April 1st
paddling home, racing the sun

Living off the grid, providing your own power, is a tremendous feeling. On Totem, it’s one of the compelling aspects of life afloat, hand in hand with a more simple life and a lighter carbon footprint. Relying on our solar panels and wind turbine to supply power needs instead of plugging in is liberating.

That good juice from the sun and the wind is stored in our house battery bank. Currently, that bank has 660 amps total from six 220aH 6v AGM batteries.  When we have steady trade winds, and sunny days, these meet our needs pretty well. For a long stretch, that’s been enough.…

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March 30th

Aluminum + Copper: A Horror Story

Posted by // March 30, 2014 // COMMENT (2 Comments)

Maintenance, ,

Q:  My friend has a metal boat.  I had him over for beers last night, and all he talked about was electrolytic corrosion.  I love boat talk as much as the next sailor, but I nearly threw him overboard.  What is it with you metal boat people and your corrosion issues?*

A:  Electrolytic corrosion is the worst.  The worst!  It is a creeping horror ready to eat away our hulls and leave us sad and boatless.  I’m sorry your imaginary friend bored you, but this is a real concern for us.  Why?  Because a penny and a little saltwater could send us to the bottom of the sea.…

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March 24th

Lunacy hull

IT’S HERE! Spring, I mean. Though there is still snow in the forecast up here in New England, and even in Annapolis, from which I returned last night after holding forth at the World Cruising Club Ocean Sailing Seminar over the weekend. I have an awful feeling I will actually succeed (for once!) in getting Lunacy launched in early to mid-May this year… and there will then be a HUGE BLIZZARD the day after she splashes.

We are forging ahead regardless, so I stopped by Maine Yacht Center last week to see how the old girl’s rudder-skeg repair is coming along.…

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March 6th

The roundup of our current maintenance projects isn’t complete without a look at the work we’ve recently done. Totem is just one case, but a reasonable stand-in to consider the kind of work that a well used cruising boat goes through after five plus years in the tropics. It’s a different perspective than offered by the general rule of thumb, and that’s fine by us: we take good care of our baby.

1. Prop shaft and bearings. Looking good now, but turned out that it had a few kinks.

2. Bottom job. We won’t expect to get five years out of this one like we did the last, but we should be covered until at least South Africa now.

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March 3rd

The cost of cruising: Totem’s maintenance list

Posted by // March 3, 2014 // COMMENT (5 Comments)

Cruising, Maintenance

watching the bay

Totem is just a sample size of one, but it’s not a bad proxy for the maintenance you might expect on a well-found boat after a handful of years of tropical cruising. It’s one thing to talk in theory about how to account for the cost of maintenance while cruising; hopefully this look at what we’re addressing on Totem makes it a little more real.

These are the non-negotiables: the things that have to be addressed near term. They are safety essentials or gear we need to replace, and work that’s all planned for the next few months.

1.   Battery bank.…

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February 28th
Anchorage 102

What does it cost to go cruising? Most of these discussions focus on month to month living expenses. Do you eat out in restaurants or stick to the boat? Do you stay in marinas or anchor out? Do you send out your laundry or wash it in a bucket? What’s easy to miss in the discussion, or not apparent in a month-to-month level examination, are maintenance costs. They get lost in the shuffle, but maintenance costs can bite you in the bum.

How can you ballpark annual maintenance costs? There are various “rules of thumb” and most of them put yearly maintenance costs at 10-20% of the boat’s value.…

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February 26th

Sail Covers Redux

Posted by // February 26, 2014 // COMMENT (3 Comments)



I can’t explain it, but my sail covers have become too small over the years. Either they shrunk, or sails have become bulkier. (Do I sound like an aging man talking about his waistline?) It’s been a real stretch lately, and a ten minute job, to get the sail covers on, especially over my new-ish main, which is still stiff. They were also generally battered and had lots of rips to repair. I’ll say this much though: That Sunbrella is some tough stuff. Those sail covers date from long before I owned the boat, meaning they’ve stood up to at least twenty years in the sun.…

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February 23rd

Troubleshooting the Generator, Lady Style

Posted by // February 23, 2014 // COMMENT (0 Comments)

Cruising, Maintenance,

When Erik went back to work, Papillon became My Boat.  By which I mean, Papillon became My Problem.  With my resident handyman thousands of miles away, anything that broke was going to be my responsibility.  And it was just a matter of time before something bad happened.  This is a boat, after all.  So when the generator died this week, I wasn’t surprised.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m not very handy.  As Erik kindly puts it, I’m not a natural tool user.  No arguments here.  But, being the big boss that I am now, I thought I could show some maturity and give this a whirl.  …

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February 21st
Cruiser at play

It was a trio of unfortunate events on a day that began with a beautiful sail, after a day anchored off another stunning Thai island. Any one of these three could ruin your day, and even two out of three could cause serious problems. We managed to luck out with all three.

  1. Autopilot failed. Inconvenient, not serious.
  2. Steering cable broke. Getting serious now.
  3. Engine overheated. Trifecta of doom?

It was late morning and Totem was scooting along nicely, nearly 9 knots on a beam reach in 20 knots, stunning blue skies, and seas peaking out around two meters. It was glorious, if slightly rolly when the bigger waves gave Totem a shove.…

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February 12th

Listen up: your boat is talking to you

Posted by // February 12, 2014 // COMMENT (3 Comments)


It was not one of our sunnier mornings.

Oh, the sun was up and blazing, but the utter lack of sleep the night before- when Totem sat beam onto a swell rolling in over a long stretch of the Indian Ocean- left us feeling a little dim.

Help was surely on the way, I thought, catching a whiff of propane as Jamie turned on the stove to make coffee. I turned a bleary eye and rolled over, and a few minutes later, caught the same odor again. This time it didn’t feel right, and snapped me to a consciousness. Any hint of propane only comes with lighting the stove, and it doesn’t stick around.…

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