The connection between vessel and crew is a tale as old as time, and for those of us who live aboard their vessels the bond goes only deeper. With that in mind, I am sure you can imagine how good it felt to return to Avocet after a six month stint on terra firma – marking the longest we had ever been away from our boat sweet boat in the five years of living aboard.
“Welcome home!” Peter said as he opened the van door to reveal our beautiful (and dusty) boat, Avocet. I was wondering how long it would take for my emotions to fully sink in that we were really there, but as I stood at the bottom of our boat I just felt like I was seeing an old friend. My fingers slid across her blue bottom, finding where the paint had began to chip away. I knew we had our work cut out for us, but found comfort knowing it would be a cakewalk in comparison to all we had done before to get here. But, the work didn’t have to start until the following day so we unloaded our belongings then rendezvoused with our dear friend Reid for dinner at what would soon become one of our favorite taco trucks: El Patron.
It was good to be back in the land of delicious (and affordable) food, friendly people and of course the promise of adventure – but first we had some projects to take care of.
Oh how I missed the way the light poured through our stateroom portlight, reflecting off our teak like a vat of warm honey. I woke up with the sun, a familiar habit aboard that I had lost while being a landlubber. Cleo was curled up next to my head, purring, while Chris was still in a deep sleep. Kauffeehaus? Peter texted me. He knew I was always a “yes” for breakfast so I woke up Chris and we made our way to the German inspired restaurant near the malecon.
With satisfied appetites we were able to start the day off on the right foot with the energy necessary to tackle the first of our few projects. I was tasked with working on recommissioning our interior while Chris got our batteries back online and started staging for our bottom job. It was a slow start, but Chris was trying something new this year: not stressing about timelines and taking things easy, and boy did this new pace look good on him.
After a whole day of essentially just figuring out our plan of action, we had a pizza party around the bonfire by SV Liquid, nicknamed “Liquid Lounge”. Oh how we missed the camaraderie of sailing and the boatyard!
Somehow I gracefully got out of sanding duty and was continued to be tasked with recommissioning the inside of the boat… which happened to be easier said than done. I have never been more frustrated than I had been with Marissa from six months prior. Even though she thought that she was carefully stowing everything for our time away, she instead left ME with a scavenger hunt of tracking down pillow covers, galley items, cold weather gear and more. I have no idea what she was thinking, but I officially had beef with her.
Yes, our first days back on Avocet were a whirlwind of recommissioning the boat and relearning how to live aboard. How easy it was to forget the simple things in six months. Truth be told the hardest part of it all was readjusting to the mañana mentality after spending time deep in the rat race. At the end of the first day Chris’s face was blue, despite being inside a respirator. It was only foreshadowing what my own skin would look like just a few days later. As the sun set over the boatyard we made our way to the cruisers lounge shower to enjoy whatever hot water was left, then headed to Dukes for dinner.
Day three brought more sanding and more figuring out how to live aboard again. I threw out things that six months ago I was certain I would need later but in fact, did not. I also discovered that we had mites crawling in our salt and on top of a few other food bins, and thanked poseidon that was the only extent of them and they were easily eradicated with a vinegar eucalyptus spray combination. Although the day could be easily summed up in this single paragraph, it was the evening that was truly noteworthy.
“Margarita, por favor” – somewhere between my initial order and reception of my drink, Peter had asked the bartender to serve me in a tall ostentatious parrot cup. After the long few days we had experienced, it felt good to venture out a bit further in Peñasco to the microbrewery with our friends to enjoy some drinks, food and conversation… if only I knew I was drinking doubles at the time! Yes, I drank my parrot sized margaritas down like water and experienced a new level of intoxication which (thankfully) went undetected by my friends. Instead of drinking three, I actually had six which led to some pretty funny conversations… and photos. I am just grateful that I remember it all. It’s safe to say I spent the next day drinking water and taking it easy.
