly improved my ability to do business from our boat. An
inexpensive small printer/copier/scanner enables me to scan papers that I then
store on a hard drive and backup devices. Scanning each “keeper” document
as it comes in means it’s always with us if we need backup. And I can print
out documents sent to us as e-mail attachments, sign them, scan them back
in, and return them by e-mail, saving a digital copy. In the old days, this exchange, with
mailed paper, could have taken a month or more.
I back up all my work aboard onto at least one flash drive and put it in my pocket
when we leave the boat. If you keep a computer aboard, this would enable you to copy
your work to your home computer. If you transport a laptop back and forth, the flash
drive is still invaluable if you carry it with you when you leave your boat unattended. And
many times, as we’ve expected severe weather or other problems, we’ve placed our flash
drives into our waterproof Pelican ditch box.
air card with Verizon Wireless service. For
us, Verizon has the best overall coverage
for broadband speeds. Most areas along the
East Coast have Verizon 3-G coverage and
their 4-G coverage is slowly spreading in the
highly populated areas. When considering a
WE DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT
Before we go on a cruise of any length or distance, we look ahead and
determine the documents we need to take with us. It’s important to consider
events such as maturity dates, tax dates, or documents that may require an
original or notarized signature. Talk with the professionals with whom you
may have to interface while away, explaining your situation. This takes more time than
expected. The “real world” won’t stop just because we’re in transit aboard our boat. But
the good news is that we’ve found that planning ahead and the right office aboard have
set us free.