I began this blog back in August of 2020, so I figured it may be time to reintroduce ourselves- We are the crew of the Sailing Vessel Zayna Vnnette!
Captain: This is our incredible, funny, wise, and handsome captain – Austin. Austin was born in WA and comes from a long line of sailors. He made it a goal to sail around the world by the time he hit 30 and leads the crew with his passion and drive. We are all lucky to be part of the team making this incredible dream a reality.
Funfact: To work towards his goals and hone his skills, Austin got his captain’s license early and began captaining charter boats around Maui. At 24 he became the youngest Captain at the second windiest harbor in the world! (Maalaea Harbor)
FirstMate: This is me! Also known as Chelsea/The Maiden Sailor. As you might have figured out by now, I started this journey knowing absolutely nothing about boats or sailing. The first boat I ever stepped foot on is the boat we currently live on (feel free to check out the whole story here). I’ve always dreamed of traveling the world and after meeting Austin I figured out how I was going to do it. If you had told me 5 years ago I would be where I am today – I would’ve said you were nuts. I started this blog to inspire people to go out and do the crazy things they never dreamed possible for themselves. If I can do it – anyone can.
Crew: Tuna! Tuna is the youngest member of the crew, turning 2 this September. She was brought onboard at 2 months old and has been sailing with SVZV ever since. As an official boat cat, she has taken on many important responsibilities. She has tested every potential napping spot on board, monitors all crew projects, and has pointed out (but never actually killed) every creepy crawler on the boat. Her favorite activities include fishing, watching boats go by, and lounging in the sunshine.
If you know someone who enjoys any type of ocean activity, chances are they have said something along the lines of “sharks don’t want to hurt you! They aren’t interested in humans!”. I also adopted this mantra and used it to soothe my worried soul before every plunge into the open ocean. I used it so much that the fear actually started to dissipate! I swam with white tip reef sharks and thought “aw, they’re just like puppies!” I once jumped off the boat into the water, only to discover a shark swimming beneath me. Now, I didn’t stay in the water long enough after seeing said shark to identify what kind it was, but I still logged the experience in my subconscious as proof that sharks really aren’t interested in humans.
Well, from personal experience… you can convince yourself all you want that sharks are “cool” and not scary, but when you come face to face with one of the most vicious predators in the sea, you will shit your wetsuit. Possibly metaphorically, possibly not.
Let me tell you about our experience flipping our mooring chain.
Every 2-3 years it is advised to flip your mooring chain, as the chain in the bottom is constantly being dragged around the ocean floor, wearing it down. Flipping the chain is a 3 step process.
Step 1: Count the links from the top shackle to where the chain is shackled at the bottom around the mooring block – this way you will know the exact length to re-shackle the chain once flipped.
Step 2: Dig the chain out from under the 3500lb mooring block so it’s mobile.
Step 3: Flip the chain, re-attach it at the top, count down the exact amount of links, zip-tie the link (in our case it was the 160th link), wrap the chain around the block, then refasten the end of the chain at the zip tie using a shackle.
Our story begins with step 2.
After descending down to our mooring block, I started counting the links one by one and Austin jumped into the second step unlodging the chain. After counting out 160 links, I look up to find myself engulfed in a HUGE cloud of sand created by the pushing, pulling, dragging, and digging Austin was doing to get the chain free. I don’t like being in 40ft of water with no visibility, so I backed up and hung out from a distance. I had time to kill, so I was just looking around admiring the sea life and the neverending expanse of blue ocean.
Then I saw a flash of movement out of the corner of my eye.
It took me a moment to comprehend the scene playing out in front of me, but then it hit me like a ton of bricks. I was looking directly at a Tiger Sharkand it was headed straight towards the large cloud of sand and debris, straight for the love of my life.
I was paralyzed for a solid 5 seconds while my fight and flight instincts battled it out – but I knew either way I needed to move, now. So I started swimming as fast as I could towards Austin. I lost track of the shark as soon as I started swimming. I set my sight and made a beeline for Austin. I lost all sense of self-preservation and fear and swam like our lives depended on it. Austin couldn’t see me coming through the sand, so I grabbed his tank, flipped him around, made the sign for shark, and we made the ascent.
