April 23rd

Some good must come from this tragedy

Posted by // April 23, 2015 // COMMENT (1 Comment)

Cruising, , , ,


The terrible news came through last night: my friend Cidnie’s daughter, drowned in the marina where she and her husband keep their sailboat. I never experienced Kitty’s bright spark in person, but her lively personality was vividly illustrated by her mother’s stories and pictures.

The cruising community is tight. During a day of waiting and hoping and willing the best, comfort and courage was found in a circle of friends. Most of us have never met in person; we know each other through connections built over years through email, blogs, Facebook groups, chats. My fellow cruising mothers span the globe, and are a fierce tribe.…

Read More
April 17th

Free range cruising kids

Posted by // April 17, 2015 // COMMENT (7 Comments)



At the moment, we’re with four other kid boats including thirteen kids between our little fleet. All five of us are sharing an anchorage in the Maldives, bound for South Africa by the end of the year. They’re on Totem, Utopia, Ceilydh, Morning Glory, and Evita. The kids range from 9 to 16, and about half of the junior fleet is comprised of teenage cruisers. This is really tremendous!

DSC_7820 (2)

Of course, this is fantastic for the kids, who love having a group of compatriots. And while cruising kids are accustomed to making friends across a range of ages and regardless of gender, it’s nice to be able to have friends around who are a little more like you.…

Read More
April 13th


Cruising in Maldives is ALL about the stunning water and marine life. Unless we’re in transit from one place to the next, we’re spending hours underwater on most days: jetting off to a reef as early as 7:30am, hauling ourselves back to the boat as late as 5pm.


scoping out new spots on the reef with Utopia

It started on arrival in Uligan, where our agent, Assad, told us to go ahead and have a swim near the boat while we waited for clearance formalities.  Normally, “right off the boat” is just OK snorkeling, and the good stuff is a dinghy ride away.…

Read More
April 3rd

Navigating with Google Earth

Posted by // April 3, 2015 // COMMENT (8 Comments)

, , ,


Moving south from Uligan, we used Google Earth in conjunction with our primary chart plotter (OpenCPN) to help navigate to our second anchorage in the Maldives. Google Earth a great tool for cruisers, helping when chart accuracy is in question, or to benefit from the different kind of information provided by satellite images. The big picture route was set up shown above.

Some places don’t have dependable nautical charts. We don’t assume ours are correct and always look go compare data from multiple sources- not least of which is our eyeballs, especially around these atolls and reefs. It’s not a question of one or the other set of digi charts we’re using being “better” than the other, but which one happens to be more accurate for the place we find ourselves- it’s not consistent.…

Read More
March 31st


It’s a pretty good sign when your agent arrives to the boat with ice cream to share that clearing into the country will go off without a hitch.

How do you get in and out of a country when you’re cruising? It can seem intimidating to the uninitiated. It’s not, really, and the process becomes relatively routine- except that every country is different in some way…whether you have to hunt offices down on shore, or they come to you, or if any advance notice is needed, or an agent required, or whatever the variation may be. (I’ve written about the general process on the blog before).

Read More
March 30th

Passage to Maldives

Posted by // March 30, 2015 // COMMENT (3 Comments)

, ,


Why leave on a passage when there’s very little wind in the forecast? Having a breeze matters, when you have 700 miles to go. But the seasons are changing. It’s light, because that’s the shift in the seasonal pattern as the NE monsoon draws to a close. Waiting for wind isn’t necessarily going to bring us any wind. In fact, ideally, we’d be at least a month further into our Indian Ocean passagemaking at this point. But we wouldn’t leave Malaysia before we were ready. And we didn’t want to shortchange Sri Lanka. And both those were worth the tradeoff of adverse conditions now, since ‘adverse’ in this case doesn’t mean dangerous conditions- it just means no wind (or, upwind work going south in the coming weeks).…

Read More
March 28th

The $500 day trip

Posted by // March 28, 2015 // COMMENT (3 Comments)

, , ,

DSC_5256Experiencing some of Sri Lanka’s ancient cities was one of our goals during a month-long stay. Two of the outstanding examples are within day-trip distance of Trincomalee: the 9th century city of Polonnuwara, and the 1500+ year old fortress of Sigiriya. If you’re a product of the 80s (*cough*), you know these ancient sites- trust me! If your memory needs a jog, watch the Duran Duran video for “Save a Prayer.”


Climbing to our view of Sigiriya

So while we waited to embark on more extended touring, we organized a jaunt to the sites with two other boats, looking for good company…and, looking to mitigate one of the few really unpleasant things about Sri Lanka: how surprisingly expensive many things are, and the huge markup for foreign visitors.…

Read More
March 24th

Sri Lanka’s wild side

Posted by // March 24, 2015 // COMMENT (2 Comments)



Traveling Sri Lanka’s interior meant some long days on the road (or railway tracks). Between that, and the likelihood of many “educational” stops, we thought the best way to end our adventures on a high note with potentially templed-out kids was to splurge on a safari. This isn’t a big country- the land area is similar to West Virginia- but it has the greatest biodiversity density in Asia, including the truly exotic, the beautiful and endangered, and a high proportion of endemic species. We especially hoped for a glimpse of the endangered Sri Lankan leopard. So we took a slightly circuitous path back to Trinco via Wilpattu National Park


This strategy succeeded beyond our expectations: in hindsight, the safari stands out as a family favorite.…

Read More
March 23rd

Exploring Sri Lanka

Posted by // March 23, 2015 // COMMENT (8 Comments)



It’s very rare for us leave Totem to travel inland in countries we visit. This is mostly a function of money: we can’t afford the higher costs of living off the boat with restaurant meals and accommodations. It’s costly to buy the peace of mind of putting Totem in a marina instead of leaving her anchored out. It’s also about security. What if something happened when we were far away? Nobody looks after her like we do. So the decision to spend eight days traveling around the interior of Sri Lanka was a big deal. But our anchorage in Trinco was very well protected in this season, and the Utopia crew kept an eye on her for us.…

Read More
March 16th

Beautiful Sri Lanka

Posted by // March 16, 2015 // COMMENT (6 Comments)

People, , , ,


Sri Lanka has captured our hearts and minds: one month has flown by. There has been fascinating history, culture, food, and more for us to learn about and experience. But it was so much more than that: more than any country, it’s been about the people that we meet.

You can’t walk down the street without meeting someone. Every jaunt to the market, a temple, or even just to stretch out legs includes a conversation with someone new. I’ve never been asked “where are you from?” more often – from people who generally want to know the answer to the question, and aren’t just asking it because that’s one of their five English language sentences.…

Read More