“Do You Even Sail?”

If you have recently followed our blog or YouTube channel during the mass influx of new subscribers, Welcome! After reading through a few hundred new youtube comments I realized that a lot of you are probably thinking that all we ever do are boat projects, and I totally get it! It definitely seems and feels that way as of late, however, I am very happy to report that we do in fact sail! Just not recently… or anytime soon… let me explain:

53 days later, we were ready to splash!

Since moving our boat to a new marina in January, we had 2 busy months preparing for our haul out which was in early March. With that pressing timeline we didn’t have time for sailing, just demolishing and making everything as easy as we could for our future selves. March came around and all was fine and dandy in the boatyard until a bad weather spell hit followed by the infamous Coronavirus which delayed our progress naturally. With all of the curveballs thrown our way we were finally able to splash in late April, but the project list didn’t end there.

Once back in the water we were able to resume construction on our new bulwark design to take the place of our failing toe rail, as well as continue rebuilding our nav station which we actually started prior to the haul out. With shops slowly opening back up to the world (with more caution than ever) due to COVID, we were finally able to move forward with getting materials needed to finish some major projects, which of course is when Chris got called for a 14 day long shoot 5 hours north of us.

As grateful as we were for his camera work to be picking back up after all shoots were postponed (thanks to ‘Rona, again) I was a little disappointed to see us hitting the pause button once more. In Chris’s absence, I continued to clean up from our month on the hard, making sure all of the dust and grime was removed. I also did a few small jobs here and there, but nothing could really be done until Chris came home to drop off our bulwark materials at the fabrication shop to be cut and electro-polished.

Troy Sailing Our Fatty Knees

Troy Boy Learning How To Set Up An Interview

As the project progressed it was only to be expected that we would receive yet another call that would pause our efforts, once again. This time the voice on the other end of the phone was Jon, Chris’s older brother from S/V Prism, calling to beg Chris to fly to Bayboro, North Carolina, and help him and Shannon with their latest project on another Hans Christian 33, Dragonquest. After some logistics and discussion I agreed that Chris could lend his skills to Prism’s crew for 1 week and some change, but no more! We absolutely have to get sailing again soon or else I’m going to lose my mind! 

4 days ago Troy left and Chris flew East, leaving the boat to Cleo and I. It is 11:00 pm on Wednesday night, I am covered in teak dust from sanding the nav station and I am determined to finish varnishing before Chris’s homecoming. I have never been “good” at being alone, so during these rare times when I find myself without the company of another person I try to stay productive and make goals to achieve every day. Today my goal was to sit down and write out my thoughts before they leave my brain like a newly hatched butterfly, flying into the great unknown, never to be seen again. All of that pretty much brings us to right now. I am done writing about the past few weeks, so here let’s talk about what is happening in the near future.

Chris Doing What He Does Best...

Brother Time

S/V Prism

This Saturday, June 20th, is the Summer Solstice or better known to us sailors as the “Sailstice”. Although Avocet is out of sailing commission at the moment, I will be participating in the sailstice by raising our small tanbark sails on our Fatty Knees 8’ dinghy and enjoying the day on the water; Just me, the sea, and the wind that fills my sails… and maybe a White Claw or two! I have been documenting my progress on Avocet’s projects in Chris’s absence while he has (hopefully) been filming his time working with Prism… which means you will get a bonus video soon after part 2 of our Haul Out Video! Then maybe after that, we will finally get around to uploading an actual sailing video, just to show you all that we still got it! 

My last sail in “Little Wing” … very excited for the sailstice!

I can not fully express how much gratitude I have for everyone who has supported our creativity this past month; from YouTube subscribers to blog followers and Patrons, we are so incredibly thankful and stoked to have a growing community of great people. Thank you all again!! Stay safe, cheers, and fair winds!

Sincerely, 

Marissa of S/V Avocet 

Back on Set!

After a long 14 days, Chris finally returned home and was just starting to work on Avocet again when we had to drive back north to the mountains where he had another video shoot scheduled, this time with my riding shotgun. While in the mountains I was able to visit with my family while Chris had his shoot which was long overdue! After a short but sweet weekend away, we borrowed our 12-year-old nephew Troy as a week-long crew member to get some good one on one bonding and so he could help us with our projects. Small hands on a boat are great because they can reach into the tiniest of places!

Chris and Troy worked on all sorts of projects that week, while I was at work wishing I could get my hands dirty with boat work like the boys. I know Chris really enjoyed Troy’s company, and it reminded him of when he would do projects with his dad. Looking at Troy I couldn’t help but think about how when Chris was his age he had just learned that his dad had cancer, and one year later he passed away… time is precious. We cherish the memories we make and hold them close, which is one of the reasons why I love writing for this blog and filming for our YouTube channel.

Troy Sailing Our Fatty Knees

Troy Boy Learning How To Set Up An Interview

As the project progressed it was only to be expected that we would receive yet another call that would pause our efforts, once again. This time the voice on the other end of the phone was Jon, Chris’s older brother from S/V Prism, calling to beg Chris to fly to Bayboro, North Carolina, and help him and Shannon with their latest project on another Hans Christian 33, Dragonquest. After some logistics and discussion I agreed that Chris could lend his skills to Prism’s crew for 1 week and some change, but no more! We absolutely have to get sailing again soon or else I’m going to lose my mind! 

4 days ago Troy left and Chris flew East, leaving the boat to Cleo and I. It is 11:00 pm on Wednesday night, I am covered in teak dust from sanding the nav station and I am determined to finish varnishing before Chris’s homecoming. I have never been “good” at being alone, so during these rare times when I find myself without the company of another person I try to stay productive and make goals to achieve every day. Today my goal was to sit down and write out my thoughts before they leave my brain like a newly hatched butterfly, flying into the great unknown, never to be seen again. All of that pretty much brings us to right now. I am done writing about the past few weeks, so here let’s talk about what is happening in the near future.

Chris Doing What He Does Best...

Brother Time

S/V Prism

This Saturday, June 20th, is the Summer Solstice or better known to us sailors as the “Sailstice”. Although Avocet is out of sailing commission at the moment, I will be participating in the sailstice by raising our small tanbark sails on our Fatty Knees 8’ dinghy and enjoying the day on the water; Just me, the sea, and the wind that fills my sails… and maybe a White Claw or two! I have been documenting my progress on Avocet’s projects in Chris’s absence while he has (hopefully) been filming his time working with Prism… which means you will get a bonus video soon after part 2 of our Haul Out Video! Then maybe after that, we will finally get around to uploading an actual sailing video, just to show you all that we still got it! 

My last sail in “Little Wing” … very excited for the sailstice!

I can not fully express how much gratitude I have for everyone who has supported our creativity this past month; from YouTube subscribers to blog followers and Patrons, we are so incredibly thankful and stoked to have a growing community of great people. Thank you all again!! Stay safe, cheers, and fair winds!

Sincerely, 

Marissa of S/V Avocet 

Boatel California

The cool sea breeze playfully wraps around my sunkissed skin as I basque in the warm afternoon light. Gently swaying from the comfort of our foredeck hammock I take in the scenery as the setting sun paints the isolated island in its golden rays. Chris hands me a drink and begins playing guitar, serenading me just like when we were teenagers. Life is good… life is good…

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Our first haul and hang during our pre-purchase survey in 2018

I keep playing that scene on repeat in my head. The sound of power tools surrounds me and tears me from my blissful daydream dropping me firmly back in reality. Day 28 in the Ventura Harbor Boatyard, we have come so far but we still have work to do. When we bought Avocet in 2018 we knew that a boatyard date was imminent. The boat’s topsides where last painted around 15 years ago without primer which over time lead to unsightly spider cracking along the entire boat. What lied beneath the water line was as expected; Avocet’s 10-year-old bottom paint was ablative and essentially non-existent when we became the new crew so it wasn’t shocking to see the patches of missing paint when Avocet was pulled out of the water.

Before The Power Wash

After The Power Wash

In addition to painting Chris and I had plans to complete our new bulwark design that would take the place of our failing toe rail. Avocet had a few leaks when we first came on as crew and we fixed a majority of them, however, since the leaks under the toe rail were unreachable we could only “bandaid” the issue with a bead of TDS along the inside and outside joint of the rail from bow to stern. The TDS lasted as a temporary fix until we had the opportunity to remove the toe rail and begin preparing for the next version of Avocet’s deck upgrade: a proper bulwark. Weeks prior to our haul out, Chris and I had removed our teak toe rail by cutting it into 12-inch sections to remove the through-bolts and fill the voids. There were 200+ through bolts and 188 of them were broken off at the deck due to dissimilar metal corrosion, the cause of our leaks. Once we finished removing the rail and cleaning the mess below deck from the bolt holes falling through, we were ready for our stay at Ventura Harbor Boatyard.

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Avocet looking a little naked without her toe rail. Deck to Hull joint fully exposed.