You might think this is where our story ends. But you would be wrong! Any sane person might get out at this point, but if you have been reading my blog at all you probably have gathered.. we are not exactly sane. As soon as we surfaced Austin turned to me and asks in an infuriatingly calm manner, “Well, what type of shark was it?” to which I replied, “I don’t know, the kind with sharp teeth!?” He was not phased.
We spent 4 more hours in the water after that.
Before going back down I was given a new role – defender of the crew.
For the majority of the next 4 hours underwater, I was positioned with my back to Austin, wielding the largest wrench we could get our hands on. Everywhere he went, my wrench and I followed. I had it over my head ready to strike at any given moment… because obviously, an angry mechanic would ward off the shark! Could I realistically fend off a shark with a wrench if it decided to attack? No. But at least I’d die trying!
In all seriousness, though, many divers have had close encounters with sharks and were able to redirect them by just putting their hand or an object out and pushing the shark’s nose in a different direction. This is not in the case of a shark intent on attacking, just if the shark is interested in you and comes too close for comfort. There are tons of incredible youtube videos of this happening- I highly recommend checking them out!
The only example I can think of to adequately describe my initial fear is this: Imagine you are walking to your car alone at night. The parking lot is empty. As you are unlocking your door you see a shadow, you straighten up to look, and there is someone standing right next to you with a gun. Can you imagine the feeling of your stomach dropping and fear balling up in your throat? That is the feeling I got. I was terrified and defenseless. But you know what? I did it. I faced my fears and I did the darn thing.
SVZV is now safely attached to her mooring and I can casually say, “Yeah, I’ve fought off a shark. No big deal”
Unlike the majority of people on this planet, the COVID lockdown was a wonderful time for me. I moved onto a beautiful 43′ Sailboat with the love of my life and proceeded to spend the next year turning Her into our home. I learned how to sail, I fell deeper in love with the ocean, I started this blog, and I got a taste of the incredible adventure that awaits us.
Unline the majority of people on this planet, things got worse as quarantine ended. Every step we took towards a “new normal” felt like a step away from this beautiful bubble of happiness we had created- until I was so far that I couldn’t see it anymore.
When Hawaii opened up to visitors- IT OPENED. Everyone in nearly every field was working overtime, giving all of their energy to a particularly difficult group of tourists. Well luckily for me I work remotely, right? Unfortunately, that couldn’t be any further from the truth. I had spent a full year surrounding myself with love, cultivating new and meaningful friendships, spending time with family, and growing stronger in my relationship. It felt like I woke up one day and everyone was gone. All of my friends were thrown into their jobs without much time to mentally prepare and my partner began working 75+ hours a week. Sharing a car and a dingy with Austin (the bf) meant I didn’t always have an option to leave, so I ended up being alone on SVZV from sun up to sun down, 6 out of 7 days a week. During that time the only in-person interaction I could get was the 15 min- 1.5 hours until Austin passed out from exhaustion after work.
This lasted for over a year.
Although it turned out to be one of the darkest and loneliest periods of my life, I learned SO much. Not only about the boat, but about myself – how strong I am, what I am truly capable of, and what matters most to me in life. I was alone more than I had ever been before (and more than I hope to be ever again), but during that time I truly got to know someone special, myself.
Having my mother die at the age of 49 left me with a deep appreciation for the present. I know nothing in life is guaranteed and it has sparked a fire inside of me to enjoy this life as much as I possibly can. I wasn’t enjoying my time alone. Having that spark diminished, even for the short time it was, truly fueled my passion to see the world on SVZV and to absorb all of the life around me. Maui and SVZV are a part of my soul and I intend to feed my soul with new cultures, new foods, and new people. During my period of solitude, I learned that even as an introvert, I crave the spirit of others and I am not capable of growing as a person without them.
I learned how to love in a way I hadn’t before.
(side note – Period Of Solitude, or POS, is a fantastic band name)
Without direct access to any type of store or Amazon delivery, I also realized how much “extra” we have in our day-to-day lives. I learned what I truly needed to be happy- and it’s not much. I learned how to turn bored/restless energy into productive energy and how to keep myself occupied without access to cable, TV, or unlimited wifi. Most importantly-
I learned how to sit with my own thoughts.