The boatyard is one of the worst places to wake up with a hangover. The sound of sanders, grinders, engines and of course the dogs barking made a torturous symphony that made me crave the peace of a nice anchorage. Unfortunately my mild hangover was the least of my worries that day, after experiencing a pretty nasty passive-aggressive correspondence with a work colleague that truly soured my day. To get the work-induced bad energy out of the boat, I took a walk to the cruisers lounge to chat with Peter and Elana who were sewing a sacrificial sun cover on Kessel’s staysail.
“Yah, mean girls suck” Elana said with a thread punch in hand. She was instructing Peter on how to sew, and doing a darn good job at it too since the sail was looking great. I had pulled up a chair and asked if I could vent about my day, which they granted me permission to do. Good friends are invaluable; they help keep you stoked on life and remind you of who you are when someone tries to tear you down. Thankfully a quick vent session and chat was all I needed to recalibrate my mood and refocus on the big picture: We live an incredible life, and although sometimes there are some lows, the highs always outweigh them.
I returned to Avocet with a skip back in my step to find Chris finishing the last of the sanding and mixing some epoxy to glass the few blisters we had. It was amazing to think that we glassed over 100 blisters during our last haul out, including a massive hole (remember Bertha?) and this time we had only a handful of little problem spots. While Chris managed the exterior I finished unpacking the interior, finally feeling moved in. We slept good that night knowing all is where it should be, and decided to spend Day 5 more leisurely.
After a week of living aboard and going out to eat for every meal, we finally felt ready to bring our first round of groceries in our pantry. Chris, Peter, Elana and I loaded up in Peters Van and drove to Sams Club where we bought all of the necessary bulk items – from saltines to cheeses we were feeling good about our 5,000 peso purchase but skeptical about fitting our four grocery carts worth of stuff back in the van. Miraculously everything fit in not only the van but also back aboard the boats, with only one case of Avocet’s Bohemia beer being “misplaced” aboard Kessel..
I didn’t realize how long this would take Peter texted me. It was his first season single-handing, which meant it was also his first time handling some of the more domestic duties such as provisioning. After a mass shopping trip, it can take about 2 hours to put everything away and retake inventory, which was a shock to the boy but I reassured him that it would get easier now that the big shopping trip was behind us. Despite having a boat full of groceries, we were not in the mood to do dishes so Chris and I had dinner at El Patron where the owner and cook, Lucio, sat down with us. He asked us about our plans, why we have spanish names but can’t speak spanish well, and shared photos of his baby granddaughter. We practicado español with him and enjoyed our dinner – well, tried to anyway.
“Marissa, que paso?” Lucio asked, pointing to my plate of tacos still in front of me. Although the al pastor was as amazing as always, my stomach was still a bit off due to my little margarita escapade a couple nights prior. “Como si dice, ‘I drank too much’ en español?” I said through a half smile. Lucio laughed behind the counter. “Tengo resaca” he said, still laughing, then offered to make me a plain quesadilla to go, to help remedy the “ick” when I was ready.
Back in the boatyard our friends gathered some things to burn and we had a bonfire. I know what you are thinking: fire + boatyard = bad idea, and you are probably right… but we had no wind, water at the ready, and fireman Peter with us supervising the festivities which were tame. Not to mention, the night guards have bonfires all the time and Peñasco is always burning trash so we were just joining in on the nightly norm. We shared stories, laughed, and relished in our friendship brought together by the same motivations to get out and explore. Although the boatyard can feel like a sailors’ jail, it can foster some incredible relationships and memories.
Day 6 – Peter’s Birthday
“Can you help me put my sail on?” Peter frantically asked through the companion way. It was barely 8:00 am and I had just taken my first sip of coffee, but Chris was busy prepping the bottom for paint and Peter needed extra hands. So, I slipped on my finest boatwork clothes and headed over to Kessel which was already loaded up on the boatyard skateboard and ready to be transported to the south lot to splash.
