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August 28th

Clearing into Comoros

Posted by // August 28, 2015 // COMMENT (6 Comments)

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Mutsamudu and totem

Comoros, an island nation tucked between Mozambique and Madagascar, is the landfall I have most anticipated among our planned Indian Ocean destinations.

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Comoros does not have published official fees or processes for private boats to visit; there is no tourism industry here. That’s what happens when more than twenty coups are attempted since independence from France in 1975. It’s been led by a series of military officers, a French mercenary, an Ayatollah, and the odd career politician. The first peaceful, democratic change of leadership took place less than ten years ago, and even after that, there was an invasion by African Union forces because the military leader on Anjouan (who had previously seized power, later rigged elections, and is believed responsible for the torture and disappearance of many) refused to step down.…

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August 24th

Self-steering on board

Posted by // August 24, 2015 // COMMENT (3 Comments)

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Siobhan steeringAutopilot? Windvane? Both, or hard-core hand-steering? Problems with our autopilot have caused some headaches on Totem. So why don’t we have a windvane for self-steering, instead of relying only on an autopilot?

There are a lot of reasons to add a windvane. They don’t need any power, whereas running the autopilot 24×7 on longer passages sucks a fair bit of from the battery bank. A mechanical windvane has fewer moving bits to break down, and no finicky electronics.

We took a hard look at windvanes before we took off in 2008, and were biased to add one to Totem. But like EVERYTHING on a boat, it involved a set of compromises.…

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August 21st

Shelter from the storm

Posted by // August 21, 2015 // COMMENT (5 Comments)


We thought we’d be in the Comoros by this morning, a string of islands between Mozambique and Madagascar; instead, we’re still 240 miles away and anchored. Exhausted from three rough days at sea, as our course passed in the lee of an uninhabited atoll in the outer Seychelles it was all too easy to decide to stop and rest.

This isn’t our worst passage, and not a storm we need sheltering from, but I’m a Dylan fan and can’t resist! On paper the conditions are active but manageable: winds averaging around 25 knots, forward of the beam with an apparent wind angle around 50-60 most of the time.…

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August 18th

Indian Ocean cruising bloggers

Posted by // August 18, 2015 // COMMENT (1 Comment)

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Delos Totem Chagos 640

I love sharing our experiences sailing across the Indian Ocean. Along the way from Malaysia to South Africa, we’re hanging out with some other really terrific bloggers. I want to give a shoutout to a number of them for additional views into the places we’ve been visiting: they are a mix of thoughtful perspectives, good writing, lush photographs, cool videos, or just plain fun.

Shakespeare

Towards the end of our month in Chagos, we met the crew of Shakespeare. The four French women on this speedy 47’ sloop boat are doing a seven month loop of the Indian Ocean from their home on Reunion.…

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August 16th

Southbound from Seychelles

Posted by // August 16, 2015 // COMMENT (1 Comment)

seychelles sunset

Finally (FINALLY) we can leave: all the packages we’ve been waiting for are on board, after 18 bus rides and enough face time to be on a first-name basis with clerks in the post office, officials in the Seychelles Revenue Commission, EVEN a bus driver (total count: 18 bus rides). Clearance could have been done in ~24 hours, but took three days… because, like receiving packages, working with officialdom on formalities was an extended reminder of the importance of patience as painfully layered bureaucracy and island time combined to make every step take significantly longer than necessary.

I’m not complaining. OK, not THAT much.…

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August 10th

VWK image

How do families go cruising? What do you need to know to take your kids off on a bluewater cruising adventure? How on earth to you homeschool across an ocean? What happens when the voyage is over? When our kids were babies and Jamie and I were lining up our exit strategy, none of the books on the chandlery shelves gave us a satisfactory answer. So when I got an email from Michael (Del Viento) proposing that he, Sara (Wondertime) and I co-author a book to help families make the leap into cruising, it was an easy “YES!” for me to collaborate with these two terrific writers and experienced family cruisers.…

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August 4th

Getting mail in Seychelles

Posted by // August 4, 2015 // COMMENT (5 Comments)

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Cruising is often described as routine maintenance in exotic locations, and like many turns of phrase is well-rooted in common experience. We’ve been mired in more of the fix/repair end of the spectrum lately, an occasionally more frustrating twist. While parts or consumables needed for maintenance can be pretty well anticipated, you can’t carry every spare part you might need for repairs.

The first hurdle to fix our watermaker, a Spectra Ventura, was just figuring out what was wrong: we had it serviced at the certified Spectra service center back in January, but had been producing rapidly saltier water. JT Halden, who runs a marine service business in Florida, was a rock star: I can’t recommend him enough (and am so grateful to Patricia for the introduction!).…

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August 1st

How use less internet data

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

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Computer lessons

Before we went cruising, we took unlimited internet access for granted. Traveling full time means relying on pre-paid plans for internet, which is almost always metered data, and that data can be really expensive sometimes. [above: Jamie gives lessons on a new computer to islanders in Papua New Guinea. Computers and the internet are part of life, even in the disconnected Hermit islands]

It’s been a somewhat painful stretch in Seychelles as we’ve spent a multiple of our usual monthly expenditure for typical activity online. Hearing the frustrations of a my friend Melissa (check out her blog: Little Cunning Plan!), who was dinged with the painful cost of international access when she and Mike sailed their beautiful Olympic 47 ketch, Galapagos north of the border to cruise in Canada recently, pushed me to organize a few notes on how we deal with reducing data to keep expenses down.…

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July 28th

Cruising Praslin Island, Seychelles

Posted by // July 28, 2015 // COMMENT (7 Comments)

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DSC_2577We spent much of our first month in Seychelles anchored off Victoria. With a watermaker on the fritz, it’s been helpful to be near the (very welcoming!) Seychelles Yacht Club and the drinking water tap at their boat ramp. Victoria is also the hub where we can do everything from buy locally grown produce to see new releases at a little cinema. The working harbor has its charm, but we craved clean beaches, water we can swim in, and a bit of peace and quiet.

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The kicker was when boats in the harbor were targeted by thieves over a series of events, and petty theft escalated to the assault of a cruising couple.…

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July 24th

The best apps for cruising- part II

Posted by // July 24, 2015 // COMMENT (4 Comments)

tablet reading

What apps do cruisers actually use on their ipad / android to make life easier, safer, or more fun? The last post covered navigation, weather, and other apps for sailing. This post is about everything else that we find useful to our cruising life. And despite the title, the objective here isn’t actually to list the best, but to share what we- and a lot of other cruisers- actually use to improve life on board…the “best” lists I’ve read weren’t written by cruisers! So here are a few more that we actively use, as well as recommendations from other friends afloat.…

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