Reflections on a decade of #boatlife

New Boat Owners – 2011

10 years ago, with every penny of my savings (plus a few more borrowed from my little sister!) we bought Brio, our 1981 Nor’West 33, in San Carlos, Mexico.

Pacific Mexico – 2012

We’d flown to Phoenix (me from Vancouver, Jon from Maine), stayed in an Econolodge (free shuttle from the airport and breakfast included!), and then hopped on an 8-hr bus ride to Mexico (where I infamously packed only one extra large bag of banana chips to tide us over) to arrive at our future home: Brio.

Pacific Mexico – 2013

10 years later, as I wander back to the boat from my morning trip to the porta-potty (workyard life is nothing if not glamorous!), I can’t help but smile at how far we’ve come since then.

Panama Canal – 2014

Not in the toilet department, clearly, or the ability-to-estimate-how-long-workyard-chapters-will-take (see: our 7-week honeymoon in the boatyard :P).

Kite pic sailing into NYC Harbor – 2014

We still don’t have hot water (somehow we never have!) and have relied on a foot pump for 9.5 years.

Portland, Maine – 2015

And the projects have never really lessened over the years, despite our efforts and investments…

Halfway Rock, Maine – 2015

But the cute ruffled-hair boy popping his head out of the vberth hatch swells my chest with so much love I could cry.

Maine – 2016

And this striking red boat is the stuff of my dream cards.

Portland, Maine – 2016

And the hard-working handsome guy with a sander in his hands? He’s the dream-partner (in all senses) that I barely knew 10 years ago!

Bailey Island, Maine – 2017

10 years ago, setting out for the first time on our little sailboat in Mexico, I dreamed about “a life with no ‘come-home’ date”.

2 Weeks Old in Portland, Maine – 2018

We used to just spend every dollar we had and then go home to our parents’ couches, broke, apart from one another, and scheming new ways to get save money and get back onboard together again.

Sailing in Maine – 2018

Now I work from the boat – a job I actually love that very rarely feels like “work” – and we spend our days together, exploring and boat-projecting and making new dream cards with even further flung destinations.

Headed South in the ICW – 2019

So I guess this is my little way of saying thank you, universe, for this life and this family and this pretty red boat in a Southern Georgia boatyard.

Georgia Boatyard – 2020

Can’t wait to see what the next 10 bring 🙂

Brio Trio – 2021


In the Boatyard with the Baby-Kid and the Chainplates and the Rigging Bits and the Sabre 42 Sailboat Rot (in St Marys, GA)

I know, I know, he’s not much of a baby anymore. Turns three next month, in fact!

Boat toddler

He quit napping last month (currently topping my list of “worst moments in my child’s life”, followed quickly by “the first time he puked in my open mouth” (#momfail), “that time I encouraged him to ride down the ramp on his balance bike (and straight into the ocean)”, and “last weekend when my newly-purchased cappuccino was sacrificed for an emergency playground pee”).

On the beach in Amelia beach while Jon does Sabre 42 projects

So of course he’s currently asleep in the truck. My kid, who has NEVER napped in cars, has been asleep for an hour while I’ve sat on the side of a random road wondering if this is a good thing or just another bump in the road to post-nap-schedules?!? At least it gives me a moment to type out a little blog post.

Toddler on a Sabre 42 sailboat making a fun mess in the galley

Zephyr and I have officially been living in the boat yard for 4 months.

Living in the boatyard with a toddler on the hard is sometimes hard

I’m at this point where I really want to document the progress and projects we’ve been working on, but things are mostly like 80% done so there’s a part of me that say WAIT UNTIL IT’S 100%. Except sometimes it takes us years to actually make it to 100% (*cough* deck rot *cough*) so if I don’t share when we’re at 80% I’ll just never get to talk about it! #extrovert

Boneyard Beach in Big Talbot Island Park

SO, with that in mind, here’s what we’ve been up to lately…

Sabre 42 Sailboat Hanging Locker with New Shelves
This mini-project barely warrants a picture but adding SHELVES to our hanging locker has made a huge impact to my day-to-day life!

Our custom rigging bits have come back and are installed, so we are now one VERY big step closer to having wire rigging on our Sabre 42.

Converting our Sabre 42 sailboat's rig from rod to wire rigging

Some of these boats originally came with wire (as opposed to the rod rigging ours came with) so we’ve been able to leverage new friends and pictures of their rigs to get ideas 🙂

Converting from rod rigging to wire rigging on our Sabre 42 sailboat rig

Jon is now working on creating brand new chainplates.

They are VERY shiny. Drilling 1/2″ thick stainless steel is a little daunting but there’s a drillpress here and Jon can teach himself anything, so it’s working out great. After some debate on how to best approach it, clamping the new stock to the old chainplate and using that as a template has worked the best.

Currently 8 chainplates are done and the last 2 are with a machine shop to get bent (forestay) and welded (backstay), so the end is in sight!

We have not managed to get any more coats of red paint in — we’ve confirmed that the finish is 100x better in 75°F plus weather and it just hasn’t been warm enough on a dry, non-working day yet, so we’re practicing patience on that front.

We have made a nice upgrade to the panelling around our ports, swapping out the dark, wet, teak veneer for bright white arborite.

On the port side at least 😉 (this is that 80% I was talking about haha but our ports on the port side leaked a LOT so it made sense to prioritize them).

Replacing the panelling around the opening ports on our Sabre 42 CB Sailboat
We’ll call this “before”

Jon dug out the old putty, refilled the area with thickened epoxy and a thin layer of fibreglass, and then rebed the freshly-polished ports. We like shiny 🙂

Rebedding opening ports with thickened epoxy and fibreglass on our Sabre 42 sailboat

Oh and did I mention rot? We have rot 🙂 A wet, rotting mast step (and stringer) to be specific.

