Operation: Haul Out

Where to start, where to start… it has been a while since I have written a blog update and after a recent dinner with friends, I was inspired to put a pen to paper (well, fingers to keys) and write out what we have been up to lately. A lot has happened since our last blog entry; we ended up moving Avocet to Ventura which is much more convenient for boat projects as well as work purposes not to mention that Tthe boatyard is right next door, all of the supply shops we go to are nearby, and our new neighborhood is pretty freakin’ sweet! We do miss our old neighbors very much… but thankfully we are just a hop, skip and a jump away and can meet them at Toppers Pizza to catch up on the latest dock talk (Hi Sven, Nancy, Gene, Patti, Don, and Sarah! We miss you!)

I feel like after our New Years’ kiss I blinked and when I opened my eyes it was already March 1st- where has the time gone? January was spent settling into our new slip and getting ready for our latest project(s) while February was a huge project in itself with a sprinkle of birthday fun in the middle. Chris and I began remodeling our nav station to be a more functional and attractive part of our boat while simultaneously preparing for our haul out in March. Once the bones of the nav station were constructed, we pressed paused and changed course to prepping the exterior for our boatyard stay. Chris and I worked together to removed the lifelines, stanchions, pushpit, pulpit and of course the biggest pain of all: our toe rail.

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One of our stainless steel stanchions in a bronze base plate… a great example of dissimilar metal corrosion on our boat.

When we first bought Avocet, Chris and I knew the toe rail and stanchions were weak parts of the boat, which was especially annoying since it was a major source of leaks, contributing to the Cheoy “Leak” nickname. With that said, Chris had temporarily fixed the problem by doing a bead of TDS along the seam which did actually prevent most of the leaking. However, after we removed what was left of the 190 bolts that held the toe rail together, we realized just what we were in for.

Over the course of 40 years, the stainless carriage bolts fastened with bronze nuts had lost most of their structural integrity due to crevasse corrosion which was a direct result of dissimilar metals. A majority of the bolts broke off at deck level when we were removing the toe rail, while the rest had broken off sometime in the last 40 years. This discovery explained a lot about the minor leaking issue we had when we first bought the boat back in 2018. After removing 12-inch sections of our teak toe rail (plus 2 longer sections that our spinnaker/genoa track wasn’t letting go of) we boxed up the usable teak for a later project and continued to punch the broken bolts down through the deck so we could retrieve them down below – it reminded me of pulling rotten teeth! Once the bolts were removed, I had the fabulous job of learning how to contort my body to access small spaces and aluminum tape the holes from the inside so Chris could fill them with epoxy from above. This would be a good place to mention our deck to hull joint (DTHJ) was completely different from what we had originally thought. Due to the inner side of the deck to hull joint being glassed, Chris had suspected the outer side of the DTHJ to be glassed as well. However, that was not the case. An open seam was visible and although the old toe rail was probably not structurally reliable anymore, it appears that it was originally designed to be a part of the structure. With that said, we will be glassing the DTHJ during our boatyard stay to make it strong and replace the toe rail with bulwarks.

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When the epoxy was dry we washed off the deck for the first time in a long time and watched the water-poor over the side where a toe rail used to catch it. As we took a step back to look at our naked looking boat Chris and I shared mixed emotions about the month ahead. We knew we had a long list of projects that would be physically and mentally demanding while partnered with the stresses of living on the hard which is essentially like living in the desert during a Skrillex concert; no water, very dusty, and the sound of obnoxious (yet somehow rhythmic) power tools.

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The last week of February was spent crossing final items off our list. We removed our pedestal, both our quadrants and built a new emergency tiller all in preparation to drop our rudder as soon as we got hauled out so we could begin working on replacing all the bearings along with checking up on the rudder shoe and the packing gland (you know, the thing that’s supposed to keep water out of the bilge). I did my final tidying below deck in anticipation of a whirlwind to roll through our tiny home – hopefully, the mess won’t get too terribly bad.

March 3rd was our haul-out date and we woke up confident as well as a little anxious. Chris started the engine and I cast off the bow lines then jumped aboard as we used the emergency tiller to get out of our slip and over to the yard. Luckily, the boatyard was less than a football field away from our slip, which made it just a bit easier to back into the slip where they lifted Avocet out (which was scary)  before power washing what was left of her ablative paint from 15 years ago and blocking her in the far corner of the yard. I will save the details for the next blog which will be dedicated to our boatyard stay, but as I finish typing this we are sitting safely 9 feet above the ground nice and snug aboard our tree house boat anticipating the many days of work ahead.

