Way back in the dark ages of the early 1980s, when I first happened upon a skipper foolish enough to take me offshore, there were few labor saving devices on your typical cruising sailboat. In fact, I was one of them. There was no roller furling on that particular 47ft cutter, just a seemingly bottomless stack of hanked-on sails that lived in a dank lazarette reeking of mildew, turpentine and diesel, the kind of cocktail that only wooden-boat lovers find intoxicating.
The boat was “handraulic,” as the skipper loved to say, and a heavy beast she was to work, too; we toted sailbags back and forth like ants, unbagged, hanked, hoisted, dropped, unhanked and flaked sails, and dreaded the call for the giant spinnaker—fun to set but, oh, what a drag to drop, capture and bag.… Read More
We’re in our third week at the remote Chagos archipelago. It’s hard not to compare what living in an uninhabited tropical island paradise is like in comparison to our prior land-based home life…it’s very, very different.
Home: last minute ingredients needed for dinner? Jump in the car, the store is only minutes away!
Cruiser style: Grab the fishing gear and get to it. The problem isn’t catching a fish; it’s landing one before the sharks eat it off your line. Otherwise, if you didn’t bring it with you (you know, a few weeks ago) or the sharks win, you’ll have to make it: fresh bread (allow half a day for rising + baking), yogurt (8+ hours to ferment, then chilling time), sprouts (2-5 days, depending on the seeds), turtle soup (kidding!… Read More
Of all the watering holes frequented by sailors, few approach the legendary status of Peter’s Café Sport in Horta, on the island of Faial in the Azores archipelago. Café Sport has given succour to legions of thirsty sailors for many decades. Few transatlantic voyagers break their journey in Horta without knocking back at least a couple of frosty pints in the company of their peers in this cozy cavern of a bar, its wood-panelled walls and ceiling bedecked with flags, burgees and mementoes left behind by generations of bluewater sailors.
I felt something of an imposter when I first walked through the doors—I had arrived in Faial not via sailboat but by plane, having made the journey from Boston not in weeks but in hours, en route to a week of bareboat chartering in the Azores.… Read More
The terrible news came through last night: my friend Cidnie’s daughter, drowned in the marina where she and her husband keep their sailboat. I never experienced Kitty’s bright spark in person, but her lively personality was vividly illustrated by her mother’s stories and pictures.
The cruising community is tight. During a day of waiting and hoping and willing the best, comfort and courage was found in a circle of friends. Most of us have never met in person; we know each other through connections built over years through email, blogs, Facebook groups, chats. My fellow cruising mothers span the globe, and are a fierce tribe.… Read More
The expedition yacht Seal lies at anchor in a shallow bay on Isla Navarino, on the Chilean side of the Beagle Channel, while its crew of charter guests explores an isolated homestead. In the background, on the other side of the narrow channel named after HMS Beagle, loom the mountains of Argentina. Captained by Robert Fitzroy, the Beagle charted this remote part of Patagonia in the 1830s before heading up the South American coast to the Galápagos Islands. It was on this voyage that the ship’s naturalist, Charles Darwin, developed his theory of evolution.
Fitzroy too made a singular contribution to science, as a pioneering navigator and meteorologist who came up with the term “weather forecasting.” His charts of the South American coastline were so accurate that they were still in use well into the later years of the 20th century.… Read More
New England can be a cruel place to sail. You never can tell just what the months of March and April will bring, so you have no idea when your boat will actually touch the water. Woe betide you if you dare dream of an early launch date; like as not, you’ll find your spring commissioning plans thwarted by April snowstorms and lingering sub-Arctic temperatures, and you’ll be lucky if you’re in by Memorial Day, let alone the Fourth of July. Only twice in the last decade can I recall being fully prepped and launched by mid-May, and both times we were hammered by vicious two-day nor’easters that had me wishing the boat was still on the hard.… Read More
We approached Trincomalee with excitement and trepidation. This port is run by the Navy; it’s new to cruising boats after decades of civil war: officials don’t understand our needs, any more than cruisers understand theirs.
The first boats to arrive didn’t have the freedom they’re accustomed to at most cruising ports of call (such as not being allowed to anchor overnight and wait for clearance, but required to proceed to a specific location). There were concerns about the lack of transparency around fees, and ensuring that there is parity with the fees levied in Galle. Boats received services from the port (such as piloting, or dockage) which they didn’t realize they’d later be charged for.… Read More
Trincomalee so far has been a feast of sights, sounds, smells, experiences. It has been both friendly and jarring, and I wake up wondering what each day will bring. But that’s getting ahead of things a little. First, we had to get here!
For years, cruising boats pointing to Sri Lanka all called in to Galle on the southwest side of Sri Lanka. Trincomalee – the fifth largest natural harbor in the world – was in LTTE (Tamil Tiger) territory on the northeast coast, and not considered a safe destination during the civil war that dragged on from 1986 to 2009.… Read More
Not long before leaving Malaysia, we purchased an Iridium GO!. This was somewhat unexpected because Totem has long been a radio centric boat. Since we started cruising in 2008 we’ve relied solely on our HF radio for long distance communications: it has met our needs, we value the community of an informal radio net at sea, and we are grateful the safety net of land-based hams such as the awesome Pacific Seafarers Net.
But this past year, paying close attention to the progress of boats along our intended route in the Indian Ocean, we were dismayed to hear how much trouble they were having connecting to land-based stations for the purpose of receiving updated weather data over PACTOR modems- to the point that we know radio-centric boats that relied upon sailing in company with those carrying satellite based systems on board so that they could to receive updated weather forecasts.… Read More
We’re just over one week in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka. It is an explosion of new experiences: it’s so different, full of new sights and sounds and tastes and smells, which are taking time to process! But we are so happy to be here, relaxing into a familiar rhythm and learning about a new place…like walking past the gauntlet of marine police, above,to what must be the best-guarded dinghy dock we’ve EVER tied up to.
They named her Lucy. Dutch Beach, Tricomalee, Sri Lanka
One of the things you can’t miss in Trinco is the number of stray dogs. They’re not a problem, they’re just omnipresent.… Read More