175: Sailing Totem


#175. Behan & Jamie Gifford set off from Seattle Washington in Totem, their Stevens 47 sloop, in 2008. They’ve been sailing the world ever since, raising their three kids aboard the boat while crossing oceans, exploring landfalls and meeting interesting people along the way. Mia & I were invited aboard while Totem was in Annapolis last fall and had an enlightening conversation with the whole family about how they got inspired to go cruising, how the ‘identify’ themselves, where they call home, and what’s in store for their future cruising plans.


Show Notes:

Topics covered including links:

  • The podcast was recorded in the main cabin of Totem on a sunny October day, on anchor in Back Creek, Annapolis. The entire family, Behan & Jamie, and their son Niall and daughters Mairen & Siobhan. Onboard was also Andy & Mia’s friend Maik Broetzmann, visiting from Iceland.
  • Behan & Jamie had a 35 ft Hallberg Rassy Rasmus, Olle Enderlein design, before they bought Totem.
  • They were looking at a bigger boat for the family and found their current boat Totem, a Stevens 47, in California and sailed her home to Seattle.
  • When renaming her, they wanted to have a simple name, easy to pronounce and still different. 
  • SAILfeed.com by SAIL Magazine. Both Andy and Behan have been writing for the page for a couple of years now.
  • Before coming to Annapolis, Totem had a busy season sailing from South Africa, to Namibia, St. Helena, and Barbados. They would have loved to stop in Brazil but it didn't work out with the schedule. 
  • Totem has not been back in the USA since 2009.
  • The book Dove by Robin Lee Graham inspired Jamie at age 11 to want to sail away and explore the world.
  • Joshua Slocum was the inspiration for Behan.
  • Jamie has a background as a sailmaker and raced many different boats. He got burned out and sailing took a back seat for a couple of years.
  • Jamie and Behan met sailing, racing in the Long Island sound. First thought was to go cruising after retirement, but they decided they wanted to go while the family was young and not wait until later.
  • They put together a five year plan and a date when to leave, posted a big world map on the wall in the house for inspiration and planning.
  • Niall’s talks about the time leading up to “The big trip” and the excitement building up beforehand. He was showing the big map they had on the wall in the house for his friends. Mairen & Siobhan don't remember living in a house at all, or the time before they moved aboard Totem!
  •  “The space is small on the boat, I guess we are one of the original ‘Tiny House movements’, but the backyard is big”.
  • They are now consulting / mentoring other families who like to take the step to go cruising. 
  • “How to get started - every family and situation is unique. But weather courses, medical training, mechanical experience is a great first step. It’s very important to start learning and understanding weather and the context of a forecast.”
  • It’s very important to find your style in cruising, what equipment and style boat works for you may not work for your neighbors. 
  • Karin, Brian and Brady on SV Delos. 
  • How internet has changed from 2008 when they started. Kindles and tablets did not exist when they took off, and SIM cards and data plans are more available now compared to back in ’08. 
  • They have traveled to over 30 countries during their trip.
  • How it is being an American abroad.
  • Being a world traveler, do you feel American and what do you identify yourself as?
  • The blog “SailingTotem.com” and the motivation why Behan started writing it. “It started as an awesome and easy way to communicate with friends and family in one go, and it was also a positive feedback loop that I was missing after leaving my professional work behind.”
  • Behan writes the blog, about six posts per month. “It has been terrible since we have been back in the states, I’m way behind! :) “
  • “How I play golf” – book by Tiger Woods mentioned by Andy, he likes the title!

Video 'Voyaging With Kids - Homeschooling with SV Totem', by SV Delos

How to find the Totem family:

Photos of Sailing Totem 

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