January 7th

For Christmas our house got the Nest thermostat and smoke alarm/carbon monoxide detector, smart devices that connect to a smartphone app via Wi-Fi. Such devices are part of the Internet of Things, in which the electronic things in our lives communicate with us and control themselves by learning our patterns and schedules.

Upon installing the Nest smoke alarm/carbon monoxide detector, I thought hey, I could put one if these things on my boat, and as long as it’s in Wi-Fi range it would send me a warning if my boat caught fire. At $100, with a free, slick app, this could be pretty cheap insurance.…

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January 6th

Written by Ben Ellison on Jan 6, 2016 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Raymarine_Quantum_solid_state_radome_cPanbo.jpgWow, Raymarine is kicking off the new marine electronics year in grand style. Debuting today online (and at the New York Boat Show) is the Quantum Q24C solid-state radar seen above. While Ray apparently managed to keep this product a deep secret — I only heard about it yesterday afternoon — it appears to be thoroughly developed and near ready to ship. In fact, you’ll see that the install manual is already available, and I understand that the production line is rolling, with first deliveries expected around the time of the Miami Boat Show.…

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January 6th

Dock walk:  rigging fails

Posted by // January 6, 2016 // COMMENT (6 Comments)

Maintenance, , , ,


We’re rarely in marinas, but in South Africa’s harbors tying up is the norm. Jamie and I have fun walking the docks, checking out other boats; I always have something to learn from the critical eye of my sailmaker/rigging-savvy husband. Most often, it’s the condition of sails; on a blustery day in Durban, rigging mishaps were the theme.

-stanchion bent-lifelines stretchedThe first one that stood out was just across the dock from Totem. It’s a perfect example of why sailors shouldn’t be tempted to tie fenders to the lifelines, although many persist in the habit or don’t seem to know it’s a bad one.…

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January 5th

MODERN TWIN-HEADSAIL RIGS: Simbo Sailing and the Dutchmar Zoom Boom

Posted by // January 5, 2016 // COMMENT (0 Comments)

Simbo Rig

The concept of the twin-headsail rig, where two jibs are set flying side by side, was first propagated back in the 1950s by bluewater sailors who wanted an easy-to-manage rig for sailing deep downwind angles on tradewind passages. The idea has been revived of late, first by an acquaintance of mine, Iain Simpson, who updated the concept for modern roller-furling systems and employs it on his Najad 570 Song of the Ocean. He is quite keen on it and has been proselytizing on the subject for a few years now on his website.…

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January 5th

Jesse & Samantha Osborn

Posted by // January 5, 2016 // COMMENT (0 Comments)

Happy New Year! Welcome to the first episode of 59º North in 2016! 

Episode 134 is Jesse & Samantha Osborn. You won’t have heard of them, but they’re some of the most interesting and accomplished cruising sailors I’ve ever come across. Matt Rutherford introduced me to them last fall and they ended up sleeping aboard Isbjorn during the week of the Annapolis Boat Show, bunk-mates with the legendary Don Street, who also took up residency aboard. Jesse & Samantha sail a one-off, steel-hulled gaffer called Empiricus and recently completed the Northwest Passage, and only just, narrowing avoiding getting frozen in for a long winter.…

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January 4th

The gig is up – there will be no new record

Posted by // January 4, 2016 // COMMENT (1 Comment)

IDEC Sport heading home but short of the record
There is a cruel reality that sets in when you run out of runway and that’s exactly what happened this morning aboard Spindrift Racing, the 130-foot long (40-meter) trimaran in search of the Jules Verne record. The reality set in aboard IDEC Sport a few days ago when they knew that it would be impossible to close the gap between their position and the finish off Ushant on the west coast of France in the time that they had left to break the record, but aboard Spindrift 2 things were different.
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January 2nd

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

Posted by // January 2, 2016 // COMMENT (13 Comments)

Boats and Gear, Cruising,


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

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


  • 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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January 1st

Desperate Voyage cover

I have met several comically unprepared bluewater sailors over the years, both in person and in the pages of classic cruising accounts like this one, but there are none can top John Caldwell. It is tempting to dismiss the title of this book of his as provocative hyperbole, like some Interweb click-bait headline, but really it is not. If anything it is understatement, and a more accurate title might run something like Insanely Desperate and Foolish Voyage.

Unlike most of us Caldwell did not come to ocean sailing through romantic aspiration, but through rank expediency. Having served in the U.S.…

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December 31st

Autorouting: Navionics new Dock-to-Dock kicks it up a big notch

Posted by // December 31, 2015 // COMMENT (0 Comments)

Written by Ben Ellison on Dec 31, 2015 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Navionics_Dock-to-Dock_AR_Gloucester_cPanbo.jpgLet’s end 2015 with some new technology that will really make a difference, I think. It’s Navionics’ new Dock-to-dock autorouting system, and It may not be getting the recognition it deserves because Navionics already offered autorouting that was only marginally useful (like the others I’ve tried). Dock-to-dock is not perfect, but it still strikes me as a quantum leap improvement that many boaters are going to appreciate…

Raymaine_Navionics_auto_routing_issues_cPanbo.jpgI first tried Navionics original autorouting algorithms when they became a $10 option in its Boating app, and then again when Raymarine Integrated the Navionics feature into its Lighthouse MFD software.…

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December 30th

Port tack blues: thoughts on comfortable cruising

Posted by // December 30, 2015 // COMMENT (1 Comment)

Cruising, , ,

upwind to kuching

Flat water and a consistent breeze provided glorious sailing back in Madagascar. Daily diurnal winds power our passage south on a port tack in the morning and a starboard tack in the afternoon, with a brief period of calm between the directional switch.  Totem’s comfortable motion in these conditions have made meal preparation in the galley easy when we’re underway, and we’re eating very well; having a French crew, Aline, join us for a stretch of the Madagascar coast brought a distinct flair to meals with crepes, brioche, and more added to our repertoire.

Aline is new to cruising but embracing it in a big way by taking seven months off to join a boat from Reunion on a loop through a number of Indian Ocean destinations.…

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