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Our haul out 2020

When the day came to lift Avocet onto the hard Chris and I were both anxious. The last time we saw Avocets underbelly out of the water was in 2018 when we were surveying her trying to decide if she was going to be out home or not. Let me tell you, watching Avocet be lifted out of the water was a whole different feeling this time around. 2 years of our lives were built into that boat and watching our livelihood be lifted 10+ feet out of the water made us feel extremely uneasy. Luckily the Ventura Harbor Boatyard is extremely professional and made us comfortable with our choice to haul out in their yard… even when the lift operator asked us to remove the backstay so the lift could properly raise us; Chris attached 2 halyards to the stern cleats as a safety measure.

Once we were landlubbers, Chris dropped our rudder and began assessing the damage for the days to come. We knew we had blisters but my god we had no idea we had Big Bertha, which is the “fun” nickname we gave to the unsightly hole Chris drilled through our keel into the ballast. Big B started as a blister, but unlike other blisters, Bertha just kept weeping no matter where we drilled around her. Eventually, Chris hit dry ballast (hoorah!) but unfortunately Bertha was now a 6-inch hole into our keel which was just the beginning of the horror. We had always believed our ballast was lead but since Bertha was weeping rust we began to think that Avocet may have an iron ballast, which was devastating since this could potentially turn into an even bigger project.

Sanding And Ignoring Big Bertha Who Has A Heat Lamp On Her

Big Bertha, In All Her Glory.

“If the iron ballast is compromised you are in threat of having the keel split due to the iron reacting with the water and rusting. The only way to fix that is to take out your cabin sole, chip all the old ballast until you find fresh glass, and then pour new ballast- preferably lead- which won’t be cheap.” Having your older brother explain your potential doom is like having a comedian tell you that you lost your job – slightly more comforting but still absolutely awful. As the Neely brothers spoke about an action plan from 2,647+ miles away I could see the color in Chris’s face go white. When the phone hung up we decided to carry on with blisters and let Big Bertha dry out for as long as possible, then circle back after researching our options and making a new game plan.

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Glorious, glorious sanding! 8:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.

If I have learned one thing throughout this haul out it is how much I detest sanding. No matter how much you sand, you will always have to sand again or sand something else and quite frankly I am not patient enough to find any sort of rhythm in that process. Luckily we did not suffer through it alone and we are extremely thankful to have had a few extra hands help out along the way making the project go by faster than originally planned. HUGE thank you to our friends Mallory and Mike A. who lent themselves to the mercy of Avocet’s project list. It took about 2 weeks to completely sand the bottom down to bare glass/gel coat, working from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. While Chris focused on finishing the bottom, I directed my attention to our rudder. Since the rudder was off I took the pleasure in paint prep which would also be our test run of the whole bottom paint process. Of course right as we got into a groove and had steady progression we hit a speed bump which turned into an avalanche of bad luck.

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Sanded!

If you read our previous blog post you know that my Dog, Sierra, who was 11 years old passed away on Friday the 13th from cancer. When we returned home to Avocet after an emotional trip to my family’s home, we picked up projects where they left off and continued… just with heavier hearts. Within days of our homecoming, the governor of California announced that the state has issued a shelter in place order to aid in the battle against COVID-19, an ongoing novel in itself. It was like being in a bad dream; the whole world at war against something it couldn’t see. Chris and I were pretty isolated in the yard previous to the shelter in place so we didn’t see the effects right away. As time pressed on the usually busy path along the harbor grew quieter and the people who did venture out wore masks, similar to our respirators used to fend off the boatyard particles. It was a strange time to be alive, and an even stranger time to be in the boatyard. In the dark unknown brought by COVID-19, we stayed positive with memories of freedom from our landlocked location; and now I know why the caged bird sings.

With our heads down and more determined than ever to be floating again Chris and I carried on with projects. Since the bottom was sanded and blisters were drying out we directed our attention towards the next item on our list. As mentioned before, when we removed our toe rail prior to our haul out we discovered 80% of the bolts holding down the toe rail (and more importantly our deck to hull joint) were corroded to the point where the broke off at the deck. We knew that our toe rail needed attention, but we had no idea how bad it really was. Since the old toe rail was intended to be a structural unit, we took extra precautions when designing version 2 of Avocet’s deck to hull joint and bulwark. After a lot of research, Chris had stumbled upon a bulwark design used for many years primarily in old English pilot cutters, but most recently improved by Lyle Hess and implemented in his designs of the Bristol Channel Cutter 28. After a bit more research we had concluded that we would be using a modified version of the Lyle Hess design rather than constructing another toe rail where we would be redrilling holes into our deck.

While in the research phase Chris came across a post from SV Far Reach, which shared a complete restoration and redesign of a Cape Dory 36. They did fantastic work but what caught Chris’s eye was their implementation of bulwarks and a glassed over Deck-to-Hull  (DTH) joint which further inspired Chris’s ideas for Avocet. After visually combing every photo Chris had a well thought out approach to our new design and felt confident moving forward with the project.

When we posted project updates online and spoke with passerby’s in the yard, we often were met with comments like “wow that’s a big job” or “just buy a new boat!” leading us to the realization that boat projects like this that involve redesigning the DTH is not very common since it is the very “thing” that is holding the vessel together. Like all the projects on Avocet, we have 1 goal: to make everything more simple, stronger, and safer as a whole. With those 3 key elements in mind, Chris mapped out the perfect plan. The DTH joint was glassed completely on the interior so by fiberglassing the joint on the outside, it would add strength back to the joint as well as stabilize the questionable surface left by the 200+ bolt holes. After careful consideration and experimentation, Chris found that two layers of 1708 fiberglass with Epoxy resin would be the best way to seal the now exposed DTH joint while creating a beautiful seamless connection between the hull and deck.

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Chris removing what the router couldnt reach

To start this project Chris used a router to remove three inches of fiberglass on both the hull and deck. With 1/4″ of deck and hull material removed the 2 layers of 1708 and fairing compound would be inlaid perfectly. Before glassing, we used a round-over bit on the router to create a soft curve on the edge from the deck to the side of the hull, which is not only aesthetically pleasing but it also allows the 1708 to have a solid bond without any voids caused by harsh 90-degree angles under the glass. With our DTH project going so smoothly we almost forgot about our troublesome little blister buddy Big Bertha.

While working on the Deck to Hull joint, we couldn’t stop thinking about the impending doom of our potentially compromised ballast. Towards the end of glassing, the DTH joint Chris had an epiphany in the midst of celebrating a job well and realized that there was a very simple thing he could do to test the make our ballast and all it took was a magnet.

Unlike Iron, lead and stainless steal do not have a magnetic pull. Chris’s epiphany sparked a sense of hope which inspired him to bring a high power magnet up to the exposed ballast and see what destiny awaited us. The magnet didn’t pull from his hands and dropped from the ballast when he touched the two together and with that sudden thunk on the ground,d we felt a wave of relief wash over us as we concluded that our ballast was, in fact, lead,  leading us to our next big question: why does Avocet have a lead ballast whereas a majority of other Cheoy Lee’s are iron and concrete?

After speaking with Cheoy Lee Shipyards directly we think two things that could have happened. The first being that Avocet’s original owner had specifically ordered a lead ballast (thank you!) and the second being that Cheoy Lee threw any scrap metal laying around into the ballast and we got lucky with lead scrap. On paper, we have an iron ballast but a magnet (and outside expert opinions) don’t lie. Whether it be 100% lead or a mix of lead and miscellaneous metal scraps, we are happy that we won’t need to replace any ballast… knock on wood.

With our minds free from our ballast scare we were so excited to reseal unsightly Big B and get on with glassing blisters. Chris had left heat lamps on Bertha to ensure the void was completely dry before filling it with closed-cell foam and glassing many layers on top. Once Bertha was filled, glassed, and faired it was my job to glass the rest of our blisters. I truly have come to enjoy glassing, it is sort of therapeutic. Measuring the glass, cutting it, mixing the epoxy, wetting out the glass, and finally laying the glass in the blister so it would fit perfectly… the process became a rhythm I was proud of my work because for once it was 100% mine. If you had asked me 5 years ago how to repair a blister I would have no idea where to begin or how to even identify a blister. I have nothing but gratitude for Chris’s patience and dedication to teach me how to think creatively as well as objectively to repair things on Avocet.

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Around the time we were fairing the toe rail, our friend Mike L. stopped by and asked if we would be interested in house-sitting for a week or so while he escaped to the desert for some proper social distancing. Even though we were doing just fine living aboard in the yard, the thought of in-home-laundry and a warm bath enticed me and we agreed to look after Mike’s home and care for his cat Smokey in his absence. Cleo was thrilled to have another cat to play with, which was reassuring considering the last male cat she had interacted with was little Atlas-the-Boat-Catlass some months prior, and to say the least, she was not a huge fan. Smokey and Cleo became good friends chasing each other around the house and Smokey continuously trying to win Cleo’s affections. It was nice to have an opportunity to wash all of our upholstery, clean the fridge, and of course, sanitize everything given the pandemic – a proper deep clean. Mike’s home became our base camp for the following weeks, allowing us to separate “work” from “rest” a bit easier.

