Sailing Avocet

👋🏼Marissa & Chris Neely
⛵️Sailing around on our CheoyLee 41’
📍Channel Islands, CA
🎥Visit Our Website👇

Sailing Avocet Q & A

SV AVOCET….. Come on spill the beans, what does AVOCET mean and how did you come about the name?

She actually came with the name! After some research we learned that “Avocet” has been her name since 1979 when her first owner sailed her from Hong Kong to the Philippines. After that, John and Robin purchased her and lived aboard for 30 years before Robin passed away and John passing only 3 days after Chris and I became Avocet’s new crew. We wanted to carry on the legacy and also didn’t necessarily risk pissing off the wind and sea gods during the renaming ceremony.

An “Avocet” is a coastal wetland bird, native to North America as well as certain locations in the UK. 



“I heard a rumour that you guys are the youngest youtube sailing couple out there is that true?”

We just celebrated our birthdays on February 10th and 14th marking our 23rd and 24th solar revolution! I am not sure if we are still the youngest youtube sailors in the game, but we did start uploading for fun when we were only 20 and 21!

“How did you guys meet and who made the first move?”

Chris and I met as kids (11 and 12 maybe?) helping our dads photograph a mutual friend’s wedding. Chris caught my attention with his smile but I was way too shy to talk to him. We always knew of each other because we grew up skiing and snowboarding on the same small mountain, but I didn’t really reach out until after his dad passed away to send my condolences (his dad was a good friend of my dads) and from there we started chatting off and on.

When Chris’s family took a trip to the BVI’s in 2012, he got a flesh eating bacteria and was life flighted home to the US where he was in the hospital for months, followed by another few months of being bedridden at home. We lived three hours away from each other so I would draw him photos from the back of my physics class to send to him via text and in between the crazy amount of painkillers he was on we would chat.

“We lived three hours away from each other so I would draw him photos from the back of my physics class to send to him via text and in between the crazy amount of painkillers he was on we would chat.”


It wasn’t until the summer of 2013 we became an official “item” after spending every weekend during the summer together. We were watching the stars one night at midnight and I asked Chris who he had a crush on (up until that point we were just “best friends”) and he smoothly responded with “what does your intuition tell you”… as a 15 year old he had some game! We have been together ever since. He asked me to marry him when we were 18 while visiting his brother Jon in Costa Rica, sailing aboard his boat Prism. We finally tied the (sailors) knot in 2018 becoming husband and wife then moved aboard Avocet to start our life afloat.

“Tell us more about both of your sailing backgrounds?”

Chris grew up in a sailing family enjoying many wind-filled summers sailing on Huntington Lake as well as sailing his family’s Mason 43’ on the San Francisco Bay. Chris’s older brother Jon is also a liveaboard cruising his Hans Christian 33, Prism, around the globe with his partner Shannon since 2014. I didn’t come from a sailing background, in fact my first time sailing was in the legendary High Sierra Regatta hosted on Huntington Lake. Chris suckered me into crewing with him and let’s just say we learned a lot about communication that day. Regardless, we have been a team ever since!

“We know you guys sail on a 1979 CHEOY LEE 41, tell us more about her?”

Avocet is a CL41. She is essentially a hybrid design between the Cheoy Lee Offshore 41 and Pedrick 41, created so Cheoy Lee could avoid paying designer royalties. She is a heavy displacement boat weighing in at around 15 tons with a modified fin keel and skeg hung rudder. With moderate overhangs and notable tumblehome she carries her weight below the waterline and sails comfortably in rough seas. The storage aboard seems to be endless as we are constantly discovering new places to either utilise or create storage. Avocet can sleep up to 6 comfortably but up to 8 total with a quarter berth, v-berth, two settee bunks, and of course our aft stateroom. Chris and I have been remodelling a lot of her interior to emphasise her classic charm while also adding elements of ourselves and a modern take on a “good old boat”.

“As young sailboat cruisers what would you say to other young people out there looking to get into sailing?”

Get on as many boats as you can to figure out what you like, and what you don’t! We see so many people “following the dream” only to be shot down from cloud nine when reality sets in that things are not always as they seem. Boats are a lot of work; they require patience and funds for projects whether you are a DIY’er or hiring out. Take your expectations, write them in the sand at low tide, then let the ocean wash them away- it’s all part of the journey 🙂 look into local sailing clubs or regattas, there is almost always someone looking for crew!

“Wait….. The question on every female’s mind when they think of living on a sailboat permanently…. How do you wash your hair?”

HA! Oh man, this made me laugh. So if anyone has seen my hair in videos or photos they may notice it is usually braided because it is really, really long. I always grow out my hair so I can cut it and donate it to wigs for kids or a similar charity, so that means I deal with a lot of shedding. People often joke that they can tell where I have been because I leave behind strands of my amber locks like cookie crumbs. Honestly, washing my hair hasn’t been too difficult. We have a newly remodelled head that has a lovely shower. My biggest issue is finding sustainable hair products that don’t leave the PH levels in my hair wack! If you have a brand you enjoy that is sustainable (ocean safe, earth friendly packaging, etc) please send the details to @svavocet on instagram!

“Name one luxury that you miss?”

Chris misses tinkering on cars in his garage and I miss having a bathtub. However, he gets plenty of garage time when we visit his childhood home and jumping into the ocean replaces my need or want for a bathtub 🙂

“Tell us your funniest sailing story?”

Some of the scariest moments turn out to be the funniest in retrospect, because of how we think we would have handled certain situations differently or avoided altogether. In September of 2019 we took my family sailing for the first time and enjoyed a beautiful day at Santa Cruz Island followed by a hellacious night of gale winds, broken snubbers, and lack of sleep. We turned on Captain Ron and plopped my family in front of the projector screen to distract them from the situation we were in. Luckily, their novice outlook kept them blind from it all while Chris and I did our best to remain calm and deal with each curve ball. Overall we handled it well and Avocet was fine, we just learned a valuable lesson to ALWAYS carry redundancies no matter how small! You can watch this whole incident unravel on our YouTube channel, on the video “It’s Gunna Happen Out There”

“Tell us your sailing plans for 2021 and your goals for 2021 (personally business wise etc)”

The rest of 2021 will be spent finishing projects, working our butts off and enjoying the channel islands! Chris and I have both been gaining clients for our respective businesses (his Cinematography, CTN Visual, and mine Digital Marketing, Fair Winds Media) and will continue to maintain those relationships as we cruise. Our tentative date to escape the breakwater is Spring 2022, so keep an eye out!

Chris and I love chatting with fellow sailors so please connect with us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter Youtube or email! You can find us by searching “Sailing Avocet” on your web browser 🙂 We look forward to sharing an anchorage with you all someday, but until then we wish you fair winds and following seas!

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