off the grid
- computers and software
In most dry places, desalinated potable water is free or available for cheap. In most tropical islands, potable water is available but often scarce, and so it is best to catch rain water which can then be treated with bleach, with the only ‘active’ ingredient ‘sodium hypochlorite'.
The amount depends on the concentration, the ratios will be different for 6% than for 8%.
For 6% bleach, add 1/2 tsp for every 5 gallons. For 8%, add a 1/4 tsp. Shake container well after adding bleach, and let container air out for 30 minutes or so before drinking.
Also, the water can be boiled for a minute before drinking. Another option of course, is to add filters inbetween your tank and your tap, although this may still mean that there will be contamination in your tank. Another option, is to filter the water before it gets in your tank - these filters can be expensive though.
Coastal locations like marinas and public beaches often have fresh water showers for local swimmers or marina guests. Usually free, or available for use at a nominal fee (1-2$ for 5 minutes).
We use a pressurized sprayer as a shower, it uses little water and can be found in most hardware stores.
When water is scarce, we bathe in salt water, and rinse with fresh water.
While modern grocery stores can be found in larger cities, these can often be far apart. In smaller towns, fresh vegetable and fruit markets are seldom open everyday, most only once a week.
For remote places, canned, dried or shelf-stable foods are a good alternative to refrigeration. Choosing canned foods is something worth experimenting with - buy an assortment, find which suit your tastes. We usually look for unsalted ones, without corn syrup.
Our favourite canned vegetables are mushrooms, mixed beans and tomatoes. Our favourite dry foods are nori, oats and cornmeal. Our favourite shelf-stable foods are tetrapak tofu, spicy sauces and various japanese condiments.
Most city-centers will have a hospital, ones out in the islands - south pacific for instance- tend to be good and cheap, but in most cases you must be self-sufficient. That includes a well-stocked medical supply and the know-how to fix yourself up. In case of a serious injury, you must have the means to get yourself to the nearest clinic. We use DAN Boater, a repatriation insurance that covers helicopter/transportation fees.
We find that medical apps for mobiles, and FM armyfield manuals, are helpful when dealing with minor burns, cuts and various aches.
While books are great they take up a lot of space, are prone to mold, and in warm countries, they ultimately attract insects. To protect them from moisture, we have resorted to keeping them in ziplock bags. In cold weather, if your boat is kept warm and is well-ventilated you won't have to worry.
Amongst sailors, and likely other types of nomads, books and movies are a trading currency. Social hubs will often have bookshelves inviting you to take and leave a book. We have found countless gems in those.
Most of our books now, are on our Kindle Paperwhite, which takes little battery and allows us to read at night.
We often find ourselves away from hotspots, and even cellphone reception, but internet can be found anywhere nowadays. The only difference is, you may have to pay more for it. For instance, internet in Tonga is expensive and slow, while in Fiji (the next country over) internet can be found anywhere and it's dirt cheap. You can get a sim card anywhere easily.
We try - as much as possible - to send periodical location updates to our families - we use a satellite phone operating on the Iridium satellites network to do that. The Iridium Go satellite phone costs around about 100US$/month and allows us to keep in touch with our friends and families via SMS & emails, from anywhere in the world - even the middle of the ocean.
Since connectivity can be rare, and far apart, the time that we do have online is spent wisely. Uploading backups, responding to requests from users, updating our friends and families with our new location.
As cellular data is often expensive around islands, disabling autoplay on videos, and disabling image previews on social media is near obligatory.
Some countries require visas in advance, most do not, this also depends on your nationality. The visas are generally free, unless you require an extension for your stay. Upon entry into a new country, you may need to pay the immigration, customs, health and quarantine officers.
Upon leaving, a departure tax and varying amounts based on the size and weight of your vessel might also need to be paid. These fees can sometimes total up to 200US$. We find Noonsite to be a good up-to-date ressource for country-specific information on fees.
Not all places have ATMs, but always have a bank nearby that will take a VISA card. In the islands we prefer to pay in cash, a lot of places, like fresh food markets, don't accept credit anyway.
Better make sure that your credit card will not be blocked when used in foreign countries, and that it will expire at a location that will allow for you to receive a new one.
Provisioning can be expensive in certain countries, so stocking strategically with cheaper stores, ahead of time, can help to save money. A rule is, if you're shopping and you see something you like at a good price, buy tons of it; chances are you won't be seeing it again on your next visit (turn-arounds are quick in some stores, and won't re-stock the same items necessarily).
Canning is essential when traveling on a budget, a pressure cooker and glass jars will save you money and will help reduce waste. Preparing your own stores, also means that you choose what goes in it, therefore reducing your intake of added salts and sugars.
Being in good physical shape is important, wether you need to run, jump or lift something heavy without injuring yourself. Knowing how to tie solid knots is paramount, knowing how to tie a good bowline knot could save your life.
