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

2 Jan


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.
  • Shallowest: 12’ (3.7m) – Mutsamudu, on Anjouan Island in Comoros
  • Floated anchor chain (to protect coral): 3
  • Most beautiful: tough call, but Anse Lazio at the north end of Praslin Island in Seychelles is stunning
  • Most like walking naked down Main Street: outside of Cosmoledo Atoll, Seychelles – yeah, it was that exposed!
shallowest anchorage

this actually wasn’t the shallowest, it’s just shockingly clear…approx 18′.


  • Startling ethnic/religious hatred: Malaysia
  • Least ethnic/religious strife: the proudly diverse Seychelles
  • Countries most marred by trash pollution: five way tie between Malaysia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and Comoros
  • Languages: 20+? Most fun: the clicks in Zulu, Xhosa, and other languages we hear in Africa
  • Best foreign language “thank you”: in Afrikaans, “buy a donkey.” Surely spelled differently, but easy to remember!
  • Scratches to Totem from canoes tied alongside: countless


  • Best 24 hour run: 239 miles, between Durban and Simon’s Town (with much Agulhas Current assist!)
  • Best sailing: the west coast of Madagascar. Unparalleled.
  • Worst Sailing: everywhere between Malaysia and Maldives (equatorial calms, and the season of no wind)
  • Dumbest: when Jamie forgot to fold mast step into place before passage. While reefing, main got hooked on step and Jamie had to climb the mast to first spreader, at night, in 25 knots of wind and rolly seas, 300 miles from South Africa.
  • Great Capes rounded: 1 (Cape Aghulas). Wahooo, we rounded 1 of 3 great capes!
  • Best macramé: the genoa sheet and barbour hauler became incredibly fouled on the passage between Madagascar and South Africa.  Murphy was once again on board: it was a dark night, with 30+ knots of wind and whitewater seas.

glassy seas between Sri Lanka and Maldives


  • Gas: 104 gallons (395 l) – outboard and generator
  • Propane (LPG): 92 pounds (42 kg)
  • Diesel: 489 gallons (1,853 l) – mostly between Malaysia and Maldives with too little wind
  • Cheese: 84 pounds (38.1 kg)

Gear Fails

  • Most annoying: Caframo fans, for motors that consistently burn out in less than a year.
  • Most disappointing: Spectra watermaker, for the new membrane that failed just months after installation (and full service) by a certified dealer; no support from the manufacturer.
  • Most repeated: Totem’s vang: the tang on the boom failed, making it our 4th vang failure (Jamie = racer = 16:1 vang = high load)
  • Cheapo manufacturing: Highfield 2.9m dinghy, for Hypalon failing less than 2 years after purchase
praslin beach

Praslin island’s beautiful Anse Lazio anchorage


  • Whales: humpback (Madagascar), sperm (North of Sumatra), pilot (South Africa)
  • Coolest animal sighting: 97-way tie, seriously, South Africa, Madagascar, and Sri Lanka have wicked cool beasties!
  • Greatest heart rate accelerator: getting mock charged by African elephant, who herded us half a km down the road in reverse at dusk.
  • Funniest animal moment: when a vervet monkey swung through the door into game park cottage, grabbed bananas from kitchen counter, and dashed away. Cheeky, cheeky monkey!

elephant charging musth

For Fun

  • Coolest boat visited: the 56m (174′) yacht Fidelis
  • Smallest boat visited: at Anjouan Island –the dugout outrigger canoe that brought Jamie on board in a slo-mo paddling chase after teens had boarded a nearby cruising boat
  • Most shoes collected on a remote beach in 45 minute: 250 – wait, that’s not fun at all!
  • Most talked about, unmentionable saga: Pipistrelle on the Reef in Chagos – the story of drama, rescue, repair, camaraderie, lousy seamanship, another rescue, delusion, lies, and unfathomably bad behavior. What a story! Wait for the book…
  • Quote of the year: “We’re fluffed.” Okay, we’re not doing the quote justice in order to keep it family friendly. The comment was made by a Belgian climate scientist we met in Lesotho, when talking about likely environmental and human catastrophes due to climate change.
  • Smallest fish caught: in Chagos, a fish that began as the biggest grouper Jamie has caught and ended as just a grouper head (with stunned expression) after black tip reef sharks ate the rest before landing in our dinghy.
  • Number of pub crawls attended (sans kids of course): 1 in Lesotho
  • Safest means of pub crawl transportation: by donkey!