The limber holes (that let water drain through) were not sealed at all on our boat, so the mast step and stringer was totally wet and half rotten.

Replacing the old rotten mast step in our 1989 Sabre 42 CB Sailboat - unfortunately tied to the stringer, so a bigger project than it first seems!
What we found under the fibreglass… rotten yuckiness

Jon being Jon, he’s already replaced our entire mast step, chipping the rotten step out (literally – with a hammer and a chisel and brute doggedness) and replacing it with an entire sheet’s worth of marine plywood, about a gallon of epoxy, and fourteen layers of fibreglass.

This project was NOT on any of our lists, but that’s pretty much expected when you buy an old boat, right?

Cute model for scale

There are so many other little projects to try to share — a new forward vberth hatch, updated LED lighting in the main area, new electronics, etc, etc, etc — but this will have to do for a wrap-up for now.

Here’s to 80% projects and the 20% that will come some day 🙂


An Update from the Boatyard (in St Marys, GA)

Happy New Year from the boat yard!

I know it’s been a year for everyone, but I have to say that when I think about where we were one year ago – cold, in the Chesapeake, trying to get our Webasto installed so we could head south and try to sell little Brio – I’m pretty thankful for how the year has gone for us, overall.

Ironically we chose the word “freedom” as our theme for 2020 — the universe had a bit of a laugh at us for that one, with numerous lockdowns and quarantines sprinkled over the months — but boat-wise, selling little Brio and making progress on our lovely list of projects for Brio II has felt like freedom, so there’s that 🙂

We dropped Brio II off at the boat yard here in St Marys in early August, and headed north to escape the heat in Maine and then in BC.

You might think after leaving our boats in tropical locations for extended periods of storage time we’d know a thing or two, but you’d be wrong 😉

Jon came back in October to a boat entirely coated in mold (thank you, leaky decks in hot humid hurricane zones), full of bugs (always bugs), and just generally disgusting.

To make it even more fun, the propane regulator started leaking (so no cooking), the battery charger kicked it (so no power), and the water smelled like rotten eggs (so no water other than what comes in gallon jugs).

Luckily my husband is a saint – and a hardworking one at that – so in the three weeks that he was here alone he scrubbed every surface with bleach and vinegar, got a new battery charger ordered and installed, replaced the propane regulator, and found a better source of water.

He also scraped all the bottom paint off, started the sanding on the bottom (we’re going to do a new epoxy barrier coat), and started the sanding, filling and fairing on the topsides.

I’m tired just typing all this!

We made the most of our extra time in British Columbia!

After three weeks apart, Zephyr and I joined Jon in the boat yard. I’ll admit that we weren’t confident about how boatyard life with a toddler in the middle of a pandemic would go… but it’s actually been great.

The yard is relatively quiet, there’s a 7-year old who lives here and Zephyr absolutely adores, and the weather has mostly been a very pleasant 60-70°F (15-20°C). I can work from the boat while the boys play in the dirt piles around the yard, and then on weekends we switch so Jon can focus on projects.

The topsides are coming along – we’ve done three coats of Alexseal finish primer and three coats of Alexseal Sunfast Red (two-part paint). Unfortunately red is the WORST color for coverage, so it’s going to take at least another 2-3 coats (and trying to find bugless, windless, warm days that I’m not working on is super hard)!

Alexseal Sunfast Red Topside Paint on Sabre 42 Sailboat

But the red is transformative — and somehow Brio II feels like she was always meant to be a red sailboat — so the effort is 100% worth it!

Alexseal Sunfast Red
3rd coat of Sunfast Red going on…

Since painting can only happen on perfect days, we’ve got a litany of other projects started to keep us busy on “down” days.

In my head I’m always going to wait until these projects are done to talk about them, but let’s be real: we start way more projects than we will actually finish any time soon (though they will all get done eventually!!).

So in no particular order, here’s a sampling of the projects we’ve started 😉

Radar Arch

We ordered and have dry-fit a Senior Admiral radar arch from Fish-On Sports. These aluminum arches are similar to the Atlantic Towers “arch in a box” concept, but they’re about $1000 cheaper. We set ours up to have two feet on the stern and two one the side decks, giving us the most arch we can fit which in turn will let us mount 700W of solar.


We took the mast down this week, and have now officially begun the slightly-daunting process of converting our rod rig to new wire rigging instead.

We’re doing this for a few reasons — one, wire is cheaper than rod (although the conversion process is costing us in custom bits and bobs); two, by installing high-mod fittings on the wire we can in theory replace rigging on our own in the future; and three, wire rigging is easier to ship / source internationally, so this is a step towards being more off-grid ready.

Honestly it’s one of those projects I’ve been afraid of — just like repowering little Brio or painting topsides were — so I’m mostly staying out of it while Jon does all the heavy lifting (as usual!!). We all have talents — tackling giant scary boat projects just isn’t mine 😉


We’ll call the last category “other” — aka, repairing rotten bulkheads and beefing up the mast step, continuing the rotten deck core saga (is there a theme here?? 😉 ), upgrading lighting to LEDs (I have a special hate for the ugly reading lights on these boats that draw 3.5 amps), installing davits, etc, etc, etc…

We’re still in the “list-growing” stage of this boatyard chapter, so I won’t presume to imagine we have even the slightest idea of what we’ve gotten ourselves into… but if a pandemic isn’t a perfect time to settle in and try to unearth a diamond in the rough, when is?

Wishing you all a very happy 2021!


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