Transom DTH Joint Glassed

Boatyard Views

Beginning To Fair The DTH Joint

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post-panic attack smiles

As we got closer to painting, the yard told us that they needed to move us to a new location away from the road where they would be able to spray the boat, which worked out better for the audio on our videos anyways. Once we were settled in our new and final yard spot Chris suited up and jumped into our lazarretts to grind all the old chipping paint off to prepare to repaint with a clean Rustoleum white. It is truly an art to be able to fold and contort your body to reach small places on a boat, many people refer to this act as “boat yoga” and it is nothing short of that. Chris asked me to paint while he did other projects so while scrunched inside the lazarretts I had music playing to prevent my anxiety from sending me into a panic attack. I have never experienced claustrophobia before, but our boatyard experience really pushed our limits. When I first crawled into the lazarette, Chris joined me to get footage. As I was explaining what I would be doing I started to get jittery, and my heart began to pound. Watching the tape back you can see my face completely change as the panic onset. When I got out of the lazarette Chris assured me he would paint the rest, and I wouldn’t have to go through that again. Knowing there was much more work to be done I said: “no, I got this” and reluctantly pulled my mask back on and jumped back in, music blasting in both ears. Surprisingly the Black Sabbath station was just what I needed to get through that mental roadblock, and I was able to paint the whole locker panic-free.

I managed the blister repairs, sheer line sanding, and various smaller projects while Chris focused on longboarding the topsides- which turned out to be the most labor-intensive and mentally challenging part of the whole haul out. In fact, it was such a pivotal point in our haul out (especially for Chris) that I am going to let him write about his experience sanding for 32 hours straight… so, enjoy the read!

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repairing new blisters. the pink and blue spots are old repairs

32 Hours of Glorious, Glorious Sanding – a memoir, by Christopher T. Neely

Despite our preparations, we didn’t factor in the unpredictable weather. It was a month of rain showers, constantly delaying our plans. With the pressure of COVID-19 and our wallets bleeding we needed out of the boatyard ASAP so we could seek safety on the water. When I saw that the weather had changed and we now had a solid 2 days of sunshine I knew that was our new paint window; we had to get the topsides prepped and painted within the next 2 days or who knows when we would have had a chance to paint again, especially since the Awlgrip paint requires at least 7 full days to semi-cure before we could be put back in the slings. The full curing time is near one month.

Monday had been my tentative shoot date, so we worked all weekend to get the topsides and deck ready. Despite working from 8:00 am – 10:00 pm/11:00, come Sunday night it was pretty clear we had a long way to go. We pushed our paint date to Tuesday, giving us one more day to work hard, hoping that by nightfall we would have everything taped up and ready to shoot in the morning. After sanding all day long with no breaks in between I looked at Marissa and told her to go home and that I would at least be home by midnight. She had work the next morning and needed to get some sleep, especially since she was our only source of income at the moment due to COVID-19 causing all of my scheduled work shoots to get canceled. Although she protested, by 10:30 she agreed to go home and have dinner waiting for me.

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Flexi sander

The rest of the night became some sort of a blur after Marissa left. I had already been sanding for 14 hours, and the closer the clock got to midnight the more numb my hands felt. I kept Rage Against the Machine blaring in my Bluetooth headphones, a gift from my brother, and the night pushed on. It was the equivalent of a runners high, I reached a point where adrenaline took the wheel and I just kept sanding; back and forth, back and forth, the flexisander and I became one solid machine pushing on to get the desired result.

Every time I completed a section I was hopeful that the next would go faster, but there is no way to speed up hand sanding, its monotonous and time-consuming. By 2:00 a.m. the boatyard was so quiet, not a single soul to be seen, and why would there be? Everyone was home in bed sleeping at that time. Occasionally, I would break my sanding trance and look down at the ocean right beyond our bow, dreaming of being curled up in our nice warm bed, being gently rocked by the sea at anchor.

By the time 4:00 a.m. came around, I was no longer hopeful of getting sleep but was determined to have this boat finished by 8:00 a.m. I clenched my fist to stretch my fingers and felt my blood soak into my gloves. I had an emotional moment where I looked at the bow then looked across the 41 feet of the hull and my thoughts consumed me. We couldn’t win with the weather, COVID-19 was this unpredictable danger, we had so much work to do, our bank account was drying up… as I let my thoughts drag me farther down it truly felt like this was all too much work to continue on, and that there is no way we could finish. I regrouped after battling my thoughts and realized that sometimes you feel the furthest away from achievement when in reality you are so close. After a “fun” 5-minute sob session, I slipped my headphones back on, picked up the sander, and pressed on; not allowing wood and fiberglass to conquer me.

Sunrise greeted my dusty face and I was pleased to turn my headlamp off after replacing the batteries for the third time that night. Although the sunrise was beautiful, I had not finished sanding the topsides yet and wished that I could pause time, giving me just a few more hours before the yard would come alive. Marissa called me at 6:30, alarmed I wasn’t home. I grunted through my mask “still sanding, didn’t stop, come by soon” then hung up. When 7:55 came, I had finished the last of the sanding of Avocets topsides and deck with 320 grit. Even without paint, the hull shined from the prep alone.

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Finally taping off everything and preparing to lift the spray screen

After 25 hours of continuous sanding, I wish I had time to admire my work. Unfortunately, the yard was awake and Johnny who would be shooting our topsides was staging our boat for paint. We had to paint at exactly 11:00, which gave me less than 3 hours to completely dewax and clean the full hull of Avocet, as well as strike the waterline, put a skirt on the bottom, and tarp the entire deck and bottom of the mast so no overspray would get on the boat. The waterline alone can take up to 2 hours…

Marissa and I scrambled to tape off the doghouse, canvas, and everything that shouldn’t be painted. We got busy tarping and taping the entire cabin top which took nearly an hour or so, then Marissa left for work. I was again left to fend for myself wrapping all the stainless on the deck like our shrouds, forestay, backstay, pushpit, and so on. Thank goodness we didn’t have any stanchions or toerail on!

It was about 10:45 and I still hadn’t started the waterline or wiped the boat down. After 10 minutes I struck the best waterline I could; which turned out incredibly well. I must give credit where it’s due, the master painters in the yard took the time to teach me a trick for marking water lines, which I would try to explain here but I would rather just show you in our upcoming videos. After wiping all 80 feet down with microfiber cloths and Awlgrip surface prep, the last step was to tack cloth the whole boat to remove any last bits of dust, lint, and dirt particles. At about 11:45 Johnny pulled the trigger on the paint gun and all the anxiety that had been building inside me the past month had completely vanished.

I drove into the boatyard parking lot after work and my jaw dropped. The sun was setting over the water, shining onto Avocet’s hull and reflecting on our faces. It was the first time we have ever been able to see ourselves in Avocet’s curvacious sides. Chris looked like a whole new person with his relaxed demeanor and smile stretching from ear to ear. We hugged each other and started picking up our work area before heading back to the house for an early night.

Look At That Seamless Hull Joint... Wow!

Look At That Reflection!

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The culprit of Chris’s sadness

The following day Chris had a work which we were very grateful for since it was the first shoot he had had in a month and a half. With him away, it was my job to start taking the painters’ plastic off. Chris called me asking what the status of our paint was and if it still looked amazing. I was happy to report that no hoodlums spraypainted their names on the hull during his 12-hour absence and sent him a photo for proof. Unfortunately, he didn’t see what I did. What I saw was a job well done, a masterpiece, and a physical representation of our blood, sweat, and tears. What Chris saw in that photo was less than poetic. He soon became obsessed and upset with the matt finish on the deck caused by the dew that settled overnight. “If I just had another day it would have been perfect!” he kept saying.

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How could you NOT be impressed with that shine?

He came home the following day and was fixated on the tiny mistakes that were overlooked by everyone but himself. Passerbys would “ooh” and “aah” at Avocet, giving Chris a little confidence boost but nothing substantial enough to pull him out of his funk. To be completely honest it was driving me nuts to hear Chris belittle his work – our home – so much, and my words of praise were clearly not helping so I reached out to our friends and family for a little help. I had secretly asked our loved ones to send me a short clip of them giving Chris words of encouragement and with their help, I patched together a 4-minute video full of love to share with my husband, Mr. Grumpy Gills. Just as I had hoped, the video had him smiling just as big as the day the boat was painted.  After some gentle, honest conversation we discussed the things we could have done better and agreed to move on. Of course, looking back there are things we would have changed, but all we can do is look forward and use the boat as she was intended to be used.

It was still very eerie in the boatyard. It was the third week of the “Shelter in Place” order, and although the yard was still working on government vessels (the reason they were essential) there was still a feeling of uncertainty that blanketed the yard, leaving us feeling like we were in some weird dystopian movie or a matrix. Time pushed on but it felt like we were living the same day over and over… a new fear presented itself to us one day: if the yard did happen to shut down how would we get back in the water? Chris had begun to strategize how to convince the lift operators to splash us if worse came to worse. We felt like we had unknowingly checked into the Hotel California, where you can check out any time you’d like but you can never leave.

