Family Magazine

Scruffy Cruisers, Coming Soon to New England

By Behan Gifford @sailingtotem

Scruffy cruisers, coming soon to New England

western sunset

Tomorrow morning begins the last chapter of our journey back to the USA. We’ll leave St Martin for Bermuda, and at the first weather window from Bermuda, we’ll aim for Connecticut. It’s been a lot of miles since departing South Africa in January! Too soon, western sunsets over the water like this one will be out of our lives for a while.

This map is modified from our PredictWind tracking map, which produced the blue route history

This map is modified from our PredictWind tracking map, which produced the blue route history

This isn’t the last chapter in our cruising book, however—we’re only planning to be in the States for about five months, coastal cruising. Then it’s back to the Caribbean, to enjoy these beautiful islands at a more appropriate pace.

Still, this homecoming is a major milestone on Totem as we’ll sail back into US waters for the first time since 2008. We won’t have sailed a circumnavigation, yet—but the map on our bulkhead shows, thanks to a mega-road trip during the 2009 hurricane season, we’ll have gone all the way around the world with our family. That’s pretty exciting.

route map

I still look at this and think–we DID that?! Wow!

lake huron

Last time in the US, the girls were A BIT SMALLER.

What’s the rush—why are we on a schedule? Anyone following us knows that’s not how we operate. But we’re excited to be presenting at the SSCA gam in Essex, Connecticut in June (all welcome, and $35-45 for a weekend packed with seminars is a steal considering the opportunity to learn! See website for agenda and registration), and that’s in inked on the calendar for the 19th. The sooner we get north, the more cushion we have to adjust plans based on weather to reach the Connecticut River in time.

Family first

Priority #1 for the months we’re in the USA is to catch up with friends and family. Jamie grew up in Mystic, Connecticut; I went to college in Connecticut; my brother and family are in Boston. My parents will fly out for the 4th of July; Jamie’s aunt & uncle from Johannesburg come later in the month for an informal family reunion in Rhode Island. People we love but haven’t seen in a long time, and can’t wait to hug again.

Sharing our stories

We’re also looking forward to meeting with people who hope to make the leap to living adventurously, whether that’s cruising, off the grid living, or full-time family travel. By sharing the experiences, stories, and tips accumulated in eight years of taking our children around the world, I sincerely hope we can inspire others to consider living differently too! The June presentation in Essex is only our first; a few other organizations are on the shortlist to pick dates, once we work out our schedule. We’re hoping to work our way to Maine for a few weeks, and would like to spend some time in Massachusetts too (already on the calendar are the Annapolis SSCA gam, Sept 30-Oct 2, and Annapolis Boat Show, Oct 6-10), so we have some routing decisions to make.

If you’re part of a group that would like to host us for a presentation—a boating club, outdoor group or just a fun bunch of free thinkers—get in touch. We have presentations geared both for sailors with a baseline of knowledge, as well as people who just want to step of the wheel for a while. In addition to our presentations, we offer personal coaching for people who want to go cruising; for people in the region, it’s a chance to do it in person instead of via Skype/phone.

Building family memories

Revisiting familiar haunts and sharing those memories with our children are another priority while we’re back. Jamie and I met sailing on Long Island Sound; he started racing there as a kid. There are countless bays, harbors, and mussel-laden sandbars we can’t wait to see! Building up in the kids a sense of where they came from, of our family history, is especially important—considering they’ve grown up almost entirely outside the USA. There are land-based memories to recapture, too: I especially can’t wait to go to Sox game in Fenway, and introduce them to a proper lobstah roll!

The last time they were in Boston...

The last time they were in Boston…

Getting things done

For much of the summer, we’re hoping to base around SE Connecticut / Rhode Island to give Totem a little TLC after all the miles of the last couple of years …everything from tuning up the engine, cleaning up plumbing and electrical systems, freshening up the main cabin, and some canvas work. (Just looking at that list, I wonder how far we’ll get!).

Know a friendly dock or mooring?

We’re looking for a place to park Totem! And yes, we’ll be living on board (almost everyone has asked, but the truth is: it would feel very strange to move on land—Totem is our home). If you know of a friendly harbor, an available mooring, or a dock that woudn’t mind Totem-size decoration for a few weeks—in/around SE Connecticut and Rhode Island, but anywhere along our path from Maine to Maryland—please let me know.

Totem in Chagos last year

Totem in Chagos last year

Time to go!

St Martin has offered everything we needed before departure, from happy meetings with new friends to pleasant evenings with old friends. The weather is lining up nicely for us to head north, too: a forecast of light but steady winds to take us north, where a few days ago conditions had us setting up for a motorboat ride.


Always love it when PredictWind’s multiple forecast data sources + algorithms agree!

Jamie’s got his head in the engine room, getting our modified spare alternator wired up for the passage. I’ve got the first of a few pre-cooked meals bubbling away on the stove. Niall and I will make a final run for cheese & baguettes soon. We’re expecting about six days before landfall in St George’s, Bermuda, under progressively familiar stars. That first dark & stormy is going to be really sweet!

Comments are always welcome, and we especially appreciate them while we’re on a passage! I won’t be able to respond here until we’re online again in Bermuda, but they all get forwarded to us at sea…thanks for reaching out!

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