“Is There a Button for That?”

Although we have already technically entered into the fall season, here in Southern California we are guaranteed a few extra weeks of the warm summer sun. We decided to make the most of our fleeting opportunities to sail to the islands by inviting my family on a weekend trip to Santa Cruz Island – which would also be their very first time staying while at anchor. Going into this, Chris and I definitely had some concerns regarding my family staying aboard and did our best to rationalize what we could and could not control. Comfort-wise, I created a very well put together welcome basket that included candy, reading materials, a menu, and itinerary for the weekend as well as some 72401939_2575597415832799_1104587798083534848_nDramamine which was much appreciated by my mom. We had been watching the forecast closely and cross-checked all of our sources which led us to the conclusion that Saturday would be the windiest of our days on Santa Cruz in contrast to the two gorgeous days forecasted during our trip. Personally, we had no concerns regarding the wind; Afterall, we completely trust our boat and Rocna anchor. After a “rules and safety chat,” we were ready to cast off for a very memorable weekend.

At the early hours of 5:30 a.m., we were greeted with 15-knots of wind, allowing us to raise our sails and cut the engine as we cleared the breakwater. It was Friday morning, and my sleepy eyes hid behind my glasses while I continued to layer in warm clothes before crawling into the cockpit. Chris handed me a spotlight that I gripped with cold hands as I took my position on deck looking for crab pots as we cleared the Ventura Harbor Breakwater. We had stayed the night prior in Ventura since it was a direct course to Prisoners’ Harbor, which was the first destination of our weekend adventure. The twinkling lights of downtown Ventura glistened in the distance, reaching up until they met the stars at the horizon line.

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Captain Chris checking our course in the early hours of the morning

71534883_10217970093037087_3922130973264707584_oAvocet, Avocet, Avocet, this is ValHowell, do you copy?” Around sun up, we were greeted by our dear friends Alan and Elizabeth Howell sailing alongside us in their beautiful, dark hulled 2018 Beneteau Sense 51, named “ValHowell,” a very clever play on words.ValHowell is a stunning vessel inside and out. We often make the joke that there is a button for everything – but all jokes aside, we aren’t kidding. For example: with a press of a button, the dinette transforms into a home theater, complete with a 30 inch flat-screen TV. This just so happens to be our favorite feature aboard, secondly to the luxurious cockpit with a sliding bimini top. “Valhowell, this is Avocet, go ahead”. My dad, Mike, and brother, Christian, joined Chris and me in the cockpit as we chat back and forth with ValHowell on the VHF while we continued to buddy boat to the island. My mom, Pam, managed to stay peacefully sleeping below deck in the quarter berth until we passed Anacapa. Cleo took advantage of my mom sleeping so soundly and positioned herself as close as she could get, essentially becoming the little spoon.

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ValHowell under sail

We set anchor at 9:00 am alongside ValHowell, the only other boat in the whole anchorage. After mimosas and a light breakfast, we dinghied over to the pier which was constructed in 1869 to load cattle and wool onto ships for transport. Now, the pier is used primarily to offload Island Packer groups (similar to the ones in Scorpion) for day trips. On our way to the dinghy dock, we were flagged down by another boater who had just come in to anchor. He asked if we had a gallon of water to spare, and once we told him we did (if he provided the container) he specified that he only wanted a gallon of bottled water, which we did not have so on our way we went. Jokes on him though, our dual filtered water system is probably cleaner than most bottled water.

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Prisoners’ Anchorage, pier to the right.

It was the first time my parents had set foot on the land that we had told so many stories about, and it definitely did not disappoint. The weather was perfect for hiking so without hesitation I lead the way to the Pelican Bay trail, a 4-mile trail that starts on the Nature Conservancy land and leads to Pelican Bay. To legally access this part of the island, a landing permit is needed. Fortunately, we and the Howells came prepared and had both purchased our permits at the beginning of the year allowing us to march on.

Prisoners’ Anchorage has a very interesting history leading to its rightful name. In February 1830, the U.S. brig Maria Ester dropped anchor off Santa Barbara. Its captain, John Christian Holmes, requested permission to discharge his cargo which was a literal boatload of  40-or-so convicted criminals. His request being denied led to Holmes transporting the convicts to Prisoners Harbor with provisions supplied by the padres at the Old Mission. The fate of the prisoners remains unclear. Those on Santa Cruz initially fared somewhat well, constructing makeshift shelters against the elements. Unfortunately, that was not the last time that Santa Cruz was considered as a possible prison. “In the 1880s, the U.S. Army suggested exiling especially troublesome members of the Apache tribe to the island. Nothing came of the idea, and today only the name, Prisoners Harbor, reminds us of the rather bizarre events of over 180 years ago” (Redmond, Michael).

The diversity of flora on Santa Cruz Island never ceases to amaze me. I have been trying my best to study and identify the various plants on the island, specifically the 15+ endemic ones. Purple flowers (possibly vervain?) lined the sides of the trail. The natural rock steps pushed into the side of the mountain made a narrow passageway through the tall oak trees adorned with ripe acorns. Island Fox scat was dropped along the trail, suggesting we may get a glimpse of the endemic creature. The view of our boats anchored in the bay improved with every step we took. Soon we found ourselves at the highest point along the trail admiring our floating homes positioned oh-so picturesquely below us. Near us, was a small lookout that I was dying to get inside. The door was shut, which I respected, so we continued on our way despite my inner thoughts urging me to go examine the inside of the lookout.