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All 8+ Tons of our floating home, elevated above us.

Thank you for reading along and following our journey! We look forward to sharing Avocet 2.0 with you very soon. If you would live to come to help us with our projects, feel free to reach out!

Cheers!

~ Marissa, Chris, and Cleo ~

P.S. We are well stocked with beer (or juice) for helping hands.

 

Hello,​ Roaring 20s!

As I sit here attempting to encapsulate everything that happened over the span of 12 months, I feel like time passed by in a blink. I have spent the last weeks of 2019 and the beginning of 2020 trying to write this very blog. Usually, I am inspired by recent events and can not wait to pour my thoughts out onto the screen, but for some reason every time I sit down to collectively type about 2019, the enthusiasm leaves and I am left with a blank screen and a lack of motivation. Although typing and erasing my words doesn’t give the same satisfaction as crumpling up a page and tossing it into the wastebasket, I do find comfort in knowing that this year was so important to me that I want to write this blog as near to perfect as I can, no matter how many revisions. So, I guess let’s just jump on into it!

Our 2019 started off with a BANG as we danced into the New Year at China Peak Mountain Resort, our tradition going on 5+ years. The fireworks show lit up the night sky while Chris DJ’d the party, setting the mood for the new year. The week following New Years Day, I flew to Las Vegas, NV to attend the Consumer Technology Association (CES) Conference on behalf of one of my clients. It was incredible to be surrounded by so much technology and be introduced to new and exciting people, it was an experience I will not forget. As much as I was enjoying the conference and being back in the Silver State, I was pretty boat sick and missed my little family. When I touched down in Burbank, Chris was there flowers-in-hand waiting to take me back home. To wrap up January, Jon and Shannon flew home for Grandma Alice’s celebration of life. She had passed away on December 30th, 2018 at the age of 93 years old and was one of the sweetest women I have ever met in my life, who defined style and exuberance. In her honor, Mama Neely and Tess threw the most wonderful celebration of life with all of grandma’s friends and family. Jon and Shannon flew back for the occasion which excited us all to get some extra time with them before they returned back to work on their Hans Christian 33, Prism. While in the mountains, we were able to enjoy the fresh snow with some good friends, Mitch and Quincy who are the crew of S/V Esprit, a beautiful KP 46. Anytime a group of sailors gets together, it is bound to be a great time.

Screen Shot 2020-01-03 at 11.03.51 PM.pngJanuary was over in a blink, which was the reoccurring theme of 2019. Chris and I both celebrated our birthday’s in February, Chris turning the big 2-1 and myself turning 22. We sailed to Catalina Island to celebrate with the whole family and our very best friends. The sail from Channel Islands Harbor to Avalon was our first-night passage aboard Avocet. 14 hours later, we made it to Avalon safe and sound where we connected with the rest of our friends and family onshore. It was a great week exploring the town and soaking in every last moment with Jon and Shannon before they left to finish refitting Prism. When the time came to depart, we hugged everyone goodbye and set sail for Channel Islands Harbor; just Chris, Cleo and I. A few days after we returned home from our Catalina adventure, Chris surprised me with a trip to Disneyland! Since my birthday is February 14th, also known as Valentines’ Day or the “Hallmark Holiday”, the whole park was decorated with hearts and cupids as lovers gallivanted through the different lands. It was absolutely perfect.

In March, we decided to take a break from our own boat projects and drive to Berekely where Mitch and Quincy were on the hard-working on Esprit. After a long day of helping Esprit’s crew, we were treated with delicious food prepared by Quincy, who is a master galley chef as well as a nutritionist- check out her Instagram here! It was nice to be in the bay again, aboard Mama Neely’s Mason 43 which is the boat that helped inspire the Neely boys to become true sailors.

When we returned home from the bay, we finally finished our head refit. Naturally, the project lasted longer than anticipated due to conflicting schedules. It was half-finished when we sailed to Catalina, essentially just in “working” condition but we were still steps away from completely finished. I can not tell you how good it felt to lay the tile and finish painting… it actually almost felt as good as the first shower aboard did! We were ecstatic and to this day, our head is still the crowning jewel of our refit portfolio.

