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Where the Coconuts Grow Interview

Meet Jody and Peter, the sailing couple behind the blog “Where the Coconuts Grow.” This determined couple set their sights on the live aboard sailing life and didn’t look back. They’ve been cruising in the Caribbean for the past two years on board S/V Mary Christine. To continue their sailing lifestyle, they’ve embraced a “work hard, play hard” mentality, which includes long hours at their island job and DIY projects to affordably maintain their own boat with the freedom of the sailing life as the ultimate payoff. Sailrite is a sponsor of their DIY projects and I recently had the opportunity to ask Jody a few questions about the cruising lifestyle and DIY aboard.

Q: Tell us a little bit about you! How did you start sailing? How did you decide to cruise in the Caribbean?

A: I’m originally from the Seattle area (Jody), and Peter is from San Diego. We both had boating experience since we were little but neither of us knew how to sail before we bought our boat! Peter knew one day he would buy a sailboat to economically get to all the epic surf spots and fishing grounds. We originally looked for a boat on the West Coast but found better options on the East Coast. The boat we purchased was in Florida so the Caribbean was the natural route to begin our cruising. We are SO glad it ended up that way instead of the Pacific side as our training grounds.

Where the Coconuts Grow Interview

Q: Tell us about your sailboat, S/V Mary Christine. 

A: Our boat is a Whitby 42 – A 42′ bluewater ketch. She was built in 1980 and is very solid. The previous owners took impeccable care of her and we are lucky to have such a perfect tiny floating home. With the age comes character. There is a lot of interior teak but that also darkens the space very quickly. My settee cushion project and throw pillow project both immediately lightened up the space and made it feel even more cozy inside. I love that our boat feels like home and not just a boat.

Q: What is your favorite part of your cruising lifestyle?

A: I love the freedom the most. We have the freedom to pick up and move anytime we want, bringing our tiny floating home and all of our belongings with us. We can travel, see the world and never get homesick all at the same time.

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Q: Why do you think DIY skills are important for cruisers?

A: When you travel to remote places, boat parts and repair facilities are few and far between. Even if you don’t know how to fix something, you figure it out. A little common sense and motivation go a long way on the water. DIY skills are also very rewarding. Before we became cruisers, our DIY skills were nowhere near what they are today simply because they didn’t need to be. Now, we look at all the things we have done by ourselves and they are all huge accomplishments. That makes you feel pretty proud.

Q: How did you first hear about Sailrite?

A: A few of my cruising friends have used Sailrite machines and they were always highly recommended. I did my research and decided to not waste my time with a cheaper machine that would inevitably break down or not hold up to the marine environment. My primary motive was to be able to do sail repairs if necessary with the versatility to sew other projects and the general consensus was that Sailrite is the best. I can proudly agree now!

Where the Coconuts Grow Interview

Jody’s new settee cushions

Q: I know you have an Ultrafeed® LSZ-1 Sewing Machine, what do you think of it so far? How many projects have you sewn with it?

A: I absolutely LOVE my LSZ-1!!! It runs so smooth and I have no trouble sewing heavy-duty materials. It does everything I need it to do. I’ve done about 6 projects so far and my to-do list keeps growing :) My favorite completed projects are these three:

  • DIY Throw Pillows
  • DIY Salon Cushions
  • DIY Custom Shaped Dog Bed

Q: Your settee cushions turned out great! What did you learn in the process of making those?

A: Wow, the cushion project was incredibly intimidating before I started. I had wanted to redo them since the day we bought our boat and I avoided the project for two whole years. By jumping into that project, I learned that it’s really not as scary as it looks, with the help of my LSZ-1 and all the wonderful Sailrite videos. I was very patient and watched the videos over and over again until I felt like I understood what to do at each stage of the project.

Where the Coconuts Grow Interview

Betsy, Peter & Jody’s sailing pup, approves of the new cushions

Q: What advice do you have for other sailors thinking about sewing for their boats?