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Prisoners’ Anchorage from above

The narrow trail twisted and turned until we were facing down a rocky, overgrown decline. After some consulting, our group decided to turn around and head back- but not before my dad got some drone footage! Chris and Elizabeth scouted out what appeared to be a fox trail, hoping to find an Island Fox amongst the scenery. Upon their return from their failed mission, we continued our descent to our starting point. Once again we stopped at the lookout to admire our boats below us. I had mentioned that I would love to go inside the lookout, and wished the door wasn’t closed. Upon further examination, Chris noticed the “door” was not nailed shut, but being held together by a nail bent over another… so with one dainty push (more like a tap) the door creaked open and revealed the visitors center inside. The 4 walls were adorned with informational plaques regarding the area, including what the building used to be.

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Hiking along the Pelican Trail

As I had previously figured, the building was a lookout in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Using a telescope, the island watchman could look for ships in the channel. If needed, a passing vessel could be signaled to come to the harbor and retrieve mail, supplies, or passengers. Today the observation post is known as Harveys Lookout, in Memorium of Harvey D. Carlson (1955-1994), who was a member of the Nature Conservancy dedicated to preserving California’s unique natural area for generations. When we were done reading everyone vacated the observatory, me being the last to leave trying to imagine what life was like for that watchman on the island.

We had lunch on one of the many picnic tables along the shoreline, appreciating our view and discussing anything and everything that came to mind. My dad had many questions for Alan regarding his career as a pilot in the navy. It’s funny, despite absolutely despising air travel my dad is enthralled with the details and has a vast collection of RC Airplanes that reside in the “hanger”… aka my childhood bedroom in my family’s home. Sometime during lunch, I had gotten up and began to wander, thinking here we are once again exploring the first anchorage that we had sailed Avocet to as her new crew back in 2018 with Jon, Shannon, and Mama Neely. It is amazing to reflect on how far we had come and how far we will go. I scoured the shoreline for bones, shells, and trash, only pocketing the trash to dispose of. Chris waved at me from the pier signaling me to come back. Our group loaded up the dinghies and we cast off and headed to our respective “floating homes”. It took about 5 minutes for my brother to drop one of his 3 lines in the water, and another 5 for a fish to bite.

71206096_10217970100477273_7031279432589377536_oMy brother Christian is a huge fisherman. He has always been a natural angler and has a passion not only for fishing but also for sustainable fishing practices to protect the habitats of the fish he catches, which I applaud him for. Although I have never liked eating fish (yes, I have tried that one, and no I still do not like it) my brother is the total opposite and could eat fish for every meal. One bite after another, he was pulling fish aboard to snap a photo then release. The reel excitement (haha get it, “reel”?) happened when he hooked his first white seabass, a beautiful fish but unfortunately just shy of the legal limit. He tossed it back and cleaned up for dinner. That night he told us “you know, this was cool and all but catching that fish really made this trip worth it”… I think it was a compliment, so I will chalk that up as a win. One down, two to go: Avocet just had to win over mom and dad Hushaw for a complete victory.

“Sleeping in” is a relative term on a sailboat. Although our clock read 6:30 am, we had still slept more hours than the night before, which we concluded was sleeping in. The wind had already picked up by 7:00, a stampede of white caps danced on the horizon. We hailed ValHowell and pulled our hooks, preparing to sail around to the other side of the island where the anchorages would be more protected. The 3 and a half foot swell helped push us along while the 20 knots of wind filled our sails. We played “leapfrog” with ValHowell; stealing their wind and passing them, then they would reciprocate. Chris pulled out his Nikon to snap some shots of their boat with Anacapa in the background, while Elizabeth so kindly captured photos of us under sail on her phone. Buddy boating is great.

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Avocet under sail… thank you, Elizabeth!

Here is where the real fun begins: We set anchor in Yellowbanks, an anchorage just past Smugglers cove, at around 9:30 am. I had gone below deck and begun preparing a breakfast feast of vegetarian biscuits and gravy, a fruit spread, and scrambled eggs. The Howells joined us aboard and mid-mimosa sip we noticed a huge catamaran drop anchor very close to ours. The catamaran, named Tunnel Vision (TV), must have been a personal defining trait of the crew since their presence came with a strong smell of marijuana and they were not shy about drinking loudly. Being a good, informative neighbor, Chris dinghied over to let them know we had let out 200 ft of chain anticipating the 35 knots of wind that were predicted to last until midnight. They seemed less than amused that Chris was there and asked how he knew that we have dispersed exactly 200 ft of chain. Chris explained to them that we use zip ties to mark every 20 ft of chain.  To our surprise, TV responded with “I’ve never heard of anyone marking their chain before” which left Chris astounded with a lack of words. He said his goodbyes and returned to the mothership to fill us in. “Well, one of their crew is surfing over there,” he said, pointing to the perfectly sculpted 4 ft. wave breaking less than a football field from our bow, “maybe they will leave when he is done?” We remained hopeful and continued on with our day.71149747_10217970080756780_264858383897591808_o

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Mama Hush, soaking it all in

My mom grabbed her “steamy novel” as my brother often calls her reading material (to be honest, it didn’t look that “steamy”) and got comfortable in the hammock Chris had set up on deck. Somehow I convinced my dad to go snorkeling with us and luckily the Howell’s were kind enough to let us use ValHowell’s swim step to dive from. The water visibility was not great, but I had just bought a new dive mask that I was determined to break in. My dad lasted all of 2 minutes in the water before jumping out and talking with Alan on the stern of ValHowell. Chris dove on the boat admiring their paint and checking for kelp in the prop. “All clear,” he said after tossing a small piece of kelp to the side. We returned to Avocet and showered off so I could prepare for dinner.