With Austin gone so often, I faced my fair share of storms… alone. And not just the obvious, emotional, storms that were brewing – real, intense, and dangerous storms. When you’re on a boat there really isn’t anyone to call when shit hits the fan, so you figure it out yourself. I spent a handful of 24hr shifts monitoring the weather and our position, judging if our mooring was holding or if I should drop the chain and try my best to motor out of harm’s way. There were many times I had to push down panic and fear to let strength rise, or else I would risk losing the boat, my cat, and my life. But let me tell you, I now know where every leak is, where every creek or crack is coming from, and when I really need to start worrying.
SVZV kept me safe, while I did the same for her.
I got to experience the Earth and all of its incredible power in a way most will never understand.
Now that we are nearing the home stretch, I can look back and appreciate the time I spent alone on SVZV. I needed to grow to truly appreciate what I have and to become the woman who can achieve her dreams.
Moving onto a 43’ sailboat has made one thing painfully clear: I have a procrastination problem. Looking back, I’ve had this problem my whole life. Even when I was a little kid, I can remember waiting to clean my room until my mom got mad at me and I absolutely HAD to. In middle school I would spend my recess frantically trying to finish my homework before class started. I even convinced myself that I work best under pressure, so waiting until the last minute to start a project would benefit me.
It hadn’t been a big issue before moving onto SVZV because I’ve always managed to get everything done. And that’s all that matters, right? Wrong. Two people and a cat living in a small space requires almost constant upkeep, plus the regular maintenance that a boat requires. I found that after a while, Austin and I were stuck. We weren’t accomplishing anything, the boat was always a mess inside and out, and it was an ongoing struggle even though we were doing the bare minimum. It finally got to a point where I had to take a step back and really figure out what was going wrong. This is what I found:
When I’m not on top of my day-to-day responsibilities, they pile up. A mountain of tasks is overwhelming. When I am overwhelmed nothing gets done. When nothing gets done, I get stressed out. Being stressed out drains my energy so I do something fun to replenish it. Repeat.
That’s when it hit me- I’m not stressed out because there is all that much to get done, I’m stressed out because I’m not doing it. Procrastinating worked when I lived on land, but it just wasn’t conducive to living on a boat. No one said life on a boat would be easy. In fact, they said the opposite.
The most important thing I began working on was changing my mindset.
Instead of being upset that it requires so much upkeep and maintenance to live on a sailboat, I think of how lucky I am to call SVZV my home and keep her clean and running well. Instead of getting frustrated I have to do the dishes, I think of how grateful I am that we have food and fresh water to wash our plates. In one small task I can show this boat and the people in it I’m grateful for them.
Now that I had the will to stop procrastinating, I had to put my newfound motivation to good use.
My new motto is: “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today”
In general, I take care of the interior, make sure the cockpit is tidy, make the grocery lists/do the cooking, handle paperwork, and help with various boat tasks when needed (ex: cleaning the bottom). Now, any time I say to myself, or out loud, “I’ll do it later” I get up and do it. Even if it requires taking a quick break from work. Even if I’m tired, even if I don’t feel like it, I do it (ok like, 75% of the time). Holy smokes. It has worked wonders.
I’m obviously late to this party, but, who knew how much easier it is to keep a home clean when you’re working at it constantly?! No mounting piles of tasks to overwhelm me. Just small, quick ones. We are getting more accomplished around the boat and we are able to focus on longterm goals.
It hasn’t just helped with life on SVZV, I am overall transforming into a more productive person. When I receive a text or a call, I respond asap. If I realize I need to pay a bill, I go online and get it done. If I remember I needed something at the store, I stop and grab it on my way to the boat ramp. All of these small things add up and after a few weeks I am already feeling the benefits.
Now that I actually use our galley, Austin and I are eating healthier and not spending as much money eating out. Now that the boat is usually tidy, it’s always a joy to come back to. These small details help SVZV feel more like our home, not just a floating house.
Overcoming the urge to procrastinate has also given me the time to start (and actually finish!) way more projects than ever before. I bought a handheld sewing machine and began making covers for our wenches and the dingy motor. I started a new writing project. I have had more time to catch up with friends and family. I started doing yoga in the morning.
