Sailing Totem: Shipyard List: Refit for the South Pacific

The work list is long for the Totem crew, but the finished projects will be sweet.

September 23, 2019
Siobhan and Mairen
Siobhan and Mairen replacing the pole track and cleaning the mast Behan Gifford

Hot days pulling sticks on the hardstand, digital postcards from a dusty town in the Sonora desert, an animal farm in the shipyard… anyone following our social media updates knows Totem is hauled out, and there’s a lot going on. But wait, didn’t you just spend a bunch of time hauled out?

Last year’s extended stay at Cabrales Boatyard served a primary purpose: to dry out our wet (surprise!) hull, and then apply a nice Coppercoat bottom. We completed a bunch of smaller projects as well, like removing four through-hulls, but with plans to head back to the South Pacific in the coming spring there’s a lot more we need to do than we could tackle during the last haulout. Why? Partly because we didn’t have the time (we barely made it south to Puerto Vallarta before Niall landed for winter break!). Partly because the full scope of what we’d undertake wasn’t clear yet (can we get another year out of that ______?). Partly because we didn’t have the funds – well, that’s a showstopper!

It turns out that when you circumnavigate, things wear out. There’s also a dose of maintenance creep. Our crew has especially enjoyed out-of-the-way corners of the world; these more remote locations often have fewer resources to properly fix something that’s broken. You fix it well enough, and you keep going.

Sonora sunset
Beautiful shades of a Sonora sunset over the shipyard Behan Gifford

Totem‘s boatyard list right now is blend of re-doing some of those band-aid projects, replacing what’s worn out, and taking advantage of a good location to make improvements. Here’s a rundown of what’s ahead: curious about any? I’ll get to specifics on a few of these in subsequent posts, and we’re interested to know what readers care about.

Critical work

New rigging: New standing rigging after 60,715 miles. Much of the wire looks OK, even under magnification, but that’s a lot of cycle loading. It also gives us a chance to correct a few past rigger oopsies, including a tang bolt replaced in 2008 with a cut in it (hidden in hardware) and sloppy lower spreaders.

New mainsail and main cover: The recently retired main added in Australia in 2012, has done about 42,000 miles and two ocean crossings. Not bad for mediocre cloth (what we could afford at the time) and a lot of tropical sailing. UV was its undoing, as is the case with most sails on full-time cruising boats in the tropics.


New liferaft: Our current raft is a great product, but it’s aging (circa 2008), it needs a re-certification that’s half of replacement cost, and it’s a make that’s difficult to re-certify overseas. Bulkhead repair: Jamie’s suspected that water leaking under the shower pan was affecting the starboard aft bulkhead that divided our stateroom from the aft head. Surgical inspection (that’s wry humor, there was nothing surgical about breaking into this bulkhead!) revealed the lower 18 inches was spongy.

Mast maintenance: THE MAST IS OUT. This is a big deal! Component part maintenance, from spreaders to step, is meaningful. In addition, Jamie’s helping project manage other re-rigs for boats here, because he doesn’t have enough work to do on Totem

Mast corrosion
Heavy corrosion on the mast step…and what’s all that fluff in the middle about?! Behan Gifford

Reconditioning or replacing all eight of Totem‘s hatches: Our hatches are original, 1982 hatches. Deeply scratched and worn, the lenses are probably original too. The hardware is failing. These keep the water out, so are non-negotiable on addressing.


Chainplate inspection: We pulled and inspected several during last year’s haulout and will finish the rest now. All but the stem fitting were replaced in 2008, and it’s likely time to do that one.

Bimini additions: We love the custom frame that friends at TurboXS built for Totem in 2016 (no, that’s not a marine supplier; yes, they are awesome humans); the frame begs a cover, and we’ve played with options over the years. How to best to balance needs for shade (big cover!) and visibility (no cover? windows? rollup?). Jamie’s come up with a new, mucho better shade design that he’ll build out.

New watermaker: We’ve had plenty of headaches with ours over the last few years, and can’t wait to replace it with an easier-to-maintain, high-output watermaker from CruiseRO. New inverter to power said watermaker: It will largely be powered by a portable generator, but we’d like an inverter big enough to handle it in case the generator fails.


New head: Referring here to both the cabin, and to the toilet! The ‘before’ scene is kinda terrifying: the ‘after’ will be glorious. Let’s call this a critical item for crew morale!

Cleaning area
Cue the psycho soundtrack Behan Gifford

Gray-water system: We’ve experimented with a catchment system, and using water from the sink drains to flush the toilets. The trial is declared a success, and will be put into use with the new head: an install I’m looking forward to sharing. Washing machine: At long last, the washing-machine, I mean, 5-gallon-bucket will be retired! The high-capacity watermaker makes this possible. Another crew morale item…it may not be that critical, but it’s not on the wishlist.

Maybe / wishlist

New batteries: This may be necessary, but we’re not certain yet. We’d hoped to get a couple more years out of this relatively new (2017) bank, but it’s behaving as if it’s late in life. If they truly are, it would be much easier to do here than to do “somewhere” in the South Pacific.

Painting topsides: Totem‘s hull is well worn! Cosmetic work always falls last on our priorities with limited funds; we’d rather be safe than look pretty. We say (and it’s true) that every ding has a story – a friendly visitor in a wooden canoe, a remote customs dock, a wild night. But fiberglass is showing through the gelcoat in places (and we’ve got a painted hull on top of that gelcoat, too). We’d really like to do this, and hope we can fit it in; cosmetic work always lands last on our list of priorities.

Jamie and Salvador Cabrales
Jamie and yard manager, Salvador Cabrales, confer before pulling Totem‘s mast Behan Gifford

Cabin rehab: This is two part: there’s some fun stuff, like getting the girls’ cabins freshened up; maybe paint, maybe wallpaper (a nice biaxial and epoxy pattern?), still trying to decide. We’d love to fix the headliner, too. It was replaced in Thailand some years back; a complicated story.

Water tank: Our secondary water tank is a bladder tank. This makes ineffective use of the space it resides in (square peg, round hole); replacing that with a built-in tank like we installed in Thailand (same yard, fantastic job on this count!), would increase capacity.

There are, of course, a multitude of other projects – “too many to list!” – you can see why we cut short summer sailing in the Sea of Cortez to start cracking into these!


More Destinations