We dinghied over to ValHowell for dinner. I had prepared flatbread pizza using my focaccia recipe as a base and was very excited to eat after the long day we had. About one sip of wine in, Chris’s eyes grew wide and said: “we gotta go.” Through the Galley portlight of ValHowell, he saw what he thought was Avocet’s anchor skipping. Alan had suggested we take their inflatable dinghy that had a motor, to which we didn’t decline and zoomed back to the boat that was trying to escape us. Once onboard, Chris turned on the engine and we rushed to the bow to figure out what was happening. Luckily, it was not our anchor skipping. Unfortunately, our half-inch three-strand bridle had snapped clean off in the heavy winds (gusts into 40 knots) allowing the chain to load up with tension on the gypsy to the point where it would jump out of the teeth giving the illusion that our anchor was skipping when in reality we were rapidly losing our chain. While we were scrambling to save our home from kiting away, our lovely catamaran neighbor came to the bow of his pontoon to yell (upwind, might I add) “try using another zip tie!” … thanks, man. will do.

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Our sad, snapped bridle

We had no spare bridle aboard. The gears in Chris’s head were turning trying to think of what we had aboard to save us when a lightbulb went off. 4 days prior, Chris had been practicing splicing and had made a new davit harness for our dinghy out of Dyneema. With the spare rope, he crafted two bracelets; one for me and one for him both featuring his newfound splicing expertise. Now, for those of you that don’t know: Dyneema is a 12 strand rope made of plastic (basically) but is stronger than steel. So 5/16” Dyneema has a breaking strength of 13,600 pounds when 5/16 stainless steel wire will break at 8,825 lbs. Pretty amazing stuff!  When Chris gifted me the matching bracelet I told him that “our love is stronger than dynema” which was cute, but at the time I had no idea our new fashion accessories would be saving our home. Fast forward to us standing on the bow with 45-knot gusts howling in our faces: “give me your bracelet!” Chris yelled, so I could hear him. I unscrewed the shackle and handed my bracelet to him. Using his 5/16” bracelet as the primary bridle he put one end through one of the links in the chain and then put a shackle through the two end splices of Dyneema. He then replaced the 1/2” 3 strand bridle that broke minutes earlier with a heavy-duty 5/8” 3 strand rope and secured to the port side bow cleat.

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Chris’s Dyneema bracelet, after holding our chain

Dyneema is amazing stuff but it does have one weakness: chaffing. The reason we use stainless chain hooks instead of Dyneema soft shackles is for chaffing reasons alone. Instead of letting the bridle be as long as possible and reduce the noise and strain on our cleats and bow rollers, Chris kept the bridle 2 feet past the bow roller so he could keep an eye on the Dyneema all night, specifically looking for chaffing. He used my smaller bracelet as a secondary safety chain lock, just in case his chaffed through.

When we returned to the rest of our party, everyone met us on the swim step. I had stepped off the dinghy, followed by Chris who thought I/Elizabeth had the painter. That was not the case, and as soon as Chris dismounted the wind caught the dinghy and it began to drift away at an increasing rate. Without any thought, Chris took his hat and shirt off then dove into the water. “glasses” I semi-yelled as he tossed them into our dinghy and began to swim after the run-away. “Is he a strong swimmer?” Alan asked as we all watched Chris swim for the tender. My dad reassured the Howells that this is not the first time Chris has saved the day, referring back to when he was 15 and dove on our ski boat with a knife in his mouth to cut our prop free from a line we backed over. Chris made it back to ValHowell, safe, sound, and cold. As soon as he dried off both of ValHowell’s bridles snapped. Chris lent our dinghy harness to them as a makeshift bridle. He was both amused and terrified by the fact that his splices were holding a brand new yacht all night! After all the action we tried to eat but had no appetite. We left as soon as we finished our glasses of wine, but not before I had the opportunity to ask Alan if there was a button to turn off the wind. Unfortunately, the answer was no.

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Back aboard Avocet, we could see the worry in my mom’s face. We tried to explain to her that everything was alright and this is just a part of cruising, which didn’t seem to help at all. When in doubt, we turn to Captain Ron for help. We set up the projector and using my dad’s Goal Zero battery bank we turned on good ol’ Captain Ron to lighten the mood. Although the wind was screaming outside and the sound of our chain loading up was not comforting, we managed to get a few laughs out of my family by watching the movie. Chris and I were not afraid of the situation at all; I trust our anchor, I trust our boat, and I trust Chris’s solutions to whatever problems come our way. While routinely checking the anchor, the crew from our catamaran neighbor once again made an appearance on the bow of their boat. “Do you have any cheesecake?” a most likely stoned neighbor yelled upwind to us. Chris was shocked by the random request, calling back to confirm. When he confirmed that it was in fact cheesecake he desired, a fired-up Chris responded with “are you really asking me for fu*#ing cheesecake right now??” That conversation ended with our neighbor from TV flipping us the international sign of “peace” and going back below.

As we were turning in for the night, my mom noticed a fishing boat circling Avocet. We had initially thought that they were picking up their lobster pots that were scattered about, but when they got closer we got concerned. Chris once again jumped on deck and called out to them, asking that they monitor channel 65. “Persistence, this is Avocet. Are you guys alright?” they then told us that they had lost their anchor to the winds, and had no spares. It was 10:00 pm, and the wind was still gusting strong- no place for a small fishing vessel without an anchor. “Persistance, we can set you up with our stern anchor with 300 feet of road and 25 feet of chain. Wait until I signal you then come to our port side.” So there we were, handing off our stern hook to complete strangers, hoping that they make it through the night. The crew of Persistence were more than appreciative of our assistance, but honestly, if we were in their boat I can only hope that someone would do the same for us.

That’s enough chaos for one day, right? Chris set our anchor alarm on the chart plotter and kept an eye on our navionics chart as well to watch our boat kite and make sure we were still holding. He was exhausted, almost as soon as his head hit the pillow he was asleep. I knew that we had to keep an eye/ear on our anchor so I stayed up for a bit allowing Chris to enjoy his much-deserved break. Around 2:00 am (when the wind was predicted to stop) Chris checked our anchor and his snubber fix in 30-knot winds. Avocet was still holding, and ValHowell was as well. Our fishing friends aboard Persistence were also still holding in the distance, while Tunnel Vision had dragged further away from us. After his routine check, Chris crawled back into bed and stayed there until 7:00 am.

