Sailing Totem: Cruiser Speak—The CLODs

Since misery should be optional as a cruiser, the Totem crew has moved ashore while their boat has major work done in the yard.
Painting a sailboat
Pancho sprays the high-build on Totem: transformation begins! Behan Gifford

“It’s the world flattest anchorage!” Jamie quips from Totem’s main cabin. We’re propped on jackstands in the shipyard, and truly, it is so flat! On our last night afloat, I savored every lick of water whispering through the hull. It’s an unnatural feeling not to have that gentle movement, that soundtrack of life on the water.

Flat it may be; easy living it is not. Life on the hard can be, well, hard. The ladder to get on board, the inconvenience of having not quite normal use of water and holding tanks, our reluctance to use the yard’s community shower/toilet facilities before vaccinations kicked in. But we can deal with all of that, and we have—over six haulouts. Even when Puerto Peñasco hit the scorcher weeks of summer (did it ever go below 100°F from August until nearly the end of September? I’m not sure it did), we’ve always stayed on board while in the boatyard…until now. We have just become CLODS—Cruisers Living On Dirt.

Home sweet apartment

I’m writing this from an actual desk in an actual one-bedroom flat on a quiet street a short walk from Totem. It’s quite surreal. We’re still getting our land legs. Our temporary home is in a compound belonging to a family who has built out a number of informal units to let.


It’s an extension of this already social yard: every unit is occupied by another cruiser doing work at nearby Cabrales Boatyard! Passing along apartments here, cruiser to cruiser, has become almost a word of mouth tradition. We all appreciate the local-style ambiance: trees surrounding the compound mean our mornings are garnished with birdsong. In the evening we have dinner on the porch, listening to neighborhood children playing soccer on the sand road that runs to the east.

Young girl sitting in a chair
“The trees surrounding the compound mean our mornings are garnished with birdsong.” Behan Gifford

Adjusting to land

The first sign that we were, well, fish out of water was when we moved furniture around (comes with! Bonus!). Mairen used the descriptors fore and aft, and inboard and outboard, to give directions. We did have a discussion and determine that there wasn’t a way to have port and starboard sides of the apartment.

Then there are all the crazy new appliances. A few days in, Siobhan made chocolate chip cookies. (Tangent: it turns out that land ovens actually get really hot, and they do it really fast… cue pizza night!) She called from the galley, I mean kitchen, to say the process would have to wait a while so the butter could soften. I pointed out the miraculous properties of the microwave on the counter, and commenced the ancient mother/daughter ritual of transferring this valuable knowledge.

Sailboat maintenance
Yard work goes on! Jamie and surveyor Marga Pretorius check out a Westsail 42 Behan Gifford

Some changes are easier to make! We don’t have to call a pumpout truck. There are a couple of air conditioners we’ll be especially grateful for soon. The freezer freezes things (laugh, sure, but we haven’t been able to keep ice cream hard since ever)! We will enjoy the coffeemaker and toaster, but do fine without them later too.

Why we’re moving ashore

It wasn’t necessary before—why now? We have plans that require turning portions of not just the exterior, but the interior of Totem into a workzone: it’s not really habitable. And the weather…  have I mentioned the weeks over 100°F?  One of my favorite sayings in life is “misery is optional,” and I think that might just qualify. That 2019 summer saw heat index routinely 110°+. It’s really nice to retreat to a clean, cool abode.

The last few nights we were on board, dust grinding fiberglass on the transom as Jamie cut in the swim steps had wafted through those mysterious routes air finds inside and settled onto our bedding. No. Just, no. I am OK with a lot of things, sleeping in fiberglass dust isn’t one of them, and we moved just in time to keep the happy factor at a reasonable level on board.

Sailboat maintenance
Totem‘s transom transforming: interim steps Behan Gifford

In other news

On the shortlist of things to catch up on once we settled into Puerto Peñasco were some routine checkups. Siobhan was interested in contacts and Jamie felt his prescription was changing, so we trundled up to get eye exams with more sophisticated equipment than we’d had locally before.

Surprise: Jamie’s left eye had a cataract! Double whammy: at a surgical consult a week later, it turns out both his eyes have posterior cataracts. WELL THEN. Add cataract surgery to the fun and games on Jamie’s docket. We’re proceeding with surgery ASAP and he’s excited about the prospect of clearer vision.

An ophthalmologist/cruiser friend pointed out that being relatively young for this diagnosis (a good two decades younger than the average age for cataract surgery in the US) means Jamie’s eyes should be easier to operate on. And I’ll call the circumstance of timing fortunate, too. Thanks to demographics, nearby Arizona has a saturated market for ophthalmology services. That means a lot of options when researching for a quality surgeon, and competitive rates (it’s all out of pocket. Ouch. And we’ll deal, as always.)


Maybe now the kids will wear sunglasses? Maybe.

Learning opportunities: routing and sails

Routing fundamentals. planning from the big picture to passages, with considerations for better efficiency and comfort along the way. Jamie and I are delivering this for the Salty Dawg Sailing Association; register for Route Planning Strategies – A Cruisers Perspective on their website ($12 for non-SDSA members).

Sails for cruising. Last weekend we held our latest TOTEM TALKS, and Jamie held forth on his area of expertise: sails! amie has a unique blend of experience as a professional sailmaker… who took his proficiency cruising, and learned a lot about how well-intentioned sailmakers sometimes miss particular needs cruisers have. The replay is now online! Listen in to gain no-nonsense insight on sails for cruisers.