54257349_2235567589835785_4864024508232630272_o.jpgWe closed out the month by hosting my 6th(?) annual Jib Jam at China Peak, a skiing/snowboarding competition that benefits charity. In 2019 I chose to send the proceeds to Protect Our Winters (POW) an organization dedicated to environmental activism and overall, protecting winter. The Jib Jam was a great success, all of my friends young and old came out to support which always means so much to me. We raised over $300 for POW and made a lot of memories. little did I know it would be the last time I hugged one of my biggest supporters, Shane, who passed away later that year from a motorcycle accident. Shane was one of my favorite people to snowboard with, he

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Shane Cole, MC’ing my 2014 event

taught me so many tricks and above anything taught me how to be confident in my riding abilities which naturally correlated to me becoming more confident in myself as a person. I could always count on him to be at any of my events, even with a broken arm! In that case, I had him commentate which was extra funny due to the pain killers. This year, in 2020, I am pleased to announce that my Jib Jam will benefit the Shred Life Foundation, A foundation created on behalf of Shane dedicated to supporting adolescents who share a passion for extreme sports and may have setbacks that prevent them to do so. Shred Life is a company that sells apparel whose profits will sponsor and benefit fellow shredders providing equipment, lift tickets, medical bills, etc. and give those the opportunity to share Shane’s love for the outdoors. Thank you for being who you were Shane, I will never forget you.

 

In May we were thrilled to be invited to participate in the Home Port Regatta, a regatta specifically for cruisers and liveaboards, aka… us “slower” folks. It was our first time sailing Avocet semi-competitively but she stunned us with her speed on the water. We don’t have a spinnaker, so already at a disadvantage, we did our best to tack strategically and keep our eye on the horizon for lifts. To our absolute surprise, we finished the race in 11th place out of 20+ boats! In 2020 you better bet your rum we will be back out there on the start line, this time with more strategy and determination to make the top 10. A few weeks after the regatta, my good friend from college, Angel, flew out from Boston to visit us. It was really our first time hosting a non-family member so I felt obligated to go all out and be the hostess with the mostess.

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Angel making a new friend

I prepared a “Welcome” gift basket and planned out some fun things to do to give Angel the best California experience… if only the weather got my memo. The Santa Ana’s were not quite finished blowing yet, and we got hit with a nasty cold spell bringing cold harsh breezes making our attempted beach day more of an impromptu natural “spa treatment” thanks to the sand blowing against our bikini-clad bodies. All I can say is: I tried. One of the highlights of Angel’s visit was taking her to a Taco truck we newly discovered called Mom and Pops. We fell in love with even more menu items and have since become good friends with Mom and Pops family; Diego, if you are reading this… thank you for your hard work and excellent food! We are so thankful we have you as a friend. If you are in Ventura, be sure to check them out! Here is their Instagram: @momandpops 

It is so wild that we have already been married for one full year. Chris and I celebrated our very first wedding anniversary in Chris’s hometown Shaver Lake, where we got married. My cousins Ryan and Rony joined us at the local bar where we were thrilled to see at least 6 of our other friends already inside- an absolute bonus! We played pool, drank, sang along awfully to the country music playing and then eventually made it back home and sank into the hot tub, which melted all our mistakes away. Clarke, one of our best friends and also our wedding officiant joined us the following day along with Chris’s highschool bud Turner who came up the mountain to continue the celebration.

It didn’t take us long after we returned home to Stowe away the cabin and set sail for Santa Cruz Island: our first voyage to the island of the summer, and our first time anchoring without Jon and Shannon aboard. It was incredible to sail with the sunrise, arriving at Potato Bay just after daybreak. We had a wonderful weekend exploring the island and took pleasure in knowing that we would be returning again very soon. You can read all about that adventure here or watch the video recap on YouTube!

Why we started varnishing our stateroom in the middle of the “island” season, I have no idea, but I am glad we did it even despite the amount of time it took. Chris got a fire under his butt to start working on something, his hands were idle for far too long. It was our first time varnishing the interior of our boat, so we went through a few trials and errors. Chris invested in a spray gun which resulted in needing a box fan to ventilate and decrease overspray. We also painted the large locker under our bed, moving our hot water heater and a brand new diesel tank into space in preparation for our upcoming diesel heater project! There are so many details regarding this seemingly minor project, it gives me a headache just thinking about it. So, to save my sanity (and probably yours as well) check out the video on YouTube!

