Since we bought Avocet in 2018, Chris and I have carried on our little tradition of “Decking the Hull,” every December, our salty version of decorating for the holidays. Although we had every intention of continuing the cheerful tradition of digging out our minimal decorations, filming a little skit, and spreading holiday cheer through the internet, our recent cruising misadventures sort of threw a wrench – or Grinch – into the mix.
“I don’t have the energy for this” I mumbled from “my” side of the dinette. I had been in my pajamas all day while the rain came down in sheets outside. The Gentle “pitter patter” against the cabin top turned into a full on cascade of water, uninterrupted, giving Avocet a fresh water rinse. We had been in Morro Bay for a few weeks, waiting out a weather window to continue south, but then more pressing matters put a pause on our plans. Before arriving we endured a very nasty engine issue that resulted in our decision to stay a little longer, ultimately deciding to pull anchor and rent a slip so we could spend time with our families up north for the holidays. We felt defeated by the circumstances and definitely did not feel like getting into the Christmas Spirit before driving north, but that all changed when a little holiday magic was sprinkled into our lives.
Chris and I have 3 nephews; Troy (14), Truman (8) and Hansin (7) that are all the sweetest kids you will ever meet. Not only that, but in true Neely fashion they are all savvy to sailing which makes Chris and I very proud. Truman has taken the most interest in sailing, smiling bigger than ever whenever we give him the tiller to our Fatty Knees’ sailing dinghy or even our Victory 21’ – we can only hope he continues to chase the wind as he grows up. To help gently nudge him and his brothers towards becoming the next generation of Neely Sailors Chris and I hatched a plan to give them the gift that keeps on giving this year – the gift of sailing!
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For weeks we scoured the internet to find the right boat for the boys to grow into or even race in the annual High Sierra Regatta, when suddenly the right boat popped up. A Laser International 14, the perfect boat. The only minor issue was that it was located in LA, approximately six hours south from the Neely house in the mountains where we found ourselves residing. Being the Aunt and Uncle that we are, distance didn’t matter so we woke up at 5:30 am and hit the road, driving through snow, desert, farmland and the concrete jungle to pick up what we hoped would be a very memorable Christmas gift for our favorite nephews.
“Thank you, really. It is going to a good home and will make three boys very happy” Chris explained as he ratcheted down the straps over the boat. The man who sold her to us had just finished explaining how he had hoped to sail it with his kids but never found the time. We did our best to assure him it would go to a great home, which seemed to lighten the somewhat sullen mood. With the boat secured we waved goodbye and hit the road, heading back up to the mountains from which we came. That day we had a lot of people tell us we were crazy to drive that far for a little sailboat, but honestly for Chris and it was a no-brainer. We love sailing, and our family… it just seemed like the perfect combination.
Hours passed as we listened to podcasts, munched on road snacks and talked about how excited we were to surprise the boys and sail on the lake this summer. In the rear view mirror the little boat trailed behind us throughout the ever changing California scenery. Eventually we arrived back at the Neely homestead in Shaver Lake under the veil of the star speckled night sky.. We had left in the darkness of the morning, and arrived home in the darkness of night – two different shades of dark, but dark nonetheless. We put chalks under the trailer tires, tapped the transom goodnight and retired to our bed to sleep off the exhaustion of travel and stress of traffic, so we could wake up early to get some real work done.
Getting the boat was the easy part, everything that followed is where the real elbow grease game came into play. Although miles from the ocean, the Neely home is still full of boat parts and supplies to tend to our little “lake fleet” including our Hobie 18’ (Hobie Wan Kenobi) and Victory 21’ (Geronimo). This little Laser was in good hands as Neely Boatworks unfolded with a full wash and polish. Chris even broke out the MIG welder to beef up the trailer, making it more suitable for transportation. It was a full day of boat projects which felt almost wrong in the snowy landscape, but the warm sunshine reminded us of the summer days to come, inspiring us to get the boat as ready as we could for its new crew.
On Christmas eve we drove the boat down to Chris’s sister’s house where we spent the evening opening gifts – saving one of the best for last. “Come on out!” Chris yelled to the boys who scrambled to get their shoes on by the door. The look on their faces as they realized what their gift was was priceless. They sprinted towards their new boat, speechless, and ready to investigate. Truman in particular was all smiles as he is the one who is most invested in becoming a sailor, and was quick to hop in and sus out the tiller situation. We explained that the boys would need to learn how to crew together, and could enter the regatta this summer if they wanted (with some coaching from Uncle Chris of course).
Chris and I are beyond grateful that we had the opportunity to give the gift of sailing and support a (somewhat) healthy addiction, stoking the excitement in a new generation of sailors. The Neely Armada is ever-growing, and we have no doubts the boys will have a summer full of fun aboard their new boat. Now all that’s left to do is settle on a name 😉 We hope you enjoyed our 2022 edition of Deck The Hulls! If you didn’t get a chance to see it, check it out below.
Although it is nearly spring as I write this, we hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and look forward to sharing photos and videos of summer sailing soon!
Marissa (and Chris and Cleo)