Our Love Story

Posted:  September 15, 2023
👁 2746   23

The Early Years

I was recently writing an upcoming blog post about our time in Isla Coronados

For those of you that don’t know our story, this is a good time to tell it – well, the sparknotes version anyways. Chris and I officially met back in 2009 at a mutual friend’s wedding. My dad was asked to take photos, not realizing the friends were asking him to be at the actual wedding photographer. As a hobbyist, he was scared shitless of ruining their day so phoned the best photographer he knew – Chris’s dad Van. Luckily, Van was in the neighborhood and came to help with his assistant, a young 11 year old Chris, in tow. So there I was helping my dad, as Chris helped his. To quote directly from my first journal – covered in scribbles, pre-teen angst, and bad poetry – “Chris Neely was at the wedding today. He is so cute, and his smile lights up a whole room. He scares me.” It’s safe to say he gave me major butterflies, enough so where I kept my distance for a few years because the boy made me weak. 

I don’t know of many other people that have photos of the first day they met like we do, but I’m really glad we do ❤️ 

Chris drew me this one, in between morphine hits.

Fast forward to 2012: Chris’s dad had sadly passed from cancer and the Neely fam took a trip to the BVI’s where they chartered a catamaran. Early on in the trip, a then-14-year-old Chris decided to try and challenge Shannon (SV Prism) to swinging off a halyard, but Chris stubbed his toe and broke it, leading to a staph infection that nearly led to amputation. It was really, really bad. He was life-flighted home to the children’s hospital where he underwent surgery to save his foot. It was a success, but he had severe nerve damage and couldn’t start high school on schedule because of it. I’ll save you the gore (unless you want it, and if that’s the case click HERE) but I took pity on him and started drawing him photos while in physics class, 3 hours away. Oh, I forgot to mention we lived 3 hours apart. 

Somewhere during his recovery he was able to hobble around on crutches, always making it an extreme sport but usually landed on the couch at my parents cabin in Chris’s hometown of Shaver Lake. It was there our friendship blossomed and we laid the foundation for our relationship. Every weekend during the winter I would find an excuse to beat up my snowboard and deliver it to him in the repair shop where he worked, just to have an excuse to talk to him. 

Chris and Marissa Neely Shaver Lake

We were absolutely smitten with each other on this Fourth of July – our friend Anna Cole has a very fun story which I am sure she will tell in the comments below.

An Alliance Was Made

Later on during the summer of 2013  (when he was out of the boot and ditched the crutches) we spent the weekends mountain biking, wakeboarding, doing photography together, hiking, and of course sailing on Huntington Lake aboard the boat that is now named Geronimo. On one warm July night in 2013 he boldly decided to sneak out of his house at midnight to ride his bike .3 miles to my family’s cabin, scale the back deck, and sit with me under the stars. It was around 4:00 am when he decided he needed to get home, and as he was climbing down the deck he looked me in the eyes and told me he was in love with me. I kissed him. He ate absolute shit on the highway on his way home, leaving a scar on his hip from the road rash but he will tell you he didn’t feel a damn thing. (To our parents that are reading this now… sorry! 😅)

We don’t have an official day we started dating, so we refer back to our FaceBook official date of August 23rd, 2013 – which means we have been together for a decade. WOAH!

The College Years

We started dating that summer, and despite our 3 hour separation we made the distance work and our time together worth it. When I graduated high school a year early and left for college, Chris wasn’t far behind deciding he wanted to follow me to Incline Village, North Lake Tahoe where I attended my dream school  Sierra Nevada College (now part of UNR) on a snowboard scholarship and he attended the community college in Truckee. We moved into our first (and only, at this point) apartment which was a major learning experience since we were not used to being around each other 24/7… but after agreeing that RC Cars are not living room decor no matter how you position them, it was (mostly) smooth sailing. 

First photo in our apartment, and the last

Our last year of college was really, really tough. I was taking 24 units trying to graduate on time while also juggling my position as the Student Government Event Coordinator, the assistant to the business chairwoman, maintain my position on the snowboard team, work at the animal shelter on the weekends, plan a wedding – oh yah, did I mention Chris asked me to marry him in 2016 in Costa Rica aboard SV Prism? Watch that unfold HERE – and figure out what the heck we were going to do after graduation… There was a lot going on. And somewhere between the chaos that is newfound adulthood, Chris asked if I wanted to live on a boat and clearly, I said yes. 

SV Avocet

And then we became the crew of SV Avocet

Life and Love Afloat

We met Avocet in February of 2018 just 3 months before graduation. We signed the papers in March, making her ours, and Chris spent nearly every weekend driving 8 hours south to Ventura to prepare her for our move-in-day. You can read All About Avocet HERE 🙂 

Chris and I graduated in May, me with B.S.B.A’s in Ski Business, Resort Management, and Global Business Management, and Chris with a B.S. in Social Sciences. We were educated, and had the papers (and debt) to prove it. The world was our oyster, and two days after graduation we packed up our apartment, said goodbye, and drove to Shaver Lake where we got married on June 2nd, 2018. 

Two (recovery) day’s later, we drove to Ventura where Chris carried me from the dock to Avocet’s cockpit, a sailors version of a threshold, and we began to unpack our lives aboard our-boat-sweet-boat. Then the projects started, the dream took place and the rest is history… which brings us to now… more or less 😉


Read the latest blog posts for our whereabouts and updates!


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1 Comment

  1. Ken

    Ok. I’d be scarred for life after clicking the foot horror, but alas I’m dulled to that savagery…. southeastern Atlantic coastal waters always trying to kill folks… red tide poisoning seafood, multiple bugs causing sepsis and necrosis. Freshwater… brain eating amoeba…. glad Chris recovered so y’all could share the Avocet adventure…


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