A Tauranga woman is proving that you can live on a yacht and work at a Tauriko-based business at the same time.
Fiona Birchall is a business development manager for Tauriko-based business Kliptank Ltd, but works at home on a yacht.
Fiona says most are surprised when they hear that.
When she’s doing a virtual meeting, she will often walk her laptop around to give them the tour.
On a lovely sunny day in December, the Tauranga Chamber of Commerce went out to visit Fiona on the water at Bridge Maria.
A chamber spokesperson says they can see the appeal of working from home on a yacht.
Aside from the gentle lull of the water against the hull, it’s very quiet, private and relaxing.
Fiona says there is a “real community” with the other few who are living on their boats and her husband, who is a marine engineer, is always meeting new people on the marina.
“He’s really good at what he does – he’s supposed to be semi-retired, but he loves it,” says Fiona.
“We’ve been on this marina for eight odd years, with the various boats we have owned, so we know people and my husband will always go introduce himself to anyone he doesn’t know.”
What drove them to live/work on a boat though?
For Fiona and her husband, the decision was driven both by their love of sailing and a savvy financial decision.
“My husband and I met through sailing in Auckland, and boats in all forms have always been a big part of our life.
“During the first lockdown, we were renting an apartment in the Mount. We are both at a stage of getting closer to retirement and we thought, ‘Are we going to sustain that sort of money if we don’t own anything going into retirement?’.
“We thought we should put money into something we can live on and enjoy before we get too old, as a yacht comes with a bit of work and can be quite physical.
“So we want to live onboard until we can’t any more. It’s something we both love doing and because my role enables me to work from wherever it made sense.”
Physical location aside, Fiona’s ways of working to date have been anything but 9-to-5. While Fiona has been in her current role with Kliptank for 18 months, she started in sales co-ordination with the business.
She then followed her passion of starting a coffee trailer, where she juggled working part-time for Kliptank with her new business venture.
“At that time, I had a dream to start a coffee trailer. I had never pulled a coffee in my life, but I loved to drink it. One day the stars aligned, and I just thought, ‘I need to try this’, so I did.
“I would work at the coffee trailer until 2pm, then go to Kliptank until 5pm, then do some more after hours for Kliptank too. When it came to the coffee trailer, I had never worked so hard for so little money. It was long, hard hours and wasn’t the lifestyle I was after.
After nine months, she sold the business, but loved the experience and the amazing people she met – including Todd Muller, who was her first coffee client!
“I did love it, but I realised it was a dream. It has certainly made me appreciate a good coffee!”
In her current role, Fiona has been integral helping the business navigate a large amount of change, both internally and with the changing labour market.
“I have been going into the office a bit more than usual. As one of the longer serving staff, I tend to be a bit settling, like a camp mother, so I have been half on the boat, half in the office.
“But the reality is I don’t need to go in there much at all – so much of my work is on the phone or in the field, so why not work from home?”
-This article was originally published with Tauranga Chamber of Commerce