When Austin and I started talking about buying SVZV, the first thing I did was google sailboat interiors. I had been aboard SVZV once before but I didn’t have a clear memory of anything below deck and I wanted to get an idea of what my living situation would be like. Currently, after 8 months aboard SVZV, I still browse boat interiors regularly. I love seeing how each person organizes their space and makes it their own.
With that in mind, I figured I should give you guys a tour of our interior! Most of the excitement happens above deck, but below deck is what makes SVZV feel like home.
When I first started looking at boat interiors, I remember finding it difficult trying to orient myself during a walkthrough of someone’s boat. I would lose track of where the companion way was, if the galley was located on the port or starboard side, if the cabin I was looking at was located forward or aft of the boat. It’s easy to forget how foreign everything felt when I was first introduced to boating.
For any of you who are in similar shoes as I once found myself in, hopefully this makes it a bit easier to follow! I am going to start above deck in the cockpit (rear of boat), go into the lounge/galley(living area/ kitchen), walk towards the bow of the boat and show you the head(bathroom) on the starboard side of the boat (right side, when facing bow), then show you the main cabin.
Our cockpit is a very popular spot on SVZV. Besides having the steering wheel and swim platform, it has cushioned seats with an ample amount of shade and plenty of opportunity to create more. We usually have the hatches to the companionway open to let in fresh air, light, and give Tuna access to the deck.
This is the view of our galley and lounge as entering from the companion way. One of my favorite, and sometimes least favorite, things about our lounge is the amount of light it gets. It opens up the space and creates positive energy. It also bakes the lounge if you don’t alternate which curtains you have open throughout the day. In the picture above I have the hatch to the companionway open and 2/5 curtains open in the lounge.
Another awesome feature of this boat is it has tons of storage. In addition to the storage above the seating area, there are also two storage cubbies behind the cushions and two small drawers located on the side of the table. The boat also came with built in speakers above and below deck. This spot is my favorite for getting cozy and watching a movie.
The Nav Table houses the power switches to most of the lights/functions on SVZV. It also is home to the radio (both the VHF radio and the radio we use for music) and a meter that displays our battery charge. It’s called the “navigation table” because the table opens up to a small storage area, where you keep charts on a long journey and navigate your passage. Right now its mainly used for storage. The three small cubbies in the back have essentially become our “junk drawer”. It also just so happened to be the perfect corner to add a touch of personalization to.
Our galley has all the features of a “regular” kitchen. It has (in order from left to right) a pantry, an oven/stove, a sink (pumps both fresh water and salt water), and a refrigerator. We have tons of storage space and have many cabinets that are empty.
Our galley does an excellent job of providing the maximum amount of counter space possible. The sink covers double as cutting boards and the lid to the refrigerator turns into counter space when closed. The stove has two burners, which I find is perfect for making meals for two.
4. Forward Head
Marine heads are interesting. You manually pump a lever to flush and the contents either run off of the boat or into a holding tank. The #1 rule of using a marine head is, “do not throw toilet paper down the toilet”. We actually have a sign taped to the wall with directions for guests, and that rule is at the top, bolded, in a large font. Any thing flushed can clog the macerator or the hoses running to it and if it is set to flush overboard even more reason not to flush dirty tp out. The room is completely waterproof and designed so you can shower. We have a larger head in the main cabin which provides more space for showering.
5. Forward Cabin
The main cabin is incredible. It has a custom made memory foam mattress, and it’s honestly one of the most comfortable beds I’ve ever slept in. We have two hatches directly above the bed, so the room cools down nicely at night whenever there is a breeze. I also get to fall asleep looking at the stars, every night. Like the lounge, the main cabin has a lot of extra storage. We haven’t established concrete uses for most of it yet. Currently, the ledges under the windows are primarily used as lounging spots for Tuna.
This corner of the room is where I get ready. I keep all of my makeup and after shower items in this cabinet and get ready in the mirror. It’s right under a hatch and next to a window, so it usually provides the perfect lighting.
That is the end of my grand tour! Although it doesn’t seem like a 43′ sailboat would provide a lot of space but I have found it is actually more than enough for two people, and a cat, to live comfortably. Let me know if there is anything I missed or you’re curious about.
Bonus: Tunas Cabin
Tunas cabin is the starboard aft cabin. We use a large tub liter box with a lid, and put it on the floor. We chose this setup in an effort to prevent spillage when the boat gets rocky. Weather we are underway or tied to the mooring, the boat gets rocky and things spill. There are also two windows in the cabin and the door is right next to the companionway, so the circulation of fresh air helps with the smell.
