Preparing for passage making

up the rig

How do you get ready for a passage? We’ve done it enough, but we’re rusty. And the upcoming ~1,200 nm from Malaysia to Sri Lanka is our first passage in a year of big passages. Even though we keep Totem in shape, after more than two years of mostly coastal sailing important to avoid complacency and make sure we’re on top of all systems aboard before taking off. Of course, life on a boat is a constantly scrolling list of repairs and maintenance, but the miles ahead add extra pressure.

So, what are we doing before we leave? Here’s a look at the current list.


Rigging. Jamie’s been checking a lot of rigs on other boats- time to check ours! He uses a magnifying glass (ours is the salvaged eyepiece from an old pair of binoculars) and scrutinizes it. Inspection is almost complete. He’s also re-spliced the inner forestay to get more tension, cleaned up chafe protection (re-purposed old yoga mats) has mostly tuned the rig.

Main strop. Our current strop has done enough time in tropical UV rays, so Jamie’s going to make a new one.

Vang. Needed a simple repair after blowing up on our sail between Koh Muk and Koh Lipe recently.

Sails. We bent on our new headsail yesterday. WOW, did that feel good! It’s very pretty. Who wants a 93% genoa? Still has life!

Steering system. Resolved play in the quadrant, adjusted and inspected the steering cable.

Alternator. After acting funny for a few hours recently, island hopping in Thailand, the alternator simply stopped charging our battery bank. The alternator was inspected by a mechanic; a few broken wires, fixed, working. Except it didn’t. Next in the charging chain is the voltage regulator, but with our backup installed we still weren’t charging. But it DID work when the backup-backup-ancient-dinosaur voltage regulator was installed. Eureka! We are now awaiting a new voltage regulator.

Wiring jobs. Above deck, wrapping up some wiring into the new solar arch for the stern light and the aft deck light. Below deck, it cleaning up electrical connections- there were signs of corrosion in a few spots.


Safety on deck. Installing jacklines, and securing bolts in all the lifeline stanchions. And, new PFDs: turns out, not all of our inflatables would still inflate when we tested them recently (a sobering moment). We couldn’t find them for sale here, but a friend / blog reader / sail customer in Singapore came up from Langkawi last weekend and offered to bring new PFDs from a chandlery there. Thank you Stephan!

Lines everywhere. Inspecting running rigging. Installing a preventer. Running lines for the asymmetric, which we think may get a lot of use soon (finally! But Jamie still wishes we had a Code Zero instead).

Outboard maintenance. It’s been misfiring; a little cleanup in order.

Windlass. Our installed windlass will get a little routine TLC, and our spare motor has been taken in for service. We rely on this too much to be without a backup…or skip on taking care of the one we have!

Stowage. Best advice I had in early cruising days: take a photo of your cabin. Rotate it 90 degrees, and see what won’t stay in. Rotate it another 90 degrees, and see what’s going to fall. We’ve not had rough weather in a while, and it’s really important to make sure everything has a place and will stay in it. First, we’re trying to have less stuff to stow…

Medical kit. Review of kit contents, and stowage. We have several kits, and they’ve gotten a little mixed up and messy over the last couple of years. Not to mention we’ve burned through more antibiotic ointment than expected: we don’t want to risk infection from cuts or scrapes in the tropics.

ditch kit

Safety gear. Checking all the fire extinguishers. Reviewing the contents of our ditch kits (and their expiration dates), and re-stowing the kits in more accessible locations for the passage. We’ll test our EPIRB, update our beacon registration, and send a message to emergency contacts about our plans.

Galley organization. We’re still getting used to where things go and how they’re secured. I’m sure we’ll learn more on this passage. Meanwhile, knives are getting two new under-cabinet magnets for storage.

Paperwork. Everything from visas, to clearance agents, to taxes, to health and boat insurance… it’s mind numbing, and it drains the wallet, but it has to be done.

Provisioning. Right, THAT! We did a big run in Phuket. We’ll top up here. My provisioning strategy for now is mostly passage focused, vs. looking at the broader season in the Indian Ocean, since I hear we’ll have good produce in Sri Lanka. I’ll wait until then to do canning and other longer-term provisioning. And, it’s not just food: we’ll top up on fuel and water before we leave as well.

Random pesky stuff. Our headliner replacement wasn’t complete when we left Satun. We don’t have time for all the trim work but will make sure the panels are secure so nothing becomes a hazard on the passage. A number of drawers need latches or pulls, and the chart locker needs a door.

There is a light at the end of this prep tunnel. We’re working through steadily. Jamie’s watching weather, I’m helping with net control for the HF radio net with other boats pointing across the Indian Ocean. And we’re excited, all of us, about a new horizon.

Passage prep’s a snap for readers who click through to the Sailfeed website!

15 Responses

  1. We would love to listen in on your HF net if you wouldn’t mind sending us the frequency and time! P.S. Your blog is the best cruising blog I have seen! Great job! Cheers!

    1. Sheri- you are really too kind! And- sure, I’ll email you about the net. Very nice talking to you today at “the veggie man” delivery!

  2. Behan, another excellent blog entry! I especially like your section on taking a photo of the salon and turning it 90 degrees — a brilliant idea. Good luck with your final preparations!

  3. Brilliant list Behan and well worth printing off for anyone going on a long passage.
    It is also something that should be done at the beginning of any season,

  4. Hi there… Not sure of your estimated departure but now or in the future I would recommend the onerous project of removing stainless from mast and boom and “re insulating” the fittings from galvanic corrosion. I use a 50/50 mix of tefgel and duralac.

    Safe passage!

    1. Btw. Removing stainless from aluminum is not for the faint of heart! A torch, excellent screwdrivers that are capable of an adjustable wrench assist, drill, taps and patience and persistence in abundance are required… Plus new screws! And of course Duralac or Tefgel or both

    2. Hi HL- you’re right on to be cautious about galvanic corrosion, couldn’t agree more that it’s essential to isolate SS from aluminum on the mast. Also really important: isolating aluminum parts from the aluminum mast/boom, since they can be different alloys and therefore prone to galvanic corrosion as well. Jamie isolated our mast hardware after we bought Totem in 2007 – as you point out, not for the faint of heart! Lots of broken fasteners etc. We’ve not used Duralac; he likes tefgel on fasteners, and UHMWPE barrier for the mast wall and fittings.

  5. Behan–Thank you for Totem’s updates. A question I have is about piracy on the seas. Are you worried about running into ocean bandits, and how have you prepared to avoid such an unwanted event? Safe sailing and I look forward to future updates.

    1. Hi Randy- I’m not worried about it. Piracy is extremely localized, it’s not difficult to get informed about where risky places are. We avoid places where piracy is a threat to private boats like ours.

  6. Hi Totem, dad and i are planning our 2017 Indian Ocean Crossing, your blog has been extremely helpful! Would you mind sharing who insured Totem? We also have to get wreck removal insurance for Chagos. Any insight would be useful – thanks! Ngalawa, now in Phuket

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