Peñasco Party – Part One
Hauling out was different this time. Our life was even more-so weaved into the boat, and we were in an entirely different country.
The last time Avocet was on dry land was in 2020, when we hauled out just days before the world shut down leaving just the two of us alone in the Ventura Boatyard to DIY our hearts out. Fortunately, this time around, there wasn’t a huge list of things to do (by comparison), but I’ll get to that later. There’s nothing as nerve wracking as watching your home and all your possessions (including cat) get lifted above hard ground. With Peter aboard we brought Avocet into the hallway where the Cabrales crew carefully positioned the travel lifts slings around Avocet’s curvaceous hull. The lift operator raised Avocet out of the water then dipped her bow towards the yard platform where the three of us could abandon ship for the remainder of the event.
“God damn it” Chris said as Avocet’s underside became more visible. While diving around in the sea, we discovered that the diver we hired in La Cruz had cleaned only what was visible but seeing our girl above water really emphasized how ripped off we had been. As the travel lift began through the yard, I was reminded how much of Avocet’s liveable space is below the waterline. “That’s a beamy girl!” Peter yelled over the sound of machinery. Yes, she really is.
The Cabrales crew power washed Avocet’s bottom, removing the remaining sea sludge, barnacles and whatever blue paint shluffed off in the process. Her bottom was still in decent shape, with only a few visible blisters – but nothing in comparison to our first bottom job. (Remember Big Bertha? No? Better read up then).
“Gracias, Amigo!” Chris said as the lift driver stepped down his ladder. Some other yard members grabbed us a staircase and moved it alongside the boat. “Oh, are we staying in the slings tonight?” I asked Chris, bewildered at the idea. We were the last haul of the day, and the yard would have to grab the “skateboard” (another way to move vessels) the following day to position us in our long-term spot. So, one night in the slings it was. To celebrate the start of our big, long, to-do list (and the fact we made it to Penasco on time) we went out to Tacos with Peter and Olivia where we joined the crew of SV Luna Pacifica, a family that lives aboard a Mason 43’ like Mama Neely’s Sea Castle.
Technically, we had been in Peñasco for 3 days and started our to-do list while still in the water. So for the sake of sanity I will be starting this retelling of our yard stay with day 3, which was our first FULL day on the hard.
“Listos?” Olivia called from down below. In her arms was a bag of laundry that was almost as big as the one Chris sloughed over his shoulder. “Listos” we said in unison. We haven’t done laundry in weeks, and wanted to start off our yard stay with clean sheets, towels, and clothes for that matter so made the most of the time we couldn’t be aboard Avocet (since the yard was moving her) and trotted over to the nearest laundromat, tossing our laundry bags into a wheelbarrow to make it easier to transport. It was only $5 to drop off all of our dirty clothes which would be washed, fluffed, folded and ready for us to pick up the next day. Olivia hopped in the empty wheelbarrow for Chris to push, and it was all fun and games until we remembered that our outdoor mats that were covered in bird sh!t (long story, I’ll explain in a second) were sitting in the bottom where she now found herself. Gross.
The day of our haul out we vacated our tight slip next to the lovely SV Calico skies and moved over to a vacant end-tie while we waited for the travel lift crew to give us the thumbs up to pull into the hauling way. Unfortunately, the end tie was covered in about 3 inches of pelican sh!t that was as slippery as it was stinky. It reminded me of my days as the business manager at our home marina where myself and my boss/dear friend Garrett had a hell of a time with seals and birds pooping all over the docks where we were demolishing and replacing. It was a helluva time, and as my Berkenstock-Knock-Offs sank deep into the sludge I was reminded of the “good ol’ days”
With Avocet in her new “home” on dry land, we got to work gathering the necessary supplies to begin sewing sun shades; a necessity for a boat kept in a boatyard. Sun shades protect the boat’s exterior from the harmful effects of prolonged sun exposure, such as fading, cracking, and deterioration of paint and finishes. Secondly, sun shades shield the boat’s interior from the scorching heat, preventing damage to upholstery, electronics, and other sensitive components. They also create a more comfortable environment for any maintenance or repair work, allowing for increased productivity. Ultimately, sun shades are a crucial accessory for any vessel stored in a boatyard and we were up for the challenge of making our own – and by “we” I mean Chris.
The Peñasco Boatyard has a cruisers lounge that features a bathroom, shower, couches, and sweet, sweet AC. On any given day you will find boaters relaxing in there to escape the heat – or perhaps their projects – and mingling with the backdrop of the cruiser’s wall behind them. The wall features boat names, carefully drawn by their owners, and shows just who has served some time in the Peñasco yard. There were many notable and familiar names such as Totem, Jubel, Ahk’Lut, Remedy, Achilles (Peter’s first boat), and more – I was already trying to find a place to add our contribution. While Chris laid out his sewing supplies on the ground of the lounge, I made myself comfortable in the corner with my laptop to get some work done and lent my hands as needed.
