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Boat Cat Cleo

Cleopatra Elouise Neely (respectively known as Cleo) is our 6 year old tortie cat who has become the best deck paw and fur baby that we could have ever asked for. We get a lot of questions about our feline crew member and decided to write a blog about how she became a part of our lives, her transition to boat life, and all the details in between. So how did we end up with a perfect cat like Cleo? Well, funny story: she was actually supposed to be a fish.

Once upon a time when Chris and I lived in Tahoe, I had a coupon for a beta fish that came with an aquaponic garden my dad gave me. The closest PetsMart was in Reno, so we drove down the mountain to retrieve my fish. Once we arrived, I went directly to the back of the store, completely surpassing the fish isle, because there were cats for adoption and who the heck doesn’t love saying hi to animals?! I immediately called Chris over to check out the cute cats behind the class and thats when he surprised me and said “we are getting that cat”. Now I say surprised because 1. we were not allowed to have pets in our apartment and 2. A cat?! We were there for a fish! After trying to convince Chris it was a bad idea, I put my finger up to the glass, saying “hi” to the little fur ball and what did she do? She put her little bean-toed-paw to my finger and gave me the biggest “take me home” eyes. That little angel became our Cleo. On the way home, she snuggled in Chris’s lap when we were trying to think of a new name for her. Her papers read “Nina” but that name didn’t feel right. We were listening to the Lumineers on our dark drive up the mountain, which is when I suggested “what about Cleopatra, Cleo for short?” after our favorite Lumineers album. Her middle name is also after a Lumineers song. She spent 1.5 years in Tahoe with us, completely undetected in our “no pets allowed” apartment and that was the first time we became a real family.Boat Cat Cleo (2).png

Not really enjoying the whole sailing thing yet…

Fast forward to boat life: we moved onto Avocet in June shortly after our wedding. It was the first time Cleo had been aboard her new home and it didn’t take long for her to adapt, especially when she realized she was allowed outside after always being an indoor cat. We are still surprised because Cleo has no interest in being off the boat, every time we take her out on the dock on leash, she runs back to the boat and sits in the cockpit (her spot). When we took her sailing the first time, it was definitely rough. Cleo got sea sick and until recently would always puke while under sail. We have since learned that when we keep her in the cockpit with us, or covered in a dark corner she is much more comfortable. Another tip I learned from a friend is coconut oil and frankincense on the paws prevents sea sickness. You will all be very happy to hear that Cleo is getting more and more brave every time we set sail, so don’t worry! She is well taken care of.


One major issue we encountered on the transition was cat litter, which is actually a question we get asked a lot. Traditional litter lasted no more than 2 weeks aboard since the litter would end up in the bilge- making Chris very, very mad. Chris then sat down and spent hours doing research on litter alternatives that were mess free, odor free, and environmentally friendly. We narrowed down the search to one system that has been perfect for this life style that doesn’t use cat litter at all! This wonder system is the Purina Tidy Cats Breeze System which you can pic up at any pet store or (even better) Amazon. This lovely litter box lives underneath the V berth bed and has no odors whatsoever. We are extremely impressed by this litter system and highly recommend it to any tiny-home-livers or people looking for a traditional litter alternative.

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Our brave little deck paw!

While on the topic of FAQ’s another hot question we get is about Cleo’s life jacket. Yes, we make our deck paw wear a life jacket just like we do because she is part of our family! Unfortunately, there are no life jackets exclusively for cats, so I got her an XS dog life jacket which works just the same. The life jacket isn’t just for safety, it also works as an anxiety wrap that seems to help Cleo with her stress when we are under sail.

Believe it or not, people have asked if we are planning on circumnavigating with Cleo. Of course we are! As mentioned before, she is part of our family and we are excited to sail the world with her. The process of preparing to travel with a cat is not as crazy as it may seem, you just need to stop by your local vet and check off all the boxes (vaccines, passport, learning Pet CPR and emergency medicine). It’s all the things you would do for yourself or your human children, so why not do it for your pets too? The one downside is that some countries have a longer incubation period, but is that really a downside? “Oh shoot I have to spend x amount of days somewhere cool while I sail around the world on my boat! Whatever will I do?”

Cleo has made every spot imaginable on Avocet her own, even surprising us with a few such as curling up on the book shelf every night while we watch Netflix. She spends a lot of her day sleeping in her various spots but we try to make sure she stays as active as possible by playing with her and even doing some training routines. Fun fact: you CAN train a cat! Cleo knows how to sit, high five and hopefully she will learn some more soon. She is becoming more adventurous and joins us while we are outside working but never jumps off the boat. As happy as we are that she has no interest in leaving the boat, we have put her on the dock a few times to see if she has any curiosities about the world beyond our bow but so far she just sticks to us like glue or runs immediately back on deck and watches us from the edge of the toe rail.


Tortie cats are known for having attitude (rightfully dubbed “tortittude”) and Cleo is full of it. Her personality is truly one of a kind and we feel very thankful to have a cat like her. She is irreplaceable and will always be our fur-st child. Thank you all for taking interest in our deck paw! It was fun to write this out and I hope you enjoy reading it. We promise that you will see much more of Cleo in upcoming videos so stay tuned!  Cheers, Chris, Marissa and Cleo

Oh and P.S. I never did get that fish.