Together we installed the headsail with the fresh sacrificial fabric on the outside, furled it up, and admired the boys first big sewing project. Elana applauded from below as Peter quickly moved onto his next project while I returned to Avocet’s. “Happy birthday!” I yelled as I ran back to Chris. Peter was spending his 27th birthday running around frantically trying to complete all of his projects so he could launch and sail out of Peñasco for the last time, ever.
“Good, you’re back, let’s do this,” Chris said, extending a roller brush to me. We mixed the gray TotalBoat primer and rolled it where necessary. Last time we hauled out we sanded all the way down to glass to repair blisters and lay a good foundation of barrier paint, so this round we decided to only apply barrier paint where it was necessary since we plan on hauling the boat and repainting the bottom every 6 months or so anyways. This saved time, materials and honestly mental bandwidth. With the problem spots painted, we ventured into town to find gloves and food – only finding the latter.
Come to find out, there are no hardware stores around Peñasco that have plastic gloves so we had to paint the hull with bare hands, leading mine to look like I picked a fight with a smurf. The bright blue TotalBoat bottom paint went on thick and easy, as we worked together to get our girl seaworthy again. I used a chip brush to paint in and around the thruholes then joined Chris with a roller brush to attend to the rest of the hull.
Six hours and three coats of paint later, we were finally ready to peel the tape that separates the waterline from the topsides. Flecks of blue were splattered across my face and arms like (toxic) freckles while my hands were beyond saving. Acetone could only remove so much, but thankful after a nice long, hot shower and body scrub my hands went from smurf blue to blue-tinted which was at least presentable for dinner at the pizza place overlooking Peñasco harbor.
That evening we sat around a long table and ate 6 pizzas with the help of the crews from Island Fox, Slawless, Catspaw and Alita Fox to celebrate the birthday boy from Kessel. We sang happy birthday and ate Tres Leches cake, courtesy of Jean from Alita Fox, before piling back into Cole’s car and returning to the yard for a very good night of sleep.
It was amazing how a whole week had come and gone. Perhaps time was slipping by because it doesn’t feel like we are absolutely pushing ourselves to the limit of breaking everyday – a new and welcomed take on projects. Chris was taking it easy on himself, and i’m sure part of the newfound boundary was due to a long summer of projects on Mama Neely’s house followed by projects on our own home that we had quickly moved into then moved out of to return to boat life.
The smell of coffee whafted through the cabin as Chris prepared his cup to take to Kessel. It was 6:00 am, and Peter asked for help splashing Kessel and docking, even though we all knew he didn’t actually need the help. However, Chris and the crew of Island Fox were happy to lend their hands. With Kessel safely in her temporary slip, we made our way to breakfast at Dukes to really kickstart our day.
Back in the yard, I got some work done in the cockpit, enjoying the warm sun on my pale skin. The warmth and familiar setting reminded me of those distant days where I typed away in the same spot, but my surroundings were bright blue waters and dramatic shorelines. My daydream was shattered as Chris stomped on deck, cursing under his breath. “Whats up?” I asked, slightly irritated that he was being so loud. However, his response warranted his behavior. “Someone stole my drill” he said, through gritted teeth. After having our sewing stuff ransacked six months prior we had been a lot better about putting tools and belongings away att he end of the day but apparently not good enough since someone felt the need to rummage through our not-so-easily-accessible belongings at the base of our boat and steal from us again.
It was a long day for us and Peter, who ended up deciding to stay another few days to really dial in the boat before departure. “We need something different” Peter said as we loaded up in the van. We drove out of Peñasco to La Choya where we had drinks and enjoyed the sunset. It was a good reminder that there is more waiting for us outside of the boatyard, and motivation to get out of there ASAP. After a couple round of libations we headed back to Peñasco for dinner at El Patron where Lucio greeted us. Unfortunately, our lovely evening turned into the worst night of sleep EVER. Music was blaring at 2:00 am from the nearby strip club, then the yard dogs all started barking around 4:00. It was cold, and I was absolutely cranky about it.