We keep her food and water on a nonslip mat to prevent it from sliding around throughout the day. So far this set up has worked very well. Keeping her food elevated also helps keep her eating environment clean, despite being in the room with her liter box.
Is there anything you are curious to know about my life aboard SVZV that I haven’t covered in my blog? Anything you would like to read more/less of? Or any questions, comments, concerns, etc? Please let me know! I would love to know what interests people the most. Thank you!
After starting off blogging with a bang, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything. It’s not that I have lost any of my passion or drive to do it, I just haven’t had much down time. Recently, there has been a lot of changes to life aboard SVZV. As things are starting to open up in Hawaii, and the quarantine restrictions have been lifted for visitors, our magical dream world where we were making money, not having to work, and enjoying life on our own schedule quickly started coming to an end.
A month or so after the additional $600/week in unemployment aid had run out, my card got denied for a $9 dollar purchase at the gas station. After the shame wore off from embarrassing myself in front of a line full of people, a crushing realization hit me like a tidal wave. I could no longer deny it. There was no more “waiting to see what’s going to happen”. I had to get a job. ASAP.
This was incredibly stressful for me for many reasons. But three things in particular made finding a job far more difficult than usual.
**Before I start, I should clarify that I am so grateful to be in a position where I’m able to be picky about what jobs I apply for. To have job opportunities available at all. Im grateful that I am healthy enough to get a job. Although I complain about it, working is a part of life and I accepted that a long time ago. I am very aware that these are what would be considered “first world problems”. But nonetheless. I was distressed and I can’t pretend I wasn’t.
Firstly, I am not someone who has a career I am passionate about. Not one of my hobbies involve skills that I can use in the workplace. Nor am I good enough to sell any of the things I make. I am a person who works so I can enjoy my life. I do not enjoy working. I have had plenty of jobs I liked, but not one I liked more than spending 8 hours at home doing whatever I pleased. So obviously, the lockdown was a dream for me.
I had all day, everyday, for 7 months to do what I pleased. Work on myself, work on the boat, garden, write a blog post, whatever. The beaches were empty. The streets were empty. There was no traffic going anywhere. For me, this was a paradise I didn’t think I would get to experience until I retired in 30+ years. I got a taste of the good life and I wasn’t ready to let go.
Second: I absolutely loved the job I had before the pandemic shut everything down. I was incredibly lucky to have got the position. I had just started working for this company in November 2019 and my last day was March 13, 2020. At first we were all hopeful things would return to normal and we would all be hired back, but things didn’t turn out that way. So it was disheartening to start the search for something new.
Lastly, there were not many places hiring. With Austin’s job picking up, us sharing a dingy and a car, and my lack of confidence of driving the dingy in the dark (I’m afraid of hitting things, ex: a whale) this made my options even more limited. It would be overwhelmingly difficult if I had a job where I got off at 10pm, had to have Austin dingy in to get me, dingy him back to shore at 5am for work, then start my day. There are plenty other of scenarios I could give you, but you get it. The logistics were difficult.
Then, like everything else in my life since moving to Maui, the solution fell into my lap.
Whilst applying for jobs, I sent out two applications for remote positions. Usually those types of job offerings are too good to be true and there is some sort of catch, but what the heck? I usually have office jobs where I work on a computer all day anyways, might as well do it from home. A remote job would solve our scheduling problem. It would alleviate our anxiety about leaving the boat unattended if unfavorable wind or swell came in. It would also provide us with a reliable source of income that could be earned anywhere we traveled in the world. So with all that in mind, I took the time to apply to what I assumed was most likely a scam.
Three weeks had passed and I hadn’t heard back from anyone. I had just accepted a part time position as a coach for little league soccer. The day after accepting the position, I got a voicemail in response to an application I had submitted, asking if I was still interested. Long story short, I now have a full time position that is %100 online. It is absolutely perfect for me. I accepted the position the day I got the offer and agreed to start training the following Monday.
This was all exciting and wonderful but I had one big problem. We do not have working power outlets on the boat and we had no access to WiFi. Immediately, Austin and I came up with a plan.
