A cruising year: milestones and introspection from Totem’s 2017

Jamie looks back

Inspiration and gratitude flow from the mundane in an annual review of Totem’s year by the numbers. We’re serious about tracking data on Totem; Jamie can’t resist having fun with analysis (annual cheese consumption, anyone? After all, cheese provisioning data is vital on a boat with three hungry teenagers!). But pondering the data and events of 2017 he turned reflective. Read on for Jamie’s takeaways.

pinterest 2017 annualDistance traveled in 2017: 3,402 nm / 3,915 miles / 6,301 km (since 2008 – 47,095 nm / 54,196 miles / 87,220 km)

Countries/territories visited: 14 – USA, Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, USVI, BVI, Guadeloupe, Dominica, Martinique, St Lucia, Grenada, St Vincent and Grenadines, Bonaire, Colombia

Best 24-hour run: 208 nm, Bonaire to Colombia

Nights anchored: 249 (68%), Docked – 65 (18%), Moored – 31 (8%), Hauled – 10 (3%), Passage – 10 (3%)

Shallowest anchorage: 6.08Ft / 1.85M (Totem’s draft + 1 inch) for 4 days at Thompson Bay, Long Island, Bahamas

Number of times worked on: Toilets – 8, Watermaker – 11, Outboard – 8, Rigging – 8

Number of flight takeoffs Jamie had during 3 trips away from Totem:  21 (thankfully also an equal number of landings!)

Best new food we’d never heard of: Mofongo con langosta!

Number of field trips: 21

Number of visitors on Totem: 322

Number of audio/video calls with coaching clients: 118

Shark species we swam with most often: nurse shark

Shark species we didn’t know we swam with until getting out of the water: tiger shark!!!

three boat teens
2017: probably the last full year all five of us are together on Totem.

Biggest surprise of the year: This is a tie between a good surprise, and a bad one. The bad one was discovering that underneath Totem’s bottom paint… there is no gelcoat! Apparently, it was peeled by a prior owner and the detail did not get passed in the sale. The good surprise was finding Rita. Behan has a handmade apron from Bequia, a piece of functional art found in a thrift store that she’s owned for about two decades. From the lettering “R WILLIAMS” stitched at the bottom, she set out to find the maker when we arrived in Bequia. Like searching for unicorns, I thought, but, surprise!

Hardest part of 2017: Hurricanes…


The North Atlantic had 10 hurricanes, 6 of which were major (category 3 or higher). We were having a blast in Nanny Cay, BVI as Harvey rambled across the southern Caribbean, arcing northwest up into Texas. At the same time along the coast of Africa a tropical wave began moving westward. Forecast models had it likely going towards the northern Caribbean, so we got moving south. Martinique, where we were anchored, had potential storm force winds; to avoid them we sailed further south. St Lucia is about 230 miles below where Irma slammed into Barbuda, Sint Maarten, Tortola, and rest of the northern islands. We watched grey, streaky west-flowing clouds shift direction to the northeast. Very ominous! My log entry for that day reads, “Hurricane Irma, now cat 5, to make landfall in Leeward Islands tonight. It’s going to be bad bad…”

If you lived in Irma’s path, your world was turned upside down, lashed and smashed. Hurricane Jose was a threatening post-Irma bully that held everyone one edge but fortunately stayed out to sea. News and pictures trickling out from Irma’s destruction were unimaginably worse than my log notion. The day after Irma died, yet another tropical wave started westward across the Atlantic. This disturbance grew rapidly to tropical storm force, then Hurricane Maria. We hopped further south to Grenada. By no means a hurricane-free island, we watched Maria with intentions of shifting further south should the system stray our way. This cat 5 hurricane smacked Dominica, where we were 3 weeks before; and then Puerto Rico, where we were 6 weeks before.

Hiking near Portsmouth, Dominica, on a hillside denuded a few weeks later
Hiking near Portsmouth, Dominica, on a hillside denuded a few weeks later

We were close enough to see the atmosphere do strange things, while far away enough to feel only light winds and swell. The hard part was feeling for the friends we’d made in these, now, broken islands. A coaching client’s boat on the hard in St Martin was destroyed; another client’s boat in Tortola suffered moderate damage. A third coaching client was in the process of buying a boat called “No Worries;” it was later found sunk. We know new cruisers and very experienced cruisers whose boats were a total loss.

I admit to anger watching ShipTrack.com placing vessel AIS positions in insanely stupid places directly in the broad path of these forecast monsters. I shouted, “why are you there now!” as many boats and some people literally disappeared. People have commented to us, “it must have been so stressful dodging so many hurricanes.” It wasn’t. We had mobility and the benefit of timely decision thanks to the science of meteorology. Forecasts were not perfect, so add a margin for error. I am thankful for the easy mobility that so many people had little or none of.  Some boats weren’t ready to dash, some owners had other obligations. Islanders without means suffered deeply. We remember Sheldon Hamilton in Portsmouth, Dominica who traded his fresh fruit and interesting sea glass for our clothes and canned food. Sheldon lived in a shack on the beach and wore the same rags trading this time as we saw him in the year before.

