Family Magazine

Living Differently in Salomon Atoll

By Behan Gifford @sailingtotem


No question about it, cruisers live differently, especially when we’re off the grid for an extended time…possibly under a rainbow. But my tongue in cheek post about just HOW differently lacked photos, coming as it did from our sat phone. Here’s a peek into those differences, as we lived them on Chagos during the last month.


It’s exciting when the fisher folk bring home some serious bacon! Because fuel is precious when there’s no option to buy more, we usually doubled (or tripled) up with other cruisers on an expedition. Except that it’s fish, and sometimes reminds you how much you miss bacon.


We love the Maldivian dish with grated coconut, cooked fish, chilies, etc. eaten with flatbread. But getting those coconuts isn’t as easy as you’d think, considering we’re surrounded by coconut palms! So it’s really, really nice to have a son who will not just climb the tree to get you a coconut, but husk it for you. Husking is HARD…Niall is taking advantage of some sharp coral here, I think.



This picture represents the five weeks of plastic garbage we accumulated while we were away from “civilization.” We didn’t want to burn it on the beach, a common practice, because that’s pretty much the most toxic possible way to deal with it. Stuffing small bits (cut if needed) into bottles kept it contained until we got to Seychelles.



We usually just use a five gallon bucket for laundry, and our fresh water on board is constrained (watermaker is slow and costs power), so the big washtubs and well of bottomless fresh water on Chagos was actually kind of a luxury!


Siobhan pours in the sudsy slurry we make with soapnuts for detergent


Remember Lucy stomping grapes?

Home maintenance

It’s always better clean the hull with a buddy when there are sharks in the water! Mairen and I did the port side one afternoon. Things most people don’t have to say to their kids: “sweetie, if that shark makes another close pass, we’re going to get out of the water.” The snappers and unicorn fish that lived in the coral head under Totem’s mooring loved all the tasty barnacles and algae we were sloughed off for them.


Under our mooring off Boddam.


Sometimes the whole neighborhood shows up. No swimming!

Personal care

Miles of beach to wear off those callouses on your feet.


It’s more fun with a friend. Don’t step on the turtle.


Or the hermit crabs / juvenile coconut crabs.


Or the cute little black tip puppy.


Kid wrangling

There is no “wrangling.” The kids basically supervised themselves on shore. We make sure they have a handheld VHF radio to call if they need anything. We try to stay near, but the whole anchorage uses a particular channel as a party line, so we know they’ll reach *someone* at least.


They spent HOURS swimming with the current, ripping through the pass, then getting out and walking over the sand spit to do it again


Volleyball at the “yacht club” court!

Adult socializing

Most evenings we gathered on shore for a drink at sunset with fellow cruisers; the beach at Ile Fouquet gave us a beautiful view of the sunset, and kids just kept swimming or playing nearby.


Sundowners on the beach at Ile Fouquet

But once in a while we’d have a potluck, especially if there’s been a bumper day of fishing.


Everyone turns out for a potluck at the “Yacht Club” in Ile Boddam


We probably should have had more laundry to do, but we didn’t.


Leisure time

The life maintenance of getting/preparing food, keeping up with boat chores, doing laundry, etc. takes more time than non-cruisers can usually understand. But there’s plenty of fun time, and we got in our fix: a LOT of snorkeling, of course.


My mermaid found a cowrie!

Making afternoon plans by dinghy, possibly for bushwacking the interior to look for that elusive breadfruit tree.


Going for a paddle, maybe.


When the heat abated in the late afternoon, we played bocce, volleyball, or soccer on the beach.

Cruising…definitely different!

Readers who aren’t afraid of being different know we appreciate it when you read this on Sailfeed.

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