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My dad at helm, “assisting” captain auto pilot

ValHowell, ValHowell, ValHowell, this is Avocet. Let’s get out of here.” at 7:00 am we still had 30 knots of north-west winds. We pulled our anchor following ValHowell out of Yellowbanks. We checked on Persistence and made arrangements to retrieve our anchor once we were all back on the mainland. ValHowell kindly kept Persistence informed of the conditions out on the sea to help ensure safer travels. With two reefs in our main and a partial headsail, we were pushing along at a hull speed of 7 knots. My dad was happy to join us in the cockpit, coffee in hand, to enjoy the sail home. My brother remained asleep in the cabin with Cleo curled up at his feet, and my mom sat in the quarter berth despite our pleads to get her outside to avoid seasickness. Our boat handled like a champ in the 10-foot seas, making Chris and me only nervous when our dinghy would get seemingly close to dipping on the davits. Usually, we travel with our dinghy on deck to prevent it from flooding in case of a large wave pooping the stern- something we are no stranger to when sailing Mama Neely’s Mason 43 in San Fransisco bay. We tried keeping in contact with ValHowel, but our VHF wouldn’t reach them as they were on course for Ventura, and us Oxnard.

We arrived back in our slip at 10:30 am. My parents had packed their bags and said goodbye to Avocet as we crawled into Chris’s truck to go get some lunch at Toppers Pizza before parting ways. Over pizza, we discussed the events of the weekend. My dad and brother expressed how much fun they had while my mom remained quite. Winning over 2/3 isn’t bad I guess, maybe next time they visit we can go to Santa Barbara- a much mellower adventure. We hugged and said our goodbyes, then Chris and I returned to Avocet to clean up from the weekend.

The following days to come my dad texted, called, and posted on Facebook telling us how much fun he had aboard Avocet, and how he can’t wait to come back. My brother texted me saying “thank you” and how he wants to come to stay with us over spring break and go fishing again. Finally, when I thought we were out of victories my mom called Chris and told him how the news in Santa Cruz had forecasted 20 knots of wind and 4-foot swell for the week. She laughed, saying that was “no problem” and that she could handle much worse now. I definitely took that as a win! 3/3, my family had enjoyed the trip even despite all the twists and turns, which reminded me that no matter what it’s not about where you are, but who you are with.

Thank you so much for following our adventures! Be sure to check us out on Instagram and YouTube, you will NOT want to miss this next video!

Cheers,

Marissa, Chris, and Cleo


Cited Sources:

Redmond, Michael. “Prisoners Harbor.” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, http://www.nps.gov/chis/learn/historyculture/prisoners.htm.

To learn more about the history and preservation efforts on Santa Cruz Island, please visit: http://www.scifoundation.org/home.aspx


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Head Refit

Chris and I had discussed refitting our head since day 1 of becoming Avocet’s new crew, and one night while drinking wine and talking about our future plans we decided to stop holding back and get our hands dirty with phase 1 of the refit process. Let me explain one thing first before I jump into the part of the blog you came here to read: The “head” is a boat bathroom, or toilet, which derives from old-time sailing ships in which the toilet area was placed at the head (or bow) of the ship. Just like how we sail today, those ships had to travel with the wind pushing the vessel forward, blowing from back to front. If you’ve ever been downwind of a cow pasture (or even your husbands rank farts… yeah I’m talking about you Chris) you’ll realize why sailors positioned the toilet upwind, away from all of the “action.” Now that you are fully equipped with proper nautical terminology, let’s get into this head refit, shall we?

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Here is the “before” photo

Our original thought for this refit was first and foremost to design and build a designated shower stall to do away with our wet-head. A wet head is a boat’s bathroom that serves as both the toilet/sink area as well as the shower compartment, meaning the sink and toilet get wet when you use the shower. Neither Chris nor I have ever been fans of wet heads, which was actually almost a turn off from buying Avocet in the first place. However, Chris assured me we could remodel the head and make it work- after all, there was more than enough space and it is virtually the same size as his moms Mason 43’s head which has a shower stall… or so we thought. Nonetheless, we got to my favorite part of boat projects: demolition.

Destroying the eyesore that was our head was very cathartic for me. It was like erasing an old picture so we could start with a blank canvas to create a masterpiece. We removed the headliner to be pleasantly surprised by the lack of mold and wish we could have upheld the same pleasantries when we deconstructed the vanity. The formica countertop was riddled with stains, and under each crack and edge there was black mold but that wasn’t the last of our misfortune acquired by our “treasure hunt”. Under the 4 small cubbies on the right of our countertop, we found combs, bobbi pins, and hair- lots, and lots of hair- all items essentially being relics from the previous ownership. It took a full day and a half to tear out the vanity, remove the plumbing, and unscrew the teak trim and once everything was removed we realized what we had gotten ourselves into.

 

 

 

Chris spent hours measuring and remeasuring trying to figure out how we could logistically fit a shower stall, sink, and toilet into the 4 x 4 space without compromising anything. It was very important to us that the bathroom feels like a home and not a camper, meaning we did not want a fold-down sink or some tiny shower that forced you to sit. At the end of the day we had the hard realization that a shower stall was not in the cards for our boat due to how the deck cuts into the head and various other things but then Chris and his brilliant mind had the thought: why don’t we just move the toilet and sink to one side and cover it with a shower curtain when we shower to keep the water off? and right then was when our new plan was born.