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Boatyard sunsets during the “coronapocalypse “

With the topsides painted we could transition to painting the bottom, something we have been excited for since the day we bought Avocet. While Chris focused on making sure all of the blisters were faired perfectly, I was tasked with polishing all of our hardware using our wire wheel and buffing wheel. It was all fun and games until I was applying a piece of buffing compound to the buffing wheel and it got taken from my hands then thrown at me like a high-speed projectile. A block of compound hit me right in the clavicle, which hurt incredibly bad. Despite the pain, I laughed. It was such a comical incident, I could only imagine what a bystander would have seen had the boatyard not been a ghost town. My clavicle and ego bruised, I continued polishing and eventually had shiny cleats and a stem piece to show for it.

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Almost paint time!

Chris rolled the barrier coat on the bottom, working quickly to avoid streaks and harsh lines. As satisfying it was to cover all of Avocet’s bottom side imperfections (like Big Bertha) it was kind of bittersweet in a way to be covering up the evidence of our hard work. I let Chris focus on the bottom while I sanded our binnacle, removing all of the fouled paint. We had initially planned to have the pieces sandblasted and even had dropped it off at the shop we use for sandblasting, but in the early stages of COVID-19 when businesses were closing their doors we acted fast to get our parts back before we couldn’t. Chris had to beg the shop manager to allow him to take back our pieces, unfinished. Begrudgingly, the manager told Chris he would keep the door open for 10 minutes, so Chris was able to bring home our pieces. Fast forward nearly a full month later, I was sanding the parts getting them down to their bare aluminum.

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Putting the binnacle back together

Unfortunately, I had work the day Chris painted the bottom, but I can’t even tell you how incredible it was to leave an unfinished boat and come home to a boat that looked brand new. I drove into the boatyard parking lot after my day at work and was smitten with the dark blue bottom complimenting the sunset reflecting topsides. We still had to paint where the support pads were placed on the hull, but besides that Avocet was ready to splash. We slept soundly in our bed that night, eager to return to our life afloat.

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WOW!

The following day we moved back aboard Avocet. Mike and his girlfriend Kris had planned to return home after their month away from society. We spent the morning cleaning the house and packing our things. Chris had mowed the lawn which was something he had never done before since he grew up in the mountains. Cleo sniffed goodbye to Smoky and just like that our suburban home vacation was over. Once we were settled back in, Cleo curled up in the cockpit next to the companionway and we humans proceeded to finish projects.

Cleo Exploring The Avocado Tree

Smokey, Striking A Pose

Always Close, But Never Cuddling.

Together we reinstalled the shaft which we had to cut 2 inches to accommodate our new 3 blade Autoprop which replaced our feathering 2 blade prop. Chris had fantasized about a 3 blade Autoprop since purchasing Avocet in 2018. In the time we have spent motoring Avocet in all conditions, it became apparent that our 2 blade maxprop was not powerful enough for Avocet’s caliber. We had ordered our new prop from Bruntons in January, but due to the virus, it put a stop on all shipments coming from the UK. The prop arrived 1 day before our splash date, just enough time for us to drool over its beautifully crafted bronze blades before sadly painting it with zinc paint for its own protection. A little information about our Autoprop: All propellers have what is called pitch: the degree at which the blades of the prop are bent from the hub. Your pitch is really important because, you can have a different pitch for different circumstances, just like a race car has different tires for different circumstances. The pitch of your prop determines the amount of “bite” you have in the water so a blade with a lot of pitch may work very efficiently at lower engine RPMs, but if you brought the engine very high in RPMs, eventually the prop will start to cavitate in the water (spinning). The pitch is matched with the torque and horsepower of your engine to give you the best output, however, there is always a compromise with a fixed pitch of a propeller.

The special thing about the Autoprop is that it is the only auto pitching prop in the world. Yeah, you read that right, it’s the only one! Bruntons has designed this feathering prop to give an optimal pitch at whatever RPM you have the engine running at. After fitting the Autoprop to our new shaft we couldn’t wait to try it in the water.

Look At That Shaft

Wooooow

Happy Camper!

At last, it was our final day in the Ventura Harbor Boatyard. We spent the hours by picking up our workspace, painting the final spots where the support pads were, reinstalling hardware, and drinking champagne to celebrate. The Howells joined us for a toast and shared the moment of relief with us. There we were, 2 months later, staring up at a boat that looked brand new. We had come so far and were ready to return to the water. After 2 bottles of champagne and some much-needed comfort food from our friends Mom and Pops Tacos, we relished in our accomplishments and finally allowed ourselves to relax just enough to have the best night of sleep since before our boatyard escapade.

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54 days, 6 hours, and 23 minutes later we were returning back to the water. It was our splash day, Avocet was ready and so were we. Chris had all the cameras charged and I was armed and ready with our Instagram Livestream. Watching Avocet be lifted in the slings again was another nerve-racking experience, but somehow this time we were more confident due to our structural support work is done on the deck to hull joint and our new found boatyard friends were the ones behind the lift controls. As Avocet was lowered into the water, a small crowd formed (6 feet apart from each other) to watch. The Howells, Mike and Kris, and even “Mayor” Tom joined to watch the glorious moment. Cheers, claps, and laughter went around when Avocets hull finally splashed, our newly raised waterline sitting perfectly on the water. Cody, who was operating the slings, gave Chris a high five before he and Daryl removed the slings. They said it was rare for DIY’ers like us to not have any issues when the boat splashes (i.e. packing gland and through-hole issues) but he wasn’t surprised that we were in good shape, the “boatyard boys” had seen how much work we had put into Avocet and by the end of it, all had become friends of ours.

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WE DID IT!

Absolutely thrilled we decided to take Avocet for a victory lap around the harbor, to test our sea legs and new prop. In gear but in idle (12-1500 RPM), we were pushing along at 4.5-5 knots which was a significant power change from our last prop which we could barely get 6kts when at 2500 RPM. After a few laps and princess waves to passing boats, we returned to our slip where we were so careful to back in. We stuck the landing with no issues and just like that life was back to normal – well, for the most part. Our dock neighbors all crawled out of their boats to say hi and welcome us home. The subtle hint of movement brought life back to Avocet. Our oil lamps gently swayed back and forth ever so slowly as if the boat was breathing. Our bed had never felt more comfortable and despite our excitement, we finally let the exhaustion in and were sound asleep by 9:30.

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The sunrise woke me up around 6:00, now that our bow was back facing towards the east. Every morning the sun hits me perfectly on “my side” of our bed, through our staterooms portlight window. I gladly accepted the warmth on my face and let Chris sleep while I began typing this blog on my phone. I eventually got up and started the coffee, moving to the cockpit to enjoy the morning. I promised myself to never take the little things for granted again. The sound of sanders buzzed in the distance from the boatyard. I smiled and also promised myself to not touch a sander again for at least another month. Chris joined me in the cockpit, looking completely at ease. It was such an odd feeling; we had just spent the past 2 months working harder than ever before, pushing ourselves physically and mentally, yet being back in the water almost erased all of the emotions we had carried with us in the yard. Somehow we had pressed “play” and our lives were back to “normal”. Of course, the pandemic was still sweeping over our world, and it was not something we took lightly, but being home in the water brought us the comfort and security we lacked in the yard.

Although the boatyard chapter of this project is over, we are not finished yet. We still need to reinstall our new bulwarks, paint our sheer line, shoot our decks, redo our non-skid, and of course, put Avocet’s name on the transom. The hard work continues, it just seems a little less hard while floating and for that, we are thankful. Chris and I would like to extend our thanks to anyone and everyone who helped us with this major project; whether it was by physically lending a hand or simply dropping us a line to check in on us. Your support means the world to us, and hopefully, we can all go sailing together soon. Until then thank you so much for following along!

Cheers and fair winds,

Marissa, Chris and Cleo.

 

Sierra Sue Hushaw, Asleep in Our Hearts

I wonder if it will be raining… should I pack a dress? Does this outfit go together? is black too cliche? As I attempted to piece together outfits to shove into my duffle bag I asked myself what I wanted to be wearing when I said goodbye to my best friend.

It was 2:30 on Thursday when my dad called me, from somewhere along the northbound I-5. He was speaking slowly, calmly, trying not to let the sound of sadness escape with his words. “Sierra is sick. I think this is the end.” I choked on my words as I tried to find an appropriate response. Scrambling to find an appropriate response I finally said “I’ll be home tonight” before calling Chris to give him the news.

After quickly disinfecting my work desk and shutting down my computer I jumped in my Subaru and drove to the boatyard where Avocet has been residing on stilts as we prepare to paint her bottom and topsides. Chris had been working hard all day on the boat, and it showed. Dust from the blue bottom paint freckled his cheeks making him look like a large smurf or a rejected member of the blue man group. Regardless of the boat residue that coated him, I buried my head into his chest and opened the floodgate of tears. He held me while I sobbed, then led me up the ladder to inside the boat so I could pack for our trip north.

If you have made it this far you have probably realized that this entry has virtually nothing to do with Avocet itself but instead, it’s crew. Writing has always been a cathartic way for me to work through my thoughts and emotions while also documenting pivotal points in my life. Maybe someday my great-grandchildren (if I should be so fortunate) will read my work and realize that not only was great-grandma pretty freakin’ cool, but she was a human with thoughts and emotions, maybe even similar to their own. I’ll put the hypothetical grand kiddos away now as we get back to the purpose of this blog entry: saying goodbye to my best friend.