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red, white, and YOU!

July seemed like such a short month. We celebrated the 4th of July at home, watching the festivities from our boat with our friend Anna while the hustle and bustle ensued around us. Naturally, the morning after the marina was completely trashed. Chris and I went on a walk to collect as much garbage as we could to do our part, but despite our efforts I know it wasn’t enough. We would have needed at least a crew of 20 or more friends to have joined us to make the marina absolutely spotless… better yet, we just need people to step up and throw away their trash properly! A new goal for 2020: take a walk every day with a bag, and fill it with trash. Small pieces, big pieces, I don’t care! I challenge you, reader, to do the same. We all live here on this earth together, let’s be the best caretakers we possibly can be in 2020!

68958558_2504553056270569_3701658443556323328_n.jpgWe were so excited to sail our Victory 21 in the High Sierra Regatta at Huntington Lake, a yearly tradition. 2019 was extra special because on the same weekend it was also our fleets National Regatta! Chris and I made the executive decision to ditch the 300-pound lead bubble that was attached (aftermarket) to our keel since we were one of the last boats in our fleet to still have one. Completely convinced it was the bubbles’ fault we were getting our butts handed to us sailing downwind, we made do with the tools we had and tried to pry that sucker off. Did I mention we were unprepared for the severity of the project? Well after 6+ hours of using screwdrivers, hammers, and anything else we could possibly use as a crowbar… our nephew Troy who sat silently watching us casually mentions that there is an actual crowbar on the side of the rental house. Thanks, kiddo. A couple amounts of pure force did the trick, and we were finally bubble-free. After a little sanding, fairing, and temporary painting we were ready for bed. Bright and early the next morning, we towed our boat to the lake where we rigged and launched. Then it was race time. The boat was much more responsive-without the extra weight, and we pointed just as high as we did before. To be quite honest, the issues did not lie with our modification, it lied with the rest of the boat which had been neglected. If you read our blog, you know we lost our cap shroud mid-race, lost a cam cleat, had some play in our tiller and had the oldest bottom paint in the fleet. It was clear after our horrible 4 days of nonstop torture on the water that we need to put some love into our little boat and in the Spring of 2020 we plan to do just that… just in time for the next High Sierra Regatta. Look our Uncle Scooter and Uncle Chuck… we are coming for you!

When we lived in Lake Tahoe, I had an amazing job working with animals at the Pet Network Humane Society. I managed the front office in addition to helping take care of all the animals which were a great experience for me! I deeply missed working with animals in need, and my baby fever (yes we are young, yes we are waiting, but YES I do still get baby fever) was kicking in so when I saw a post on Facebook looking for a bottle feeder for a 3-day old kitten I took the leap and offered my assistance. 3 hours later, a tiny little ball of fleas and dirty fur was delivered to me. I brought him home where Chris and I dove right into doting on him. A few hours of flea picking and a little bath later, we named our new temporary crew member Atlas. We had always thought Cleo would be a great mama cat, but boy were we wrong. She did not like sharing attention with Atlas one bit, but a few hours later she began to tolerate his tiny presence and squeeks, taking pity on him, and licking the top of his tiny head. Just one or two licks though, she ran away somewhere high out of reach afterward.

Atlas filled our boat with so many precious “mews” as he rolled around, still unable to open his eyes. He made working on boat projects like completely restoring our portlights fun and difficult since he liked to attack feet and needed attention ever hour. However, we made it work and a couple weeks later we had sparkling portlights and cabin sides. Atlas-the-boat-catlass accompanied me to work, making friends with all the boaters and making toys out of anything that landed on the floor. Cleo became more tolerant of the tiny tyrant and played with him every once in a while taunting him with her out of reach tail grazing over his ever-growing head. When he started teething, he began chewing on Cleo’s face. We expected her to teach him that his behavior was inappropriate but she completely ignored his existance and let him carry on. As we rolled into September, my parents arrived for a visit to the Island so we gave Atlas to his new furever family, one of our best friends Mallory who took him in as a trial-run while we were away.