Over the next week of training/ my first few days of work I was bouncing around place to place and town to town, borrowing amenities from my friends and family. During this time I was able to research and order everything we needed. Once we had everything, I would be able to work from SVZV wherever we find ourselves in the world. In the end, we decided on two things to get the job done.
Skyroam is a global hotspot that connects to mobile WiFi in over 130 countries. The hotspot itself is a small orange disk and comes in different sizes. I chose the basic one and it cost us $119 before delivery. It offers unlimited internet in the US for $49/month and globally for $100/month. It works far better than expected! Not only has it allowed me to do my job with no problem, I can stream movies with no issues, and it connects to multiple devices so both Austin and I can use it at at the same time. It also stays charged for 8+ hours without needing to be plugged in!
2. A generator
I can’t take credit for this one. This was all Austin’s idea. I was originally looking at power banks. They usually run $75- $200 and store quite a bit of power in them. The biggest issue with this idea was, they have to be charged once their drained. That means I would have to find a place to recharge the power bank daily. Kind of defeats the purpose, right? That’s when Austin suggested a generator.
Since I don’t know anything about generators I let him pick one out. He found a small 1600-watt portable generator that we could have shipped to Home Depo for $375. I’m told that’s a really good price!
At first I was incredibly concerned about the noise. After watching a video of the same generator online, I thought the roar would be so loud I wouldn’t be able to relax or focus on my job. Turns out it’s actually pretty quiet! Where we have it set up outside I can barely hear it over the fan while sitting below deck in the lounge. I was also worried it would be difficult learning how to use it. Surprise: it’s super easy!! Far easier to start than the motor on the dingy. Just turn the nob to “run”, give the cord a slight tug, turn the switch to “eco mode”, and you’re good to go!
With Austin adjusting to being back at work and me starting a new job, we haven’t been out sailing much for the past couple weeks. We have been focusing on maintenance rather than starting new projects. We also spent a week in the harbor (more on that story later). Here’s to hoping we find our groove soon and my next update will be filled with adventure, fun stories, and beautiful scenery!
This trip was my and Austins second overnight excursion we took just for ourselves. No guests, nothing to worry about, infinite amounts of fun and adventure to be had. We started the morning by going into the harbor washing down the boat and filling up the water tanks. Then we went to grab supplies. By the time we arrived back to SVZV I was sweating and itching to set sail on our newly polished boat.
Since we got a later start to the day, we motored up to Honolua Bay. With the wind and current, motoring was definitely our fastest option. Motoring is fun for me, because it’s fairly straight forward. Point the boat in the direction of your destination and don’t hit anything. Austin took us out of the mooring field and into The Bay and I was responsible for the stretch between that. While I was at the helm Austin set up a fishing pole and tried to catch us some dinner. The fish were onto us that afternoon and we weren’t able to bring any in.
When we arrived at the bay I was overjoyed to discover that we were the only boat there. We had one of the most beautiful spots in the world all to ourselves. To say I was overwhelmed with joy and gratitude for this island and whatever forces brought Austin and SVZV into my life would be an understatement.
We anchored SVZV and stern tied her in a spot close to the rocks and reef that was shaded by the tall cliffs surrounding us. After dropping anchor, it was my job to swim out, locate the mooring, dive down ~15ft to grab the chain, and attach our stern line to the mooring. After a few attempts and a handful of curse words later, the boat was secured. As someone with no free diving experience, 15ft was a proud accomplishment for me.
Our first order of duty was kayaking around the crystal clear waters surrounding us. And if any of you know Austin, you will not be surprised that he immediately paddled us towards the waves and had us surf the kayak down a handful of them. We finally caught a decent (well, decent for my standards) sized wave and “rode it down the line”… whatever that means. It was so fun! After our kayaking adventure we had a fantastic steak dinner and enjoyed the rain and the cold of the bay.
The next morning I woke up to the sunrise. As I sat in the cockpit snuggled in warm clothes, Tuna sleeping on my chest, listening to the sprinkle of rain bouncing off the dodger, I was, yet again, overwhelmed. I swear there hasn’t yet been a moment that I am not in awe of my life and how lucky I am. It’s something I don’t think I’ll ever “get use” to. And why would I? I never want to take a moment this for granted.
