Passage prep: getting ready to depart South Africa


As our time in South Africa draws to a close, we’re focused on preparing for the big miles ahead to cross the Atlantic. Although I felt like we spent a lot of last year preparing for passages, given the significant legs crossing the Indian Ocean, there’s a lot to inspect, and re-inspect. This is the time to catch up on anything that might have slipped on the “routine maintenance” schedule.

One of the first jobs was replacing the impeller Totem’s Yanmar (a decision typically guided by engine hours). And…good timing! Jamie found a wear point along the blades that prompted a further internal fix. Dodged one.


The engine had a few hoses that all decided it was about time to give up. Jamie saw signs of a bulge in the exhaust hose; when he removed it, the hose literally burst at that point. Yikes! The metal coil inside that gives it strength and rigidity had failed. It’s not the kind of failure that causes catastrophic damage, but Murphy’s law would probably have had it give up at the worst possible time. Glad we could deal with this one at the dock instead.

exhaust hose pinterestJamie was able to get exactly the size hose he needed from the chandlery that’s inside the gates at the False Bay Yacht Club. They weren’t sure what to charge him for it, and just told him to take it and ask back later. He’s in there every few days for boat bits and checks on it. They haven’t come up with a cost but they’ve provided lots of referrals and advice in the meantime. There’s no hurry. Have I mentioned how much we love this place? Wonderful people!

Another routine inspection, along the steering system, showed that the quadrant hat slipped about half an inch. This caused it to rub on the structure that holds steering cable sheaves, causing friction and possibly wear. It’s also probably the source of a grating metal-on-metal sound we’d been hearing occasionally. Very glad to have THAT fixed! We have had to employ the emergency tiller once before and would prefer never to do that again, especially on a big passage.

Our galley faucet required attention. A costly, cheaply made household tap we bought in Malaysia in 2014 was corroding badly; the mix of metals made this inevitable. The problem is that we also no longer have a working foot pump, we only have a pressure water system. That means having the tap fail when we’re on a passage could be a huge inconvenience. We were able to find a solid stainless tap here, and it’s a better fit too. The lower profile that reaches out a little farther, so that it’s easier to run water with a port heel without water spilling outside the sinks. Because it’s made in South Africa, it was a terrific value as well. Score! Hopefully this one gives us years of service.

For some time, Jamie’s been bothered by the way the dual-filter Racor system was(n’t) working – that’s it pictured at the top of the post. One Racor filter/housing would become very fouled while the other remained perfectly clean, even many hours of switching over to it. He took them apart, cleaned them, replaced the filters but the problem remained. Dismantling it further, the problem became clear – a plastic valve component failed so that all fuel came only through the filters that had been excessively dirty.



With a little MacGuyvering, he was able to extract the valve parts, clean, and install back into place aligned so both filters would draw equally. This is a temporary solution, as there are no parts available in South Africa; but one that will work fine until we get across to USA.

Not all of our prep is about fixing or replacing things that have worn. Thanks to the affordable labor rates and very favorable currency exchange rates for us in South Africa, we can get a few things done on Totem that we haven’t otherwise been able to afford.

Most exciting for me is having cockpit cushions made. We haven’t had proper cushions on board for years: new cushions were just too expensive when the prior set died in 2011 (high labor rates and a really bad time for the US/AU exchange rate), so we just bought some pool foam strips to cushion our bums. It’s gotten us by, but they’re not that comfortable, they got hot, and they’ve been disintegrating. THESE? Awesome. Closed-cell foam, soft without being squishy, low profile. A local upholstery shop made the covers. Nothing fancy, not even remotely, but this makes the cockpit so much more pleasant…whether it’s sitting on watch or hanging out with friends.