Our little family

2018 in Review

I feel like 2018 lasted more than a year… but I suppose that is because we packed 3 years worth of “things” into one single year… and I wouldn’t have done it any other way. While reflecting and reminiscing, Chris and I were blown away with our adventures and accomplishments so we decided to sit down and write blog them so we will never forget this crazy year. So without further adieu, here is our year in review.

We kicked off our 2018 like we have kicked off the past 4 years together: at China Peak Mountain Resort DJ’ing the New Year party. We spent the first few days of 2018 snowboarding and skiing before heading back home to Tahoe where we would finish our very last semesters as college students. Before leaving our central sierra mountains, we went camping in Yosemite which was cold, wet and a whole lot of fun. We slept in the back of Chris’s truck bed with an air mattress blown up underneath the camper shell which was an experience in itself! We huddled together for warmth. It was weird camping in a legitimate campground versus our usual find-a-random-spot-in-the-woods type of camp ground. It was so nice to be away from cell service for a little bit before heading back to our busy lives in North Lake Tahoe.

It was nice to feel the sun on our skin for a change

Fast forward a little bit to February, I turned 21 and spent the day in San Fransisco with Chris before we drove down to San Diego to compete in the annual Mission Bay Mid-Winter Regatta with our Victory 21 fleet. We came in 4th place and it was probably some of our best ocean racing yet! Right after we drove 16 hours back to Tahoe so I wouldn’t miss class Monday morning. A lot of our year was spent driving back and forth from child hood homes to our home in Tahoe since we were in the midst of finalizing wedding plans as well as working and trying not to miss any classes. It was all about finding the balance!

In March, we signed the papers and officially became the owners of SV Avocet. Let me tell you, being 20 something college kids renting an apartment in Tahoe, while simultaneously purchasing a boat was a struggle. We worked our butts off to make it happen. Speaking of work, I got a part time job at Pet Network Humane Society on the weekends which was an incredible experience where I made a lot of great friends and learned a ton about animal care, while making it my goal to adopt every animal that came in through our doors. I felt bad that Chris would leave every weekend to go work on Avocet while I was playing with cats and dogs… but let’s be honest, I didn’t feel THAT bad 😉 I also got to spend my bachelorette party in Disneyland with my ladies (minus one of my bridesmaids, Meagan). Being in Disneyland with a a group of my favorite ladies was an awesome experience and I could not have asked for a better way to celebrate my fleeting independant womanhood.

In May, Chris and I both graduated college. I, from Sierra Nevada College with my B.S.B.A in Ski Business, Resort Management as well as Global Business Management and Chris from Sierra College with a Associative in Social and Behavioral Science. I was so glad it was over! I spent the last semester taking 21 units, working for the Student Government as the Director of Events, working, planning for a wedding, preparing to move, and pulling my hair out. Chris was also happy it was over so I could finally relax! At the end of May when we were packing up our last boxes from our apartment, my childhood friend Tom flew in from England to attend our wedding and by default also help us move. 5 days after we moved our of our apartment, we got married at Shaver Lake.

Watching our wedding finally come together after 2 years of planning was great. It was a beautiful wedding and it wouldn’t have been possible without our family and friends who went the extra mile to make it perfect! I could go on and on about our wedding, so I will leave it at this: it was a dream come true.

The day after our wedding, we loaded our stuff, squished Tom into my Subaru, kissed everyone goodbye and drove down to our new home. Avocet sucked our belongings up like a champ and we were surprised that 2 years worth of the contents of our apartment fit perfectly into the many lockers and storage spots aboard. The morning after our first night on Avocet we drove Tom to the airport and said our “until next time’s”.

The rest of our Summer was spent doing various projects to make Avocet our home. I promised myself to take at least 3 months off before actively job hunting since I hadn’t had a true break since I was in high school! Chris was still busy going on shoots here and there, but for the most part it was just a newly wed couple adjusting to their new life afloat.screen-shot-2018-10-12-at-9-40-08-am.png

Neely family

In July we headed back up to Huntington Lake to compete in the High Sierra Regatta with our Victory 21 fleet. It was extra special this year because we got to compete against Jon and Shannon… nothing like a little sibling rivalry! We placed 4th in all 5 races which seems to be our lucky number. However, I am pleased with it since we are the youngest in our fleet, and Chris was happy to beat big brother 😉

August was probably the busiest month for us since we went to Disneyland with the whole Neely family the first weekend, then the following week Chris and I left for our Honeymoon in Mexico! It was my 3rd time visiting Mexico, Chris’s 1st and most certainly not our last. We had a blast drinking in Cabo, hiking in Mazatlan, and exploring Puerto Vallarta! The water was warm, the fish were friendly and we can’t wait to sail Avocet there someday. 3 days after our return, the Neely family came for a visit and we sailed to Santa Cruz Island, our first time out on the hook. It took some adjusting time to situate 5 grown adults and all their belongings, but Avocet handled it all like a champ. Chris and I also learned where our weak points in hosting were such as our quarter berth not being fit for a couple. Obviously we addressed that and you can read all about that process here. It was a fun extended weekend and we are chomping at the bit to get out there and do it again soon!

