February 5th

Written by Ben Ellison on Feb 5, 2015 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Lowrance_SmartSteer_MotoGuide_Xi5_in_action.jpgTwo Maine blizzards later it’s nice to recall that just a week ago I was casting a lure off a similarly tricked-out Yellowfin 24 Bay Boat. I didn’t land a pose-worthy fish like my friend Chris Woodward, but the important thing about this photo is how well that trolling motor is holding an “anchor” position. Note the nonchalant skipper, despite a brisk wind and strong current both pushing him toward the channel marker aft, not to mention rocks to starboard and us to port. The pro I was with — the impressive Tom Rowland of the Saltwater Experience TV series — seemed equally confident about the reliability of the MotorGuide Xi5 and its do-anything integration with the twin Lowrance HDS 12 Gen3 displays, and it was easy to buy his claim that the combination has significantly improved his boating life.…

Read More
February 5th

Florida Anchoring Survey – the Cynical Point of View

Posted by // February 5, 2015 // COMMENT (2 Comments)

Dinghy anchored behind Miami Beach house to block anchoring

The FWC recently released the results of its Florida Anchoring Survey, and the results were, well – intriguing. Not so much that the results were that out of line with what might have been expected, but some recent conversations have brought out the cynic in me. After reading this post, you may well feel the same.
Some history first. Last spring, 2014, the Florida legislature attempted to enact a law which would have permitted some municipalities – read Miami, Fort Lauderdale principally – to enact local anchoring legislation. That legislation would have brought us back to, as the late Claiborne Young was wont to say, the ‘wild west’ for cruisers, with legislation differing from town to town.…

Read More
February 3rd

More AIS in the USA, the new USCG requirements

Posted by // February 3, 2015 // COMMENT (0 Comments)


Written by Ben Ellison on Feb 3, 2015 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

USCG_AIS_Final_Rule_collage_cPanbo.jpgPlease credit the U.S. Coast Guard with a sense of humor. The (NOA and) AIS Final Rule may be a dry read, but not last week’s email announcement, which began with the giddy declaration “4,232 days in the making!” I don’t know why the rulemaking process took so long, and it may have been most frustrating for those who do, but I’ll still be glad to have more of the commercial vessels working along our coasts equipped with AIS. It won’t happen fast, though — vessels newly required to carry Class A or B AIS transponders can take until March 2016 to install them — and the number of such vessels seems uncertain…


When the new requirements were first drafted in 2008, the USCG suggested that Class B transponders might be allowed in some cases to lower costs.…

Read More
February 3rd

Schooner Mahdee & Bootstrap Adventure

Posted by // February 3, 2015 // COMMENT (5 Comments)

Andy spoke with Brenda of the schooner Mahdee, which is currently berthed in California. Brenda and her husband David got inspired to go sailing in their college years while on a cycling trip around Lake Superior. Eating from a camp stove, they looked at a sailboat on the lake and thought, ‘that’s how we ought to travel!’

Years went by, and Brenda and David traveled all over the world following his career as a Navy Pilot while Brenda picked up Engineering jobs. Finally, in 2006, their dream came true when they bought and begant the lengthy restoration of the classic 1931 schooner Mahdee.…

Read More
February 2nd

Seeing the mountains of Cuba, especially after leaving the flat and featureless Bahamas, is exciting. You know it’s going to be different, but just how different you don’t know. Equal parts of fear and anticipation, hesitancy and expectation, jitter about in your mind. It’s not at all like entering any other country.

As you approach, and generally somewhere about 9 or 10 miles out, the Cuban Guarda Frontera (coast guard) contacts you via VHF with a request you identify yourself and your intentions. This is it. You’re heading in and your entire cruising experience is about to be changed.



My first visit I entered at Puerto de Vita after a 65 nm crossing from Ragged Island in the Bahamas.…

Read More
January 31st

Rainmaker rescue

For me this is like déjà vu all over again. All this month I’ve been thinking about where I was a year ago, dangling from a wire beneath a Coast Guard helicopter many miles offshore with a busted catamaran beneath me. For SAIL Magazine’s story click here. This year’s victim, unfortunately, is an award-winning Gunboat 55, hull no. 1, Rainmaker, which got dismasted yesterday after getting raked by a 70-knot whiteout squall about 200 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras. The five-member crew elected to abandon the vessel and was evacuated by a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter operating near the limit of its range.…

Read More
January 30th

GoFree goes online & Insight Genesis Social Mapping goes free

Posted by // January 30, 2015 // COMMENT (0 Comments)

Written by Ben Ellison on Jan 30, 2015 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

GoFree_gets_online_cPanbo.jpgThe 2015 Navico writers event was in the same Florida Keys location as last year’s spectacular, which only seemed to highlight the rapid development pace we witnessed. For instance, fishing in a now familiar place and style with the new Lowrance HDS Gen3 multifunction display really showed off the phenomenal variety and quality of functions built in. It may even qualify as a “revolutionary” MFD feature set, despite my earlier skepticism, and it wasn’t even mentioned at the 2014 event. But that story will have to wait.…

Read More
January 30th

Preparing for passage making

Posted by // January 30, 2015 // COMMENT (6 Comments)


up the rig

How do you get ready for a passage? We’ve done it enough, but we’re rusty. And the upcoming ~1,200 nm from Malaysia to Sri Lanka is our first passage in a year of big passages. Even though we keep Totem in shape, after more than two years of mostly coastal sailing important to avoid complacency and make sure we’re on top of all systems aboard before taking off. Of course, life on a boat is a constantly scrolling list of repairs and maintenance, but the miles ahead add extra pressure.

So, what are we doing before we leave? Here’s a look at the current list.…

Read More
January 28th

Providence toppled

Ouch! This happened yesterday in Newport, Rhode Island, at the Newport Shipyard, where Providence was blocked up for the winter. Though the yard staff evidently stuck in some extra jackstands before the storm, they weren’t up to the job. The vessel’s mast is busted and her fiberglass hull has been punctured. She also, coincidentally, is for sale, so now’s the time to come in with a super lowball bid if you’re interested.

Here are some more pix:

Providence toppled front

Providence toppled quarter

Providence toppled side

(Top 2 pix are by Dave Hansen, the bottom 2 are by Rocky Steeves, courtesy of the Associated Press)

The original Providence was built in 1775 and served during the Revolutionary War under John Paul Jones, among others.…

Read More
January 28th

Why we love cruising in Thailand

Posted by // January 28, 2015 // COMMENT (9 Comments)

Cruising, ,


We’ve checked out of Thailand, and don’t know when we’ll be back. While we wrap up pre-passage projects on Totem in Malaysia, it feels like the perfect time to reflect on what we loved (and didn’t) about the nearly six months we’ve spent in Thailand between 2013 and 2014.

The landscapes are breathtaking. The Andaman coast is peppered with stunning spots. From the surreal archipelago of limestone spires in Phang Nga bay to the sparkling water of the marine park islands offshore, there’s one beautiful anchorage after another. There should probably be a whole separate post of favorite places!


beautiful Phang Nga bay

The food is outrageously good.

Read More