Boats and Gear

Navigating with OpenCPN on an Android Tablet

8 May


After well over a year of landlubbing where I could barely even find time to adjust my docklines I’m finally back on my boat! I’m writing this in Ft. Meyers Beach, FL, which we’ve reached in a couple long, busy passages. Unfortunately I couldn’t steal away for long so I’m doing what I hate to do which is sailing on a schedule. This means sailing in any wind that we can get, which in turns means unpredictable passage times. Well I say unpredictable but somehow we always seem to reach our destination at the same hour- 3am. I’m no stranger to night passages, or night entrances and I’m careful about where I will and will not arrive after dark but this trip, for the first time on my boat, I’ve been able to make night entrances with a sense of near-total ease.…

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Portable generator benefits, and how to care for one aboard

14 Jan

sunset underway

We strive to be a green boat, and supply our power through sun and wind as much as possible. But the wants of five people can outstrip what our solar panels and wind turbine provide- especially during a time of grey skies or equatorial calms. Unfortunately, we had periods of cloudy skies and not much wind while we were in Southeast Asia, so our green power struggled to keep up.

sailboat sunset generatorBatteries like to be kept above a minimum charge (amount depends on battery voltage and type) and to get a full recharge now and again instead of routine partial charges. Our first battery bank (12 volt AGM) started failing after a solid service life, and we found ourselves running Totem’s engine more often to charge up.…

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365 days, 7,988 miles, 2 oceans, 1 boat

2 Jan

DSC_4412

What a year! We knew 2015 was going to be big, and eagerly anticipated the change after a year of maintenance in Southeast Asia. In hindsight, it was truly epic: I still can’t believe we’ve crossed the Indian Ocean! This past year brought richness in culture and landscapes and beauty that overwhelmed us in their scale and diversity. I struggled a little with how to share how this year felt to us; Jamie, who is a database guy from way back, pulled some statistics out of the data he tracks on our everyday life, and that got it flowing.

Summary log

  • Distance traveled: 7,988 nautical miles (9,192 miles; 14,794 km)
  • Days at anchor: 249; days docked: 59, moored: 20, nights on passage: 37
  • Countries: 10 – Thailand, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Chagos, Seychelles, Comoros, Madagascar, South Africa, and Lesotho
  • Places (harbors, anchorages, etc.): 70, and 52 different islands
DSC_4499

tied to the police jetty for clearance: Trincomalee, Sri Lanka

Anchorages

  • Deepest: 130’ (39.6m) – Gaadhoo Island at Hadhdhunmathee Atoll in Maldives…in fading light and as squall hit, per Murphy’s law.
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Indian Ocean lookback: the best gear over ~7,000 miles

16 Dec

Indian Ocean GE track

Sailing across the Indian Ocean made 2015 a big year for nautical miles under Totem’s keel:  6,901 of them, in fact, from the time we left Malaysia in February until we arrived in South Africa in October.  It had a little bit of everything: light winds. Big winds. Really big current! Weeks among uninhabited islands, and great distances between supplies. We tested ourselves, Totem, and a lot of gear. Here’s what stands out for equipment on board that served us well while crossing the big I.O.

Toughbook. This ruggedized laptop is the brain of our navigation station. After eight years of service, after reaching Madagascar we finally retired our Toughbook CF-52 and replaced it with a current model.…

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Gifts for sailors: ideas for the cruisers in your life

24 Nov

cobb in comoros

Who wants to cut into the cruising kitty for gifts that won’t work when you take off? It’s just about that time of year, so Jamie and I came up with a list of fun and affordable gifts based on our everyday cruising life. Maybe some of these will fit the sailor in yours! We aimed to skew practical but keep it fun and easy, with ideas that are (mostly) under $50.

Dry bag. Ship to shore, or even just walking around on shore, things get wet. I remember tucking a camera into a plastic baggie back in 2008 and was just lucky when we dumped the dinghy and the camera survived.…

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Sailcloth 102: a primer for cruisers

30 Oct

schooner 2

Jamie is a sailmaker; he periodically shares his knowledge on the blog, and those posts are under the Sailmaker tag. This is the second post in a two-part series to demystify some of the woo around sailcloth material; you can read the first post here. Anyone with questions about sails is invited to get in touch; Jamie enjoys sharing from his depth of experience as a sailmaker and a cruiser. 

Sailcloth comes in so many forms, each exhibiting unique characteristics. It’s easy to see, and understand differences between a Carbon fiber “string” sail and one made from Dacron with crosscut construction.…

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Sailcloth 101: a primer for cruisers

26 Oct

Priests_traveling_across_kealakekua_bay_for_first_contact_rituals

Jamie is a sailmaker; he periodically shares his knowledge on the blog, and those posts are under the Sailmaker tag here. In this first post of a two-part series, he hopes to demystify some of the woo around sailcloth material. Anyone with questions about sails is invited to get in touch; Jamie enjoys sharing from his depth of experience as a sailmaker and a cruiser.

We gifted Totem’s old Dacron mainsail to a family on Ninigo atoll in Papua New Guinea. There, the fatigued sail that pushed and pulled us over thousands of sea miles found a new life as a tarp.…

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Gearing Up

18 Sep
allGear

Having spent many years sailing in England, where there is no climate as such, just weather (as the Brits love to say, with just a touch of bitterness), transitioning to coastal sailing in the United States came as a pleasant surprise to me. It took a year or two before I stopped toting my ocean-grade foulweather gear around and became acclimated to sailing in shorts, T-shirt and (sometimes) a light jacket. I’ve so seldom worn long pants on the boat that when I sailed in jeans the other week it felt decidedly unnatural.

Of course, pride precedes an inevitable fall, and after a couple of years of fair-weather daysailing I had been lulled into such a sense of false security that when invited to race from Marblehead, Massachusetts, to Halifax, Nova Scotia, I packed only the lightest of gear, the dog days of summer having brought 95-degree temperatures to the coast.…

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How to Choose the Best Pair of Sunglasses for You

10 Sep
Revo’s Guide S sunglasses are built with “fast-flow” vents on the arms to keep your head cool and the shades where they need to be (i.e. on your head), and they come with high-contrast polarized lenses. $189. Revo, revo.com

Revo’s Guide S sunglasses are built with “fast-flow” vents on the arms to keep your head cool and the shades where they need to be (i.e. on your head), and they come with high-contrast polarized lenses. $189. Revo, revo.com

In a past life when I was working as crew for America’s Cup Charters in Newport, Rhode Island, sailing tourists around Narragansett Bay for up to 10 hours a day, the captain on one boat told me my sunglasses, well, sucked, and that if I didn’t want to cause permanent damage to my eyes I had to upgrade. So I ponied up for a pair of polarized sunglasses (my first pair ever) and never looked back.…

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2015 ANNAPOLIS SAILBOAT SHOW: Surviving Day One

9 Sep

Harken intro

Which started out with a bang yesterday, as we journos were lured to Harken’s booth, where Harken’s Davide Burrini (up top) introduced the new Assisted Sail Trim system Harken has developed in cooperation with Jeanneau. This is the Holy Grail of an automatic sailing system we’ve been hearing builders talk about for going on ten years now. Now it’s happening! The boats will sail themselves! All we have to do is press buttons.

According to my friends at Jeanneau, there won’t be a boat with an AST system installed here in the States for us to test until spring.

Should be interesting, to say the least.…

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