Mandy as Camera Op

In September I decided to start my own Digital Marketing business (Fair Winds Media) so I could work remote and have a flexible schedule. I am now up to 4 clients and am so stoked on what I have built in these short months! Chris was also very busy on shoots for clients while we simultaneously decided to start our youtube channel (@SVAvocet). With the help form our new friend Mandy we shot and edited our first recap video for our channel.

When October rolled around Chris got really sad since Jon and Shannon were returning to Prism. They came down to say good bye before starting their cross country drive. It was crazy to think that they had been home a whole year, and yet it seemed to fly by. We are so thankful that they were home during the process of buying Avocet, I don’t think we would have been able to do it as seemingly easy without Jon’s help. A few weeks after their departure, we upheld our October 31st tradition and watched Rocky Horror while also dressing up in our “Halloween costumes” to snap a few pics!

Rocky and Cleo became good friends

We also ended up saying good bye to our new friends John and Mandy since they decided to move back to the U.S.V.I’s (I know, rough, right?) which was bittersweet. We are so happy that they were the first friends we made down here, and it all started because of Instagram! Someday we will sail around to their side of the planet and be reunited (let’s be honest, we really miss Rocky boy!)

As you may recall, November was a hard month for us Californians.  We got hit with wildfires up and down the state, while the Hillfire and Woolsey Fire were the two closest to us. Although we were safe from the fire itself, the highways in and out were closed and we were choking on smoke and debris. They can close the road, but they can’t close the ocean! Our original plan that weekend (before the fires) was to sail to Santa Cruz Island, but that plan fell through due to strong Santa Ana’s. After a lot of thought we decided to head north to Santa Barbara for some clean air and adventure. I had never been there before, and I thought it a beautiful city with so much to offer. We had fun wandering the streets and meeting sailors on the dock (we stayed in a transient slip). The fires were contained by the time we sailed home, but the damage is far from being repaired. As I write this, there are still victims that are displaced from the SoCal fires… check out this organization if you want to donate: CARE . We ended November in the Silver State, watching my favorite band of all time (Blink-182) preform. I sang every song, lost my voice and walked the strip until my legs went numb; needless to say, it was a blast!

Me, My mom, cousin Carly, cousin Dori

My moms birthday is December 5th, and I was so excited to hear that they wanted to come visit us on Avocet for my moms birthday. To be honest I was pretty nervous about their opinion since they have never really spent time on a sailboat before but I was pleasantly surprised at how well they adapted and actually praised it. They were the first to sleep in our newly refit quarter berth and it was all positive feedback, they even want to come visit again soon! It was great showing them where we had been living for the past 6 months, Cleo also thoroughly enjoyed being spoiled by “grandpa and grandma” as well as “uncle chuck”!

It’s so hard to believe that its already December, looking back on what I’ve written thus far there are so many things I left out such as the day sails, new places, hikes, and more seemingly little details that make up a long list of things we did and places we saw that made our year what it was. We will finish off December spending Christmas with family and kick off 2019 the same way we did 2018: at China Peak, DJ’ing the New Year party.

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Chris and I have talked a lot about what 2019 holds for us and we are very pleased to announce that there will be even more adventures which is hard to imagine! Thank you for joining us this far, we can’t wait to share what we have in store for 2019. Cheers! ~ Marissa

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Quarter Berth Refit

One of the many things we love about our boat is her ability to host up to 6 people and absorb all their things. However, it became apparent to us when the Neely family visited for our Santa Cruz Island sail that our quarter berth(s) was not the comfiest sleeping arrangement. You see, our quarter berth was a double bunk, meant for crew while underway which is great but we didn’t see ourselves hosting 4 single people at once… which means there was no need for the quarter berth to be offset. So circling back to when the Neely’s came to stay, Jon and Shannon (who we shall refer to as SV Prism) had to sleep bunk style while momma Neely slept in the V-berth. When they left we promised ourselves that our next “big project” priority would be constructing a raised platform to turn our bunks into a (sorta) queen sized bed so a couple could cuddle comfortable (try saying that 3 times fast!) We finally got around to the refit when my parents planned a visit. Now I will pass off the blog to Chris who can give you all the details. Cheers, ~ Marissa

Before the reft


Hi everyone! Chris here. Let’s dive right in: the first thing we had to do was take out all the cushions then disassemble the upper bunk starting with the large teak beam which provided a lip along upper level. I knew right from the start that this piece of teak was going to be reused in some way to build up our nav station so we were extra careful not to harm the wood in any way. Once we carefully took out all the teak bungs (or plugs) and screws holding it in place it popped off no problem.

Right after that, I had a classic “while I was in there” moment and cleaned out the locker that was underneath the lower bunk and repainted using good ol’ white rustoleum. I did this to all four existing lockers before moving onto the next part of the project which turned out to be a project in itself (go figure!)