The sail back was a breeze.. pun intended 😉 The wind was blowing hard enough that we only needed to let out half of the head sail and we were cruising at ~7kts. Although I could definitely benefit from the experience, I love it when we don’t have to use the main sail. No need to fuss with any sail covers or try and pretend I’m not using all of my might to hoist the sail. Even with just the head sail out, I did get to practice tacking/jibing and I’m proud to say I need less direction every time we do it. After an amazing trip I can’t wait to go out again!
To my mother who not only gave me life but gave up hers for mine
To the person that lifted me up for 26 years
To the one that caught me when I fell
I’m bringing you with me one way or another because this is not my, but our story to tell
Some of you might be wondering what SVZV stands for. I only use her initials purposely, because to introduce her name without telling the story behind it wouldn’t feel right. SVZV stands for Sailing Vessel Zayna Vnnette. Zayna Vnnette is my mother’s name.
For those who have lost a loved one, you know that there is nothing I can say to adequately describe the pain. The all consuming darkness that eats you from the inside out and rears its ugly head every time there’s silence. The physical discomfort of every heart beat. The dreams where you can still feel their embrace. The pit in your throat blocking your breath every time you see something beautiful, hear something funny, or have a story to tell and the one person you want to share it with is gone. Forever.
Dying of cancer is a painful and ugly ordeal. My mother fought every day to stay on this Earth until she knew her family would be ok. She not only waited until I had officially moved in with my family, she waited until my two aunts and grandmother were on island to support us. More than that, I think my mom had a vision for my life that I wasn’t able to see. She knew by bringing me to Maui I would be supported and loved in a way I never imagined. She knew that the opportunities and adventures that waited for me here would give me the strength to not only survive, but thrive. She believed in the community she loved to love us when she no longer could.
I remember sitting in my moms hospital room after they shut off life support. Only my grandma and aunt stayed. She had been gone for about 10 minutes when my aunt asked me if I wanted to leave. Shakily, I was able to whisper, “ Not yet. This is the last time I’m going to see her.” I was right in the respect that I would never and will never see her physical form again. But I could not have been more wrong in the grand scheme of life. I see my mother more now than I ever did when she was alive. I see her in every sunset, every dolphin, every picture of me, my sister, or my step father I see. She is more a part of me now than I ever recognized when she was with me. I feel her warmth and love radiating from inside of me. Every smile, she is smiling with me. Every tear, she cries too. Because what am I but the DNA of the one who created me? I carry her with me. Always.
Had I not been at Longs Drugstore the day after I moved to Maui, picking up medicine for my mom.. I wouldn’t have met Austin. Had I not met Austin and fallen in love, we wouldn’t have this boat. Furthermore, had my mom not created me, I wouldn’t have this life.
I never made enough money to take my mom on her dream trip to Paris before she died, so it’s my honor to take her around the world with me now.
When we purchased SVZV she came with a registered mooring. To legally have a mooring you have to get a mooring permit, have your mooring plans surveyed and approved by an engineer, then you build it and register the boat/mooring with the harbor. We were incredibly lucky that part of the hard work was already done for us and even luckier to have a mooring. Permit approvals in Hawaii are few and far in between. Not only did we purchase a floating home, we purchased a permanent place to keep it. Sail the world then come home to the beaches of Maui? Not too shabby, if I do say so myself.
What we purchased physically was a 4000lb cement block on the ocean floor, location TBD. I’ll walk you through the steps we took to build and secure our mooring. Although it all seems pretty clear and mapped out, do remember this took us around 6 months.
*Disclaimer: In this article, usually when I say “us”, that truly means “mostly Austin”. I was there every step of the way for moral support and sometimes stepping in to help, but this was a major learning experience for me. I didn’t even know what a mooring was before buying SVZV, so Austin not only had to lead the charge but he had to teach me along the way. So, if you’re reading this Captain, you freaking rock.
Step 1: Move The Block
This is actually the last step we completed. There was so much planning and organizing that went into this, we needed at least a week after every attempt to regroup and recharge. Let me break this step down into smaller steps so you can truly understand how painstaking this was for us.
Locate mooring block. This took two days and over 8 hours of hunting. For weeks we would bring snorkel masks in our dry bags and look at any suspicious square object we saw on our way into the boat ramp. Due to rough currents or, more likely, someone moving our block for *unconfirmed* reasons, our block was nowhere near its registered location.