A: Don’t be intimidated!! The Sailrite videos make anything possible. If you have a question about any part of the process, the Sailrite customer service is beyond exceptional and they will help you figure anything out. Take on any projects you are considering and you’ll wonder why you didn’t do them sooner.

Q: Do you have any DIY projects on the horizon?

A: My list of projects I’d like to start is ever-growing. As soon as I have a few more days off, I’m going to finally tackle repairing the aft isinglass panel of my cockpit. The zipper has been disintegrated by UV exposure and we can’t keep the rain out. I’ve got the supplies, now I just need to plan my first steps. I’m so happy I don’t have to pay hundreds of dollars for someone else to do it!

Where the Coconuts Grow Interview

Q: Where are you sailing now?
A: We are currently in the British Virgin Islands working full-time as Captain and First Mate on a 48′ Day Sail Catamaran. The Virgin Islands are some of our favorite sailing grounds of the entire Eastern Caribbean. Someday, we’ll sail west to Central America and onto the South Pacific, but as they say, plans are drawn in the sand! Wherever we end up, we’ll always be Where the Coconuts Grow :)


You can follow Jody and Peter’s sailing adventures on their blog, Where the Coconuts Grow as well as on Facebook and Instagram.

You may recognize Desiree Golen from videos we’ve shared on our Facebook page. We heard about Desiree, her boyfriend Jordan Wicht, and Project Atticus just as they were starting to refit their boat a couple of years ago. We admire their ambition and DIY spirit and we thought you would too. Sailrite is sponsoring Project Atticus as they learn how to sew canvas and sails. I recently chatted with Desiree about their ongoing adventure and the nature of DIY. Here is their story.

The DIY spirit has grabbed ahold of Desiree Golen and Jordan Wicht and it’s not letting go. This young couple is the dynamic duo behind the blog and video series, Project Atticus, where they are documenting the refit of their 1963 Allied Seawind and will ultimately share their adventures sailing around the world. The motto of Project Atticus is “know your world” and that is exactly what Desiree and Jordan intend to do.

Desiree, Jordan & Project Atticus: Seeking Knowledge & Adventure

Jordan & Desiree on the deck of Atticus, their 1963 Allied Seawind

For Desiree, the desire to travel started at a young age.

“I grew up traveling with my family and as soon as I had money of my own, I was out the door traveling again,” she said.

Desiree was working at a start-up she owned in Silicon Valley when she met a girl who crewed on super yachts. When she heard stories of traveling the world with free room and board and other great perks, Desiree could hardly believe that was a real job. She read a book about being a yacht stewardess, sold her company and moved to Fort Lauderdale to get a job on a super yacht. After working as a stewardess for 2 years, she got a job aboard Limitless, the largest American super yacht in the world. It was on board Limitless that she met Jordan, who was working there as a deck hand.

Desiree said a big attraction between her and Jordan right away was their mutual love of exploring.

“What I had always wanted to do was backpack around the world,” Desiree shared.

She hadn’t been dating Jordan long when he shared his dream to sail around the world.

“Jordan asked me to sail around the world with him and I thought, ‘hmm, let me think about that one,’” Desiree laughed.

The couple decided to test the waters and see how they traveled together by taking a trip backpacking and climbing in Southeast Asia. The trip was a success and together they decided to quit their jobs, buy a sailboat and see the world.

Desiree, Jordan & Project Atticus: Seeking Knowledge & Adventure

Celebrating their first day on board Atticus

As they were looking for a boat and preparing to start their journey, they got the idea to document their travels and their process through videos they would share online.

“We were thinking of a way to contribute back to society and to motivate ourselves to be creative,” Desiree said.

Jordan studied filmmaking in college and Desiree had worked in marketing so they pooled their skills and founded Project Atticus, a travel and adventure documentary series and blog.

“It’s really a way to document our travels and to showcase our experiences,” Desiree said.

They started on their video series right away, before they even had their vessel. In the first four of their video episodes, you can watch them search for and purchase the boat that will become Atticus.