Our battery charger was attached to the bulkhead separating the lazaret and the cabin which is fine, however it was always in sight and I really hated looking at it all the time so we decided to move it into our dedicated Electronics Locker (which also doubles as Marissa’s overflow closet… she’s working on the whole “downsizing” thing). Moving the battery charger meant moving all the wires that connected the charger to our batteries, along with relocating a 110v plug into the locker, so it can be neatly found all in one place. During this seemingly little relocation, I removed an old hanging plug that belonged to the old inverter that powered the entire 110 side of our boat when we are not plugged into land, but when we bought the boat one of the first things I got rid of was the very old and crusty inverter that sounded like it would blow when I flipped it on.

I’m not sure if you can tell, but I really like things to be done correctly and neatly so when I start one project, I’m bound to dabble in 13 others in order to consider the job truly done. So back to me struggling to rewire: long story short I called my brother to help me figure out what wire was what since we found one 4-plex wire that should not have been in a 110 system. After much thought and careful experimentation, we found that the wire only daisy chained into our room and stopped there. I finally felt much more comfortable with our 110 system. Another little tidbit about my personality: I feel much more confident in something if I have completely torn it apart and correctly put it back together again. This method (although time consuming) gives me peace of mind when I use these systems daily.

The battery charger in its new electronic locker home… mid-painting

While I was in the electronic locker the paint was also crap so I got out my tools to strip to fiberglass again before putting two coats of paint on. This made the locker smell all better (it was a little musky in there) and Marissa appreciated because some of her clothes share this locker (like I said, she is working on downsizing). The floor in this locker was badly rotten from getting wet at some point in time this is also where we had our 2nd battery bank for starting the engine and when we bought the boat this one battery was expanding, getting super super hot and oozing battery acid (FUN!!) but when I took the battery out some 6 months ago I didn’t have the chance to fix the gross floor, so with the extra plywood that I used for the new planks in Q-berth, I cut a new floor. I am happy to say that the electronic locker is SWEET now and ready for the instrument panel next. Thats enough about the wiring and electronics (full blog and video to come). The last thing I did while I was in this locker was remove a random piece of wood with 4 screws coming in from the outside where the sea wall is. I already noticed hairline cracks on the outside paint, but come to find out the previous owner put fairing compound over the screw heads and painted on top. There was already some water coming in where the cracks were, so I pushed the screws through, beveled out the 4 holes, put two layers of fiberglass and fairing compound on top all with Marissa’s help.  I still need to sand and paint, but I need to find the paint to match before I go forward. At least now there is no leaking and the problem is fixed on the inside so the Electronic Cabinet is done from the inside.

Lets go back to the Q-Berth building, FINALLY! To build the frame I went and bought some 2” by 1/2″ wood for the plywood to sit on top of. I screwed the 2″ by 1/2″ planks on 12 3/4″  above the lower bunk so the plywood sits perfectly level with the existing upper level of the Q-berth. Once the border was built I had to make some cross members to disperse the load. I made two cross members in total, the one further aft has two U shaped wood blocks that a wood beam is cradled in. I made the x-members removable so we can get into the lower storages easily. The 2nd x-member shares the same design using the u-shaped blocks but due to the plywood wall not having as much structural integrity side to side as compression, the x-member is still removable but two pins hold the crossmember in place so there is no side to side wobble.


The hardest part of this project was constructing a nav-seat/back rest. Although we wanted to raise the bed to the upper level, this area will still be used primarily as a nav-station so I needed to find a way to hide the ugly lip of the old upper level and the crossmember I built to give a more “factory” feel and look. After much, much thought I built a new backrest and armrest. The only way to make it look good like it belonged in our boat was to use teak. I did happen to have some teak saved from previous projects, but after using the big plank to finish the top of the backrest I bought some new  1″ 1/2” teak strips using a tongue and groove style to finish the job.


Not too shabby pre-cut

The last step was to put a new mattress in. Instead of buying a custom mattress (which would be great) we decided to buy a latex foam mattress from amazon and cut it ourself. We did the same with our bed, and it worked really well. After measuring and remeasuring a few hundred times, I found that a queen size was the smallest we could go after making our cuts. I also found that using a very sharp cutting knife works perfectly for cutting the mattress. We have heard of people that use serrated knives, but with our experience they do an okay job but leave quite a mess. We used the old cushions and the new planks as templates for cutting. From there we cut a little off both long sides but kept the two narrow sides untouched. After we finished cutting we put the foam back into the sleeve and sure enough we cut it perfectly! In the future we plan to  sew on a cover that will match the blue pattern on the rest of our boats cushions so we don’t have to keep a set of sheets on the bed at all times to make it look good, but until then we will enjoy how snug it looks.

Not a bad set up 🙂

As far as the project goes now, all we need to do is varnish the new teak, paint the plywood white just like the V berth, and make a custom blue cover for the mattress as well as the nav-seat. However, those are just details. We consider this project complete and we are so excited with how it turned out! We now have more storage for our guitars, video gear, and other misc. things that had no home until now.