A good stainless-steel knife, a spindle of paracord, a phone-size ziplock bag, a waterproof flashlight and a good drinking bottle for fresh water will go a long way.
Following a plant-based diet while traveling is possible. Planning provisions ahead is important, a lot of the places may not have specialty items. Nutritional yeast, miso, dried legumes, quality wholegrain flour, flax seeds and B12 supplements, are especially hard to find.
Buying a large supply of shelf-stable tofu is always a good idea; it's a product that is high in protein and low in calories, that can be used to make sauces and sautees, while providing calcium (makes sure it has calcium sulfate or calcium chloride in the ingredients list). For iodine, carry iodized salt, or seaweed (wakame or nori). Other essentials, like omega 6 (LA, linoleic acid), can be found in pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds for instance, omega 3 (ALA, alpha-linoleic acid) can be found in linseed and chia seeds (about 1 tbsp a day).
Staples like nut milks and oats are found everywhere, varying in price and quality. There will always be fresh vegetables available, but the selection can be poor at times. Carrying cans and and dried version of those foods can help, for example: canned and dried potatoes. Canned spinach may not be appealing, but in a place where there are no leafy greens available, it's better than not having any at all. Canned is not ideal, because it has a lot of added ingredients like salt and sugar, but if you plan in advance you can buy brands that have little additives.
Eating frozen, can help in a bind, a lot of frozen vegetables don't lose their nutrients, like Brocoli for instance. Most places will carry frozen goods, and it's generally cheaper than buying the same item fresh. If like us, you lack a fridge, get a bag with insulation or a cooler and keep it in there with other frozen goods. It won't keep forever, but it helps to slow the thawing process.
When at anchor, it can sometimes be difficult to stay focused. The weather is king, it determines whether or not we can work. If the weather is foul, we are on anchor-watch to make sure we don't drag.
Waves also makes it hard to do simple tasks like writing, or drawing. Depending on the direction of the wind, we need to move the boat and that too, takes focus and time away from work. Calm and sunny days, are distracting in other ways: when the water is clear and teeming with colourful fish, it is difficult to resist jumping off.
It is easier to work on projects when docked, as we need not worry about the weather or the charge of our batteries.
Working online without a constant internet connection is feasible, but painful. Still, there are ways in which some of the friction can be removed from the process.
Getting local SIM cards, with blocks of data, works well within cellphone reception range. But in the constraints of expensive cellphone data, uploading large files can be made possible by offloading heavy-lifting onto remote servers; having your server build and upload your projects instead of using your laptop batteries and broadband.
There is no solution to uploading videos to youtube, it's a costly and lenghty process. We have made the decision to keep our videos under 5 minutes to help reduce upload time.
Tools like Offline Wikipedia, digital encyclopedias and dictionaries a great assets to have aboard. Recipes can often be devised from dictionary descriptions of foreign fruits and vegetables.
In the case of a nomad programmer, having the current programming language documentation & various source files is an asset. Prior to going offline for a few days, we often rip entire sites, or capture specific pages as webArchives. The same goes if drawing references are needed, projects are planned ahead and references are collected while a good internet connection is available.
We use a GoPro Session4 as well as a Sony a6000 to film our travels. The GoPro has the advantage of being light and waterproof - making for a perfect everyday-carry camera. Shooting with the SLR requires more planning as it can only used in fair weather.
We film as much, and as often as we can. At the end of each month, we watch our footage and write a summary of that month's events. Monthy capsules are planned ahead, and we gather footage based on what is needed. While one is busy recording the narration, the other writes music, the two tracks are then edited together with the collected footage. We have our respective tasks when it comes time to edit, but both of us take part in the filming.
In rough weather, we prioritize our own safety above all, and so we rarely have footage of rough seas.
computers and software
Salt water is highly corrosive, even an open window can let in salt air and long term, it can damage electronics. The usb ports of our laptops, as well as our usb cables have suffered damage as a result of this. We now store all devices and cables away after use, in large plastic containers with foam insulation. Since we use our phones for navigation, or to listen to music outside, we keep them in protective sleeves.
Having backups for your devices is of the utmost importance, extra power adaptors and mini usb cables are a must. Extra computers is also recommended, especially if you are working somewhere where new hardware is impossible to find, or too expensive.
If you can work on a machine that costs less money, do it. If something happens to it, it wont be too complicated to replace. Macbooks consume a lot of energy, and battery life is always an issue. Power consumption is something that should be taken into account when choosing a computer for working at sea.
We use Raspberri Pi computers, they draw very little, and cost little too. We use one Pi as our media station and Rekka another as a work station. We still do some work on Macbooks, but would like to change this in the future. Using an Ipad for sketching and drawing is a good solution, as is using Ronin which uses less power than photoshop.
We have a La Cie Rugged Portable Hard Drive that is waterproof and shockproof, we store all of the footage we shoot as well as backups of files that had not yet been uploaded online. We also carry a SATA hard drive dock, for extra data.