Naturally, a few days in Chris got called for a shoot in Colorado so he worked hard to reinstall the plumbing and leave me with a working toilet which was greatly appreciated. In his absence I wasn’t able to do much since it was raining but when there was a break in the weather I was quick to varnish the teak pieces we removed and equally as quick to move the pieces under our dodger to dry when the foul weather returned. A few days later when Chris got home it was back to work measuring, cutting, and building. It took him about 2 days to design and build a gorgeous new vanity to hold the vessel sink I picked out from Amazon. This is where I should probably mention that trying to find a suitable sink was one of the most challenging parts of this refit because not only was it difficult to find tiny sinks but it was also extremely hard to find one that didn’t cost more than our boat! Okay, that is a bit of an exaggeration but for real I was toying with the idea of making our own sink from teak but Chris wasn’t as fond of that thought so I decided to search trusty Amazon.com for something (anything) that would look good and not break the bank. Eventually, we decided on an awesome copper sink that fits in with the rest of the aesthetic we were aiming for. We also purchased an oil rubbed bronze faucet that matched perfectly. Something funny to mention is that our old sink and faucet were not only outdated, but the water didn’t even hit the middle of the sink! It hit right above the drain on the side which ended up making an absolute mess most of the time since the sink was also pretty shallow. Anyways, thanks to Amazon Primes quick delivery, Chris was able to finish the vanity and reinstall the plumbing so we had a working sink that was not only gorgeous but also much more functional than our previous arrangement.

 

 

 

With the new vanity in place and the teak veneer installed we were finally feeling better about our decision to remodel. However, we still didn’t have a countertop on the sink so Luckily Chris being the resourceful raccoon he is had a perfect idea. A while back there was a large solid teak door in our marina’s dumpster, so of course, my raccoon-like-husband pulled it from the trash, brought it back down to our boat and started using it as the teak for our countertops. This definitely saved us a pretty penny since the teak was about 2.5 inches thick and over well over 2 feet in length. Chris broke down the door and gave the teak to me to strip the varnish. When I finished all the pieces I handed them over to “Mr. I-can-build-anything” and he got to work making the countertops. When working with teak, we are very careful and often measure up to 3 times before making any cuts. We aren’t crazy, we just know the value of nice wood! Wow, that’s something I never thought I would say… anyways… Chris glued the pieces together using C-clamps for pressure. Once dry he took a hand saw to make the cuts. I was actually impressed by the simple technique he used for a perfect cut. Using another block of wood and a C-clap, Chris made a straight edge to follow while hand sawing to prevent him from cutting away from the line. It worked perfectly and soon after some sanding we had a beautiful teak countertop.

 

 

 

With the sink and toilet working we kind of abandoned the refit for a while, especially because we sailed to Catalina for Chris’s birthday in February then got busy with work. Excuses aside, we were itching to finish the head so once everything calmed down we got back into work mode. Something funny we realized was that there was a 110 outlet in the stern side of the head, meaning the outlet would have been exposed to water in the original wet head design. Chris hates wiring but bit the bullet and moved it to the bow side of the head, far away from where the water would be. The original plug actually had no breaker box around it so when we moved it to the bow side of the head it got a safety upgrade as well. In addition to the hole left by the outlet we filled and faired the tiny holes left by the previous owner (not sure what they were for?) and sanded away making sure the surfaces were flat and ready for paint. While moving the outlet Chris discovered dead space under our most-forward cabinet so we made the executive decision to cut out the false wall and build a shelf for soap, TP and other misc. things. The shelf is deep and backs all the way up to the hull which is great because the shelf is also removable so we can now access the sea cock underneath which was an absolute pain in the a$$ to get to beforehand.

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Chris after sanding

After many days of “glorious, glorious sanding” (thanks Mads, we say this a lot now) the head was ready for fresh paint. The color scheme beforehand is what I like to call asylum white, so we decided to go for something much more subtle. Do you know how many different shades of white there are?! 52. There are 52 shades of white and don’t even get me started on the white variations. After debating whether we wanted eggshell white, oyster white, or lace white we decided on oyster; not because the color was any different than the others but we just wanted to stick with the nautical theme (lol). So yeah, we slapped some oyster white oil-based paint on our freshly prepared walls and it made a huge difference. The paint actually had some texture to it, so the light was absorbed better than before when it reflected straight off the glossy white asylum veneer. Nothing like being blinded at 2:00 a.m. when you need to pee. Speaking of the light, Chris hated it. So he headed to one of our favorite places Mike’s Consignment in hopes of finding something better and guess what? Not only did we find something better, but we also found a light that had a red light for those night time bathroom adventures. Speaking of Mike’s you can find all of our old cabinets, sink, faucet and other things for sail (see what I did there?) in case you want your very own piece of Avocet! Probably not, but hey, just throwing it out there!

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Not bad!

We decided to build a little bench in the shower area so we can sit and shower while underway, so Chris got out the measuring tape and grabbed some leftover teak to make something beautiful. He did not disappoint either, the bench may be small but it really ties the space together and works good enough for our sized butts. However, I much prefer it as a footrest while shaving my legs or as a shampoo and conditioner shelf.

After the fresh paint job and the bench added we were ready to experiment with tiling. Neither of us had tiled before so after watching many YouTube tutorials, talking with our expert friends, and a lot of “we can do this” pep-talks we got into it- or should I say Chris got into it. I was working the day Chris decided to install the tile, so I had no physical hand in the installation besides choosing the tile itself. Chris decided to use epoxy as the adhesive since it is (in theory) more flexible than cement, and as you may or may not know: boats flex. Once the tile was placed Chris started to grout and learned quickly how fast you have to work before it sets! I got home when he was in the middle of grouting and man was he in the zone! After I helped him clean up we stood back and looked at the finished product and were absolutely stunned. How had we managed to transform a 4 x 4″ hideous space into something so luxury? Like, I’m sorry, is this a 1979 Cheoy Lee 41 or some luxury sailing yacht?

