Making a boat a home (aka lowering expectations) and setting sail: a catch-up post!

Leaving lovely Morro Bay, California

Wow! We haven’t written a blog post since February? Oops! So much has happened with and on Illusion since then. We’ve done a slightly better job at keeping Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram up to date, but if you don’t follow us on there, here’s a quick recap, written with apologies for being the worst bloggers ever….

Toby’s preferred mode of transport to get to the boat while at Milltown Marina

After a great summer (2016) on the water, winter for Illusion was all about trying to keep dry-ish and clean-ish. We weren’t living aboard so we emptied out years of accumulated stuff, got rid of mold and smells, and replaced lots of the original interior fittings. Our one-bedroom apartment was crowded with boat stuff while we sorted through what we needed to keep and what should go. Meanwhile Vancouver was experiencing extreme weather conditions – rain, rain, more rain, snow, rain, more snow. The marina was completely iced over at times. Doug spent many hours measuring cushions, ordering fabric, sewing covers on a sturdy old sewing machine (thanks Gem!), and cutting and staining wood. Many more hours were spent listing stuff on Craigslist, driving to donate things around the city, and getting to know various hardware stores. Meanwhile I pushed on with my PhD and spent Sundays loading and unloading stuff on to the boat. We had numerous grand plans for all the beautiful refit work we would do over the winter and the clever and organized way we would re-pack everything, but life (aka endless viruses and illness over the winter, teaching, thesis-writing, and contract work) took over and spring arrived without much evidence of progress. I took loads of photos to document our work, but lost most of them when my phone broke. There are some on Instagram…

At Loch Lomond Marina, San Rafael

Fast forward to now: we’re in San Rafael just north of San Francisco, in a marina, the sun’s shining, and Doug’s just been fitting a new hatch in the bedroom. Well, we were when I wrote this post – we’re now a few hundred miles further down the coast, in Newport Beach, and Doug and Toby are at a kids’ Storytime at the Marina Park Community Centre,  a five minute dinghy-ride away, where there’s also a great playground – our main focus for choosing where we’ll stay!

Cosy domino-night on board

Needless to say we didn’t finish our project list and some of the jobs we did weren’t as perfect as we’d hoped (don’t look too closely at the book shelf), but we got things sorted enough to be comfortable-ish aboard, figured the rest would just happen eventually, and got moving before autumn storms arrived. We sailed, and motored at times, from Vancouver to Victoria, on Vancouver Island, from there to Newport, Oregon, then to Crescent City, California, and then on to the San Francisco bay area where we spent a couple of weeks catching up with old friends. Some jobs even happened underway, like re-sealing the leaky nav station window.  Then it was on again to Monterey Bay, Morro Bay, Cabrillo beach just by the Port of Los Angeles and most recently a relaxing afternoon motoring over to Newport Beach.

A visitor at Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club, where we were guests for a couple of nights at Thanksgiving – thank you Cyndee and Jim!

Now that the PhD is all finished, I’m hoping I’ll make time to write on here a bit more so I won’t go on right now about all the amazing moments of the sail down  – like whales! and dolphins! and porpoises! and jelly fish! and pelicans! and sunsets! and moonrises! and stars! and more dolphins! But I hope I can share some of the highlights soon and also information that might be of use to others thinking of doing this route.

Leaving Cabrillo Beach

We’re so happy we decided to untie the dock lines and start anchoring out over the summer. Not only did we get to hang out with some lovely Vancouver liveaboards and share some fun boat-socializing with friends and strangers, but nothing beats rolling around at anchor to prepare for being underway. Our inner ears must be fairly accustomed to the motion by now as seasickness hasn’t been too much of a problem. And once you realize you can happily live without something for a bit – hot water, fridge, heater – it’s so much easier to have adventures – and extra nice when you get to enjoy those ‘luxuries’ again!

Sunset underway, from Morro Bay to Santa Barbara, California

For those who like details here’s some more info about what we did to the boat – this doesn’t include most of the technical stuff or engine stuff, just steps we took to try to make Illusion a little more comfortable for us to live on full-time.

Changes to the boat’s interior:

  1. Removed storage shelving from the quarter berth area to make it into a sofa/spare bed and play area for Toby.
  2. Getting rid of the old cushions

    Replaced all foam cushions – beds, salon sofas, quarter berth sofa, nav station seats.

  3. Replaced fabric-covered ceiling panels with wood panels
  4. Replaced fabric-covered cupboard walls with wood walls
  5. Painted wooden shelving in V berth
  6. Painted port salon wall panel
  7. Made wall collages for the quarter berth area and the starboard salon wall
  8. Washed all the old carpets
  9. Made a bookcase for the salon
  10. Re-carpeted the companion-way steps (the entrance steps to get below deck) – thanks for your help Freddy of SewGreen Vancouver!
  11. Fitted new sink in the aft head
  12. New toilet seat
  13. Fitted mirror in forward head
  14. Fitted new hooks
  15. A ridiculous amount of cleaning and scrubbing, including the bilge area.

(Some of these sound like tiny jobs, but surprise, surprise, on boats nothing is ever quite ‘normal’ so even a little job like attaching some new hooks can bring up some kind of complication that slows things down and turns it into a big effort!)

Things we planned to do that are still on our unfinished jobs list:

  1. Cut and cover cockpit cushions
  2. Replace bimini fabric
  3. New mainsail cover
  4. Mosaic tiling in forward and aft head
  5. More hooks and hanging storage containers
  6. Turn the forward head back into a shower room from its current state as storage room
  7. Replace seals in leaky hatches (Update: we’ve now done this, yay!)
  8. Replace hatches (Update: we’ve made some good progress on this – just a few to go.)
  9. Replace batteries (Update: we’ve now done this!! hurrah!! we have way more power and don’t have to keep worrying about whether we can start the engine. The battery story has been quite the saga though including the fact they were mistakenly delivered to San Quintin prison.)

Thanks for sharing the journey with us, and extra thanks to those friends who reached out, helped out, and supported us during what was quite a difficult summer before we left Vancouver – and an extra special mention to Freddy for everything (showers! sewing! childcare! laundry! emergency contact! van-selling help! etc etc!) – if you’re looking for lovely gifts for friends with little ones, her gorgeous work is available at SewGreen Vancouver.




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