Grand plans for the Indian Ocean

2 Jan

We look ahead at 2014 with great anticipation: Now that the Pacific Ocean, South China Sea, and Straits of Malacca are behind us, it’s inevitable that the eyes wander west towards the Indian Ocean. Even contemplating the next leap makes me a little giddy. Deceptively open on the map, there are myriad small corners to learn about, dots on the map that the line of our route may wind through and around. Like the South Pacific, many have names that feel entirely foreign, and it’s hard to imagine now how they will someday feel as familiar to me as those Pacific names like Vava’u, Raiatea, Suwarrow, Efate and others rang strangely before our crossing in 2010. Languages to hear, cultures to experience, friends to meet.

There’s a lot of homework as we proceed towards this next big step. To dive into preparations, last year I took on management of a loosely organized group of boats planning 2014 Indian Ocean crossings, sharing information to aid in our plans for the passages between Southeast Asia and South Africa. It’s been the perfect way to fast forward learning, and connect with other boats on a similar path. Along with the daydreams of far off places, I’ve had my head stuck in the more practical side of pilot charts and route planning.
There are just a few things we have to do first. See, there’s this problem with our radar. We’d really like to have a functional radar, which means- well, a new radar.
Diagnosing radar troubles
Later diagnosis: dead radar. Still sold new at retail, but Raymarine won’t support it. Gah.
And then there’s our battery bank, which is on it’s last legs. We need to repair the headsail, the forwardmost hatch, the dodger, and certify the lift raft. Safety essentials that we won’t leave without addressing.
mainsail repair
Jamie has excellent sailmaking skills, so we’ll look for a sewing machine to beg/borrow for our repairs
The main cabin settee covers are literally disintegrating, so they’ll need recovering, as the foam cushions beneath are starting to get damaged.
Siobhan in the main cabin
The settees look OK at a distance, but are breaking down after five years of hard use

That’s just the short list. There’s an even longer wish list of basic cosmetics and comfort that includes the awning, our cockpit table, cockpit cushions, the mainsail cover, our overburdened refrigeration system, and those ungracefully aging originals to Totem, the yellowed Formica counters and basket weave embossed vinyl headliner. Can I whitewash the cabin while we’re at it? Hopefully we can get to some of these.

Cards in the cockpit
Our stopgap cockpit cushions are thin pool-cover foam sheets. They’re not surviving the UV well.
We’re not comfortable cruisers with an allowance from secure investments at home, or ongoing part time work that brings a sufficient income stream. We’ve been stringing ourselves along since we left in 2008: making a bit here and there, spending as little as we can, salvaging the kitty with stint of work in Australia. The list of pre-Indian Ocean projects is easily in five figures, which is daunting. Thus our plans, as cruising plans are wont to do, are up in the air while we evaluate the options. We might still cross the Indian Ocean in 2014, but far more likely scenario that we’ll stay in Southeast Asia instead. There are a few possibilities for work. It’s inexpensive living. It’s a good place to work on the boat.

Is this disappointing? Hardly. We have studiously avoided the P word in the past. Grand plans were never truly plans, but intentions. We are not the cruisers who lay out a three year plan to circumnavigate and do it. Our goals are a little different, and more centered around a life afloat as a family than a geographic goal. Oh, there might be a disappointed fourteen year old on board who is quick to remind us he would really like to get to the Med. We’d like for him to get there, too! And so, we…plan, to patch things together with an eye to when, and not if.

If you’re reading this on the Sailfeed website, you’ve just tipped change into our cruising kitty Indian Ocean preparation budget- thank you!

This article was syndicated from S/V Totem - a family sailing the world


  1. Linda

    2014 will be a great year for Totem…no matter where you are! We’re in the same “boat” – in Panama doing repairs now and just pushed off our Puddle Jump for another year to continue our explorations in South America!
    s/v Jacaranda

  2. Behan - s/v Totem

    * L.- here’s to blooming where we are planted!
    * Clive- don’t worry, we’re immersed in research.
    * Seven C’s- we’re coming to visit. It’s just going to take a while to get to Belize. :-)
    * Tyler- thank you!
    * Darryl- radar and AIS are very different tools, not substitutions. Most boats do not transpond, so are invisible to AIS, and AIS can’t track a squall cell.
    * Kathleen Simis- LOL! like those two gybes we had to do between PV and Hiva Oa? ;-)
    * Anne- that is absolutely lovely, and we look forward to it!
    * Kathy- if we couldn’t DIY we’d definitely be back home by now, thanks goodness for crazy skills.

  3. Kathy

    Seems that houses and floating homes have similar project lists. I can hardly imagine the length of the list and the associated cost if the two of you weren’t such handy DIY’ers.

    We look forward to learning more about the lifestyles and landscapes of Southeast Asia and Africa from you. Happy 2014!

  4. mathew

    and the beat goes on…. no doubt a solution will work out, at you are assured you are on your path. we’re pulling for you seeing India!
    love, b, mateo, ryder.

  5. Anne

    Will be here to welcome you when you get to Richards Bay, South Africa. Feel as if I know the family having followed your adventures for so long. Keep in touch and the beers will be cold and braai fires ready.
    Fair winds
    All on Yacht Sea Shoes

  6. Darryl

    Wow – that’s quite the list. Just this morning my wife asked if you guys had plans to circumnavigate or just come back via the Pacific – now I know that you plan to go at least as far as South Africa and the Med.

    Curious to hear more about the value of a working radar – wasn’t sure if it was still a necessity with AIS.

    Knowing that you’ll have loads of fresh cultural experiences in S.E. Asia means you can take your time with repairs and go whenever you are turly ready.

    Fair Winds

  7. Seven Cs

    Lots to do! I had been curious if you were able to repair the radar. Sorry to hear it needs replacement. Totem has logged so many miles (and even more friends!) since we last saw you in La Cruz.
    We miss you guys and the kids all miss your kids. We keep hoping to hear that you will be passing along by Belize one day :) But know that may be years down the road if you ever do.
    Enjoy the area for us too :)

  8. Clive

    Beware pirates off East Africa .
    Do some research .several yachts have come to grief.
    Pirates mostly based in Somalia but venture out with mother ships anywhere between the gulf and Seychelles
    Best wishes,

  9. Laurie

    I love this, Behan. We are currently, happily on a sailing sabbatical after 2 years and 4,000 miles in “just” the Western Caribbean. Some folks push “so you’ll be going out next season, right?”, “what are you doing next?”, “didn’t you LOVE it out there (hate it here is the implication)?”.

    Nah. We’re happy to bloom where we’re planted and grateful that we’ve had ANY of it to look “back” on.

    Fair winds (at anchor), my friend! We’ll be sending the money gods your way (after they swing by our boat! ;)


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