Marissa’s parents were the first people to sleep in the new bed, and we finished the project within 20 minutes of their arrival- not bad if I do say so myself. They said that it was very comfortable and are excited to come visit again, we sure hope that our guests now have a better nights sleep when they stay aboard!

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoy the full video recap below. Cheers, ~ Skipper Chris






Deck the Hulls

In addition to baking a ridiculous amount of cookies, decorating for Christmas has always been my favorite part of the holidays. When we lived on land we checked off all the boxes: we strung up lights all along the apartment, hung mistletoe in the doorways, put a wreath on the front door, stockings hung with care above our fireplace and of course had a real tree in the corner decorated with the upmost amount of cheer. To say the least we went all out for the holidays, so I was a bit concerned this year when I realized this is the first Christmas we will be spending on our boat- how on earth would we keep with our traditions?

Chris and I put our thinking caps on (and by that I mean our Santa Hats) and thought of ways we could still decorate and make Avocet feel like Christmas. Getting a real tree was out of the question since 1. where the H-E-double-hockey-sticks would we put it and 2. pine needles in the bilge… Forget about it. Instead of a tree we opted for wrapping garland around our compression post, then hanging ornaments from it. Just like that, we had a “tree”.

Moving on to the lights. Now, we see a lot of sailors string Christmas lights up the mast and down the forestay as well as backstay but Chris and I agreed that if we did that we would have to be dedicated to staying in the slip for a while which neither of us wanted. So instead, we got some twinkly lights to trace our dodger and lined the inside hand trim of our boat. Lights: check!

While Christmas shopping we also found some little decorations that were small enough to hang up and put on the shelves and we even got a small wreath to hang above the V Berth! Lastly, since we don’t have a fireplace onboard we decided to hang stockings up anyways, and decided to play a recording of a crackling fire from our iPad just to help set the mood. With the addition of some holiday candles, Frank Sinatra Christmas music and cookies fresh out of the oven, we were ready for Christmas. To celebrate our cheery success, we snuggled up and watched a Christmas movie to make it official. Did you know Captain Ron- er, I mean Kurt Russel – plays Santa in a new movie called The Christmas Chronicles? Super funny!

Check  out the full video on youtube. What are your Holiday traditions on land or at sea? We want to hear your favorites! Feel free to share in the comments below or post in the comments on our Instagram:

Little Wing

Chris has always loved Lyle Hess designs- I mean how could you not? They are classic and sail like a dream, so it was no surprise that he chose to wait for a Lyle Hess dinghy. We had our hearts set on a Fatty Knees but unfortunately our wallets did not agree with our dreams, however our neighbor just so happened to have a dinghy that “looked like” a Fatty and gave it to us since he didn’t want it. Come to find out, it was actually a Dover Dory, a Lyle Hess design and the predecessor to the Fatty.  I will now pass this blog off to Chris who can give you the details. ~ Marissa

Marissa wrote a great intro, but back to the Dover Dory. This little dinghy was in great shape for being over 40, but there was still work to be done- it is a boat after all. First thing first: washing all the scum off from however long she was sitting out upside down on a dock, exposed to the elements. I gave her a quick rinse with fresh water, dawn soap, and a hard bristled brush which made a huge difference. I followed up with a scotch bright pad and Bright Boy soap which I HIGHLY recommend for boat work since it not only works wonders on removing rust from metals, but it also removes stains from gel coats and paint. After her bath, I dried her off and got to work on the next project which happened to (of course) be much more than I anticipated.


Our dinghy needed handrails (or rub rails if you prefer) so I went to Home Depot to pick up some wood. After looking around for some flexible wood. My options where limited to pine, cedar, fur, some super expensive oak. So i picked up some cedar because I am familiar with it after working on the V-berth project. I had imagined getting the wood wet enough to bend but it turned out to be too brittle for the severe bend so I decided to return it. I decided to stop by my favorite lumber yard G&S Lumber Supply where I really respect their opinion and wanted to hear what they suggested, and I know they have hard woods for very reasonable prices. After asking if white oak was my best bet, they agreed that it would work very well. Part of why I love going to G&S because they rip and plane your lumber usually for no charge. While they where ripping this 12” board into 8 smaller 2” wide by 3/8” thick boards I went to go return the cedar to Home Depot.

On my way, s$!t hit the fan. My trusty truck of 290k miles decided to pitch a fit,  lost all cooling and broke down. I have replaced every hose and connection in my cooling system except for (of course) the one hose connector for the back of the heater radiator which is of course, what blew. I had AAA give me a tow to NAPA where I replaced the part and continued on my way to return the wood head back to G&S for my new spiffy white oak.

Figuring out just how I was going to make this work…

The day after my misadventure, I stayed dockside all day to work on the dink. A lot of passerby’s were curious as to what I was doing, and how I was doing it and each time I told them they proceeded to let me know exactly how they would do it… just sailor things 😉 In all honesty I appreciate their input and always enjoy bouncing ideas off our neighbors. So, what was I doing? I was in the process of bending the white oak around the outside as well as the inside of the laminate to create a sandwich that I would fasten together. The outside plank bent perfectly using C-clamps and some good ol’ persuasion.