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Sierra with her pheasant

The 4-hour drive north to Santa Cruz was quiet despite Chris’s attempts to comfort me. We pulled into the driveway of my childhood home and knocked on the door where I braced myself for an onslaught of emotions. Before my dad could finish opening the door, two golden noses pocked through the crack with wiggling butts behind them. My dad had to pull our 4-year-old Golden Retriever named Stormy to the side so Sierra could greet us. Barely able to stand, Sierra, wiggled her frail body towards us then collapsed at our feet doing her best to roll over so we could pet her belly. “That is the most we have seen her move in a few days,” my dad said, again trying to hold back his tears.

Now I know that everyone says that they have “the best dog in the world” and to be honest, they are all right. Every dog is special, but if you ever had the pleasure of meeting our sweet Sierra Sue you would know just how special she truly is. At nearly 11 years old, my sweet girl watched me grow up. She was there waiting for me after the worst days of elementary school, she was a constant during my confusing high school years, and she was even there when I settled into my college dorm in Lake Tahoe. After all the stages of schooling, Sierra took her place as the “Dog of Honor” at me and Chris’s wedding in 2018.

My Smiley Girl!

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While writing this (trying to decide what my next paragraph should be) I am stuck on memory lane. I remember when we picked Sierra up from Red Tail Goldens where we met her littermates and mama before taking her home to her new life at the beach. She grew up to love the beach and her tennis balls (especially when paired together) and could last body surfing the waves longer than the average human surfer. At the end of the day when we were tired of throwing the ball, she would always give us the look of just one more? before playing one of her other favorite games catch me if you can, I’m not leaving this beach. 

Surfs Up!

Dad Wanted To Watch Sierra Surf From Her Point Of View... She Was A Good Sport!

"come Get Me!"

Do We Have To Go Home?

Happy Girl

When the last day came we were together again as a family to give our Sierra one last super fun day before helping her over the rainbow bridge. As happy as she was to see Chris and me, she was 5 times as happy to see the beach. Despite being thin and frail from malnutrition (she stopped eating and drinking due to her aggressive cancer) she rallied and pranced down the beach – her beach – all the way to the water where she waited for us to throw the ball. Although disappointed in our weak “throws” she chased after her beloved tennis ball and brought it back. She stopped, flopped, and tried to burry her ball when I decided to sit beside her and watch the waves. All down the beach there were dogs and their doting owners running and walking just as we had for 11 years with our sweet Sierra. Chris, being the incredible husband he is, snapped a few photos of our family as we huddled around her and poured all of our love out to her, there on the cold sand.

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As much as it broke our hearts to say “let’s go home” we knew it was time. Sierra reluctantly trotted by us, ball in mouth, and my parents helped her back into the truck. The next 4 hours (her final 4 hours) she laid next to the couch where I stayed by her petting her and telling her how much she meant to me. We all took turns adoring our sweet golden girl and she used all her energy to reciprocate the love with nudges and occasional paw-5’s. At 5:00 p.m. the vet (Mark) texted my dad to let us know he was on his way. Emotions once again flooded over us and my brother was the first to say his goodbyes. I couldn’t keep myself from crying as he held her precious head in his hands and said a prayer that “God watches over [his] buddy” … I was a mess and so was everyone else. Stormy came and sniffed “goodbye” to her big sister then joined my brother for a drive while the rest of us waited for Mark to arrive which would lead to the peak of my emotional distraught.

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coolest pup around

“It’s just something new guys,” Mark said as Sierra ate 8 treats out of his hand “I promise, it’s just because it’s something new” he continued to ensure us as we exchanged looks of confusion and shock with each other. Sierra hadn’t eaten in days, so watching her eat was like a spark of hope inside, but was soon smothered when Mark’s words proved true. Just as Chris went to give her a treat she took one sniff, and laid back down completely uninterested and seemingly defeated. Her spine and hip bones protruded like sharp peaks under her golden feathered coat. Although I had just met Mark I could tell he was a very caring vet. He was gentle about the whole process, being very transparent and sympathetic during our time of grief. Chris and I helped Mark apply the sedative before I looked Sierra in the eyes and told her I loved her as she melted onto the floor. We spent the next 5 minutes petting, hugging, and telling Sierra what she meant to us.

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In all my life I have only seen my dad cry twice; once when my great grandmother passed away and second when Sierra passed. After the euthanasia was given I held Sierra’s paw even after Mark had softly said: “she’s passed on, guys”. We assisted Mark in moving Sierra’s delicate body to the cloth gurney before Chris and Mark carried her down the stairs. My mom and I stood in our living room, holding each other and trying to process what had just happened. Soon, Stormy ran full speed up the stairs knocking over everything in sight, just as usual. My brother followed shortly behind her. Sadness hung over our family as we were together again, but missing a very important piece.

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Hushaw family photo circa 2011(?)

A knock at the door broke the silence of mourning and our dear friend Henry and his fiance Ella walked inside. Of course, they came with edible gifts (the best kind) and plenty of love to comfort our family in a time of need. Henry and Ella’s presence lightened the mood as we began to laugh and talk about their upcoming wedding. As the hours went by the pain still sat uncomfortably in my stomach; a sadness so deep it replaced the feeling of butterflies that once flew.

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Sierra with her little sister Stormy

That night as I laid in bed, Chris held me tight and combed my hair with his fingers helping empty my mind so I could sleep. Eventually, I did drift into a light sleep, only to be awoken by the dim morning light. It seemed so fitting that it was raining, it matched my mood to a T. After Chris and I packed up our car we as a family drove to Nisene Marks State Park (located 5 minutes from my house) to get some fresh air and find some sort of comfort in the coastal redwood trees. Stormy tugged on her fair lead leash, again trying to desperately prove she was alpha, except she had no competition. When the rain became uncomfortable, we turned back and said our goodbyes. Once again parting ways my family drove home and so did we.

It was a long drive back to Avocet, quieter than the last. Chris managed to get my input regarding our upcoming projects which were a pleasant distraction from the pain. We arrived home at 3:00 p.m. and didn’t hesitate to grab sanders as we got to work where we left off. Our friends The Howell’s stopped by a few hours later with their handsome service pup in training named Dempsey who just so happens to go give wonderful dog hugs. They shared their condolences as I tried to keep my brain and hands busy. Impressed by our work they wished us the best of luck and continued on their walk.

The dark encompassed me, provoking emotions of sorrow. I sat at the edge of our bed biting my lip in an attempt to keep my tears from overpowering me but eventually gave in as waterfalls of tears streamed down my face. Chris, who is no stranger to loss himself, was quick to scoop me up and comfort me. This became a pattern for the following week. Eventually, the tears stopped one night, and I don’t even remember when. What I do know is that I received an outpour of love and support from friends and family which did bring a warm blanket of comfort. One message from a total stranger on (Reddit of all places) stood above the rest:

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Snow dancing

“Dogs never die. They don’t know how to. They get tired, and very old, and their bones hurt. Of course they don’t die. If they did they would not want to always go for a walk, even long after their old bones say: ‘No, no, not a good idea. Let’s not go for a walk.’ Nope, dogs always want to go for a walk. They might get one step before their aging tendons collapse them into a heap on the floor, but that’s what dogs are. They walk.

However, dogs get very very sleepy. That’s the thing, you see. They don’t teach you that at the fancy university where they explain about quarks, gluons, and Keynesian economics. They know so much they forget that dogs never die. It’s a shame, really. Dogs have so much to offer, and people just talk a lot.

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Sierra with my bunny

When you think your dog has died, it has just fallen asleep in your heart. And by the way, it is wagging its tail madly, you see, and that’s why your chest hurts so much and you cry all the time. Who would not cry with a happy dog wagging its tail in their chest. Ouch! Wap wap wap wap wap, that hurts. But they only wag when they wake up. That’s when they say: ‘Thanks Boss! Thanks for a warm place to sleep and always next to your heart, the best place.’

When they first fall asleep, they wake up all the time, and that’s why, of course, you cry all the time. Wap, wap, wap. After a while they sleep more. (remember, a dog while is not a human while. You take your dog for walk, it’s a day full of adventure in an hour. Then you come home and it’s a week, well one of your days, but a week, really, before the dog gets another walk. No WONDER they love walks.)

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Sierra and I at my first (and last) cross country meet in 7th grade

Anyway, like I was saying, they fall asleep in your heart, and when they wake up, they wag their tail. After a few dog years, they sleep for longer naps, and you would too. They were a GOOD DOG all their life, and you both know it. It gets tiring being a good dog all the time, particularly when you get old and your bones hurt and you fall on your face and don’t want to go outside to pee when it is raining but do anyway, because you are a good dog. So understand, after they have been sleeping in your heart, they will sleep longer and longer

But don’t get fooled. They are not ‘dead.’ There’s no such thing, really. They are sleeping in your heart, and they will wake up, usually when you’re not expecting it. It’s just who they are.

