Our Short and Sweet Visit Back in Ventura
I cried when we saw the breakwater; not just because I was so excited to be out of Morro Bay, but because we were returning to our homeport with a story to tell. It had been nearly six months since we cast off, leaving our dock family and the promise of corporate promotion behind for the wild world of cruising life. The recent rain storms had painted the hills bright green as the sun cast its morning glow on our favorite sea side city.
“Welcome Back Avocet!” Garrett Baum cheered as we passed Ventura West. He had been the one to chase us down when we left the breakwater in September, capturing our escape on video (which still makes me tear up to this day). It was 7:00 am on a Saturday but that didn’t stop our friends from welcoming us back with hopen arms… or hands, I should say. As we made our left into the Ventura Isle Marina fairway, our friends the Howells stood at the end of their dock to wave us in – and watch us butcher our parking. There was no breeze or current as Chris made his turn into the downwind slip, but awkwardly overshot it as if anticipating the assistance from the elements that never came. Fortunately our friends made up for the lack of breeze and helped pull us into our assigned slip that was across the water from Sea Castle, and the slip we once called our own. We were tired and salty but hugs were shared with our sweet friends who were eager to hear all about our (mis)adventures – but first, breakfast.
A little fact about myself is that I love to go out to breakfast and have an affinity for a good coffee mug, which is why I was so excited to visit The Boatyard Pub when we made landfall to get my fix in. When living in the harbor I often joked that if we wern’t spending money at one Boatyard it was the Other, which still clearly rang true. We sat down for a wonderful breakfast, taking in the sights we had missed oh-so much.
By the time we walked back to the marina, the office was open and we could go say hello to my favorite boss besides myself, Garrett, who had a stack of our mail waiting for us in his office. “It’s about time you showed up” he said, waving to the fortress of packages that awaited us. Chris and I couldn’t contain our excitement as we ripped open the packages like it was Christmas morning, the most exciting “gift” of all being our brand new mainsail from Precision Sails. There is nothing like the sound and smell of a new sail. With all of our packages loaded up in a dock cart we returned to Avocet and got to work.
Out with the Old in with the New
One step… two step… three step…. I counted my steps carefully as I walked backwards down our boarding ladder. Our old sail was bundled up between Chris and I, who were carefully trying to place it dockside. The material felt tired in my hands, nothing in comparison to the sail that would take it’s place. With our boom bare and ready, we installed the new sail and hoisted it with an ever satisfying “whomp” when the breeze caught hold.
Immediately our eyes were drawn to the CL logo that graced the top of the sail, something we didn’t have with the previous one. “She looks SO good” I said, jumping up and down on the dock. The stark white sail was such a contrast from the previous one, breathing new life into our Good Old Boat.
When we spoke with Precision Sails about the design of our new sail, we had some very key ideas we wanted implemented starting with the decision to forgot battens. Essentially, battens give the sail shape and allow for a larger sail area by giving the sail roach. However, due to their ridgidness it can cause chaffe in between the sail panels which is more common than not. In fact, we removed our battens from our old sail to prevent further chaffe. Without battens we are able to raise, lower and reef our sail simply without needing to come up into the wind which is a very big benefit in our eyes. Without roach the sail doesn’t need a headboard, which allowed us to increase our overall luff height by 15 inches. Battens definitely have their place on a sail, heck thats why most sails of this era come with battens, but considering we aren’t racing and don’t have the budget to replace sails every couple of years the decision to go battenless was simple. It is also an idea that is heavily supported by renowned cruisers such as the Pardey’s.
Unlike the leech line in our previous sail (that snapped, by the way) Precision used dyneema which we are a big fan of. They also chose a sail material that is durable and well suited for our cruising lifestyle. Before proceeding to create our sail, the Precision team asked us about our requests, making sure we understood that as a result of our wants our sail would be about 20% smaller, but considering Avocet is primarily headsail driven we didn’t think this would be an issue, and we couldn’t wait to put it to the test.
Mama Neely arrived later in the day to get in some last Stateside moments with her youngest son. We were thrilled to get in some more family time and also have a car to use for some final provisioning. “Don’t overdue it, you can get pretty much all the basics in Mexico” our friend Rachael sent me in a text. She and her partner Josh had left Ventura years prior aboard their beautiful boat Agape and sailed to French Polynesia where they are diving with whales and being the envy of hopeful cruisers everywhere. Her advice was well taken, and I would later learn very true!
