Behan Gifford

Live Like Alex

15 Jul

News of the untimely passing of Alex Rust in May left us shocked and saddened. We met Alex in 2010, when he was crossing the Pacific on his boat Bubbles. Alex’s zest for life stood out among cruisers, a crowd generally notable for their joie de vivre. It made his death at 28 seem all the more cruel, and reminds us to embrace living every day to the fullest, and to remember and the bubbles in our wake- to never take any one, or any place, for granted.

Jamie and I co-author the monthly cruising column at 48° North, ...

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Reconverging with a cruising fleet

12 Jul

There have been precious few other cruising boats crossing our path these last months. We’ve only seen a handful since we said goodbye to Nalukai and Muscat after our New Year’s Eve celebrations in Sorong, Indonesia. Wow, that was a while ago!

Sunset from Totem
Having an anchorage all to yourself is great…for a while
In February we met Hans, on Alk, who was tying his boat up for a long stay in Ambon while he flew home to the Netherlands. In March, we detoured to give Bob and Alex a tow by Komodo. Around that time, we got an email from a ...
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Exploring the market: Miri, Malaysia

9 Jul

We scooted up the Sarawak coast to Miri to converge with the beginning of the Borneo International Yacht Race. Joining rallies hasn’t really been our thing on Totem. Generally speaking, being on someone else’s schedule and with whole lot of other boats in proximity doesn’t jibe with our style- but after being by ourselves for most of the last year (we can count the cruising boats we’ve seen on one hand), getting caught up with the local seasonal cruising fleet- and having a bunch of fun events- sounded like just the thing for our little crew.

There was about a ...

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Top Ten Snorkeling Spots- Part 3

5 Jul

Maybe we should subtitle the blog “a family snorkelizing around the world.” We love getting underwater, and  it shows! Our favorite five are epic; the next five are pretty spectacular too. Yet it was so hard to just share ten favorites, I can’t resist sharing the other places that loom large in our memory. They didn’t rate top ten, but they were each incredible, and worth seeking out if you’re cruising in these regions or planning a trip.

Enjoying the view
Morning hike in Agua Verde; Roca Solitaria visible in the distance


Instead of attempting any kind of priority order- which really is ...

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Welcome to Malaysia!

3 Jul

Sailing into the beautiful islands in the bay off Kuching, we talk about what seems new and different in Malaysia compared to Indonesia. It’s impossible to resist making comparisons like this when we arrive in a new country. The transition from Papua New Guinea to Indonesia was particularly stark. The shift as we travel Indonesia to Malaysia is more subtle, but still markedly different considering we’ve only just moved a little way around the same big island.

The immediately obvious observation is how much cleaner the water is. There’s hardly any plastic floating around. It’s shifted back to a pretty ...

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You know you’re in a rolly anchorage when…

1 Jul

We dropped the hook in a roadstead anchorage, somewhere along the coast of Sarawak. This part of Borneo has been littered with oil rigs and little fishing boats, so we take coastal day hops instead direct passages to work northward.

Totem at sunset
They can’t all be this flat! Photo from Nalukai.

Hoping to pick up a decent signal from a cell tower on shore, I sat up in the cockpit with the iPad in my lap for a skim of email- when the screen started to auto-rotate, flipping back and forth, thanks to our increased roll as Totem moved and the swell ...

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Top Ten Snorkeling Spots- Part 2

26 Jun

What are the top ten snorkeling spots we’ve visited? The last post covered our top five all time favorites; this is the next in line. They are also amazing underwater experiences, but didn’t hit on quite as many dimensions. Still, each one is a spectacular and unique destination that provided extremely memorable snorkeling. They’re all places we feel privileged to have visited.

playing in the shallows
Stunning clear water in Fiji

6. Northern Raja Ampat, West Papua Province, Indonesia
Raja Ampat covers a large area, and while we counted the southern portion among our top five, the northern islands we visited were spectacular as ...

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Top Ten Snorkeling Spots

24 Jun

What are the top ten snorkeling spots we’ve visited? Sitting in the cockpit as we left our anchorage at sunrise this morning, Jamie and I talked through our favorites. Remembering each one is like talking about an old friend: recalling good times, personalities, and what occupied our lives at the time.

Totem on a resort mooring
The reefs off Misool in Raja Ampat are unforgettable

What makes a spot great is extremely subjective, of course. Some may prefer being surrounded by schools of colorful fish, some are all about the echinoderms, others geek out over pelagics or corals (I squeal over nudibranchs). In any given ...

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Our brothers of the sea: the Indonesian Navy

22 Jun

Navy phone pic
This is a story about a remarkable man, and an unforgettable experience we had as part of our clearance process from Indonesia. It is a reminder that human kindness is alive and well, and often waiting to surprise you from the most unexpected corners of your life. It is the point, and the counterpoint, to our last post about navigating clearance bureaucracy. It is the story our departure from Indonesia, wrapped in the embrace of kinship and friendship.

Totem arrived in Singkawang, West Kalimantan, to clear out of Indonesia. A short trip to the immigration office educated us that it ...

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Summer Sailstice: celebrating twice on Totem!

21 Jun

Happy solstice- now, go sailing!

This Saturday, June 22, is Summer Sailstice– a worldwide celebration of sailing held on the weekend closest to solstice each June. On Totem, we observe solstice and are passionate about sailing, so what serendipity to bring them together as we return from our 3 year foray to the southern hemisphere!

The event was started in 2001 by John Arndt in the SF Bay Area. John is passionate about sailing, and just wanted to share his passion with others while bringing the diverse factions of sailing together. Ultimately, Summer Sailstice is all about getting out ...

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