Do you need a tissue? Because as comforting as that read was, it made me ball like a baby and I am not afraid to admit it. As hard it is to love something that death can touch, I will continue to love every day knowing that my sweet Sierra is asleep in my heart.

Sierra As A Puppy

We Knew She Was The One For Us... The Little Puppy With The Yellow Ribbon Who Was Known To Sleep In Her Food Bowl

Guarding Her Tennis Balls As If They Were Her Own Puppies. Making Sure She Was Comfortable, All The Way To The End.

Thank you for reading my cathartic word vomit, it was difficult to write this and took me the better half of two and a half weeks to work through finding the right words to stick to the page. Chris and I have been working on Avocet while dealing with the curse of rain and of course the novel that is COVID-19. On a positive note: we have new videos coming your way soon! Here is a teaser of what’s to come: https://youtu.be/uG5DJoZ4sjAIMG_1637.jpg

Operation: Haul Out

Where to start, where to start… it has been a while since I have written a blog update and after a recent dinner with friends, I was inspired to put a pen to paper (well, fingers to keys) and write out what we have been up to lately. A lot has happened since our last blog entry; we ended up moving Avocet to Ventura which is much more convenient for boat projects as well as work purposes not to mention that Tthe boatyard is right next door, all of the supply shops we go to are nearby, and our new neighborhood is pretty freakin’ sweet! We do miss our old neighbors very much… but thankfully we are just a hop, skip and a jump away and can meet them at Toppers Pizza to catch up on the latest dock talk (Hi Sven, Nancy, Gene, Patti, Don, and Sarah! We miss you!)

I feel like after our New Years’ kiss I blinked and when I opened my eyes it was already March 1st- where has the time gone? January was spent settling into our new slip and getting ready for our latest project(s) while February was a huge project in itself with a sprinkle of birthday fun in the middle. Chris and I began remodeling our nav station to be a more functional and attractive part of our boat while simultaneously preparing for our haul out in March. Once the bones of the nav station were constructed, we pressed paused and changed course to prepping the exterior for our boatyard stay. Chris and I worked together to removed the lifelines, stanchions, pushpit, pulpit and of course the biggest pain of all: our toe rail.

Let The Chaos Begin!

Glassing In A New Backing Plate

Using A Cardboard Template To Figure Out Our Best Design Option

Chris Fitting The Structure

Check Out This Cool Technique Chris Learned! You Score The Wood To Make It Bend At Funky Angles - So Cool!

One Of My Favorite Features Is This Awesome Cubby To Throw Keys, Sunnies, Wallets And Etc!

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One of our stainless steel stanchions in a bronze base plate… a great example of dissimilar metal corrosion on our boat.

When we first bought Avocet, Chris and I knew the toe rail and stanchions were weak parts of the boat, which was especially annoying since it was a major source of leaks, contributing to the Cheoy “Leak” nickname. With that said, Chris had temporarily fixed the problem by doing a bead of TDS along the seam which did actually prevent most of the leaking. However, after we removed what was left of the 190 bolts that held the toe rail together, we realized just what we were in for.

Over the course of 40 years, the stainless carriage bolts fastened with bronze nuts had lost most of their structural integrity due to crevasse corrosion which was a direct result of dissimilar metals. A majority of the bolts broke off at deck level when we were removing the toe rail, while the rest had broken off sometime in the last 40 years. This discovery explained a lot about the minor leaking issue we had when we first bought the boat back in 2018. After removing 12-inch sections of our teak toe rail (plus 2 longer sections that our spinnaker/genoa track wasn’t letting go of) we boxed up the usable teak for a later project and continued to punch the broken bolts down through the deck so we could retrieve them down below – it reminded me of pulling rotten teeth! Once the bolts were removed, I had the fabulous job of learning how to contort my body to access small spaces and aluminum tape the holes from the inside so Chris could fill them with epoxy from above. This would be a good place to mention our deck to hull joint (DTHJ) was completely different from what we had originally thought. Due to the inner side of the deck to hull joint being glassed, Chris had suspected the outer side of the DTHJ to be glassed as well. However, that was not the case. An open seam was visible and although the old toe rail was probably not structurally reliable anymore, it appears that it was originally designed to be a part of the structure. With that said, we will be glassing the DTHJ during our boatyard stay to make it strong and replace the toe rail with bulwarks.

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When the epoxy was dry we washed off the deck for the first time in a long time and watched the water-poor over the side where a toe rail used to catch it. As we took a step back to look at our naked looking boat Chris and I shared mixed emotions about the month ahead. We knew we had a long list of projects that would be physically and mentally demanding while partnered with the stresses of living on the hard which is essentially like living in the desert during a Skrillex concert; no water, very dusty, and the sound of obnoxious (yet somehow rhythmic) power tools.

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The last week of February was spent crossing final items off our list. We removed our pedestal, both our quadrants and built a new emergency tiller all in preparation to drop our rudder as soon as we got hauled out so we could begin working on replacing all the bearings along with checking up on the rudder shoe and the packing gland (you know, the thing that’s supposed to keep water out of the bilge). I did my final tidying below deck in anticipation of a whirlwind to roll through our tiny home – hopefully, the mess won’t get too terribly bad.

March 3rd was our haul-out date and we woke up confident as well as a little anxious. Chris started the engine and I cast off the bow lines then jumped aboard as we used the emergency tiller to get out of our slip and over to the yard. Luckily, the boatyard was less than a football field away from our slip, which made it just a bit easier to back into the slip where they lifted Avocet out (which was scary)  before power washing what was left of her ablative paint from 15 years ago and blocking her in the far corner of the yard. I will save the details for the next blog which will be dedicated to our boatyard stay, but as I finish typing this we are sitting safely 9 feet above the ground nice and snug aboard our tree house boat anticipating the many days of work ahead.

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All 8+ Tons of our floating home, elevated above us.

Thank you for reading along and following our journey! We look forward to sharing Avocet 2.0 with you very soon. If you would live to come to help us with our projects, feel free to reach out!

Cheers!

~ Marissa, Chris, and Cleo ~

P.S. We are well stocked with beer (or juice) for helping hands.

 

Hello,​ Roaring 20s!

As I sit here attempting to encapsulate everything that happened over the span of 12 months, I feel like time passed by in a blink. I have spent the last weeks of 2019 and the beginning of 2020 trying to write this very blog. Usually, I am inspired by recent events and can not wait to pour my thoughts out onto the screen, but for some reason every time I sit down to collectively type about 2019, the enthusiasm leaves and I am left with a blank screen and a lack of motivation. Although typing and erasing my words doesn’t give the same satisfaction as crumpling up a page and tossing it into the wastebasket, I do find comfort in knowing that this year was so important to me that I want to write this blog as near to perfect as I can, no matter how many revisions. So, I guess let’s just jump on into it!

Our 2019 started off with a BANG as we danced into the New Year at China Peak Mountain Resort, our tradition going on 5+ years. The fireworks show lit up the night sky while Chris DJ’d the party, setting the mood for the new year. The week following New Years Day, I flew to Las Vegas, NV to attend the Consumer Technology Association (CES) Conference on behalf of one of my clients. It was incredible to be surrounded by so much technology and be introduced to new and exciting people, it was an experience I will not forget. As much as I was enjoying the conference and being back in the Silver State, I was pretty boat sick and missed my little family. When I touched down in Burbank, Chris was there flowers-in-hand waiting to take me back home. To wrap up January, Jon and Shannon flew home for Grandma Alice’s celebration of life. She had passed away on December 30th, 2018 at the age of 93 years old and was one of the sweetest women I have ever met in my life, who defined style and exuberance. In her honor, Mama Neely and Tess threw the most wonderful celebration of life with all of grandma’s friends and family. Jon and Shannon flew back for the occasion which excited us all to get some extra time with them before they returned back to work on their Hans Christian 33, Prism. While in the mountains, we were able to enjoy the fresh snow with some good friends, Mitch and Quincy who are the crew of S/V Esprit, a beautiful KP 46. Anytime a group of sailors gets together, it is bound to be a great time.

Chris And I DJ'ing At China Peak

Chris, Grandma And I At Our Wedding In 2018

Chris And I In Front, Jon And Shannon Behind Us

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January was over in a blink, which was the reoccurring theme of 2019. Chris and I both celebrated our birthday’s in February, Chris turning the big 2-1 and myself turning 22. We sailed to Catalina Island to celebrate with the whole family and our very best friends. The sail from Channel Islands Harbor to Avalon was our first-night passage aboard Avocet. 14 hours later, we made it to Avalon safe and sound where we connected with the rest of our friends and family onshore. It was a great week exploring the town and soaking in every last moment with Jon and Shannon before they left to finish refitting Prism. When the time came to depart, we hugged everyone goodbye and set sail for Channel Islands Harbor; just Chris, Cleo and I. A few days after we returned home from our Catalina adventure, Chris surprised me with a trip to Disneyland! Since my birthday is February 14th, also known as Valentines’ Day or the “Hallmark Holiday”, the whole park was decorated with hearts and cupids as lovers gallivanted through the different lands. It was absolutely perfect.

