If you’ve ever embarked on a road trip, you’re probably familiar with the unique blend of excitement and stress that comes with preparing for the journey ahead. Well, amplify that tenfold and add a border crossing to the mix and you might reach the stress level Chris was at in late October of 2023. Over the summer, our dear friend Peter from SV Kessel had a new aluminum bowsprit built by our pal Ryan from SV Appa and by fall it was ready to be introduced to Kessel. So, Peter filled his sprinter van to the brim with the new ‘sprit, boat parts, a massive amount of tools, a bench grinder, a giant sander, a drill press, a band saw, plywood, 3 gallons of epoxy, our new fridge, all of our engine spares and more. It was a packed ride leaving just enough room for Chris to hitch a ride down to Peñasco where Avocet and Kessel were summering together on the hard. With our return to Avocet not scheduled until January, the opportunity was simply too good to pass up. Plus, I had a sneaking suspicion that some quality “bro” time would do wonders for Chris, despite his initial protests. As usual, the wife was right but we will get to that later.
Over the Border
Going over the border was a nerve wracking situation since we were essentially driving a huge white target. In the 10 trips Peter has done over the years, he has always been stopped and searched by border patrol agents. Luckily, my darling wife and I had enough foresight to print every receipt for what I was bringing back to Avocet, leaving all of those belongings on top of Peters to hopefully deter the agents from digging further. Fortunately, it worked, and we were waved through the border after paying a small import fee which in comparison to the serious wealth of items we carried was a major win.
From there, Peter and I made a straight line to Peñasco where Kessel and Avocet were waiting alongside our dear friends from SV Remedy, SV I’mua and SV Rue de le Mer… it was good to be home. At first sight I already began to feel the overwhelming sense of love and admiration for Avocet well up inside me, but couldn’t lose my composure so quickly, especially in front of the boys. So I hunted down a ladder which was in short supply, but thankfully Baron (SV Remedy) had one to spare which I could use for the duration of the week.
Laying the Foundation for a Busy Week
Once I was able to climb aboard I immediately noticed that our sunshades were absolutely messed up which was just confirming what we already knew. Over the summer, hurricane hilary made a visit to Peñasco bringing heavy wind and rain. In anticipation of her arrival, we had asked a fellow cruiser to remove our shades to help Avocet weather the storm – but when it came time to put them back, they got lost. Eventually, they were found and put back on 60% correctly – but it was better than not at all.
The boat was caked in layers of dust, dirt, sand, and boatyard glitter making every movement a gentle one to try and not track anything down below. Fortunately Avocet’s cabin was exactly how we left it – clean, pestless and begging to be lived in. She was so beautiful, I was finally brought to tears and called Marissa to fill her in on everything. I love this boat.
Once I collected myself, I promised Marissa I would send her some videos and share to our social pages (something I am terrible at) then moved on to the tasks at hand. I was able to verify that our lead acid battery left on a trickle charge survived, while our lithium bank was completely disconnected and sat at 75% and didn’t discharge in our absence – A major win. Afterwards I wiped down all of the surfaces inside and vacuumed, popped open the floorboards to make sure our Perkins oil level was where we left it. If it had been lower, that would have signified yet another issue with the HPFP but fortunately that was all good as well. With that peace of mind I was able to move aboard more comfortably, and hunted down a sleeping bag and pillow before heading over to Kessel to help Peter.
Kessel was an entirely different beast. Peter, his friend Stephen and I cleaned out the V-berth which was full of stuff – sails, kiting gear, dive gear, spares, and more. Once cleared, I gave Peter the task of grinding the anchor locker in preparation for the new bowsprit and sampson posts. I let him borrow my full face mask which was a definite game changer for him. If you don’t have one and like to protect your eyes, lungs, and health in general I highly recommend getting one.
After a long day of settling into yard life and preparing for the week, I went to dinner at Dukes with Stephen, Reid, Dan, Baron, Heather, and Peter.
First Full Day
Waking up aboard Avocet without Cleo and Marissa was weird but after a day of travel and 5 months of missing the boat, I slept incredibly well. It was around 6:00 and us boys had a full day of projects ahead so we returned to Dukes for breakfast and coffee which became the routine.
Back in the yard, we focused our efforts on Kessel and worked on dry fitting the bowsprit and sampson posts – theoretically everything should be a pretty damn near perfect fit. Luckily, all but one fitting lined up perfectly with no modifications to the stays necessary. With Peter, Stephen and Dan focused on Kessel I made my way back to Avocet to redirect my attention to the blue beast beneath the cabin sole: our Perkins.
After such a rough season with the engine, it was my prerogative to make sure she was running smoothly. I started by installing a new manual oil pressure sender because the electric one wasn’t working well. I then cranked her over for the first time in months and listened to her purr… all systems were in fine shape and my confidence in our rebuild was further cemented.
I couldn’t bare to see Avocet so filthy, plus it was hard to keep the dirt out, so I hunted down a hose and pulled out our boat soap to give our (usually) floating home a much needed bath. Of course it was easier said than done since the water pressure was just a tad more than a trickle, but fresh water is a blessing regardless so I made do with what I had. After a few hours our ‘ol girl was sparkling clean once more.
