May 14th

Preparing for a passage: making fruitcake

Posted by // May 14, 2015 // COMMENT (2 Comments)

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two boats at sunset

If I’m making fruitcake, it’s a sure sign we have a passage ahead.

Our next passage isn’t a big one. Weather willing we’ll leave in less than a week to sail from Maldives to Chagos, about three days and two nights underway. But it’s crossing a bigger threshold than the jump between island groups, because once in Chagos, there’s…nothing. Well, nothing but empty atolls with the ruins of former structures, a whole lot of coconut crabs, and a dozen or so cruising boats hanging out at the discretion of the British Indian Ocean Territory officials.


the edge of our Maldives courtesy flag is starting to fray

My tradition of making fruitcake for a passage stems from a meetup in the early days of 2012.…

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May 11th

Offshore Yacht Rigging with Mike Meer

Posted by // May 11, 2015 // COMMENT (0 Comments)

Despite what I say in the intro, this is actually episode #102! Episode #102 is Mike Meer, a dear friend of mine and my former employer, who taught me everything I know about yacht rigging. It’s all about yacht rigging in the context of ocean sailing, in Mike’s witty, fun-loving style. He’s a cool guy, and he gets across complex rigging issues in a very understandable manner. The slides from Mike’s talk are available at this episode’s blog page on, so head there to follow along.

Want to go ocean sailing with Andy? Book a berth on Isbjorn, our classic Swan 48, at…

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May 11th

ST. MARTIN TO BERMUDA: Solo Passage Without Underpants

Posted by // May 11, 2015 // COMMENT (5 Comments)

Underpants on line

I think it was Fatty Goodlander who once wrote that he is always so nervous just before starting a passage that he constantly has to pee. I can certainly relate to that. No matter how many times you’ve done it, no matter how well prepared you are, at least if you’re skipper of a vessel there’s always a vague element of fear and uncertainty to wrestle with on setting out to sea. Most particularly when you’re going alone. When sailing solo the potential consequences of stuff you forgot to attend to and of miscalculations you may have made always seem grossly magnified.…

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May 11th

Written by Ben Ellison on May 11, 2015 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

NMEA_recognizes_Signal_K_aPanbo.jpgWow! Today the National Marine Electronics Association — also known as NMEA, or IMEA for its International reincarnation — announced recognition of the Signal K open source marine data project. It’s clearly not an endorsement, but it does provide clear methods to gateway NMEA 2000 boat data to the Internet-friendly universal marine data model that Signal K is about. And that’s plenty good enough, I think. In fact, as the title above wonders, this may turn out to be a very big deal. I also think it marks a nice evolution for NMEA.…

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May 11th

Shine a light: support conservation in Southeast Asia

Posted by // May 11, 2015 // COMMENT (0 Comments)



Many of our most memorable experiences happened during the two-plus years we sailed through Southeast Asia. Most of them conjure the fascinating culture, rich history, or just plain beautiful places- like Komodo National Park, above.

Unfortunately, a lot of what also sticks wasn’t so pretty: like radical deforestation for palm oil plantations. Reefs destroyed by dynamite fishing. National parks abused when they are unable to protect their resources. The terrible plight of Papuans in Indonesia. It’s a gut wrenching feeling, to become intimate with the challenges that compromise the integrity of a place, or the basic rights of a people, and yet feel powerless to really do anything.…

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May 10th

Cuba Bound!

Posted by // May 10, 2015 // COMMENT (0 Comments)

Boats and Gear, Cruising, Maintenance, Miscellany, People, Racing, Techniques, Uncategorized

A quick post, as I’m getting the boat ready for travel…

At last – the stars have aligned and it’s off to Bimini after far, far too long in Miami. From Bimini, it’s then over to Chub Key – or possibly Andros and then over to the Exumas. I’ll be avoiding Nassau like the plague – far too many murders there recently, including several on boats (see story here). Besides, why go to an island paradise and spend time in a city? I want beaches, sun, sand and rum!
From there, it will be on to the Exumas. This trip, I want to visit the northern Exumas, I’ve missed them in past years.…

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May 9th

Weather watch in Maldives

Posted by // May 9, 2015 // COMMENT (6 Comments)



For the duration of the season, it seems, we’ve been chasing the weather. It’s finally caught up to us.

Boats headed from Asia to South Africa on a northerly route across the Indian Ocean, as we are, take off while the northeast monsoon gives a nice ride to the west. December is fine, although you wouldn’t want to cut too close to the end of the previous monsoon (and accompanying cyclones in the Bay of Bengal). January is great. February is fine, but the later in the season you depart, the lighter the trade winds, and the harder it is to sail the duration.…

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May 8th

Swan 44

Bummer. Here I was looking forward to telling you guys all about the singlehanded passage I just did on Lunacy from St. Martin to Bermuda and instead I think I better go into this first. Details are pretty sketchy, but it seems five different yachts caught in a bad blow about 500 miles south of the Azores all called for help two days ago. A large SAR operation coordinated out of Ponta Delgada on Sao Miguel, which involved five different aircraft and four different ships, resulted in a dozen people being rescued. Tragically, one of these, a 6-year-old French girl who spent seven hours in the water after her family’s Lagoon 400 catamaran capsized and sank, died from hypothermia after she was recovered.…

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May 6th

How Simrad Halo works, 12 radars in one!

Posted by // May 6, 2015 // COMMENT (0 Comments)


Written by Ben Ellison on May 6, 2015 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Simrad_Halo_future_is_now_aPanbo.jpgPanbo’s first entry about Simrad’s unique solid-state open-array Halo radar tried to cover the promised features. Now I’ll try to explain how it works, with the huge benefit of slides made available to me by Navico engineer Don Korte, who I first met when Broadband (3G/4G) radar was introduced in 2009. I’m starting with the image above because that’s not just Navico marketing; it would be hard to overstate Don’s enthusiasm for Halo as he led me through the presentation. It was a teleconference but I’m pretty sure he was jumping up and down as I slowly got some of the concepts and he answered my smarter questions with a hearty “YES!”…

Simrad_Halo_technologies_aPanbo.jpgI got a little carried away with the number of slides I’m using, but many are self explanatory, or nearly so, like this beginning breakdown of how Halo compares to traditional magnetron pulse marine radar and the FMCW transmit technology used in 3G/4G radomes.…

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May 6th

Malé, Maldives: the biggest little city

Posted by // May 6, 2015 // COMMENT (5 Comments)


Male total by Shahee Ilyas

Most boats cruising in Maldives find themselves in the capital, Malé, at some point. The capital sits not quite halfway down the “necklace islands” of Maldives. More than 100,000 people live here, nearly a third of the country’s population; it’s denser than Manhattan.


Most transportation is bike and motorcycle, but there are a silly number of cars for such a compact island.


Malé’s chandleries were one draw. They’re the best supplied we’ve seen since… well, let’s just say they’re the best we’ve seen in a very long time! No one shop has everything, but make the rounds and you can get pretty much anything you need.…

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