After a long day of measuring, cutting, measuring again, test-fitting, and sewing we tucked our belongings into the corner. “We should probably bring that stuff back to the boat” I said to Chris as he packed up the last of the sewing supplies into our plastic bucket. “This lounge is locked and only cruisers come through here” he said, confident in his decision. I am always the skeptic, but did my best to be as trusting as my darling husband.
That night we were invited to the cruisers get-together by the hauling way where we met a handful of our yard-mates. We stuck around for a while, but after making a few rounds and drinking a few orange NewMix’s (my favorite) we turned in for the night at the ripe hour of 8:00 pm.
Sleeping on the hard is always a bit weird. I think it’s the absence of movement, the sound of industry and of course the knowledge that you must climb down a steep staircase to use the nearby bathroom. Thankfully, we still managed to sleep well with the help of our new AC unit that Chris walked 2 miles to get and our blacked out windows so the yard lights wouldn’t beam us in the face. As the sound of the yard came to life we were reminded that it was another day of boat work ahead! After coffee Chris made his way to the cruisers lounge to continue his sewing project while I focused on deep cleaning and packing the interior.
Remember in the last blog post how I said we acquired a lot of “stuff” during our 5 years of living aboard? Well, it caught up with us when it was time to pack and deep clean. It was truly amazing to see just how many things went completely unused and were left unthought about. “THAT’S where you went!” I exclaimed as I pulled out my baking equipment. Various pipe tips, mini-bundt pans, and other odds and ends poured out of the small container that had been hiding in the forward locker behind our starboard settee. A locker that Chris had recently created. One that heald long lost treasures. Although I love baking, I couldn’t fathom baking anything but bread in the Mexican heat, so a fair amount of my baking gear made it in the donation pile.
I decided to tackle the deep clean and packing challenge in segments: the V-berth, Starboard settee, Port settee, head, galley, nav station, q-berth and finally our stateroom. I found making small contained messes made it easier to stay focused on each area, ensuring every surface had been t90We gave away a fair amount of things and have brought home some other stuff that we will use for land life if we ever buy a home base. Sewing and cleaning took up the entirety of our days, but by the end we were both one step closer to crossing the items off our list.
For dinner, we wandered over to Dukes to take advantage of their weekly salad special – nothing like a big bowl of greens to make you feel healthy after spending the day in such an unhealthy environment. After all, healthy body, healthy mind… right?
“Alright that should be it” Chris said as he attached the final piece. At last we had sun covers, that went to work immediately cooling down our deck and subsequently cabin by sheilding us from the brutal desert sun. The project was fairly quick, but took a turn for frustrating when Chris realized that a few of the things he had left in the cruisers lounge were stolen. “Told you so” I said, always skeptical and doing my best to never give people the opportunities to steal from me. Although my husband’s naive heart of gold got the best of him in this situation, he took it as a learning experience and was grateful that the few things that were taken could be replaced. We hope whoever took our things needed them, and has gotten use of them. (If they happen to be reading this, you can return them to Avocet anytime, no questions asked.)
I was finally cleaning out the galley and head, removing unnecessary items from each and creating a “take home” pile that would soon fill our car to the brim. Cleaning products were everywhere as I diligently ensured every surface had my attention to safeguard agains mold, mildew, mites and more. While I continued on my mission Chris pulled off our prop and cutlass bearing.
The day’s were going by faster, but every evening we kicked back at Kamp Kessel where our friends had created a hangout utilizing a mini fridge for drinks, bistro lighting for ambience, tarps for shade and toilets, coolers, and a few busted chairs for lounging. It wasn’t the Ritz, but it was still a slice of paradise in a dust hole.
Under our newfound shade, Chris an I were able to prep and varnish the exterior wood including our cockpit combing, eyebrow and hatches. Although all were in good shape, we were coming up on the three year mark since the last coats and decided the task fell under the category of “preventative maintenance” (The last time we did our cockpit combing we were sick with Covid in January 2021)
Unlike the other teak bits coated with Awlwood, our bulwark had been leached of oil despite the fact I had just oiled it in La Cruz. We decided that we would be trying a new recipe recommended us to by Garrett of SV Rediviva, the wood master himself, but for the time being would apply 7 thick coats of oil. After all, the sun wasn’t the issue – it was the salt exposure that really did the damage. With a good Crime Junkie podcast episode playing, Chris and I knocked out the bulwark within two hours, finishing just as the sun set.
On my way to the shower closest to our boat, I had the opportunity to chat with Fredrico. Olivia had told me that Fredrico was the best person to practice conversational Spanish with because he is careful to explain and help you understand the language on a fundamental level. She was right, and every evening when Fredrico came on the job he and I shared conversations in my broken, but expanding, Spanish.
