May 19th

Preparing for remote cruising

Posted by // May 19, 2015 // COMMENT (6 Comments)



How do you get ready to be self-sufficient for weeks or months at a time? In just a few hours, Totem will be underway for Chagos. We have a four week permit for this atoll (populated mainly by coconut crabs), and we don’t expect to arrive in Seychelles until late June. Until then? No markets. No hardware stores. No mobile network. No internet. We will be well and truly off the grid.

I’m not a bucket list kind of person, but Chagos is a bucket list kind of place. This 55-island archipelago in the middle of the Indian Ocean (pretty much smack in the middle) has long been a haven for cruisers.…

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May 14th

Preparing for a passage: making fruitcake

Posted by // May 14, 2015 // COMMENT (2 Comments)

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two boats at sunset

If I’m making fruitcake, it’s a sure sign we have a passage ahead.

Our next passage isn’t a big one. Weather willing we’ll leave in less than a week to sail from Maldives to Chagos, about three days and two nights underway. But it’s crossing a bigger threshold than the jump between island groups, because once in Chagos, there’s…nothing. Well, nothing but empty atolls with the ruins of former structures, a whole lot of coconut crabs, and a dozen or so cruising boats hanging out at the discretion of the British Indian Ocean Territory officials.


the edge of our Maldives courtesy flag is starting to fray

My tradition of making fruitcake for a passage stems from a meetup in the early days of 2012.…

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May 11th

Shine a light: support conservation in Southeast Asia

Posted by // May 11, 2015 // COMMENT (0 Comments)



Many of our most memorable experiences happened during the two-plus years we sailed through Southeast Asia. Most of them conjure the fascinating culture, rich history, or just plain beautiful places- like Komodo National Park, above.

Unfortunately, a lot of what also sticks wasn’t so pretty: like radical deforestation for palm oil plantations. Reefs destroyed by dynamite fishing. National parks abused when they are unable to protect their resources. The terrible plight of Papuans in Indonesia. It’s a gut wrenching feeling, to become intimate with the challenges that compromise the integrity of a place, or the basic rights of a people, and yet feel powerless to really do anything.…

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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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May 6th

Malé, Maldives: the biggest little city

Posted by // May 6, 2015 // COMMENT (5 Comments)


Male total by Shahee Ilyas

Most boats cruising in Maldives find themselves in the capital, Malé, at some point. The capital sits not quite halfway down the “necklace islands” of Maldives. More than 100,000 people live here, nearly a third of the country’s population; it’s denser than Manhattan.


Most transportation is bike and motorcycle, but there are a silly number of cars for such a compact island.


Malé’s chandleries were one draw. They’re the best supplied we’ve seen since… well, let’s just say they’re the best we’ve seen in a very long time! No one shop has everything, but make the rounds and you can get pretty much anything you need.…

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May 1st

Cruising Maldives: freedom to roam

Posted by // May 1, 2015 // COMMENT (4 Comments)

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It was only a few years ago that visiting islands in Maldives was relatively restricted; tourists weren’t just funneled to resort islands, they were actually banned from islands populated by locals. Lifting of the tourism ban in 2009 meant that cruising boats were no longer restricted to uninhabited or resort islands, but can visit populated islands as well. There’s a small but growing industry of guest houses and services for independent travelers. As a cruiser, we don’t need those much, but I’m immensely grateful: since it’s hard to imagine visiting a country where we’re effectively barred from getting to know the people and the culture.…

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April 23rd

Some good must come from this tragedy

Posted by // April 23, 2015 // COMMENT (2 Comments)

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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.…

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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!

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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.…

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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.…

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April 3rd

Navigating with Google Earth

Posted by // April 3, 2015 // COMMENT (9 Comments)

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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.…

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