February 3rd


As our time in South Africa draws to a close, we’re focused on preparing for the big miles ahead to cross the Atlantic. Although I felt like we spent a lot of last year preparing for passages, given the significant legs crossing the Indian Ocean, there’s a lot to inspect, and re-inspect. This is the time to catch up on anything that might have slipped on the “routine maintenance” schedule.

One of the first jobs was replacing the impeller Totem’s Yanmar (a decision typically guided by engine hours). And…good timing! Jamie found a wear point along the blades that prompted a further internal fix.…

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February 1st


About one year ago, we purchased an Iridium GO! satellite wifi unit. This was a big decision as it is a significant expense and we had been happy using HF radio for years for all offshore communications. Seeds of doubt about radio connections while crossing the Indian Ocean swayed our decision; we did not want any compromise to our ability to have weather information. My desire for better internet connectivity (anticipating a stretch of about six weeks between ports with service) reinforced the choice.

This post updates one I wrote last February after our first big passage with an Iridium GO!…

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January 23rd

entering false bay

We arrived in Cape Town weeks later than originally planned. Conventional wisdom was that multi-day windows out of Durban should cycle through regularly, but we ultimately waited nearly a month! It necessitated a road trip to meet up with visiting relatives in Yzerfontein, north of Cape Town, a road trip adventure of more than 2,000 miles and a story of its own.

When the weather did finally break, it did so in glorious fashion, letting us sail from Durban to Cape Town in just four days. Totem clocked up two of her fastest days ever: 239 nautical miles for one, and the other 234.…

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January 20th

Watch Captain

Posted by // January 20, 2016 // COMMENT (0 Comments)

Cruising, People, , , ,


Our friend Ty has accompanied Totem on significant passages . We’re very excited that he’s booked a flight to Namibia next month, and will join Totem again to cross the Atlantic to the Caribbean. A little backstory on Ty and our history together seems appropriate: this is a piece Jamie wrote about our indomitable seafaring companion. It first appeared in last December’s issue of 48° North.

You can take the man out of the boat, but you’re nuts if you think his boating days are over.

Last year, Captain Ty Anderson retired after 30 years of service with the Washington State Ferry system.…

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January 16th

Canning meat on board

Posted by // January 16, 2016 // COMMENT (1 Comment)

Cruising, , , , , , ,

canning chicken jars bowl

At some point, canning food makes sense for a lot of long-distance cruisers. Totem is a boat full of omnivores, and with five people on board, canning meat has been a useful skill to acquire. For those times we need to boost our provisions with canned food, doing it yourself is cheaper and tastier than commercially canned meat.

I’ve been water-bath canning for years before cruising, but meat requires pressure canning. This process intimidated me for a long time, but I got over the hurdle when we anticipated about three months in Papua New Guinea without access to stores. Now, ticking down the days we have left in South Africa, We have a lot (LOT) of ocean miles ahead of us; the longest leg will probably be from Ascension Island to Grenada, about 3500 miles.…

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January 14th

sunset underway

We strive to be a green boat, and supply our power through sun and wind as much as possible. But the wants of five people can outstrip what our solar panels and wind turbine provide- especially during a time of grey skies or equatorial calms. Unfortunately, we had periods of cloudy skies and not much wind while we were in Southeast Asia, so our green power struggled to keep up.

sailboat sunset generatorBatteries like to be kept above a minimum charge (amount depends on battery voltage and type) and to get a full recharge now and again instead of routine partial charges. Our first battery bank (12 volt AGM) started failing after a solid service life, and we found ourselves running Totem’s engine more often to charge up.…

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January 11th

I love South Africanisms!

Posted by // January 11, 2016 // COMMENT (2 Comments)

Cruising, , , , ,

vehicle penguins

It started during our first road trip: picking up on sayings, food, treats and more that stood out to us as uniquely South African. Our expat family in Jo’burg helped further our education: a host of uniquely South African sounds, sights, tastes, and more.

Animalspinterest post lekker

If there’s one thing everyone knows about South Africa before arrival, it’s the iconic wildlife. We were blown away by what we saw at game parks during our first weeks: the sightings had a storybook quality. But it’s not just game parks! In the residential neighborhood of Yzerfontein, north of Cape Town, ostrich wander between the houses.…

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January 6th

Dock walk:  rigging fails

Posted by // January 6, 2016 // COMMENT (6 Comments)

Maintenance, , , ,


We’re rarely in marinas, but in South Africa’s harbors tying up is the norm. Jamie and I have fun walking the docks, checking out other boats; I always have something to learn from the critical eye of my sailmaker/rigging-savvy husband. Most often, it’s the condition of sails; on a blustery day in Durban, rigging mishaps were the theme.

-stanchion bent-lifelines stretchedThe first one that stood out was just across the dock from Totem. It’s a perfect example of why sailors shouldn’t be tempted to tie fenders to the lifelines, although many persist in the habit or don’t seem to know it’s a bad one.…

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January 2nd

365 days, 7,988 miles, 2 oceans, 1 boat

Posted by // January 2, 2016 // COMMENT (13 Comments)

Boats and Gear, Cruising,


What a year! We knew 2015 was going to be big, and eagerly anticipated the change after a year of maintenance in Southeast Asia. In hindsight, it was truly epic: I still can’t believe we’ve crossed the Indian Ocean! This past year brought richness in culture and landscapes and beauty that overwhelmed us in their scale and diversity. I struggled a little with how to share how this year felt to us; Jamie, who is a database guy from way back, pulled some statistics out of the data he tracks on our everyday life, and that got it flowing.

Summary log

  • Distance traveled: 7,988 nautical miles (9,192 miles; 14,794 km)
  • Days at anchor: 249; days docked: 59, moored: 20, nights on passage: 37
  • Countries: 10 – Thailand, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Chagos, Seychelles, Comoros, Madagascar, South Africa, and Lesotho
  • Places (harbors, anchorages, etc.): 70, and 52 different islands

tied to the police jetty for clearance: Trincomalee, Sri Lanka


  • Deepest: 130’ (39.6m) – Gaadhoo Island at Hadhdhunmathee Atoll in Maldives…in fading light and as squall hit, per Murphy’s law.
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December 30th

Port tack blues: thoughts on comfortable cruising

Posted by // December 30, 2015 // COMMENT (1 Comment)

Cruising, , ,

upwind to kuching

Flat water and a consistent breeze provided glorious sailing back in Madagascar. Daily diurnal winds power our passage south on a port tack in the morning and a starboard tack in the afternoon, with a brief period of calm between the directional switch.  Totem’s comfortable motion in these conditions have made meal preparation in the galley easy when we’re underway, and we’re eating very well; having a French crew, Aline, join us for a stretch of the Madagascar coast brought a distinct flair to meals with crepes, brioche, and more added to our repertoire.

Aline is new to cruising but embracing it in a big way by taking seven months off to join a boat from Reunion on a loop through a number of Indian Ocean destinations.…

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