I tried to make the bend with the inside plank to mimic the outer plank, but the sheer of the boat was too steep which put too much tension on the wood and started to twist towards the aft. If I had access to a 9 ft steam box, it would have been a simple job but I had to make do with what I had so I decided to craft skarf joint which is a method of joining two members end to end. After one round of trial and error I figured out that around midship was the best place to start the skarf which turned out to be 20 inches long, which is good because the more surface area you have the stronger the skarf will be. I used my oscillating multitool to make the straightest cut I could since I don’t have room aboard for my table saw (haha) and I was lending my skill saw- once again making do with what I got. From there, I used the hand plane to make a flat surface to ensure a perfect fit. After that I just kept on dry fitting and shaving off bits here and there until I was happy with the result then I fastened both planks together using stainless screws with stainless washers moving from bow to aft, clamping and unclamping as I go. Before I had fastened this first handrail I traced them onto the two other pieces so the other side went together much faster.




IMG_6160After some light sanding using some 220 and Semco, I was super happy with the result. I cleaned up our finger and vacuumed up all the scraps before driving to one of my favorite places, Mikes Consignment, to see if I could find some oars. Mikes has everything, and I usually get lucky with finding bronze pieces and whatever else I need for refit projects so finding oars was no different, I walked in and found exactly what I needed. I chose collapsable wooden oars because they just have a classic look that fits the style I was going for, and they store easy. Marissa took pleasure in stripping varnish and revarnishing them to make them look good as new before I took the boat on a test row before permanently attaching the oar locks. Funny story: I used duct tape to soft attach the oar locks tentatively where I thought they should go which worked great for the first few minutes until the Santa Ana gusts started blowing me around the marina, causing the duct tape to rip off and send me floating into our neighbors boats! No damage done, but it was sure funny to watch (peep the whole video at the bottom for evidence of this mishap). As soon as I regained control (“more duct tape will do”) I paddled back to our slip to screw in the oar locks to the hand rail. Speaking of the hand rail, it’s amazing how building that hand rail up has significantly stiffened up the whole boat!


Last thing I did was buff the bottom of the boat using 3M Perfect – It to give her a glassy shine. After that, our boat was only missing one thing: a name. Marissa and I had gone back and forth trying to decide on a fitting name but finally landed on “Little Wing” to not only keep within the bird theme (Avocet and Little Wing… Get it?) but also because Little Wing is also my favorite song. We loaded her up onto our davits and adored how cute she looked. We can’t wait to get a sail kit! Stay tuned for more, thanks for reading! Signing off, ~Skipper Chris


Escape to Santa Barbara

Last Thursday night we had planned to sail to Santa Cruz Island so we could enjoy a long weekend together in solitude but that plan was foiled by the Santa Ana winds. However, the winds weren’t the worst of our problems. 2 wild fires started up way too close to us, just 30 minutes after I got home from visiting a client in L.A. Within an hour, the sky  above our slip in Oxnard was black and the sun was glowing orange through the smoke, tinting everything with an apocalypse like hue.

Here is what the smoke looked like from our slip. Air quality was BAD.

We were initially bummed that we couldn’t sail to the Island when we wanted, but that’s just sailing. We decided to wait another night and try to head out the following day, however when Friday rolled around we woke up and the wind was still howling and our decks were starting to get ashy, which is a sure sign to get out. Unfortunately, all the highways in and out were closed so we had no choice but to stay put. We woke up early Saturday morning (despite trying out hardest to sleep in) and a very obvious idea popped into our heads- better late than never I suppose. As badly as we wanted to sail out to Santa Cruz, all weather predictions were calling for another round of Santa Ana Winds starting Sunday and ending Monday morning and we didn’t want to get caught up in that while out at anchor so Chris and I jumped out of bed, turned on the percolator and set course for Santa Barbara which was a refuge from the smoke and power outages caused by the Hill Fire and the Woolsey Fire

As I mentioned, the wind was not in our favor as it was coming directly at us, so instead of sailing north we motored, which was fine since there was virtually no swell. While Chris was at helm, I fixed up huevos rancheros for breakfast using “soyrizo” a vegetarian option to chorizo since we don’t usually keep meat aboard Avocet. We enjoyed our coffee and breakfast out in the cockpit while keeping our eyes peeled for crab pots (there seemed to be more than usual floating about) and marine life. Once I regained cell service I reached out to our family and followers letting them know our plan and that we are safe from the fires. With that said, we want to thank everyone who reached out to us offering their prayers, kind words and support. Although we are okay, there are many people down here that weren’t as luck so we urge you to donate what you can!

After 4 hours on the water the sound of the engine became a lullaby for Skipper Chris, so he handed the captains hat to me and I kept watch up above while I typed out the beginning of this very blog. We finally made it to the Santa Barbara Harbor at 2:30. We decided to stay in the harbor since if we were at anchor we would have to be on high alert for the Santa Ana winds rolling through as well as the swell. Chris’s brother Jon has spent many times at the Santa Barbara Harbor aboard Tara (their first boat) as well as SV Prism so we knew what to expect for the most part. The marina runs on a first come first serve basis so we were stoked that they had a slip available for Avocet.

