November 6th


Sailing from Madagascar to South Africa is technically challenging. The Mozambique Channel separating them is famously dangerous, in particular for the effect of gales blowing up from the Southern Ocean against the south-setting Agulhas current. For a reference point that may translate better to sailors in North America, I’m told it’s comparable to experiencing a northerly gale in the Gulf Stream. There’s the very real possibility of some unpleasant weather, and big seas (20 meters!), and grief.

Happily, Totem is now snug in a berth at the Zululand Yacht Club in Richards Bay, South Africa, and this crossing is in the rear view mirror.…

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October 15th

Ocean currents have been a significant factor for our Indian Ocean passages this year, and our upcoming passage to South Africa is no exception. On this morning’s SSB net, one boat after another chimed in about the strong foul current they’re experiencing off the Madagascar coast as they head towards South Africa. Most entered the Mozambique channel at a point off the western ‘bulge’ called Cap Saint Andre. It’s 220 miles east of the Mozambique coastline, making it shortest point between Madagascar and Africa. One of the first boats reporting by SSB described two to three knots of foul current overnight – another said they had to start motoring because the current had them sailing backwards!…

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July 22nd

Written by Ben Ellison on Jul 22, 2015 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Yacht_Designs_NMEA_2000_thermometer_aPanbo.jpgOne of the most valuable improvements I’ve made on Gizmo is a Maretron TMP100 able to put six different temperature sensors on the boat’s NMEA 2000 network, particularly the one I’ve set to alarm me if the engine block gets even slightly hotter than normal. I wrote about the plan in 2013 and will detail how well it worked out soon. Closely monitoring certain temperatures can save a lot of hassle and money though one impediment is the need for either a Maretron DSM display or a USB Gateway to configure the setup.…

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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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March 2nd

Teeny Tiny Sailing

Posted by // March 2, 2015 // COMMENT (0 Comments)

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Hello, everyone! Sorry for the prolonged absence. My lungs and I had a serious disagreement. They decided they would be happier outside my body, and attempted to cough their way to freedom. I was of the firm opinion that we would both be better off if they stayed inside my chest. That is just the kind of hard-line organ traditionalist that I am. Eventually they saw things my way, but it took three weeks and a lot of coaxing.

By Sunday, I was well enough for an outing. Erik saw his chance. He has been determined to try out the sailing dinghies we found, and mounted a campaign of persuasion.…

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February 27th


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.

What changed?

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.…

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November 28th

Written by Kees Verruijt on Nov 28, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

Earlier this week we published Henning Dürr’s report on METS 2014 and now here’s what Kees Verruijt found.


Navico GoFree cloud content and services
The Simrad NSO evo2, NSS evo2, B&G Zeus2 and Lowrance HDS Gen2 Touch MFDs will all get a January software update that allows users to buy new charts, update software, and more directly from their boat displays. Moreover, GoFree is being upgraded to a separate “brand” that covers all the cloud-enabled content and services offered by Navico on all three “hardware” brands…

The first big step is to make the existing GoFree WIFI-1 wireless bridge — which previously provided only a closed loop WiFi connection between mobile devices and an MFD/sensor network — also able to act as a WiFi client to an internet access point.…

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October 5th

Ugly weather off the coast of Malaysia

Posted by // October 5, 2014 // COMMENT (12 Comments)

Cruising, ,


Well, that was unpleasant.

There are the beautiful days of white sandy beaches and gin-clear water, and then there are the days when you have your ass handed to you by the weather.

We spent just over a week knocking off a list of projects from rig tuning to galvanizing in Penang. It’s probably our last marina stay until we arrive in South Africa, more than a year from now, and some things are just easier to do at a dock when the boat is relatively motionless and the fresh water runs freely. But we were ready to get out and back in our happy place, rocking gently at anchor.…

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April 9th

Pacific Weather Seminar Seats Open

Posted by // April 9, 2014 // COMMENT (0 Comments)


Lee Chesneau reports that he still has a few seats open for his weather seminar on Sunday, April 13, 0800-1600, at the Strictly Sail Pacific boatshow in Oakland, California.

The one-day intensive is on the calendar in particular for entries in the 2014 Pacific Cup, but anyone serious about ocean voyaging can get something out of this. Lee describes it this way:

forecastverification“The course reviews some important meteorological principles that govern what one will experience routinely on a day to day basis such as pressure and wind. The review also extends to the structure of surface middle latitude weather systems and their features (e.g., lows, highs, fronts, troughs, squall line & ridges), along with the specific symbols commonly found on surface pressure weather charts.…

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February 27th

Surviving a Cyclone in the Marina

Posted by // February 27, 2014 // COMMENT (0 Comments)

Cruising, Techniques, , ,

March is almost upon us, and with it comes New Caledonia’s big cyclone month.  We have been very, very lucky up until now; only Cyclones June and Ian have come anywhere near us.  But the weather has gotten rainier and rainier, and I’m reminded that the country was rocked by Cyclone Erica in March a decade ago.  As Mad Eye Moody would say: constant vigilance!

The old wisdom tells us that, in a storm, a boat is safer at sea than in a harbor.  And I can see the point: there is less to hit out there.  But, as the sad story of the Bounty shows, being out at sea isn’t always the greatest strategy.  …

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