More exciting for Jamie was buying new lines. We wanted replace the main halyard back in Australia. It was time, but for 120’ of doublebraid with Vectran or Dyneema core and Polyester cover was $450 (all Polyester core has too much stretch for our mainsail). We considered it again in SE Asia, but again to much money, and we have a spare main halyard in place as topping lift, so we took the risk and waited. Lucky in South Africa. Southern Ropes manufacturing is in Cape town, and the combination of their terrific pricing and strong US dollar made a new Dyneema/Polyester main halyard very possible at about $125. We filled the shipping cart that day, with new mainsheet (Dyneema/Polyester doublebraid), new davit hoist lines (Polyester doublebraid), 200 meters of 6mm Dyneema SK78 singlebraid for new lifelines, strops, shackles, etc, all new Nylon 12-strand dock lines, and several more lengths of goodness. All told, the cost was a little more than what the mainsail halyard alone would have cost elsewhere. Meanwhile, Jamie was like a kid in a candy store choosing from the fantastic selection at Southern.

new line

Some of the other jobs knocked off in the last few weeks:

  • Replaced a failed control box for the Adler-Barbour fridge compressor, which had been installed for less than a year. Bummer!
  • Spliced a new painter for the dinghy.
  • Removed jackline from mainsail, and webbed slides directly on instead.
  • Cleaned mixing elbow and reinstalled with new gasket. Had diesel mechanic by to have a look for an expert opinion, and got a bill of good health for the Yanmar 4JH3/TE.
  • Unpickled the watermaker, which had put it to bed after arrival in South Africa, given our extensive time in marinas and away from the boat. Replaced the 20 micron filter and got it up and running with product water at 120ppm. check!
  • …and a host of other tasks, from clearing the propane locker drain to replacing various filters, o-rings, hose clamps, etc.

Provisioning has also been more extensive and organized than usual. South Africa has a good selection and good prices. Thanks goodness for that, because there’s more food on Totem than we’ve had in years. Every locker is full!

And on that note, I’m off to the shops for a final run.

This post is syndicated on Sailfeed.

10 Responses

  1. I love your new website. It is beautiful! South Africa sounds like a wonderful place. I hope that it gets to stay that way. Such lovely people too. Have a safe journey! Aloha

  2. Behan and Jamie,
    The new web site is very informative.
    I am so glad that all the little issues are being taken care of. I am sure you are taking tons of parts with you and the next long journey.

    It is cold on BI but spring is coming.

    xo Mum and Papa

  3. Hi Behan, really enjoying your stories! and Lessons Learned. Just yesterday our Yanmar motor stopped burping water out the exhaust. Sounded like a vaccuum cleaner from the exhaust with only exhaust. I checked the water pump and the Rubber impellor, had loosed from the brass sleeve, leaving rubber fins spinning over the sleeve. Easily fixed, but I thought it was going to be broken off fins, like you had. Also, check the suages (Swags) Sp??? on both ends of the shrouds, hi and lo, for metal fatigue. My friend’s 42 foot Irwin Ketch, had almost sheared in two on two of his suages. Just a thought…. Blessing and Protection in your voyages!

    1. Hi Dixey, glad you were able to get that engine exhaust fixed quickly! Jamie will do a thorough rig inspection before we go, but a reminder is never out of place for something so important. thanks!

  4. How exciting – another crossing (‘The crossing blog’, lol…). All the best – wish we were waiting on the other side, but the day and time will come. When’s the EDD? Lots of love, fair winds and clean diesel – from Sydney, your SailingYogaFamily;)

  5. Thanks again for sharing all the details Behan! It’s so helpful for those of us dreaming of following in your wake! Is there a post coming up about your upcoming route and the thought processes behind choosing your course north and then west? Looking forward to hearing all about it!

    1. Hi Kevin- it will be so much easier to write about it once we know, hahahaha!! For now, it’s as simple as Namibia –> St Helena –> Ascension –> uuuuuhhhhh OK. French Guiana? Or Grenada? Or something else? TBD! Promise to share when we have our heads screwed on.

  6. I just found out about you guys from reading the lick magazine alumni article about you in the fall of 2014 issue. Unfortunately I just left South Africa 2 days ago. I was in Cape Town and we could have met. I am also doing you a long term travel. I’ve been on the road for 10 years.

    I want to sail one day, so I look forward to your advice.

    1. Francis, sorry we didn’t meet up in SA – but I have a sneaky feeling it will happen someday / somewhere! Love your zest for the traveling life.

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