We made it!
Her name was Morning Song, and she is truly gorgeous.

Once we settled in our transient slip we walked the docks to check out what this harbor had to offer. While investigating the scene we spotted 6 Cheoy Lee’s! We were also invited aboard a beautiful Bristol Channel Cutter that the owner had hand built. It took him 25 years and the outcome was well worth his time. Chris has an infatuation with BCC’s because they are a Lyle Hess design that is all teak and sails like a dream.

We parted ways with our new friends and made our way back to Avocet where I began dinner while Chris re-stowed the boat and did other things here and there. After dinner we stuck to our original “island plan activity” which was to set up the projector in the cockpit and watch a movie outside. It worked perfectly! Movie of choice was the Blues Brothers, a true classic.

Skipper Chris, enjoying his hard work!

On Sunday morning we were up bright and early, ready to get out and explore. After breakfast and coffee we launched the dinghy off our davits and explored the harbor by paddle- just ‘cuz we could! After about an hour of giggles and splashing we finally got the hang of rowing together, and as it turns out we were actually pretty fast! We rowed back to Avocet and got ready for a day spent walking around downtown. Honestly, downtown Santa Barbara was one of the most beautiful towns we have ever seen! It was so floral -seriously- there was greenery everywhere and everything was so clean. We walked all along the harbor, then the pier where we stumbled across a candy shop that we of course had to stop in and sample. From there, we walked all up State street and then back to the harbor where a few of our Instagram followers nudged us to try the Breakwater Grill for lunch, so good!

That night we enjoyed the sunset and walked the beach at sundown, setting up the camera for a time lapse of the stars. We counted 3 shooting stars that night, can you guess what we wished for? We walked along the breakwater and listened to the waves crash against the wall, and talked about future sailing plans. After an hour of talking, star gazing, and freezing our butts off we wandered back to Avocet and got ready for our sail home in the morning.

Pretty sunset! Oh yah, see that couple? They got engaged 4 minutes after I snapped this shot. Congrats strangers!
Our “storm jib” (photo taken after we docked, airing out the sails)

To describe Monday’s sail home in one word: Chaos, or if your British you may refer to it as “sporty”… but nonetheless it was insane. All was fine until we hit our half way mark, thats when the Santa Ana’s hit us with gusts up to 40 knots. Luckily, Skipper Chris was well prepared for this instance, so prior to sailing he had reefed our main and replaced our genoa with a small staysail, using it as a storm sail since it is more maneuverable and doesn’t make us rely on our ferler (since they can be known to fail). It was honestly a comedic sight, watching us get drenched with spray from over the bow and keeping our bimini from blowing away- oh ya, did I mention our freaking bimini almost flew away!? Let me paint the picture for you: Chris ran to the bow (fully harnessed with a lifejacket) to save our anchor from letting go after it had shook free from the tension on our gypsy that keeps the chain and anchor tight, as well as our bridle that splits the load with our gypsy (which also acts as a failsafe if our Gypsy lets go). So while Chris was getting a full bath up on the bow (a full wave broke on him, kinda funny, but kinda not) I was at the helm, dealing with heavy random gusts and trying to keep us on course while bashing through 6 ft waves. On top of all that, the bimini pins on the port side shook loose so it nearly flew away! I had the bimini in my left hand, the wheel in my right and my eyes on the bow to make sure Chris didn’t go overboard- it was a real kerfuffle. Chris finally made it back to the cockpit and relieved me from my duties as temporary captain while also securing the bemini back in place. After a few more good sprays to the face we made it through our harbor’s break water and back to our slip, after 2 hilarious attempts to dock (shout out to our neighbor for helping us with the lines)! When we were all tied off, we just looked at each other with exhausted eyes and messy wind blown hair and both said “we did it”. In the future, if there is ANY warning of Santa Ana Winds,  you can find us cuddled up in our slip enjoying Netflix and hot chocolate.

Thanks for reading! We can’t wait to get back and explore everything that Santa Barbara has to offer. Cheers, ~ SV Avocet


V-Berth Restoration

When we bought Avocet back in March, we knew that the first big project would have to be restoring the V-berth. The V berth had been used as a sail, anchor, fender, dive gear, and miscellaneous storage area so there were lots of wet things sitting in a small space creating a very mildew-e atmosphere. However, this was not really the biggest issue. The biggest problem was that the anchor locker had no real drain which meant that all of the seawater that was naturally brought in with the chain (which is quite a lot) went straight into the woodwork. The waters path was either into the side veneer panels or into the lower lockers where it was stopped by two bulkheads which ultimately led to around 12 inches water being ultimately stagnant underneath the floor boards before finally making its way to the bilge. Not a great system Cheoy Lee.

The Process

The first step was to rip the teak veneer off the walls as they were epoxied onto a liner,  not the hull itself. Using chisels, crowbars, wedges, elbow grease, and with help from my brother Jon, we got it all off.  After ripping the veneer, the resin/epoxy that was used to attach the veneer simply peeled off the liner giving me a pretty easy shot at sanding the walls a little to create a good paint surface.