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our wonderful neighbor Sven captured this shot

A week before my parents arrived, we made a last-minute trip to Sacramento to buy our dream dinghy! Even before we had Avocet, we always wanted a Fatty Knees sailing dinghy, designed by Lyle Hess. UNfortunately, they are very hard to come by and very expensive brand new which is why when the opportunity presented itself we took the plunge and drove my subaru north. Long story short, the woman who was selling it used to be a cruiser aboard an Islander 36 with her husband who has passed. She had a garage full of memories and boat things in addition to our dream dinghy. We purchased it from her, and promised to keep in touch since we could tell it had been hard for her to part ways with it. Previous ownder, if you are reading this, we want you to know that you made one of our dreams come true and we promise to continue cherishing and taking good care of this dink!

It was a good thing we had invested in the Fatty when we did, because when my parents came to go sailing to Santa Cruz with us in September, we really needed it! That trip was such an adventure, it was my families first time “really” sailing, let alone staying aboard at anchorage. They handled everything great, even when we almost lost our anchor chain and got caught in a nasty 45+ knt wind… but im sure you read that story or watched the video. When we returned back to our slip safe and sound we said goodbye to my family and began to decompress. Mallory and Atlas (who had since been named Sassy Mittens, or “Mittens” for short) had bonded, making us nothing but more confident in our decision to have her be his adoptive family. With the peace and quiet, we began brainstorming our next project and adventure, realizing our year was already almost over.

In October, or “Spooky Season” as I like to refer to it, we flew to Annapolis Maryland where Prism was, to celebrate Jon’s 30th birthday! It was a family affair, so we were joined by Mama Neely, Sister Tess, and Best Friend Clarke for the occasion. We had a blast exploring the city and meeting new friends as well as visiting with our extended family (on both sides) who accompanied us in D.C. for an “adventure day”. You can watch our little recap video on YouTube since I didn’t write a blog, I hope you enjoy it! And before you ask because I KNOW you will… YES! Jon and Shannon are in fact still filming, editing, and producing videos. They will have a new upload in 2020, so stay tuned!

When we returned home, Atlas- I mean, uh… Mittens…- was just about 2 months old meaning it was time for his parts to get snipped. Since Mallory has 4 dogs and 2 kids, we agreed that it would be best little kitty healed up in the comfort of his floating home with Chris and I tending to his every demanding need. Cleo was less than enthused with Atlas- I mean MITTENS- re arrival, and hissed the biggest hiss at him, booped his head, and hid in our room for the duration of 3 days. I don’t blame her either, Mittens was just big enough to start jumping on her back in attempts to play and she was not having any part of that. Our little fluffy terrorist was home for Halloween, so it was only fitting he partook in the holiday. Chris and I were dressed as Dr. Indiana Jones and Lara Croft, while Cleo was our little pumpkin and Mittens was… BATlass-the-boat-catlass! Having his fluffy butt back aboard for a few days was wonderful, but we were so happy to return him to his furever home where he can chase around his dog siblings and demand things from his new humans. If you are interested in becoming a foster parent or donating to a great cause, check out Surf Cat Adoptions, who connected us with our foster baby Atlas/Mittens.

B590FD53-85A5-4824-A3A9-10D3DF12DE70October ended right after I had fulfilled my Rocky-Horror-viewing-quota and we resumed our lives a little less-spooky. We were featured in the local magazine, Anchor Magazine, which gave us a “neighbor spotlight”. It was so cool to see ourselves on the cover in a romantic, novella-esque pose… it makes me giddy every time I look at it. The day we picked up the magazines was the day one of my best friends Megan came to visit us. It was her first time really sailing so we decided to give her an easier experience and sail to Ventura for a little staycation. It didn’t take long for word to get around that we had arrived, soon our cockpit was filled with our friends and we shared laughter and cocktails while enjoying the famous Ventura Sunset. Megan left us to host her bear rally in Lake Tahoe, in an effort to advocate for the local bears. She is an incredible person and will never cease to amaze me. I hope we get to visit again soon!

Thanksgiving is a big deal on the Hushaw side. My aunt and uncle do a wonderful job hosting us all for dinner, and fortunately Christopher’s family opts for a Thanksgiving lunch making it easy to spend time with both of our extended families since they live within 30 minutes of each other! It is always wonderful to reflect back on what we are thankful for and my, my do we sure have a lot this year. We are thankful for our floating home, good health, steady jobs, and the future. I always wish holidays like Thanksgiving would last a little longer so we had a proper amount of time to visit with family, but in 2020 it is one of our goals to spend more of our time with the ones we love.