 

 

 

Built a vanity, moved the toilet, new sink, fresh paint, tiling… what am I missing? Oh yeah, a shower! I bought an awesome oil rubbed bronze handheld showerhead and faucet to match the rest of the appliances. Chris installed it easily and just like that, we had a SHOWER for the first time ever on Avocet! With a shower, Chris had to install a sump pump so back to Mikes Consignment he went and returned with just that. He also came home with a pull-switch so we can turn it on and off from inside the head. Everything was in place, the very last thing we had to do was get a shower curtain, which was a bit tricky due to the angles in our head. We attached buttons to the walls as well as the shower curtain so it can button in place when we shower and be unbuttoned it when we don’t need it. After looking on Pinterest for hours, I was inspired to install some mason jars to hold our soap, toothbrushes and etc. Once again I hopped on Amazon and found everything I needed to complete my vision. Chris attached everything and just like that the finishing touches were complete.

After 3 months of working hard, hardly working, and being so sick of walking to the marina showers we finally had a finished head. The day after we finished it Chris had a shoot in L.A. so I was honored to take the very first shower, and let me tell you… it was wonderful! I was clean and the boat was finally clean after months of project mode, it was a definite win. Of course, the fun didn’t end there though, at the end of every project we have to compile the footage and start editing for your viewing pleasure. Since this project took place over the span of months, it was pretty difficult to get the timeline in order so we decided to split the videos into 2 parts. As I write this I am multitasking waiting for the footage to render in Final Cut Pro for part 2, so I promise part 2 will be out soon! Until then, you can catch part 1 on our YouTube Channel and down below. Thanks for reading this far! Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and Facebook to stay up to date with our latest whereabouts. Until next time, Cheers!

~ Admiral Riss

The Catalina Wine Mixer

“It’s only going to take one day Chris,” said a very confident Jon who had just finished a 10-minute presentation on why Avocet’s wiring is dangerous and how he and Shannon could fix it before our sail to Catalina to celebrate Chris’s birthday. In all seriousness, our wiring situation had been neglected since Chris nor I really wanted to address it after our initial discovery of the mass headache that lied ahead when we were working on relocating the battery charger during our quarter berth project. Long story short, Jon and Shannon (Who together I shall refer to as “Prism”) worked diligently to find every wire’s beginning, end, and purpose while labeling each one along the way. The biggest issue found was our 110 (AC) was sharing grounds with our 12v (DC) side. HUGE fire hazard and electrolysis issue- which explains why our zink’s were only lasting 2 months. Honestly surprised we hadn’t caught fire and sank (ha-ha not really funny)! After cleaning out wires that lead to no where, melted wire, and a battery switch that had cracked in half due to heat, we pulled the trigger on a new panel with help from mama Neely and Prism. 2 days later Prism’s crew helped put it all together and we were no longer a floating firework display waiting to happen. 14 minutes after Jon installed the panel, we pushed off and headed south for Santa Catalina Island.

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Neely family bonding time

The air got colder against my cheeks, and my goosebumps prompted shivering despite my 3 layers of hoodies and windbreakers. It was our first-night passage, and I was excited yet nervous of the long night that lied ahead. We made it out of the “crab zone” which is the patch of ocean outside our harbor that is notoriously riddled with crab pots pretty much all the time. I sat on the bow with a flashlight keeping an eye out for obstacles until the horizon was free of glistening pots bobbing up and down. Back in the cockpit, Chris was bundled up with coffee and a book titled The Intricate Art of Living Afloat. “Want a cookie?” I asked as I pulled 7 Walmart chocolate chip cookies out of my pocket. Chris took one, and I shamelessly ate the other 6. Junk food only exists on Avocet when other people bring it aboard (I’m looking at YOU, Jon). Normally when we want sweets I bake, plus we don’t like sacrificing valuable storage to store sugary snacks- okay, the real reason is we can’t help ourselves I.E. I ate SIX cookies in one sitting. Back to the story:  I munched on the bad-for-you-yet-so-good cookies while reading Swell by Captain Liz Clark. If you haven’t read it yet I highly recommend it. Sometime around 1:00 a.m. we woke up Prism to take our place on watch so we could catch some much needed “Z’s”. Before waking the sleeping crew, Cleo was being spooned by Shannon and it was honestly one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen. I took my fur child to our quarters and fell asleep before Chris joined me.

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Sunrise as we near Catalina

Before I knew it our 4 hours in dreamland were up and we were back on watch. For some reason I was nauseous (couldn’t be the cookies, could it?) and napped it off until I was awoken by the sunrise. Feeling much better with the sun on my skin, I walked up to the bow to greet the new day. Dolphins joined us when Catalina was in sight and stuck with us for a while. I will never tire of watching them swim so gracefully beneath us and will always yell “dolphins” just like when driving in a car and cows are spotted, I will announce “cows” to the rest of the passengers- it’s just a thing, I know I’m not the only one and I know you know what I mean!

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“I’m not happy”

Chris and I were discussing the mooring process when we heard Cleo crying from the top step of the companionway. When I opened the door to investigate she darted out to the toe rail took one look over the side then looked back at us in the cockpit with the most concerned look on her face while letting out the biggest “I hate you” meow! Apparently, no one had told her we were underway (hehe)! It was hilarious but since we couldn’t find her life jacket without waking Prism, Chris scooped her up in his blanket and made her a “nest” which seemed to calm her down. She seemed content with our company and constant doting.

We arrived in Avalon around 9 in the morning. With Shannon’s help, I was able to secure the bowline and run the stern line to the back before I completely lost it. It was heavy, and I now realize that I need to do more pushups. Just like that, we were moored right in front of the pier and dinghy dock with a glorious view of Avalon’s famous Casino. I worked on breakfast while Chris launched the dinghy (Little Wing) preparing to pick up mama Neely and Tess who had flown in by helicopter. The cockpit was soon filled with family and laughter while we enjoyed mimosas to start our celebratory weekend! Jon decided it was warm enough to test the waters and made a not-so-graceful attempt at a swan dive. It’s okay Jon, I give you an 8 for maximum effort. Once we were full from breakfast and morning booze we rowed Little Wing to the dinghy dock and ventured up to the rental house that mama Neely had rented.