Mairen peeks over the edge of Fidelis. Note the furler motor… bigger than an XL barbecue!

Mostly: we’re all grateful for another year living this crazy life afloat, and all the wonder it brings.

This post is syndicated on Sailfeed.


  1. Behan Gifford

    Hi Shafer- I totally agree with you regarding Malaysia, but I think that’s an oversimplification of how the issue plays out in Indonesia. You’re right on that it feels very, very different in Indo; I love it dearly and agree that it is a wonderful and caring society overall- but I think it’s worth mentioning a couple of issues in any discussion of discrimination similarities in these two neighboring countries. Indonesia’s ethnic Chinese are a significant portion of the population, and have been systematically discriminated against and targeted for brutality for centuries. And, there’s an ongoing genocide of Papuan Indonesians, another non-“Indo”/non-Muslim ethnic group in eastern Indonesia. It is terrible and tragic…but it’s not something most visitors are likely to experience directly, in comparison to racism Malaysia.

  2. Behan Gifford

    Hi Tom- re: Highfield, a friend of ours visiting the dealer in Phuket where we purchased the dinghy shared the information with them a couple of weeks ago. The dealer confirmed our purchase in his records and indicated to our friend he’d be in touch, but we haven’t heard. I don’t expect there’s much/anything he can do but will let them know. The material is clearly Hypalon, not PVC, which has a different sheen/texture. And yes, we’re disappointed too!

  3. Behan Gifford

    Hi John, Wikipedia has a better entry on pub crawls than I can write. Grouper… so good in so many ways! We almost always keep it simple and panfry with butter. When you’ve got fish as fresh as we’re lucky to catch, that’s really all you need to do – it’s just SO good! But if we’re going to dress it up, a family favorite is butter/lemon/caper sauce. Dredge fish in seasoned flour, sautee in butter (it’s criminal to overcook), remove fish. Add more butter to pan, and then lemon juice- up any deliciousness left behind. Cook it down a little – then add capers, cook a bit more, and spoon over filets. Heavenly!

  4. Behan Gifford

    Hi William, we have a Spectra Ventura on Totem. In 2008, we paid a premium for Spectra’s product in great part because of their reputation for support. Your question is very reasonable question. We purchased the membrane from Spectra’s licensed representative in Phuket, and we paid the bigger bucks for a Spectra brand membrane as opposed to a generic one. We can’t actually tell from looking at the membrane after it failed whether it was “Spectra” or not. Speculation is that the Spectra dealer put in a generic membrane. We let Spectra know, and they expressed concern, but indicated their hands were tied. Concern didn’t really help with the cash we were out, or how our routing plans were thrown by having to spend an extra month in Seychelles (which also cost $$$). I wrote a little bit more about it at http://www.sailfeed.com/2015/08/getting-mail-in-seychelles.html if you’re curious.

  5. William Rehm

    Permit me to ask: were you perhaps using a generic or used membrane in your Spectra? Which Spectra model was it, as I am considering installing one?

  6. John Yeo

    Interested is reading/seeing input re Losotho and the scientist.
    Please elaborate on what is meant bya pub crawl, and what was different about this event in Losotho.
    Also, I am a conesieur of grouper, so please elaborate with observations about taste, texture, and recipe/cooking preparation.

  7. Gerhard Claassen

    Something to consider when contemplating the “catastrophe” of climate change.

    Firstly: The climate has constantly changed on earth since its inception. Even in the relative short time that me has lived here a lot of climate change has happened and man is anything but fluffed despite it


    Secondly: Who decided the climate as it is right now is the “right” climate?

  8. Shafer

    Reur comment concerning ethnic/religious hatred in Malaysia….I’m not surprised by this comment having lived/worked there for 4 years. If you were anything but Islamic and bumi putra (native Malay), you had a tough go of it. The Chinese and Indians, who make up 49% of the population, are treated like 2nd class citizens by the government and native Malays. Next time go to Indonesia (which is 94% Muslim), and you find a totally different and caring society.

  9. Tom Ripple

    Behan – your comment about the Highfield dinghy fabric was disappointing since that was the RIB that I was considering purchasing. Any support from the dealer or manufacturer for replacement? Is it possible that Hypalon construction was misrepresented and it was their Valmex PVC fabric?

Comments are closed.

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