Our year in review shows a some metrics and silliness. It was a good year for us, despite a few medical maladies. It was a nightmare year for many friends. Sheldon Hamilton didn’t have shit for opportunity before Maria. Now his home, village, and island are in ruin. Hurricane season is coming again… Sounds gloomy, right? But the message is… Get MOBILE! REBUILD better! LEANER! APPRECIATE what you have because even if it doesn’t seem great, it’s better than AFTER Irma, Maria, natural disasters, cancers, accidents, and clumsy dentists. Make a plan (as the South Africans say) to do what YOU dream of. Go _______________ (insert preferred form of transportation) and get out, whatever that means to you. Go to Dominica and to search for Sheldon Hamilton, Bequia to meet Rita, or search for your own unicorn.

Totem + Utopia kid crews - Bonaire
Totem + Utopia kid crews – Bonaire

16 Responses

  1. I love your “Metrics” / year in review posts. Yes some serious reflection on such a traumatic hurricane season. Look forward to your continuing adventures in new lands. Give our best to everyone! Love Samantha and Sean.

  2. Interesting & impressive statistics. (Jamie missed his calling as a statistician… cheese consumption?) Lots to learn from numbers.

  3. Nice year in review and so glad to count ourselves as one of your coaching clients. Your comment about this being the last full year that all five of you will be together struck a chord. Our oldest just got his braces on today; we’re working to a turbo schedule, as our orthodontist calls it, to get his teeth sorted before our departure in 2 years, 6 months. By then he’ll be thirteen and will only have another five years or so before he heads off on his own path.

    We continue our boat browsing, heading to the Seattle boat show in a little over a week. We’ve bounced back to monohulls (your budget advice is finally sinking in) and are hopeful to find a suitable boat in the PNW in the next two years to make the transition local and easier, but a distant find is not off the table.

    Looking forward to your next entry.

    1. “Departure in 2 years, 6 months” – got a date and counting it down! Love that Josh. Hope to meet you & the family on our road trip north next summer.

    2. Hi Josh,
      I’ve designed and built both monohulls and catamarans, and believe me you’ve made the right choice! The minimum price for the rare used catamaran on which I’d actually want to cross oceans with my family aboard is about 500k. You can buy any number of great monohulls for that price. and still have a couple of years cruising budget left over.

      As you are aware, Washington State has become one of the priciest places to live in the US. That is reflected in the highest prices for used boats. You might want to expand your horizons even if that includes a trucking or delivery cost.

      1. Hi Richard,
        Thanks for the thoughts. Yes, we routinely browse boats throughout North and Central America, and trucking the boat to us or trucking us to the boat are both options on the table. But one can hope for a miracle find in one’s own waters, right? 😉 Case in point, there’s a little Oyster ketch in Michigan that caught our attention, but alas, we’re not ready to pull the trigger just yet.


        1. With all respect for Richard and his experience, there are plenty of catamarans under $300k that I’d happily cross oceans with my children. I don’t want to start the cat/mono debate here, it’s futile, but cats get unfairly maligned in this area. Then again, I also think you can get a great monohull for far enough under $500kto go cruising for way more than “a couple” of years, so Richard and I have different benchmarks on financing in general. However – Richard and I are 100% on the same page with expanding the boat-shopping horizon! It’s as much about the RIGHT boat, as the right VALUE on a boat; the PNW tends to attract certain types, and stereotypes, of what makes a “bluewater” boat that limit your options.

  4. There are condomarans and there are catamarans, and a hollowed out redwood log will take you to the South Pacific, but you won’t find me setting out across an ocean on something designed as a condo. As are almost all multihulls in the — 300k price range. I can give you far too many instances intolerable pounding because of insufficient bridge deck clearance, and structural failures when the going gets rough. But just to prove the exception, here is a very cool catamaran that would be great fun for a couple to go adventure camping around the South Pacific on! http://www.yachtworld.com/boats/2007/Cox-45-Pod-Cat-3083611/Brisbane/Australia#.WmUfkXlG3cs

    And yes, there is no need to spend 500k on a monohull to go cruising— as your family proves! I for one could happily cruise for the rest of my life on a 500k budget including buying a perfectly suitable boat and fully stocking the wine cellar!

    1. I hear you on the tradeoffs. All good points to bring up. I don’t know that these factors are considered by cat buyers, usually… I think they’r enot the focus is skewed to space + no heeling, and it’s just so much more complicated than that! Very interesting link BTW, that would be excellent adventure camping!

  5. Hi Behan, I am a new reader of your blog and love it! I will also start sailing in August with my boat and currently working on an application to also track some interesting data (java program connected to a mysql-server). Do you have more posts concerning which kind of data you guys track so I can get more inspired? (I recall that I saw a post about Jamie’s Access programm couple of months ago, but I cant find it back). Thank you very much, I really love this website! <3

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