I wanted to do two things for sure on this build: One was to create tongue and groove (T&G) walls and headliners because my mom’s Mason 43 and my brothers HC 33 has T&G everywhere, and I love the look. Initially, I dabbled with the idea of getting a particle board 4×8 sheet from Home Depot with the T&G look, but I know the particle board would never last in a marine atmosphere so finally after much thought, my brother found a really cool old school lumber yard with tons of old wood stock and extremely friendly customer service. The name of this magical lumbar yard is G&S Lumber Supply which is located in Ventura CA. Quick side story: back in the day this lumbar yard had a crew of over 70 people, and unfortunately due to corporations like Lowe’s and Home Depot, they are now down to just two people which is really quite a shame. Jon and I got to know the kind folks at G&S Lumbar Supply and told them about our V berth project. They hooked us up with some fantastic T&G red cedar that was absolutely PERFECT! Not only is it T&G, but red cedar is naturally mold as well as rot resistant due to the high saturation of sap in the wood. Plus it smells fantastic. Anyways, we got a few boxes of the cedar (which was from the 70’s) and Jon began the daunting task of cutting each individual board and fastening it to the walls and headliner. Each and every board he went up out of the companion way, cut and shaped on the dock, then back down the companion way, measured and fit in the V, then repeated with another board. I tip my hat to my brother, the finished result is beautiful. SO long story short, I got my wish! T&G baby! It smells and looks so beautiful, I didn’t (and still don’t) see a need to varnish.

The red cedar was a good call. Beautiful craftsmanship done by my brother!

The second thing that was a must for this refit was that Marissa and I wanted to raise our berth up in the V so it was suitable for a couple, or a very roomy bunk for one. This also gave us a crap load of storage which is great for my video gear, extra wood, guitars, Cleo’s kitty box, and etc. So again, Jon mapped it all out and built a frame and cut the panels to construct the upper level that we so desperately wanted. While Jon worked on the V-Berth I was working on the chain locker.

So “while we were in there” (A famous line on this boat, because every time we open up one project, 6 projects follow)  we decided to address the chain locker, which was the original culprit of the V-berths destruction. Right off the bat I took out the partition that was set in the locker since we don’t have any rode, there was no need. After that quick fix, I really needed to figure out a more efficient drainage system so I put on my fix-it cap and got to work. At first I thought I was going to make a hawsepipe to bring most of the chain down into the locker below the first deck, however, thinking about mildew issues I then thought it was smart to keep all of the chain in the locker to seal it from the rest of the room. So taking a PVC Pipe, I built a floor in the chain locker, drilled a hole in the middle, and shaved a concave shape into the floor so all water would drain directly to the hole in the middle. I then fiberglassed the floor and the PVC into place allowing myself some extra room to cut off the PVC excess once dried. “While I was in there” (see? theres that line again) I also tackled the windlass wires in a similar way but kept a 5 inch lip of the 2” PVC so when water is in the floor of the anchor locker it wouldn’t drain down the wire-hawsepipe. I spent some real time in this Anchor locker bringing every square inch down to bare fiberglass with a 60 grit paddle wheel on a angle grinder. Messy, messy…. messy. I spent about three days crammed into my somewhat small anchor locker- talk about boat yoga! During this time, I noticed that there was what was left of an old previous bulkhead to which the owners replaced with the one we have now. When they did this, they cut the original bulkhead out leaving about 3-4 inches on the hull which made it clear that they used a jigsaw. So, I cut away the remainder of the original bulkhead for the chain locker. Following that was more fiberglassing, covering all of the unoriginal bulkhead so we would have no more water damage! THEN I GOT TO PAINT!

Check out all the fiberglass from the chain locker!

The bulkhead we have in our boat now was put in after being built, and is great because it increased the space inside the chain locker. However, they tabbed the bulkhead on top of a liner which isn’t structural. so WHILE I WAS IN THERE I knew the correct thing to do was tab it to the hull. No matter how much work it would take. For those of you that don’t know “tabbing” involves bonding  bulkheads to the hull with strips of fiberglass cloth wetted with polyester resin.  So I cut away the liner to get to the hull, tabbed in the backside of the bulkhead and pushed in 406 thickened epoxy into the gap stern-side. This stiffened up the deck quite a lot and now there is ZERO amount of play in the bulkhead.

Marissa sanding before she painted the first coat

At this point, Jon had long departed for his own boat SV Prism and all that was left to do was paint more and lots of varnish. So I got stripping sanding! Luckily this time around, Marissa graced me with her presence and got to get her hands dirty. With her help, we completed the paint which made the whole V-berth appear more put together.

The last thing we have to do is order or make a mattress, but until we get the funds to do so we have set up a very comfortable air mattress which was mom-tested and approved when the family came to visit- meaning it works for now. (The small white wire is our internet while at dock, I have it coming through the anchor locker so I don’t have to ghetto rig our companionway or put it through a hatch.)


So, there it is! There is my blog on the V-Berth restoration. A video be posted once we get our real mattress all set up! Thanks for reading. Cheers, ~Skipper Chris