In March, we decided to take a break from our own boat projects and drive to Berekely where Mitch and Quincy were on the hard-working on Esprit. After a long day of helping Esprit’s crew, we were treated with delicious food prepared by Quincy, who is a master galley chef as well as a nutritionist- check out her Instagram here! It was nice to be in the bay again, aboard Mama Neely’s Mason 43 which is the boat that helped inspire the Neely boys to become true sailors.

Sanding Away!

Cleo Enjoying "grandmas" Boat

When we returned home from the bay, we finally finished our head refit. Naturally, the project lasted longer than anticipated due to conflicting schedules. It was half-finished when we sailed to Catalina, essentially just in “working” condition but we were still steps away from completely finished. I can not tell you how good it felt to lay the tile and finish painting… it actually almost felt as good as the first shower aboard did! We were ecstatic and to this day, our head is still the crowning jewel of our refit portfolio.

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We closed out the month by hosting my 6th(?) annual Jib Jam at China Peak, a skiing/snowboarding competition that benefits charity. In 2019 I chose to send the proceeds to Protect Our Winters (POW) an organization dedicated to environmental activism and overall, protecting winter. The Jib Jam was a great success, all of my friends young and old came out to support which always means so much to me. We raised over $300 for POW and made a lot of memories. little did I know it would be the last time I hugged one of my biggest supporters, Shane, who passed away later that year from a motorcycle accident. Shane was one of my favorite people to snowboard with, he

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Shane Cole, MC’ing my 2014 event

taught me so many tricks and above anything taught me how to be confident in my riding abilities which naturally correlated to me becoming more confident in myself as a person. I could always count on him to be at any of my events, even with a broken arm! In that case, I had him commentate which was extra funny due to the pain killers. This year, in 2020, I am pleased to announce that my Jib Jam will benefit the Shred Life Foundation, A foundation created on behalf of Shane dedicated to supporting adolescents who share a passion for extreme sports and may have setbacks that prevent them to do so. Shred Life is a company that sells apparel whose profits will sponsor and benefit fellow shredders providing equipment, lift tickets, medical bills, etc. and give those the opportunity to share Shane’s love for the outdoors. Thank you for being who you were Shane, I will never forget you.

In May we were thrilled to be invited to participate in the Home Port Regatta, a regatta specifically for cruisers and liveaboards, aka… us “slower” folks. It was our first time sailing Avocet semi-competitively but she stunned us with her speed on the water. We don’t have a spinnaker, so already at a disadvantage, we did our best to tack strategically and keep our eye on the horizon for lifts. To our absolute surprise, we finished the race in 11th place out of 20+ boats! In 2020 you better bet your rum we will be back out there on the start line, this time with more strategy and determination to make the top 10. A few weeks after the regatta, my good friend from college, Angel, flew out from Boston to visit us. It was really our first time hosting a non-family member so I felt obligated to go all out and be the hostess with the mostess.

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Angel making a new friend

I prepared a “Welcome” gift basket and planned out some fun things to do to give Angel the best California experience… if only the weather got my memo. The Santa Ana’s were not quite finished blowing yet, and we got hit with a nasty cold spell bringing cold harsh breezes making our attempted beach day more of an impromptu natural “spa treatment” thanks to the sand blowing against our bikini-clad bodies. All I can say is: I tried. One of the highlights of Angel’s visit was taking her to a Taco truck we newly discovered called Mom and Pops. We fell in love with even more menu items and have since become good friends with Mom and Pops family; Diego, if you are reading this… thank you for your hard work and excellent food! We are so thankful we have you as a friend. If you are in Ventura, be sure to check them out! Here is their Instagram: @momandpops 

It is so wild that we have already been married for one full year. Chris and I celebrated our very first wedding anniversary in Chris’s hometown Shaver Lake, where we got married. My cousins Ryan and Rony joined us at the local bar where we were thrilled to see at least 6 of our other friends already inside- an absolute bonus! We played pool, drank, sang along awfully to the country music playing and then eventually made it back home and sank into the hot tub, which melted all our mistakes away. Clarke, one of our best friends and also our wedding officiant joined us the following day along with Chris’s highschool bud Turner who came up the mountain to continue the celebration.

It didn’t take us long after we returned home to Stowe away the cabin and set sail for Santa Cruz Island: our first voyage to the island of the summer, and our first time anchoring without Jon and Shannon aboard. It was incredible to sail with the sunrise, arriving at Potato Bay just after daybreak. We had a wonderful weekend exploring the island and took pleasure in knowing that we would be returning again very soon. You can read all about that adventure here or watch the video recap on YouTube!

Why we started varnishing our stateroom in the middle of the “island” season, I have no idea, but I am glad we did it even despite the amount of time it took. Chris got a fire under his butt to start working on something, his hands were idle for far too long. It was our first time varnishing the interior of our boat, so we went through a few trials and errors. Chris invested in a spray gun which resulted in needing a box fan to ventilate and decrease overspray. We also painted the large locker under our bed, moving our hot water heater and a brand new diesel tank into space in preparation for our upcoming diesel heater project! There are so many details regarding this seemingly minor project, it gives me a headache just thinking about it. So, to save my sanity (and probably yours as well) check out the video on YouTube!

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red, white, and YOU!

July seemed like such a short month. We celebrated the 4th of July at home, watching the festivities from our boat with our friend Anna while the hustle and bustle ensued around us. Naturally, the morning after the marina was completely trashed. Chris and I went on a walk to collect as much garbage as we could to do our part, but despite our efforts I know it wasn’t enough. We would have needed at least a crew of 20 or more friends to have joined us to make the marina absolutely spotless… better yet, we just need people to step up and throw away their trash properly! A new goal for 2020: take a walk every day with a bag, and fill it with trash. Small pieces, big pieces, I don’t care! I challenge you, reader, to do the same. We all live here on this earth together, let’s be the best caretakers we possibly can be in 2020!

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We were so excited to sail our Victory 21 in the High Sierra Regatta at Huntington Lake, a yearly tradition. 2019 was extra special because on the same weekend it was also our fleets National Regatta! Chris and I made the executive decision to ditch the 300-pound lead bubble that was attached (aftermarket) to our keel since we were one of the last boats in our fleet to still have one. Completely convinced it was the bubbles’ fault we were getting our butts handed to us sailing downwind, we made do with the tools we had and tried to pry that sucker off. Did I mention we were unprepared for the severity of the project? Well after 6+ hours of using screwdrivers, hammers, and anything else we could possibly use as a crowbar… our nephew Troy who sat silently watching us casually mentions that there is an actual crowbar on the side of the rental house. Thanks, kiddo. A couple amounts of pure force did the trick, and we were finally bubble-free. After a little sanding, fairing, and temporary painting we were ready for bed. Bright and early the next morning, we towed our boat to the lake where we rigged and launched. Then it was race time. The boat was much more responsive-without the extra weight, and we pointed just as high as we did before. To be quite honest, the issues did not lie with our modification, it lied with the rest of the boat which had been neglected. If you read our blog, you know we lost our cap shroud mid-race, lost a cam cleat, had some play in our tiller and had the oldest bottom paint in the fleet. It was clear after our horrible 4 days of nonstop torture on the water that we need to put some love into our little boat and in the Spring of 2020 we plan to do just that… just in time for the next High Sierra Regatta. Look our Uncle Scooter and Uncle Chuck… we are coming for you!

When we lived in Lake Tahoe, I had an amazing job working with animals at the Pet Network Humane Society. I managed the front office in addition to helping take care of all the animals which were a great experience for me! I deeply missed working with animals in need, and my baby fever (yes we are young, yes we are waiting, but YES I do still get baby fever) was kicking in so when I saw a post on Facebook looking for a bottle feeder for a 3-day old kitten I took the leap and offered my assistance. 3 hours later, a tiny little ball of fleas and dirty fur was delivered to me. I brought him home where Chris and I dove right into doting on him. A few hours of flea picking and a little bath later, we named our new temporary crew member Atlas. We had always thought Cleo would be a great mama cat, but boy were we wrong. She did not like sharing attention with Atlas one bit, but a few hours later she began to tolerate his tiny presence and squeeks, taking pity on him, and licking the top of his tiny head. Just one or two licks though, she ran away somewhere high out of reach afterward.

The First Photo Of Baby Atlas

After His First Bath, Letting "dad" Know That He Did Not Like That!

Our Clean Little Fluff Ball Fit Perfectly In Chris's Hand

Of COURSE I Planned A New Born Photo Shoot!

Atlas Loved To Roll On His Back And Would Often Fall Asleep In This Position

Atlas filled our boat with so many precious “mews” as he rolled around, still unable to open his eyes. He made working on boat projects like completely restoring our portlights fun and difficult since he liked to attack feet and needed attention ever hour. However, we made it work and a couple weeks later we had sparkling portlights and cabin sides. Atlas-the-boat-catlass accompanied me to work, making friends with all the boaters and making toys out of anything that landed on the floor. Cleo became more tolerant of the tiny tyrant and played with him every once in a while taunting him with her out of reach tail grazing over his ever-growing head. When he started teething, he began chewing on Cleo’s face. We expected her to teach him that his behavior was inappropriate but she completely ignored his existance and let him carry on. As we rolled into September, my parents arrived for a visit to the Island so we gave Atlas to his new furever family, one of our best friends Mallory who took him in as a trial-run while we were away.