While Chris worked on installing the new pieces we had delivered to the marina, while I did my best to give him space. Realizing my bikini assortment was sad, I figured the best use of my time would be spent supporting a local shop in the village, Ventura Swimwear, where the owner helped me pick out a few cute bikini’s perfect for Mexico. Not only did she have an insane inventory, but she also does swimsuit modifications and repairs! If you are looking for a new suit or bikini rehab, be sure to give Ventura Swimwear in the harbor a visit. I could see Chris was still running around the boat frantically, so I retreated to the office where I could give him space and catch up with my old friends.
The marina members that came by had to do double takes to ensure it was really me and not a ghost. I quickly responded to their inquisitive looks with “yes it’s me, no im not staying, yes it’s good to see you” with a smile. I really do miss that office job, not for the work but for the wonderful people I got to meet. I welcomed and saw off so many cruiserse during my time in the office, daydreaming about the day it would be my turn to leave the breakwater. Somedays I still can’t believe we actually made it happen. While in the office, my darling ex-coworkers granted me access to the printer where i finished printing off the documents needed for our Check-In binder that I spent months carefully creating with all the necessary (and potentially unnecessary) information for immigration agents. My framed employee photo stared at me from the corner the team kept it in, like a shrine to their favorite employee. If only they knew there was a letter that I wrote, lurking behind my smiling face. I hoped they would discover it soon, but not too soon.
Back on Avocet Chris was finally ready to go grocery shopping so we grabbed our bags and made our rounds to our favorite spots. Aldi is great for snacks (no Red40 dye) and wine (Winking Owl, best bang for your buck), WinCo is excellent for bulk, and the local produce stands have a good selection of in-season fruits and veggies. Within an hour we had everything we needed (and arguably more) to last us the next few months. With our groceries carefully stowed in their designated areas I started making dinner; home made mushroom raviolis. In the middle of the process Chris and his mom excused themselves to rendezvous with Chris’s sister who was an hour inland on my behalf to retrieve my old laptop that I had left in the mountains over Christmas. Thankfully I had just pressed my last few raviolis when they returned, and we could sit down to eat.
“Theres a storm in the forecast” Chris said, eyes glued to our tablet. Having just endured a lengthy string of storms in Morro Bay, we weren’t too keen on the idea of being trapped in another marina for an extended period. The wind the following day looked good enough to get us to Catalina Island where we could wait out the system that was rolling through. Although we were planning on staying dockside for another few days while waiting for our Sigma Drive to arrive, we knew it was best to keep moving and ask our sweet friends to ship the part to us on the Island. With only one day left in Ventura we had a laundry list of things to accomplish, including laundry, and continued with our “running around like headless chickens” trend.
In between projects and preparing, when we came up for air, we had many friends stop by the boat to catch up and say hello and goodbye. It was so nice to see familiar faces and share the stories from our adventures north and give details on our plans for the near future. Our dear friends from SV Capaz (our “shore crew” in Morro Bay) stopped by with a very sweet gift containing handmade earrings, some new books, hats and the best of all a mug their daughter made after I shared my love for a good mug. The Ventura Isle Marina community fosters a welcoming feeling that stretches beyond the confines of the harbor. We later would find fellow ex-Ventura Isle members in Mexico, many whom remembered me in the office, and continue to have wonderful conversations in much warmer climates.
It was a quick trip, but we were determined to catch the tail end of a Santa Ana wind as our ticket south. So, at 4:00 am we cast off from our homeport for the very last time and made our way towards the harbor entrance where we tried to raise our new sail. Yes, tried. I took my place at the helm while Chris started to raise our new main when he gave one tug followed by a waterfall of profanities. Back in the cockpit he instructed meto “Pull alongside the fuel dock” where he jumped off and secured us. While scrambling to gather the necessary gear, Chris informed me that he had skied our main halyard which was (thankfully) stuck on a spreader above us. I stepped into our harness and quickly found myself ascending up the mast with a lovely sight of the ink black ocean in front of us. With the runaway halyard in hand I was lowered back to the deck and we were soon on our way with our new sail proudly raised above us. We had our course set for Cat Harbor, Catalina Island and should arrive by that evening, just behind our buddies on SV Kessel that made the decision to leave at midnight in the height of the Santa Ana. Fortunately, with their distance, they were able to relay real-time weather information thanks to the power of Starlink… until ours died… I’ll explain more in the next post.
This time when we left the breakwater we were not joined by friends in the early hours of the morning, and my eyes were dry, free from tears. Although Avocet may never return to California, her crew knows that goodbyes never really stick which is why we said “see you later” as the glow of Ventura shrank off our stern.
Carrying Ventura forever in our hearts, and on our transom. Thank you Ventura family for being a part of the adventure, we can’t wait to share the excitement that’s coming!
Marissa (and Chris and Cleo)