Acquire gear to move block. Lift Bags: Our mooring block is ~4000lbs and ended up requiring 5000lbs worth of lift bags. We had to borrow 5 bags total from 3 different people. These bags were fairly large and heavy, making it difficult to store and transport them. On each attempt (oh yes, there were multiple), they had to be hauled from the car or SVZV and loaded into the dingy for every attempt. Skiff: This was a job The Squid simply wasn’t cur our for. The dive gear alone would have sunk the dingy, let alone the extra body, the loft bags, the tools, and all of the extra line. It also isn’t nearly powerful enough for the job. When that gigantic cement block comes shooting up to the surface of the water you want something strong enough to pull it in the correct direction. The force easily could have sunk the Squid. Luckily, Austin’s company has a powerful skiff we are able to borrow. To use the skiff we have to drive to his bosses house, load the skiff onto a trailer, borrow the truck the trailer is attached to, wash off the trailer, then bring the skiff back clean once we’re finished. This is time consuming. This makes me want to pull my hair out.Dive gear: To use the lift bags, two people needed to dive down to the block to attach the lift bags and fill them with air. This required, roughly: 6 air tanks, 2 wetsuits, 2 regs, and 2 BCDs, all of which had to be borrowed/ rented then returned after returning the skiff. Usually to multiple places. Divers/Drivers: Like I mentioned above, we needed two divers to move the block. We also needed one person to drive the skiff. That means each attempt we had to ask at least one person for help. We tried a total of 6 times. Yes you read that right, 6. The winning combination was Austin and me in the water with someone helping drive the skiff. For us to be able to do this we had to get scuba certified first. That ended up being a life changing experience for me but, cmon, could it have been anymore of an involved process? Could anything have been simple?
Move The Damn Block. This part is much easier said than done. Like I said above, this took a total of 6 attempts. 6 times waking up early to bring the skiff to the boat ramp. 6 days sitting in the unforgiving sun. Loading and unloading the skiff with heavy dive tanks and lift bags 6 times. 5 times being defeated. The final round, triumph.
Our 6th and final dive was the first time Austin and I dove down together to try and lift the block. The symbolism of us being able to finally accomplish it wasn’t lost on me. It made victory even sweeter. Being 45ft underwater and watching as Austin filled the 5th and final bag with air was a surreal experience. The block had been buried deep in the sand and we weren’t sure if it would budge. This time we weren’t taking no for an answer. After filling all five bags to capacity, as if it had suddenly grown exhausted, the sand slowly released its hold and the block started to rise.
The ocean went dark as the 4000lb cement slab rose above our heads blocking the sun. Sand, barnacles, debris, and seaweed started raining down as the block rose faster and faster. I had never seen a sight like it. When the block finally bobbed at the top, we surfaced shortly after. The exhilarating rush of adrenaline powered me through the next few hours until we finally let the air out of the lift bags and let our kids mooring block sink into its new home.
Step 2: Buy The Gear
On Maui there is only one marine supply store that carries the heavy duty gear we needed to asssmble our mooring. It’s ~45 minute drive away. We made that trip at least 5 times and spent a total of $2100 on everything. Anyone ever told you what boat stands for? Bring Out Another Thousand.
To assemble our mooring we needed:
6x 3/4” shackles
1x 5/8” shackle
80ft 5/8” long link galvanized chain
3x 1 1/8” heavy duty galvanized thimble
1x 1” swivel
35ft 1 1/2” Blue Steel
1x buoy 27in diameter
3. Assemble The Mooring
One one surprisingly brisk 85 degree afternoon, we loaded up the back of Austin’s Trail Blazer with hundreds of pounds of chain and gear, drove it to an empty corner of a Safeway parking lot, laid everything out on the grass, and got to connecting the pieces.
Step 4: Attach Gear To The Block
This part was pretty straightforward. We had to rent dive gear and tanks, again, which was a pain. We also had to borrow the company skiff again to transport the chain to the block. You know how much I love the process of getting the company skiff/ returning it! One we got those two things out of the way, it was a matter of diving down, attaching the chain to the block and securing it with seizing wire. This took two dives to complete. About an hour and a half in the water.