Jamie examines Totem‘s new swim-step transom.
Behan Gifford

I’m thinking of things like gas molecules, which expand to fill the space given to them. I try to imagine this space as a box that I crush and put away on a shelf before moving on.

In this perspective, our “problem” of the moment is more akin to a recalibration: delays in the refit of our Stevens 47 Totem cost us the window of opportunity to sail to the South Pacific this year. Goodbye, grapefruit; So long, raw fish.

banshee
We can see so many birds from our window. The street cat Banshee becomes very comfortable living at the casita.
Behan Gifford

For months, our crew have been anticipating returning to the most spectacular cruising grounds, ever since we received permission to arrive from French Polynesia maritime authorities in September. We feel the pandemic stagnation weighing on our nomadic outlook, and all on board are eager for the weight of the stagnation to be lifted in our wake.

We expected to put Totem in the water in March, spend a month shaking up new systems as we cruise south to La Paz, Mexico, then depart south of Baja for the Marquesas in April. Our schedule slowly moved forward month by month. We understood how we could leave in May, then in June, but now we can’t push any further. Hurricane season is approaching.

I’m not going to lie: it hurts to abandon this route. But after a few demoralized days of treatment, I’m (mostly) done. We have no right to complain about our very privileged issues.

Stationery
Supplies are heading to Ukraine.
Brent Troncalli

I credit cruising has given us flexibility and patience, and an appreciation for what we have. In case more hindsight is needed, we recently heard of a former coaching client (their cruise sabbatical is over and they currently live in Eastern Europe) who buys goods in bulk and helps them transport to Poland, for the benefit of Ukraine. “My wife and I are buying supplies for the soldiers and the Ukrainians who have chosen to stay,” he told us. “Most of the time we buy things like diapers, feminine products, first aid supplies and ready-to-eat foods. We then deliver the supplies to a train at the Polish border that travels under cover of darkness to Ukraine.

Our lives are so beautiful.

After all, more time in Peñasco, Mexico means enjoying what has to be the best weather of the year. It’s a balmy 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, with cooler nights. The windows remain open to our casita; I can work while listening to the birds chirping in the dappled sunlight of the trees shading the view.

Regular trips to Phoenix with a girlfriend means spotting cactus flowers. These trips keep us in bagels, salmon, and kale — and, oh yeah, Girl Scout cookies, which are underrated until they’re out of reach. I can access the variety and value of the US market for all the needs we have on Totem, from epoxy to orbital sanders (my husband, Jamie, is on his third sander). More time in Peñasco means enjoying access to this wealth, to the roadside wildflowers, to the buds appearing on the crowns of the saguaro sentinels marking the path between the sea and Phoenix.

Starki was lucky enough to be patient number 30,000 at the clinic. He patiently wore his birthday hat, and the clinic even made a short video!
Behan Gifford

More time at Peñasco also means more days of assistance with post-operative services at Clinica Esperanza, a free veterinary and sterilization clinic. Last week they pegged 30,000 puppies since they opened in 2015. I’m so proud that my daughter, Siobhan, and I can be a small supporting part of the smart, fun, caring and committed team that runs the show. Someone has to help stick thermometers in all those dog and cat butts; might as well be us. (They’re 80% funded by direct donations, so donate to Compassion Sans Frontières if you’re so moved.)

Foreman Jorge and Jamie
Foreman Jorge and Jamie discuss kitchen decisions.
Behan Gifford

And, more time in Peñasco means experiencing small-town coincidences: One resident recommended a donut shop in the far north of town. We picked up a box to bring to the staff of the clinical, and learn that the donut shop owner’s family had a restaurant in the same building as the clinic years ago. Of course, I had to share a photo of what used to be their restaurant’s cooler, which is now where the cats are caged.

All is not rosy. Not bad, just the stuff of life.

We have a shared Google Fi family plan between a few phones. Last week, Siobhan received the dreaded cutoff message.

Google Fi message
The dreaded but not unexpected message from Google Fi.
Behan Gifford

I used to think Fi was the best cruiser phone plan ever, but the service has clamped down on international usage (as with all other US carriers, full-time international usage doesn’t not part of the plan). I had a trip to Arizona planned a few days later so I put Siobhan’s phone in a bag and once at the border streamed videos from any K-pop playlist that I could find, to record an American cell tower’s time and data usage. Will it be enough? We will know soon.

gallley
TotemThe mess is taking shape.
Behan Gifford

Some days at clinical are harder. People bring in animals that have been run over by cars or in fights. I picked up 30 ticks from a dog’s ear the other day. I laid my hands on an injured cat while it was being euthanized, hoping for more gentle relief.

There is exhaustion. Jamie’s exhaustion is physical and intense, as he carries the weight of Toteminner effort. My exhaustion is mental, juggling many hats as I’d rather watch our weather forecast than succumb to decision fatigue on the kitchen floor (I wish I could make better decisions and make them faster).

Cork samples
Cork samples for kitchen redesign.
Behan Gifford

We are moving forward one day at a time. Finally, there will be an estimated arrival time for Totem‘s new engine, and it will help immensely with concrete plans.

We’re also planning something really drastic for our family: a vacation. Years in the tropics have made our girls nostalgic for higher latitude climates. We’re looking at options from Iceland to Scotland to brand new territory Ireland. Connections to a Scottish Highland cabin are welcome.

How to get to Japan
You dream of sailing again! This is our next version of How to get to Japan.
Behan Gifford

For Totem, while our daughters were particularly excited about French Polynesia (they were too young to remember from our first visit), they are even more excited about the Western Pacific and Japan. We played out several scenarios that would take us to Japan, and that’s something we’re excited about.

Here are some of the topics we are currently thinking about: how to save a mobile number and use international data; whether it is worth having a printer on board; the new lithium battery bank on Totem; courier services for the cruise (and how to get things en route); installation of a washing machine on board. That should keep us busy at the shipyard!

Buy basic items for Ukrainians. Do you want to help our friends in the Czech Republic in their mission? Email us and we’ll pass the PayPal information.

Provide a better life for street dogs and cats. Clinica La Esperanza is part of Compassion Without Borders. Donate to them here.