By day 8 we were in a grove: wake up at 6:00 for coffee and breakfast, get to work, work until sunset, chat with Fredrico, shower, sleep, then repeat. However, we had finally reached a point where we saw the light at the end of the project tunnel which called for celebration so we took ourselves out to breakfast. On the day of our haul out, Olivia took me to Kaffehaus, a sweet little breakfast and lunch spot with European flair within walking distance to the boatyard. Good coffee, great breakfast, and pastries – I was hooked, so when I had the opportunity I dragged Chris along for a little mid-yard-stay pick-me-up. It did the trick.
Full from a well rounded, hearty breakfast, we returned to the boatyard ready to tackle the last coats of varnish on companion way then moved onto organizing and cleaning our our lazarettes. From the belly of Avocet we pulled out all of our paint, painting supplies, epoxy supplies, electrical bucket, and more.
With everything outside back in place, Chris paused our projects to help Peter assess his projects on Kessel, including his bowsprit. Despite the fact Chris had built a bowsprit for a Hans Christian before, and genuinely enjoyed the project, he knew we had no time to build one for Kessel and recommended they create one out of aluminum – a low maintenance and strong replacement for their compromised spruce ‘sprit. In his absence I continued to clean the interior of Avocet making a serious dent in our packing progress.
Finally, a day where we both could focus on cleaning and packing. Although I had made a significant impact on blowing apart every space, cleaning, and organizing my efforts needed Chris’s attention to detail and assurance we didn’t leave anything behind. After his once over, he left me to finish packing up our stateroom – mainly my two closets – and he removed the impeller and scrubbed down our bristol white bilge.
“Alright time to set traps” Chris said, wiping his hands clean from the soapy rag he tossed in our laundry hamper. He nodded towards the box on the counter. Roach Traps. I had sincerely hoped they would not be needed, and only a safety precaution, but we set them in the bilge, head, every locker and dark spot where bugs might try to make a home. Afterwards we pulled out the tin foil and carefully wrapped our portlights. Foil can help regulate the temperature inside your boat when it’s stored in a boatyard. It reflects sunlight and its associated heat, keeping the interior cooler. This is especially valuable in hot climates or during the summer months when excessive heat can make the cabin uncomfortably warm and even damage sensitive equipment. Foil can also help minimize this by reducing temperature differentials, keeping the interior closer to the outside temperature and reducing the likelihood of moisture buildup – so far, so good.
Chris and I packed up the last of our clothes into the bags we had, shoving some things into donation piles that we would offload later. I had a lot more clothes (and shoes) than I thought, so some things that will NOT be returning next season: 4 pairs of jeans, my knee high boots, 4 sweaters, 3 pairs of heels, any socks that are not QEJA brand, a few blankets, a couple of glass bowls, some California cruising guides and some other odds and ends. With the last bag tossed in the cockpit ready to go, we took a look at the boat and she seemed a lot lighter. Simple living at its finest.
Day 9: Homeward Bound
“There’s no way you can bring that over the border” Chris said looking down at my bags of food. Despite our valiant attempts to eat everything in the fridge, we fell a bit short in the luxury cheese section and ended up “donating” a few bags of things to Olivia. Luckily she made use of it and sent me a photo of her charcuterie spread shared with the Calico Skies crew a few days later.
Chris’s big brother Jon had arrived home from his sailing adventures a few weeks prior and was sweet enough to drive our car, Max, from California to us in Peñasco. Overall it was about 14 hours from the Neely house in Shaver Lake, but he made a stop in San Diego to stay with a friend he made while cruising. He had arrived in Peñasco on the morning of June 22nd, 2023 and was ready to help us get back to the states as a mexico-cruising-veteran.
Although I was ready to go, Chris was running around like a chicken with his head cut off making sure we crossed everything off our list and that nothing would be left behind while Jon and I tried to push everything we could into our very packed car. I walked through Avocet one last time, and hung up the backpack I bought at the Sunday market in La Cruz. I felt the tears well up as I looked at it, hanging limply on the corner of the door. Back in California I had plenty of backpacks that could stand in, but it felt weird to empty its remaining contents and sift through the receipts from grocery trips in Bucerias, pesos I found on the ground after the wild parties and sand, so much sand, from the beaches between San Blas and Peñasco. As it’s contents were transferred to another bag, I looked back at it one last time where it would be waiting for me upon our return.
Finally, the bags were packed, the boat was stowed, and we were ready to visit the States for the summer. Cleo sat next to me in the back seats atop some of our other belongings, not paying much attention to her latest situation. If she’s anything, it’s well traveled. We hugged Olivia goodbye, promising to see each other back in California, then got in the car and made our way to the border, watching Avocet shrink behind us. This would be the first time in 5 years of living aboard where we would be away from our boat for more than one month. It was hard to fathom at the time, especially since that last day was a whirlwind of packing and trying to leave – but as we gained miles towards California I already felt my heart pulling me back to our beloved boat. It was going to be a tough summer, but at the time I didn’t even know half of it.
I would like to give a shout out to everyone who made our 2022/23 cruising season memorable, and to our friends, family and gracious supporters: we hope we continue to make you proud.
Sending our love from Shaver Lake, California,
Marissa, Chris and Cleo