Another day, another Trash Burrito from Dukes – and that’s not a diss, that’s what it is actually called. It has everything in it, chorizo, eggs, potatoes, cheese… a hearty way to start the day. Back in the yard I built the horizontal platform for Kessel’s Sampson posts, then crawled in the anchor locker to glass and re-tab the front bulkhead to the hull, and waterproof the chain locker tunnel. That is pretty much all I did that day, and I was happy to lend my glassing expertise to Peter, who was so appreciative that he took Stephen and I out to a nice Italian dinner… I can’t wait to take Marissa there. She’s going to love it!
Stephen left us to go back to his normal life, and his extra set of hands were missed. Despite his absence, Peter and I built and fabricated the new vertical beam for the sampson posts rest behind. It was another very long day aboard Kessel, and we finished up that evening by glassing the deck to front bulkhead overhead, creating oversized holes for the hawse holes and sampson posts then filling those holes with thickened epoxy to seal the core.
That night was a boys night, which explains why day five was a…
My, my, did those boys have fun. Hey everyone, Marissa here. On the evening of Day 4 the boys bonded by sharing their feelings, drinking beer, and taking on the town – or at least thats how I interpreted it when Chris called me the next morning. The boys were a bit “under the weather” on day 5, so Chris took the day to catch up on editing, correspondence and rehydrating. Luckily, he was back to normal on Day 6.
Thank goodness for Electrolyte. After a full day of hydrating and a good night of sleep I was ready to tackle another day in the boatyard. We started the day by cleaning up the rough cured glass over head, then cut more glass for the new vertical beam, then glassed that into place. It was crucial to keep the sampson post in place during this process, so we tagged in some extra helping hands. I finished the day by removing Avocet’s old fridge and mocking up placement for the new Isotherm.
Finally came time for the scary part: drilling a brand new 2.5″ hole for a new fridge. Our previous fridge was air cooled and worked fine for years, but after sailing to warmer waters we noticed the area surrounding the compressor became too warm (ie: the lazarett) since it was constantly running, trying to keep the fridge cool. The new Isotherm is a self pumping keel-cooled fridge, meaning it uses helicoils built within thruhole which is much like a heat exchanger on an engine. It uses the temperature of the ocean to cool down the refrigerant without pumping seawater through the system. A benefit of this unit is that it is a very compact compressor footprint which gives us a large seawater intake that we can also use for our watermaker (feeding two birds with one scone)
Afterwards I made custom G10 spacers for the thruhull to clamp down efficiently, then glassed those into place. With the thruhull bedded with Sikaflex 291, I could deem the project complete for the day and cleaned up to head to dinner with the gang.
Seven days in the boatyard and I had only spent only a fraction of the time on my own boat. Not complaining though, Peter definitely needed my help and I was happy to lend it to him and everyone else that asked for my advice. Somehow I had gained the nickname as “the wizard” amongst the yard, which gave Marissa a good laugh. “You better trade your time and advice for their time sanding our bottom” she recommended, definitely trying to get out of sanding when we return in January. Even if she was right, I couldn’t even think about sanding our bottom – I had to get back to Kessel and clean up the cured glass in chain locker one final time.
Once done sanding, Peter and I drilled the final holes for the sampson post alignment brackets as well as the drain hole then mounted the bowsprit and posts. Then we mounted the pulpit and installed the rigging which is when I left Peter to finish up the job so I could get back to finish the Isotherm installation on Avocet.
With the new evaporator plate fitted I installed the thruhull fitting and compressor, connected the lines, modified wiring for new compressor placement then kicked it on to test my work: success! New fridge was a go.
As a celebration, I went around the boatyard and began gathering up the tools I had leant out so I could clean them and put them away. After all, my time in Peñasco was coming to an end.
As mentioned prior, when hurricane Hilary paid a visit over the summer we had the yard remove our sun covers that I had sewed just before returning to California. After a few weeks of hide and seek, they finally appeared again and a fellow cruiser put them back on Avocet. However, they returned a bit damaged – but, beggars can’t be choosers so I spent the day repairing them and labeling each one in bold letters “AVOCET”. With the covers back in place I went below deck and prepped boat to be left again. Boy how I couldn’t wait to return with my sweet family… then she will feel like home again.
With Avocet ready to be left for one more month, I helped Peter put away all of the stuff on Kessel – which was a lot.
It was 4:00 am and the yard was quiet, but Peter and I were up and ready for our big journey home. Unlike our arrival, we were essentially waved through the border and rolled into the states just after sun up. It was a long 12 hours to Ventura, but spent well with good conversation, questionable music choices and views of the open road.
It was a successful week in Mexico, even if Avocet was not the star of the occasion. Peters bowsprit project turned out great, and I was stoked to assist with the planning process and installation. It’s going to be a fun season sailing aside Kessel once again but first Marissa and I have to tie up some loose ends on land before we feel the wind in our sails again. But don’t worry, we will fill you in with all of that very soon.
Signing off for now,
Chris (and Marissa)