New tools on Totem

It’s fun when you’ve been cruising for a bunch of years and can find delight in a few new pieces of kit on board. Here are a few new additions to Totem that earn their keep very nicely. What does that have to do with whales? read on!

Laser rangefinder. OK, this has been on Jamie’s wish list for years: in fact, I cited it in a blog post SEVEN years ago as lingering on Jamie’s wish list. It always seemed like the ~$150 we didn’t need to spend, and hey, we’re frugal cruisers. A generous friend gifted us with a Nikon Aculon rangefinder, and we’re really enjoying it.

Opened it at the airport. Yeah we couldn’t wait!

Within a couple of weeks aboard the rangefinder proved useful for more than just settling a bet on the distance to a mark. Jamie’s just gotten back to Totem from fending off one unattended boat that had dragged into another. Checking distance from boats around us helps us feel saver. A less conventional use: the rangefinder was a great way to also make sure we remained regulation distance away from humpback whales when daysailing in Banderas Bay. No kidding, we bounced it off a breaching whale, and yes, there are that many of them! Looking ahead, I expect primary use to be saving us some sleepless nights at anchor by knowing exactly how close to a cliff we are up in the Sea of Cortez this summer. Thanks, Dartanyon!

Solar-powered string lights. The folks at MPowerd have kept us all happy with those awesome inflatable LUCI lights for years, with incremental design improvements making them progressively more fun and useful. We took advantage of a buy one / get one offer earlier in the year to get Solar String Lights and I am in love with the mix of gentle ambiance and functional light they’ve added to our cockpit. Our friend, delivery skipper Judy Hildebrand, was

We splurged a little and replaced our old LUCI (succumbing to… ironically… UV damage) inflatable light at the same time. I love the gentle tones of LUCI Color Essence and we put it on what’s jokingly referred to as “disco mode,” a slow rotation through warm shades.Guess what – that BOGO is on again! Spring sale is for US mainland (lower 48), $50 minimum, free shipping: last day March 31.  BOGO over? Head to Amazon, for better prices on original LUCI, and maybe the string lights too.

GoSun solar oven. Long time readers know my deep and abiding love for our Solavore, and that’s unchanged. But we were recently gifted a GoSun portable solar cooker and it does the one thing I’ve never managed well with the Solavore: bakes CRUSTY BREAD. GoSun simply gets hotter, and we’ve been turning out dangerously good baguettes in it the last couple of days. I’ll try it out with meals, but remain skeptical about how easily it feeds a family and expect that to remain the realm of our Solavor. Good for a crew of two? Probably, and definitely a winner for bread baking. WOW.

Food processor. For years I’ve been happy (and proud) that Totem has only one piece of electric gear in the galley: an immersion blender. Our Braun stick blender has served well for over a decade. Well, enter this awesome host gift our friend Judy brought: a vastly improved immersion blender, Braun Multiquick 7, that includes a food processor attachments!


Oh and a whisk and masher and other goodies, but I am ALL about this food processor. It holds six cups, and so far has pureed fresh mango for daiquiris and sweet Mexican pineapple for delicious juice and best pina coladas ever.

Movie projector. Totem’s holiday gift for the crew is the Apeman mini portable projector.  Tiny – it fits in my little hand! – and paired with an inexpensive movie screen, it turns the starboard side of our main cabin into a home theater. There are less expensive projectors, but the tiny (literally, pocket) size form factor and ability to run off battery for a 90-minute movie sold us. The quality is beyond expectations, and our family movie nights have totally leveled up. The screen gets put away, but you can see it hanging behind Judy in the blender video above. Props to our awesome coaching client Steph (Live the Voyage), for tipping us off to this model – and for Seth from The Sailing Family for filling in the details.

Other news on Totem:

Annapolis Spring Show

Jamie and I are gearing up to head for the Annapolis spring boat show next month. I’m especially excited about the two-day Cruising Women course I teach with Pam Wall! It’s our fifth edition, and what’s really cool is reflecting on how many GRADUATES WHO GO CRUISING. Because that’s what they do, and we’re grateful to spur them to a successful realization of cruising dreams! More information and registration online.

Salty Dawg fall rendezvous

Our next boat show on the books is the fall show in Annapolis, and we’ve just signed on to support Salty Dawg. Call us fans of the Salty Dawg philosophy: provide knowledge and resources, enable skippers to make their own decisions, and then share the sail to beautiful places. Jamie and I will be keynote speakers at their Annapolis Rendezvous, at October 10, 2019, at the Maryland Yacht Club near Annapolis.  The event is open to all, but space is limited: click here to register.

Salty Dawg spring rally

Speaking of which: I only recently learned that there’s a Salty Dawg spring rally from the Caribbean back to the US. They depart from St Thomas, USVI, the first week of May; some boats head for Bermuda, others for the US East Coast. More about the spring rally on their website. And hey, if you’re considering it and want to have extra crew, hit us up. We just might know someone!

What else is going on?

If only I could show you the beautiful bioluminescence swirling around Totem at night lately. Last night, brilliant green light streamed behind the dinghy as we made our way back from an evening with friends on shore. Moonrise is during early morning ours, and darkness make the glow easier to appreciate. The night before, we stood on the side deck watching a school of fish morph into different glowing shapes under Totem, testing their reaction to the clap of a bucket upside down on the surface, gasping when what appeared to be a larger predatory glow streaked through to cleave the mass in two. Off our bow, the anchor chain extends in a glowing line to rest below.

Banderas Bay and La Cruz in particular have been a hub of activity for weeks as boats headed for the South Pacific finalize preparations and begin to peel off. Jamie’s assisting some with weather, and working locally to help with education — like this seminar Jamie and Mike (PV Sailing) did yesterday. Instead of a classroom seminar, they gave a rigging clinic with a volunteer boat in the marina.

The boat is owned by a couple of brothers from Norway; purchased in San Carlos, Mexico, not long ago. The survey done for purchase found nothing, but when two shrouds broke on their sail south they started to wonder. Mike and Jamie went over the rigging and sails to help the owners and about 16 students about materials and inspection.The brothers took notes…a lot of notes! Grateful for the guys who welcomed a group aboard to hear all about their rig problems with a smile and a positive attitude about what’s next. But this sharing knowledge, working together to arrive at solutions, just what happens in the cruising community… like hanging out with the affable skipper Heather Richard (she runs A Fine Day for Sailing in San Francisco: charter with her in the Bay, she’ll be back soon!) and talking about weather to depart, and routing strategies for heading north. Oh hey, another peek at the string lights, too!

Life in La Cruz is easy otherwise. Our girls sport vibrant hair dye in colors coincidentally nautical: port (SIobhan) and starboard (Mairen). Whales are beginning their northern migration, and whalesong through the hull is an occasional treat instead of a daily greeting. Our weekly rhythm often bends to the amazing chile rellenos served on Fridays at Doña Toñas (50 pesos, about $2.50, for a generous meal); on Sundays, market tents line the waterfront with local vendors selling everything from cheeses to produce to crafts.

Other projects are in the works, and I’m excited to share them… soon! …for now, we’re both heads-down. We’ve got a busy coaching schedule, but easy internet access in Mexico facilitates. Spending this much time at work hasn’t been the norm on Totem, but supporting people towards cruising dreams hardly feels like work: we love what we do! And good thing that work isn’t a chore, as we definitely feel the pressure with Niall’s college tuition added into the mix.

Life is good.