Sailfeed
July 11th

The best sails for downwind cruising

Posted by // July 11, 2014 // COMMENT (7 Comments)

Boats and Gear, Cruising,

asymmetric

What’s the difference between a drifter, a gennaker, a code zero, and a screecher? Where does a spinnaker fit in? And if you’re a cruiser, what sail should you use for downwind sailing, anyway?

There is no single “best,” because everything on a boat is a compromise, and individual styles/needs vary, but we have some opinions on the optimal choice for most cruisers.

This question came up on a women’s sailing forum I participate in recently. Because Jamie is a sailmaker, I asked him for help with a response that would be useful to differentiate the options for downwind sails. Differences between these sails aren’t difficult to understand, but get confusing because the names are mixed up or misused.…

Read More
July 6th

DIY: essential oils on board

Posted by // July 6, 2014 // COMMENT (0 Comments)

Cruising, ,

lotion

We try to keep life simple on Totem: if we can make something ourselves, that’s always a better option than buying. Less waste is created, something on board is usually reused, and there’s probably more cash in our pockets.

A lot of the everyday things I use have been made with essential oils. Because, hey, if you can also make something smell really good, well, wouldn’t you?  This is easy to do with lotion, basic cleaners, heavier duty scrubs, polish, laundry, and just to  make our living space mmmmmmm good. Essential oils work around our sensitivities to commercial fragrance: Jamie and Siobhan have skin that reacts to chemical additives, and most perfume just gives me a sneezy headache.…

Read More
June 29th

DSC_7607

The engine failed our test run, but it at least had the grace to wait until we were beyond the worst of the shipping traffic. With a few miles left to our intended anchorage the needle began to steadily tick up again. This has been the pattern: it’s fine, right up  until it’s not, and then the overheating happens very, very quickly. We shut it down and drifted with the current, happy to be outside the shipping lanes. Jamie replaced 1 1/2 liters of coolant, much of which had spilled into the well.

It’s dashed our plans, if not our mood.…

Read More
June 28th

Testing day: mechanical and technical

Posted by // June 28, 2014 // COMMENT (0 Comments)

Cruising, Maintenance,

979 targets in Singapore

Today’s a day of tests, in two very different ways- Totem’s Yanmar engine, and Totem’s blog!

Mechanical: the engine

With a clean bill of health for our overheating woes, we are heading out today for a trial run. We want to make sure it behaves as desired before we departing on the ~3 day passage across to Borneo. Today’s distance of about 50 nautical miles, across the bottom of Singapore, should give us an excellent indication of whether the overheating problems are truly resolved.

Cross your fingers for us, because we sure don’t want to be dealing with overheating problems in the nutty Singapore port traffic.…

Read More
June 25th

Engine trouble and kidnappings

Posted by // June 25, 2014 // COMMENT (0 Comments)

,

Engine repairs

There’s a Yiddish proverb: “Man plans, God laughs.” The cruiser’s equivalent is to say that our plans are written in the sand, at low tide.

Yes, we still make plans. Usually, they’re weather driven: designed to avoid hurricane/cyclone/typhoon seasons on the grand scale, and pick days for optimal sailing on immediate front. The current “big plan” is next year’s Indian Ocean passages, starting early in 2015 and winding a slow path through a number of countries before South Africa. It’s trying to nail down any nearer term plans that has proved impossible. I hesitate share any, because every time we make them- even in a general sense (like, hey, let’s go to the Philippines this year!)- they change.…

Read More
June 25th

Engine trouble and kidnappings

Posted by // June 25, 2014 // COMMENT (8 Comments)

Cruising, Maintenance, , ,

Engine repairs

There’s a Yiddish proverb: “Man plans, God laughs.” The cruiser’s equivalent is to say that our plans are written in the sand, at low tide.

Yes, we still make plans. Usually, they’re weather driven: designed to avoid hurricane/cyclone/typhoon seasons on the grand scale, and pick days for optimal sailing on immediate front. The current “big plan” is next year’s Indian Ocean passages, starting early in 2015 and winding a slow path through a number of countries before South Africa. It’s trying to nail down any nearer term plans that has proved impossible. I hesitate share any, because every time we make them- even in a general sense (like, hey, let’s go to the Philippines this year!)- they change.…

Read More
June 7th

Tense moments and unanswered questions

Posted by // June 7, 2014 // COMMENT (0 Comments)

red skies at night

Pulling out the jib was an unexpected bonus as we sailed south from the islands of Langkawi.It’s more than 400 miles from there to Singapore, and we hoped to break it up with extended visits in Penang and Malacca to experience the interesting food, culture, and history they offer. But service delays stole that time, so we had to hustle south instead. The transit has turned out to be a string of strange encounters and some stressful situations.

sailing away from Langkawi

We tried fishing for a while, even though we knew there wasn’t much chance of a catch.  After reeling in several varieties of “plastic bag fish”, we kept our lines on board.…

Read More
June 7th

Tense moments and unanswered questions

Posted by // June 7, 2014 // COMMENT (0 Comments)

Cruising,

red skies at night

Pulling out the jib was an unexpected bonus as we sailed south from the islands of Langkawi.It’s more than 400 miles from there to Singapore, and we hoped to break it up with extended visits in Penang and Malacca to experience the interesting food, culture, and history they offer. But service delays stole that time, so we had to hustle south instead. The transit has turned out to be a string of strange encounters and some stressful situations.

sailing away from Langkawi

We tried fishing for a while, even though we knew there wasn’t much chance of a catch.  After reeling in several varieties of “plastic bag fish”, we kept our lines on board.…

Read More
June 5th

Safe passagemaking in the Straits of Malacca

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

Cruising, ,

beautiful sunrise

There’s a long history of piracy in the straits of Malacca, and plenty of modern bandits too- this area currently has more pirate activity than any other part of the world. But those aren’t our concerns as we sail south from Langkawi toward Singapore. Unlike the Gulf of Arabia, the piracy is focused entirely on commercial vessels- not private boats like ours. Thank goodness, because we’ve got plenty other things to worry about.

fishing boats
not pirates of men, but pirates of fish

There’s a lot of traffic here. Close to shore, small fishing boats are everywhere. At night, they are improperly lit, or not lit at all.…

Read More
June 3rd

Maintenance on board: how mechanical are you?

Posted by // June 3, 2014 // COMMENT (2 Comments)

Maintenance, ,

Maintenance month

We just had a crazy stretch of boat work on Totem, and knocked several big items off our list of essentials for maintenance or repair as we anticipate next year’s Indian Ocean passages. Sometimes it was just a matter of paying a vendor. Sometimes it was work we did ourselves. Typically it was a combination, where we invested a lot of effort too: replacing the boat batteries wasn’t just a swap out. Jamie built a whole new box to store them in and decomissioned the old one. Over and over, I was grateful for his diverse skills and creative problem solving in everything from carpentry and fiberglass to fabricating the new roll pin needed with positioning a bearing on the autopilot.…

Read More