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Chris, Jon, Me, Mama Neely, Shannon, Tess

After stocking the rental fridge, the rest of the party showed up! We were so glad our friends Clarke, Rob and his lovely wife Brande were able to make it out to celebrate Chris’s birthday. That night was the first night I have ever cooked for a party of 9. At Chris’s request, I prepared eggplant parmesan, bacon green beans, pasta, salad (with Shannon’s amazing dressing) and my mom’s world famous Calypso Bread. Using a full-size oven again was weird, especially since it heated unevenly but luckily dinner was (eventually) served. The galley is my happy place and I find solace in cooking. Oddly enough it was a great way to decompress from our long night passage. The party relocated from the rental to the shoreline and sang their hearts out, for real, you could hear our party from the other side of the cove!

Saturday morning we got dressed and prepared for a full day of exploration and memory making. Chris and I went parasailing which was a gift from Tess and it was a first for both of us. Being 400 feet above the water was a new sensation, and we admired the island from this new perspective. We waved to the family on shore while Jon and Tess were on the boat snapping shots of us dangling in the air above them. It was a rad experience and I’m thankful it happened! After that first adventure, I needed some warmer attire as the dark clouds began to circle Avalon- something that was really cool to watch from the sky might I add! We rowed back so I could change and reunited with the party at Luau Larry’s where we found them inside a cave- not joking, an actual cave which was probably good since we are a loud group. Rob had ordered a signature drink called the Wicky Whacker and was given a hat to accompany his soon to be inebriation. once finished, he the privilege of rubbing a wooden tiki 3 times for a… uh… special surprise. Luckily, we captured that special moment on film! If you are in Avalon, head over to Luau Larry’s and order yourself a Wicky Whacker, only then will you fully understand what I mean!

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Chris and I, Avocet to our right

After our drinks, we emerged from the cave and went to rent golf carts. The first location refused to rent to us due to Rob’s hat (not kidding) and despite the fact that he wouldn’t have been one of the drivers they still turned us away. We tried the other location and secured 2 carts, immediately handing over the keys to the sober drivers in the group and then began exploring Catalina. The lush hillsides, ominous clouds and breaking waves along the shore reminded us of Jurassic park yet Shannon’s driving reminded us of Indiana Jones prompting us to sing (very loudly, might I add) the Indiana Jones theme song down the streets of Avalon. We reached the top of our first lookout and admired the view below. In our sight was our Avocet, surrounded by the beauty of the island. It was most definitely a moment for Chris and me, we looked at each other and said: “we live there”!

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Avalon. Can you see Avocet?

We drove back through the main streets and Tess initiated that we all do Chinese fire drills which in retrospect was probably not the best way to conserve our 2-hour rental time with the carts BUT it made for some pretty funny moments! We made it all the way up to the Botanical Garden’s which was one of my favorite places. The Wrigley Memorial at the top provided a breathtaking view and a quality photo opportunity for us all. There was even a solid bronze door that caught Christopher’s attention and I swear he spent a good 5 minutes admiring it. “Think it would fit on the boat?” Sorry hun, no chance this time.

 

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Rowing back to Avocet, Little Wing can carry up to 3 passengers! how about that freeboard?!

We returned the carts and by 2:00 Clarke and I were getting hangry so we ducked into the closest Mexican Food restaurant to subdue our hanger. The rest of the party joined us and we indulged in tacos, taquitos, quesadillas, margaritas, pina-coladas, micheladas…. you get the point. Our food coma led to cat naps at the rental house followed by a new game I bought Chris as a birthday gift called “Drunk, Stoned or Stupid” and it was pretty hilarious! We realized that our friends hadn’t been aboard Avocet yet, so after a few dinghy trips, we all were sitting in the salon cracking jokes and telling stories. I am amazed that we can comfortably seat 7 adults around our table, something that is not too common on a boat.

Time ticked by and we were once again ready to go out and party. Tess had signed us all up for Karaoke at the bar next to Luau Larry’s called El Galleon and after a few rounds of drinks, it was hilarious to watch our friends and family perform. I say “watch” because I have social anxiety and don’t usually do well in the spotlight, but as crazy as it was… I was somehow roped on stage to sing 1 song with Chris. I think between the 6 singers in our group they sang all of the classics. At one point in the night, the table next to us asked if our group practiced which made me giggle because I know how talented the Neely’s are and it’s hard to believe that they are just “that good” at performing! We shut the bar down at 1:00 a.m. and after blowing out the candles on his birthday cake, Chris was ready for bed.

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Rob, Jon, Tess and Chris getting into their rendition of Santaria by Sublime

A long night of celebratory drinks led to the following morning of dehydration and exhaustion. Chris and I pulled ourselves out of bed to see the family off. That was the last we saw Jon and Shannon since they have made their way back to Prism. It was emotional for Chris since he misses his big brother being around, but we were very thankful to have them join us on our first-night watch and long passage. By 11:00 a.m. Chris and I were the only Neely’s on Catalina Island. We soaked up the bad decisions from the night before with Pizza at a place that overlooked the moorings. The wind picked up and the rain came down as we watched the Budweiser flag on Avocet violently flap back and forth, all from the warmth and dryness of the restaurants’ booth. When there was a break in the weather, we headed out to get some shots of the arches by the casino and then decided to get some sleep.