After a poor night of sleep we stripped the bed and gathered the rest of our laundry to drop off at the lavanderia. While our clothes were being laundered, Chris checked us out of Peñasco with the port captain, which meant we were getting very close to leaving. The rest of the day was slow, full of admin work and general house keeping followed by a lovely cocktail hour aboard SV Blue Pearl then dinner aboard Kessel.
By day 9 I was losing steam to keep writing notes. Every day felt monotonous with little glimmers of inspiration laced within – but I guess that’s just life for you, huh? While the sun shone brightly upon us, there was a big storm system hitting our land base in the mountains bringing around 18 inches of fresh snow. My social media feed was soon filled with my ski and snowboard friends enjoying the fresh powder which made me miss the snow, but I am grateful that I get to experience the best of both worlds.
After Chris washed all the Peñasty off the boat, we dragged our sails out of the V-berth and placed them back where they belong, making Avocet a sailboat again. With that checked off our list we sat down to write and edit before heading over to Kessel for a lovely dinner. To quote Peter “tonight we feast, tomorrow we pillage!” After dinner, peter welcomed Elana, Travis and Cole aboard to play our favorite card game, Mao Mao, which got extremely heated. Luckily we all returned to our vessels as friends that night and no one was harmed in the process of gaming (although there were some close calls!)
We need to get out of here is the note I entered under “day 10” on my phone. Clouds formed overhead bringing a constant rainfall throughout the day. Chris made a diesel run to top off our tanks while I cleaned the interior for what felt like the hundredth time and wrote another grocery list. While Chris worked on a few projects, Peter and I took a taxi to the Super Leys where we fulfilled our produce supply (and then some) before returning to our boats to go through the storage process once more.
Sometime around noon we were placed on the skateboard and moved to the south lot where we were put in the slings and staged to splash the following day. It was pretty funny to see our sailboat cross the busy street from one yard to the other, and have our friends aboard Island Fox to thank for the time laps video!
That evening we dressed up and went to dinner at Pane Vino, one of Peñasco’s finest restaurants with an epic view of the malecon and harbor entrance. Chris and Peter both cleaned up nicely, sporting their finest attire free of stains and holes… Chris even wore shoes for the occasion! We enjoyed Portuguese wine, burrata and bruschetta appetizers and wonderful entrees while a Timelapse of the moody sunset recorded on the GoPro we set in the window.
Before leaving Peñasco, it is tradition and luck to sign your boat name on the cruisers lounge wall. Armed with my collection of sharpies, Peter and I made our marks. I was asked to draw Kessel’s name beneath Achilles (Peter’s previous boat) and found a good spot to draw Avocet’s logo. It was really happening – we were leaving the boatyard!
“Adios amigo!” I yelled as Peter backed out of his slip. We all stood dockside to see him off, embarking on his next chapter as a single handed sailor. Even though we would be seeing him out on the water and in the next anchorage, we were both overcome with a sense of pride for our dear buddy and were stoked to have been a part of his journey. As much as we would have liked to have seen Kessel sail out of Peñasco harbor, we had to run back to Avocet where the yard crew was preparing to move us into the hauling way.
Once floating, we fired up the engine – which had worked perfectly the day prior, but of course on the day of (with an audience) she decided to give us some anxiety as she took a few tries to rumble. After checking all systems and feeling confident that we had auxiliary power, our lines were tossed back aboard and we motored out of the slings. Our friends lined each side of the hauling way, cheering us on as we made our way out to sea. Oh what a strange feeling it was to see our pals shrink behind us, unsure when we would see them again. Hopefully their remaining projects would go smoothly and we could rendezvous somewhere warm and adventurous sooner than later.
Our sails were up and course was set for our first anchorage of the season. Kessel’s tanbark sails decorated the horizon in front of us. The sun was shining and breeze was constant. Chris and I sat on mirroring sides of the cockpit and shared a long look at eachother before Chris broke the silence with the simple question…. “Now what?”
The answer to that comes in the next post 🙂 It’s good to be back!
Marissa (and Chris and Cleo)
Posted from Isla Angel de le Guarda