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We’ve Got Virtual Mail: How We Get Mail on a Boat

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view from the cockpit, looking forward over the foredeck. the mast is in view as well as lots of lines. in the background are several large motorboats

We’ve got virtual mail! Well, a virtual mailbox heh. One thing we take for granted in land life is having a consistent mailing address. Traditionally, mail delivery is physical. How does that change when living on a boat? How do other modern nomads get their mail?

Great question! Modern nomads and home businesses utilize virtual mailboxes to receive mail and packages. 

AI generated image showing a red mailbox on stilts in a turquoise ocean with a blue sky dotted with a few clouds
a digital mailbox on the ocean – AI generated image,

What’s a virtual mailbox anyway?

Simply put, it’s a service that provides a street address where you can receive mail and packages. With a service like this, we significantly reduce the physical requirement of traditional mailboxes. 

How does it work? Because no one posts specifics on how mail makes it into the platform’s portal, I was surprised to learn the receipt and scanning process is entirely manual. Manual means employees receive your mail, filter out obvious junk, and scan the envelopes to upload to the platform portal. 

Who’s doing this manual labor?

A mail/shipping services business signs up with a platform (Anytime Mailbox, iPostal1, etc.). This business is frequently a small mom-and-pop shop but could also be a big box store like Staples. Merely a web portal, the platform is a plugin service for the business, and employees scan your mail into the portal. Knowing employees would open my mail prompted me to further research my chosen service and address.

Understanding that the address is tightly coupled to the business and employees, I did a bit of legwork to ensure we had the right company handling our mail. Here’s the process I used to vet the business and pick an address: 

  1. Google the address and use street view to find out who exactly the business is
  2. Read Google reviews of the business. If it was a big box store, I passed (just my personal preference – the rest of the steps still apply)
  3. Visited the store to meet the owners/employees and discuss which platform THEY like‡
  4. Went home and signed up for the service online
  5. Came into the store a couple of days later with IDs to sign the USPS form 1583 and meet the rest of the staff ($0 since we signed paperwork in front of them)

‡Why does it matter which service the business prefers? In my experience, all people have preferences. To build the optimal team, we connect with the people who use the platform daily to find out which service they like. What’s good for them is good for us! 


view of the salon, all teak interior with blue settee. charlie lays across the settee with the TV on. the table is unfolded, and a laptop and water bottle sit on the table.
charlie lounges in the settee during one of our first visits on the boat (on the hard)

What We Chose

These virtual mailbox services offer other services like mail/package forwarding, receiving packages for pickup (if you’re near the business), and check deposits. We opted for Anytime Mailbox because of the slight preference of the mom-and-pop company and the low startup cost ($10/mo).  

As Behan from Sailing Totem told us, people are handling your mail, and it’s great to know who they are. And that relationship goes both ways. By learning each others’ faces, we build empathy. No one is a no-face name and strange voice on the phone. We’re a team, and creating a great team is a core value of SV Loka. 

Update June 19, 2023: If you use our referral link for Anytime Mailbox, we both get a little kickback (a $10 amazon gift card)

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