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Flukey wind and choppy swell

It rained all night. The pitter patter of the rain falling on deck was soothing as we rocked back and forth so gently. The winds howled and halliards from boats farther away sang. We woke up when the rain ceased at 6:00, stowed the cabin and released ourselves from the mooring at 6:30. The sun was barely showing itself over the horizon as I prepared the much-needed coffee. I handed Chris his mug while he maneuvered away from Catalina. We waved goodbye and set our course for 314 degrees North. However, the wind was coming directly from that initial heading and due to the high winds (20 knots), it was too uncomfortable combined with the 5 ft. swell every 5 seconds which was more closely described as chop. We could only make up to 4 knots with the motor and our small prop which is hard on us as well as the boat so Chris decided to bare off and make 3 to 4 tacks upwind before we got clear of the island which was shifting the winds against our favor. When we got out of the lee of the island we were greeted with clean air. We were close hauled on an upwind tack that brought us all the way home. It’s amazing how many things you can do to keep yourself busy while spending 11 hours at sea. I almost finished reading Swell but couldn’t bear to read the end quite yet so I switched to playing the ukulele. Chris napped, then I napped. He read his book, then filmed a bit. I grabbed the camera when he set it down and filmed him in his element. Cleo laid in the sun under the dodger. Chris named all of our clothespins with a sharpie (an idea he gathered from Prism). We discussed future projects and plans. Right when we were running out of things to keep us busy we were joined by a large group of dolphins. I made myself comfortable on the bow watching them dance below us and leap out of the water. I laid flat to get a close look and meet them eye to eye. Nature amazes me.

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The captain assessing the situation

We arrived back in our slip at 6:00 p.m. and I prepared dinner while Chris topped off our barely used water tank. It’s amazing how virtually doing nothing all day can be so exhausting. Cleo ran outside and seemed very comfortable with the fact that we returned home since she stretched out on deck. As I write this, it has been a week since our Island getaway and we are so incredibly excited to share the footage with you. Luckily Jon helped us film while we were there so we can make some sort of a video recap for you all that you can find on our youtube channel! Mama Neely and Tess are back in the snowy mountains, our friends are home in the central valley, Jon and Shannon are making their way back to Prism all while Avocet’s crew is busy drafting the plans for our next escape and working hard to fund it all. Chris and I are both another year older, another year wiser, and another project closer to pushing off and beginning our wild circumnavigation journey. We thank you all for all the support and birthday wishes! Cheers, ~Marissa, SV Avocet

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Exhausted after our long “sail” upwind.

 

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

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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

 

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.

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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!

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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.

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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

Q & A with SV Avocet

I can not tell you how many people give me funny looks when I tell them I live on a boat. In their heads, it does not add up. “Where do you sleep? Is there like… a kitchen? Aren’t you afraid of sinking? OMG how much stuff did you have to get rid of?!” In retrospect, those are actually pretty decent questions but we never really put much thought into the little things that seem to make peoples heads spin. So, with that said we asked our Instagram followers to send us all their questions so we could answer them in a video and we got some great questions! I will answer our favorites here:

      1. Why do you live on a boat?

Why do you live on land? All sass aside, we chose this lifestyle because we were sick of renting and didn’t necessarily want to commit to one location forever. On a sailboat we are able to call anywhere we go “home” which I think is pretty neat. This lifestyle will allow us to see the world from quite literally the comfort of our own home. It is also a simple lifestyle, we only take what we need and most importantly we are able to see how our choices effect the environment. We think twice about what we use to clean our boat and what we throw away because we literally see the affects of pollution on the ocean everyday.

      2. What are your sailing plans? 

We have been discussing this a LOT lately. We would really like to casually “race” in the TransPac or PacCup in 2020; both are regattas which sail from Long Beach to Hawaii which takes about 14 days. Some boats are in it to win it, where as we would be only semi-competitive. It would just be a cool experience to meet new people and make like-minded friends that are doing the same trek we are. From Hawaii, we are thinking about sailing to Alaska. Crazy temperature change, am I right? We want to see Alaska before global warming completely changes its environment, plus have you seen the incredible photography that comes from there?

      3. What are your favorite parts of your boat?

Woohoo! I love this question. For me (Marissa), my favorite part of Avocet is our galley. There is so much counter space for baking, the fridge is the biggest I have ever seen on a boat, and I love the way it is set up. It is pretty much mid ship, which is rad because I love entertaining and feeding people. A close second on my list would be our Aft Cabin. Chris and I really wanted a boat that had an aft cabin so we didn’t have to sleep in the V-berth. Our cabin has 2 closets (both mine… thanks Chris!) and 4 drawers. We also have good airflow from our hatch and port light which is always a plus. Chris’s favorite part(s) of Avocet are our new rig, which features a tapered mast which prevents the mast from pumping in high wind. He also loves the amount of lazaret space, our deck and of course our huge cockpit. Chris basically likes all of the technical perks of our boat. Go figure *wink*.

      4. Future Projects?

Ah, are projects ever done? I feel like there are ALWAYS projects… I suppose that is just the joy of boat ownership. In all seriousness we do have a couple big projects on the horizon. We need to varnish the whole interior since, as you can see, our whole freaking interior is teak veneer- which is awesome when it is taken care of! However, the previous owner did not keep up on the teak maintenance as much as we would have liked, but its nothing some fresh varnish can’t fix. We will also be raising our pilot berth so it will be a bit-smaller-queen size bed rather 2 twin bunks, making it perfect for a couple to stay the night aboard. The last “major” project we will be doing is making a stall shower in our head. Our head (bathroom, for you land lubbers) is a “wet-head” as of right now, which means EVERYTHING is made to get wet and wipe down after a shower. Wet-heads are great, but since we have the space for a stall shower we are making a stall shower. It will be small, but we will basically be reconstructing a whole half of the head. We will definitely be taking pictures and videos during all these projects so stay tuned for those!

I hope that I was able to answer a few of your questions! Check out our video for the complete Q and A. As always, thank you for reading and following our adventures of boat ownership. Until next time, Cheers! ~ SV Avocet Crew