Behan Gifford

Demystifying international clearance for cruisers

20 Jun

I have a new appreciation for how easily most international travelers are able to pass the gauntlets to enter a foreign country. A little form on the plane, a stamp in your passport, and you’re off to your hotel. Sometimes we are lucky to have a very simple clearance (record: 13 minutes, Cook Islands)… and sometimes, we’re not (record: 3 days, Indonesia).

This is the next installment as I tick (slowly, yes) through questions that came in response to my query post, What do you want to know about? from a few weeks ago. Cidnie asked first, but it turns ...

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Unexpected Kumai: a sweet side of Kalimantan

18 Jun

To our surprise, Kumai was delightful. Yes, it is a funny, dusty frontier town with absolutely nothing to recommend it aesthetically, but it was incredibly friendly. After our weeks in Bali, it was also really nice to be able to walk down the street without having 10 people try to sell us something. Here, nobody tried to sell us anything at all! It was something of a study in contradictions, with the massive shipping traffic and relatively modern vessels and structures next to very traditional boats like this one (he’s waving, of course).
Before we went up the river, we ...

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Up the river in Borneo, part 2: the drama

15 Jun
A reminder that we’re related

We knew our trip up the river from Kumai would be a privileged experience, to see wild, exotic and endangered animals- the Borneo orangutan in particular. What we didn’t expect is how tangibly we’d find the evidence of threats against these creatures and their habitat.

What’s happening

Orangutans in the wild are now limited to Sumatra, and Borneo (an island shared by Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei). Their habitat is rapidly being lost, primarily as a result of pressure from logging for timber, and to develop palm oil plantations. In addition to the obvious habitat destruction, ...

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Up the river in Borneo, part 1: the wonder

12 Jun

We have heard such raves about traveling up the Kumai river in Kalimantan to visit orangutan

rehabilitation centers that I almost expected to be disappointed. It was described with such glowing

terms that I couldn’t imagine- and sometimes, with few words at all at all, from those who professed

to be left speechless or at a loss to adequately describe the incredible experience of traveling

there. Lowering expectations was an instinct to avoid setting them too high, and then not having the

reality life up to the hype.

Well, it lived up to the hype. I have never taken so ...

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Bali memories

8 Jun

I’m still absorbing and processing the outrageous, unforgettable experience of traveling up into the river into a national park, looking into the eyes of our next-of-kin: the awesome “people (orang) of the forest (hutan)”, the endangered orangutans. While I organize thoughts… there are still parting memories of Bali I have to share.

Staying through another moon cycle meant… another full moon temple ceremony! We heard the gamelan on the beach all day, and made our way over after sunset when the music picked up in earnest. Jamie and I thought that we stayed late when we left around 11, but ...

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Ships and squalls between Bali and Borneo

6 Jun

Leaving Bali was easy.

Lovina Beach Sunset
Shades of light in Lovina

We pulled the anchor at dawn, and headed out past the canoes that had blasted by us every morning as they hauled their catch of tourists out to see the dolphins. We had a forecast for <10 knots winds from the east and were hoping for a little help to motor sail our way north. The conditions had been unchanged for weeks, which gave us a false sense of security.

Getting to Kalimantan, the Indonesian side of Borneo, was a little less easy.

Possibly we should have consulted a few additional ...

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Kiss goodbye to Bali

5 Jun

When our expectations of a quick (<1 week) visa extension turned into a three weeks, it was hard not to be frustrated. Yet silver linings are everywhere: a chance to go out to Pulau Menjangan was just the first.
The very best part of our delay by far was the chance to catch up with an old friend. Rick and I met in 1988 on a camping trip that preceded our matriculation to a little liberal arts college in Connecticut. We were both Chinese minors and members of the sailing team – kind of a unique combination it turned out, ...

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Sun protection for pasty white cruisers

30 May
budding naturalists
Scoping boobies on Isla Isabel

Sun protection- with sunscreen, sun protective clothing, and more- is something we take pretty seriously on Totem.

When I was a teenager, my mother was diagnosed with malignant melanoma. My uncle (her brother) died from metastasized skin cancer. Jamie’s family has a history of skin carcinomas, so you could say that we have the skin cancer genetic factors all wrapped up in the pasty-white-northern-European bag.

Dermatologists have told both Jamie and me that with our lifestyle and genes, skin cancer is not “if”, it’s “when”. One doc suggested we should reconsider our choice and stay ...

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The Sailing Podcast interviews Totem

25 May

Just recently, Jamie and I spent a really nice hour chatting with David Anderson of The Sailing Podcast. He and his wife Carina have a great series of interviews for sailors. David had been in touch with us a while back, but took months for us to be parked in a place with dependable internet access to Skype. The joys of cruising, right?

Crazy squalls
Crazy squalls that day, but calm and peaceful in time for our interview with The Sailing Podcast
It was  fun for us to kick back in the cockpit and chat away with David about everything from
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