Cleo Allowing Atlas To Gnaw On Her Ear

His Face Says It All

Atlas's Little Nose Would Get Stained By The Wet Food

"Dad" Hanging Out With Atlas Again, This Time At Atlas's "Forever" Home On Land

Atlas (Mittens) Growing Up To Be A Handsome Boy!

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our wonderful neighbor Sven captured this shot

A week before my parents arrived, we made a last-minute trip to Sacramento to buy our dream dinghy! Even before we had Avocet, we always wanted a Fatty Knees sailing dinghy, designed by Lyle Hess. UNfortunately, they are very hard to come by and very expensive brand new which is why when the opportunity presented itself we took the plunge and drove my subaru north. Long story short, the woman who was selling it used to be a cruiser aboard an Islander 36 with her husband who has passed. She had a garage full of memories and boat things in addition to our dream dinghy. We purchased it from her, and promised to keep in touch since we could tell it had been hard for her to part ways with it. Previous ownder, if you are reading this, we want you to know that you made one of our dreams come true and we promise to continue cherishing and taking good care of this dink!

It was a good thing we had invested in the Fatty when we did, because when my parents came to go sailing to Santa Cruz with us in September, we really needed it! That trip was such an adventure, it was my families first time “really” sailing, let alone staying aboard at anchorage. They handled everything great, even when we almost lost our anchor chain and got caught in a nasty 45+ knt wind… but im sure you read that story or watched the video. When we returned back to our slip safe and sound we said goodbye to my family and began to decompress. Mallory and Atlas (who had since been named Sassy Mittens, or “Mittens” for short) had bonded, making us nothing but more confident in our decision to have her be his adoptive family. With the peace and quiet, we began brainstorming our next project and adventure, realizing our year was already almost over.

In October, or “Spooky Season” as I like to refer to it, we flew to Annapolis Maryland where Prism was, to celebrate Jon’s 30th birthday! It was a family affair, so we were joined by Mama Neely, Sister Tess, and Best Friend Clarke for the occasion. We had a blast exploring the city and meeting new friends as well as visiting with our extended family (on both sides) who accompanied us in D.C. for an “adventure day”. You can watch our little recap video on YouTube since I didn’t write a blog, I hope you enjoy it! And before you ask because I KNOW you will… YES! Jon and Shannon are in fact still filming, editing, and producing videos. They will have a new upload in 2020, so stay tuned!

When we returned home, Atlas- I mean, uh… Mittens…- was just about 2 months old meaning it was time for his parts to get snipped. Since Mallory has 4 dogs and 2 kids, we agreed that it would be best little kitty healed up in the comfort of his floating home with Chris and I tending to his every demanding need. Cleo was less than enthused with Atlas- I mean MITTENS- re arrival, and hissed the biggest hiss at him, booped his head, and hid in our room for the duration of 3 days. I don’t blame her either, Mittens was just big enough to start jumping on her back in attempts to play and she was not having any part of that. Our little fluffy terrorist was home for Halloween, so it was only fitting he partook in the holiday. Chris and I were dressed as Dr. Indiana Jones and Lara Croft, while Cleo was our little pumpkin and Mittens was… BATlass-the-boat-catlass! Having his fluffy butt back aboard for a few days was wonderful, but we were so happy to return him to his furever home where he can chase around his dog siblings and demand things from his new humans. If you are interested in becoming a foster parent or donating to a great cause, check out Surf Cat Adoptions, who connected us with our foster baby Atlas/Mittens.

Dr. Jones, Lara, Grumpy Pumkin And BAtlass On The Bow

Lil' Dude Helping Dad Edit

One Last Photo Shoot...

Mittens (aka Atlas) 4 Months Old And Loving Land Life With His Forever Family

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October ended right after I had fulfilled my Rocky-Horror-viewing-quota and we resumed our lives a little less-spooky. We were featured in the local magazine, Anchor Magazine, which gave us a “neighbor spotlight”. It was so cool to see ourselves on the cover in a romantic, novella-esque pose… it makes me giddy every time I look at it. The day we picked up the magazines was the day one of my best friends Megan came to visit us. It was her first time really sailing so we decided to give her an easier experience and sail to Ventura for a little staycation. It didn’t take long for word to get around that we had arrived, soon our cockpit was filled with our friends and we shared laughter and cocktails while enjoying the famous Ventura Sunset. Megan left us to host her bear rally in Lake Tahoe, in an effort to advocate for the local bears. She is an incredible person and will never cease to amaze me. I hope we get to visit again soon!

Thanksgiving is a big deal on the Hushaw side. My aunt and uncle do a wonderful job hosting us all for dinner, and fortunately Christopher’s family opts for a Thanksgiving lunch making it easy to spend time with both of our extended families since they live within 30 minutes of each other! It is always wonderful to reflect back on what we are thankful for and my, my do we sure have a lot this year. We are thankful for our floating home, good health, steady jobs, and the future. I always wish holidays like Thanksgiving would last a little longer so we had a proper amount of time to visit with family, but in 2020 it is one of our goals to spend more of our time with the ones we love.

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Right when I thought we couldn’t possibly eat anymore, December greeted us with treats and sweets completely testing my (lack) of self control. We were so excited that the first week of December brought loads of snow to the mountains, resulting in China Peak opening. We loaded up and drove north to get some turns in and film some commercial content for the resort. It felt so good to have my board underneath me again, but as much as I miss the snow I wouldn’t trade my life afloat for anything. Another reason I am excited to sail to Alaska: best of both worlds! Back in June, mama Neely gifted us a spa day as an anniversary gift. due to our busy schedule, we were unable to cash it in until December, but we are so glad we did! Since it was the “off season” Glen Ivy spa was basically all to ourselves which meant we got to enjoy all 17 pools and the mud spa with just eachothers company. It was a relaxing day spent soaking and enjoying a massage treatment, Glen Ivy has definitely become one of our favorite date spots. As much as we stress saving money, we realize that it is healthy to take care of ourselves mentally and physically so spending a hundred dollars every once in a while to do something that takes care of “us” makes it all worth it.

A week or so after our spa day, our new friends at Remora Marine came to visit and film some promotional video with us and of course Avocet herself. We haven’t really announced anything yet since I wanted to wait for a full video in 2020, but we are partnering with Remora Marina as our first official sponsor! We received their Remora Solo hull cleaner to try out, and we are thoroughly impressed. Chris is such a nerd with that kind of stuff he was so excited to pick the Remora Reps’ brains about specs and such. We have much more to tell you, but I am afraid it will have to wait for a little later this month. Stay tuned!

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Merry Christmas from Aptos, CA!

Of course, Christmas and New Years capped off our 2019 in an epic way. On Christmas Eve, we drove to Santa Cruz to spend the night and Christmas morning with my family, opening gifts and seeing what the jolly ol’ fat man brought us. Naturally, my parents wanted to see their favorite (and only) grand cat so Cleo came along to partake in the Christmas fun. She was doted on by “grandpa” who gifted her new toys (that she has since demolished) and investigated by my two curious golden retrievers who still don’t seem to understand what a “cat” really is. We enjoyed our sweet but short time, and then packed up the car and headed to the mountains to spend Christmas day and night with Christopher’s family. We are so thankful for our families and the generous gifts they gave. My family gifted us new bedding which we direly needed since we have been using Chris’s comforter from when he was a kid (and I think it was Jon’s prior) for the past… 4 years! Christopher’s mom also gave us a very thoughtful gift: new foul weather gear! We are more excited than ever to go sailing again, and can’t wait for our adventures in the new year. Speaking of New Year’s, we continued our yearly tradition of ringing in the new year at China Peak where Chris and I DJ’d the party. This year, I actually had my hands in the planning process and decided to make it a Roaring 20’s themed party… seemed appropriate given the fact we are going back into the 20’s! The event went off without a hitch, people even came dressed in 20’s attire! I was very proud of the success, so proud we took all of New Years Day to recoperate from our “celebrating”. A memorable moment from the party for Chris was being recognized as “Chris from S/V Avocet” while shuffling gear around on the ski resorts day lodge deck, which made us both feel very proud and humbled that people really like following our story. If you are reading this, new friend, cheers!


On the 2nd, we drove back home to Avocet and prepared her for our next adventure: surprise! We are moving harbors! Ventura Harbor was so nice, we decided to take the plunge and move Avocet there which will be more convenient for work and project purposes while we continue to outfit our boat for our big crossings. Although we will miss our little “neighborhood” in Channel Islands Harbor, it will only be an 11 minute drive and a 1 hour sail away. Right now as I am writing this, Chris is stowing the cabin preparing for the move in the morning. We canceled our internet, ended our contract and are ready for the changes and excitement the New Year will bring us. This morning we hit 2000 subscribers on YouTube and are just 100 followers shy of the same on Instagram- I can not tell you how much it means to us that you enjoy our story. We hope to meet you all someday, whether it be on the water or on shore somewhere. Cheers to 2020!

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