Their boat was a diamond in the rough and needed a lot of work to make her the perfect home for Jordan and Desiree’s world expedition. They are currently deep into a complete refit of Atticus.

“It’s taken longer and is more difficult than we expected,” Desiree said of the refit.

Desiree, Jordan & Project Atticus: Seeking Knowledge & Adventure

Desiree paints the Project Atticus logo at the boatyard

The pair has been working on their boat nearly full-time for two years now, doing all the work themselves. They decided to DIY originally to save money, but have found that it has added benefits.

“[Doing the work ourselves] also makes us more capable sailors and boat owners. The feeling caught and now we do everything for the boat ourselves,” Desiree said. “It’s cool to have the empowerment to do things that people think you can’t do.”

Projects on their list included making curtains for their cabin, as well as sewing new settee and v-berth cushions. While looking for v-berth cushions online, Desiree found Sailrite’s How to Make V-Berth Cushions Video and decided to try her hand at sewing. She got an Ultrafeed Sewing Machine, Sunbrella fabric and set to work on her first project—curtains.

“I was super anxious for sewing and I was intimidated by the machine at first,” Desiree admits.

But after her first project, Desiree started to feel differently about her machine.

“I used to enjoy the prepping more, but now I enjoy the sewing more,” she said, describing sewing now as being almost a tranquil, zen-like feeling.

After completing her curtains and new settee cushions for their saloon, Desiree is now working on the v-berth cushions, which is purposely saved for her third project because she knew they’d be tricky. After that she’d like to make a sail, a sail cover and an awning for their cockpit.

While doing her canvaswork Desiree has learned that “there is a lot of finesse in sewing” but she loves the pride that comes from completing her projects.

“It’s cool that I really only know the bare minimum about sewing but I can make functional lifestyle projects,” she said.

Desiree, Jordan & Project Atticus: Seeking Knowledge & Adventure

Look at that Ultrafeed love!

She has also been really pleased with her Ultrafeed Sewing Machine.

“I love it,” she said. “It’s like having a MacBook Pro. It’s reliable and strong. My favorite part is the Sailrite videos. I can take it right out of the box without having to call anyone for help.”

Desiree advises other new sewers to find a mentor, an individual or a group, to ask questions of during the process. She found a lot of help from Sailrite and the Facebook groups “The Sailrite Users Group” and “Sewing On Boats.”

“Get a seam ripper,” she added, laughing. “Don’t be intimidated to do things over again to get them right. Also gorge on Sailrite videos.”

After two years working on their refit, Jordan and Desiree have put their hearts and souls into their boat and at time things have been really challenging.

“The emotional cost of cruising—the time you never get back—that’s the hardest part,” Desiree said. “When we’re just working and working and not sailing and not living a beautiful dream.”

Desiree, Jordan & Project Atticus: Seeking Knowledge & Adventure

Desiree’s finished curtains & settee cushions

Desiree thinks that throughout their refit they have learned valuable skills both about their boat and about life that will help them on their adventure. They’ve had to take odd jobs and learn how to sustain their dream financially (neither is independently wealthy) but Desiree now feels that they will be able to make money anywhere they go to maintain their lifestyle.

“It’s made us more self-reliant and more resourceful. We’re also better at managing expectations,” she said of their refit. “It’s made us more humble about learning and that to learn, you have to fail.”

All in all both Jordan and Desiree feel that their DIY efforts have been well worth it.

“Jordan and I have been talking a lot about the pros and cons of DIY,” Desiree said. “We realized that even though sometimes you spend the same amount of money, we are the kind of people who like to know how to do things for ourselves. The amount of happiness it brings is worth knowing.”

And it’s that same love of knowledge that lead them to this adventure in the first place. That drive to see things for themselves and to truly “know their world.”


You can follow along with Jordan and Desiree through their video updates and their blog posts. Visit their website, ProjectAtticus.com to see and learn more.

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