80690098_2777237622335443_6453807288502190080_nRight when I thought we couldn’t possibly eat anymore, December greeted us with treats and sweets completely testing my (lack) of self control. We were so excited that the first week of December brought loads of snow to the mountains, resulting in China Peak opening. We loaded up and drove north to get some turns in and film some commercial content for the resort. It felt so good to have my board underneath me again, but as much as I miss the snow I wouldn’t trade my life afloat for anything. Another reason I am excited to sail to Alaska: best of both worlds! Back in June, mama Neely gifted us a spa day as an anniversary gift. due to our busy schedule, we were unable to cash it in until December, but we are so glad we did! Since it was the “off season” Glen Ivy spa was basically all to ourselves which meant we got to enjoy all 17 pools and the mud spa with just eachothers company. It was a relaxing day spent soaking and enjoying a massage treatment, Glen Ivy has definitely become one of our favorite date spots. As much as we stress saving money, we realize that it is healthy to take care of ourselves mentally and physically so spending a hundred dollars every once in a while to do something that takes care of “us” makes it all worth it.

A week or so after our spa day, our new friends at Remora Marine came to visit and film some promotional video with us and of course Avocet herself. We haven’t really announced anything yet since I wanted to wait for a full video in 2020, but we are partnering with Remora Marina as our first official sponsor! We received their Remora Solo hull cleaner to try out, and we are thoroughly impressed. Chris is such a nerd with that kind of stuff he was so excited to pick the Remora Reps’ brains about specs and such. We have much more to tell you, but I am afraid it will have to wait for a little later this month. Stay tuned!

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Merry Christmas from Aptos, CA!

Of course, Christmas and New Years capped off our 2019 in an epic way. On Christmas Eve, we drove to Santa Cruz to spend the night and Christmas morning with my family, opening gifts and seeing what the jolly ol’ fat man brought us. Naturally, my parents wanted to see their favorite (and only) grand cat so Cleo came along to partake in the Christmas fun. She was doted on by “grandpa” who gifted her new toys (that she has since demolished) and investigated by my two curious golden retrievers who still don’t seem to understand what a “cat” really is. We enjoyed our sweet but short time, and then packed up the car and headed to the mountains to spend Christmas day and night with Christopher’s family. We are so thankful for our families and the generous gifts they gave. My family gifted us new bedding which we direly needed since we have been using Chris’s comforter from when he was a kid (and I think it was Jon’s prior) for the past… 4 years! Christopher’s mom also gave us a very thoughtful gift: new foul weather gear! We are more excited than ever to go sailing again, and can’t wait for our adventures in the new year. Speaking of New Year’s, we continued our yearly tradition of ringing in the new year at China Peak where Chris and I DJ’d the party. This year, I actually had my hands in the planning process and decided to make it a Roaring 20’s themed party… seemed appropriate given the fact we are going back into the 20’s! The event went off without a hitch, people even came dressed in 20’s attire! I was very proud of the success, so proud we took all of New Years Day to recoperate from our “celebrating”. A memorable moment from the party for Chris was being recognized as “Chris from S/V Avocet” while shuffling gear around on the ski resorts day lodge deck, which made us both feel very proud and humbled that people really like following our story. If you are reading this, new friend, cheers!

On the 2nd, we drove back home to Avocet and prepared her for our next adventure: surprise! We are moving harbors! Ventura Harbor was so nice, we decided to take the plunge and move Avocet there which will be more convenient for work and project purposes while we continue to outfit our boat for our big crossings. Although we will miss our little “neighborhood” in Channel Islands Harbor, it will only be an 11 minute drive and a 1 hour sail away. Right now as I am writing this, Chris is stowing the cabin preparing for the move in the morning. We canceled our internet, ended our contract and are ready for the changes and excitement the New Year will bring us. This morning we hit 2000 subscribers on YouTube and are just 100 followers shy of the same on Instagram- I can not tell you how much it means to us that you enjoy our story. We hope to meet you all someday, whether it be on the water or on shore somewhere. Cheers to 2020!

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“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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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: https://www.instagram.com/svavocet/?hl=en

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