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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.

2004 was a big year for Paul Seeberg. It was the year that he and his wife, Millie, bought a MacGregor26 sailboat and started sailing with the North East Trailer Sailor’s Club. It was also the year that Paul began sewing for his boat. Ten years later, Paul is still hard at work on boat projects and sharing his passion for sailing and sewing with others.

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Paul aboard his Olson38 s/v Mildred Rose

Paul’s sewing projects began humbly when his wife wanted some curtains for the cabin of their boat. Paul had some basic sewing skills he had learned in 8th grade home economics class and he figured he could sew curtains. Along the way, he had some difficulty with the project and called Sailrite, where he got some helpful advice for his project.

On completing his curtain project, Paul figured that sewing for the boat was something he could do more of, so he bought a Sailrite Ultrafeed Sewing Machine and started working. He started sewing sheet bags for himself and then for other members of the yacht club.

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Red Sunbrella Lifesling Cover

In 2009 Paul bought a bigger boat, a 1968 Olson 38, Mildred Rose, and got to work creating new canvas covers for her.

“Following [Sailrite] videos, I made a hatch cover, curtains, pillows, a really nice binnacle cover, and a lifesling cover,” Paul said. “We’re the only boat in the harbor with a red Sunbrella lifesling!”

Some canvas projects he made mostly for the fun of sewing, not because they are a necessity on his boat.

“Some times I make things just for fun, like the hatch cover. But it made a big difference keeping the cabin cooler,” he said.

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Two of Paul’s Projects: Binnacle Cover & Hatch Cover

After getting all of those projects under his belt, Paul felt ready for a bigger challenge. He needed a new dodger. He had the project quoted by a few canvas shops, but they were asking too much money. Paul knew that after all the projects he had done so far he could make his own dodger for less.

Paul watched Sailrite’s How to Make Your Own Dodger DVD 10-20 times before even started the project, wanting to make sure that he understood every detail.

For large-scale projects like this, Paul believes it’s important to learn everything you can about the project before starting.

“You need to be able to see things in 3 dimensions in your mind. I don’t sew one stitch until I’ve thought through the project beginning to end,” he said.

Paul’s dodger design would test all of his sewing skills. He was going to have to sew zippers, install fasteners, and even make a roll up window.

When Paul started sewing, the dodger project brought on the challenges. The scale of the dodger made it difficult to maneuver and all the material proved tricky to roll up under the arm of the Ultrafeed.

“Making something that’s 10-12 feet long in your basement is difficult,” he said. “It grows quite big.”

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The finished dodger installed on s/v Mildred Rose

Paul credits the video with helping him accomplish such a large-scale DIY project.

“The tips I learned in the video were invaluable. There’s no way I could have made it without it,” he said.

All of Paul’s hard work paid off and his dodger looks great. It’s now the project that he is the most proud of.

“The dodger is the most accurate. It’s done the best,” Paul said. “Because of the sheer scale of the project I’d have to say it’s the one I’m most proud of…it was harder than I thought.”

As with a lot of DIY projects, Paul would do somethings differently on his dodger, but it has been met with rave reviews from his friends and fellow sailors.

“People who go on the boat can’t believe that I made it,” Paul said. “I can see all the flaws, but someone casually looking at it thinks it’s beautiful.”

Paul’s advice to fellow DIY-ers is to know your skill level, to not be afraid of a sewing machine and to be confident.

“Just have confidence. If you don’t have confidence, then forget about it.”

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Paul’s dodger and “flying awning.” He made the awning himself and modeled it off other awnings he had seen around the harbor.

Paul feels like he’s had a lot of help becoming a sailor and DIYer and he likes to share the knowledge that’s been shared with him. One way he does this is by teaching seminars at the Boston Boat Show each spring. His current seminar is about transitioning from a small boat to a larger one, but he hopes to teach a sewing class in the future.

“Sewing is not as scary as people think it is. I think a lot of people have the skill set. I want to show them what a Sailrite machine can do,” he said.

For himself, Paul has a list of projects he’s waiting to try next like a sail cover, cockpit cushions and a main sheet bag.

Three years ago Sailrite customer Christine Rasmussen was neither a sailor nor a sewer, but after a seemingly fated purchase of a used sailboat, she learned her capability to be both.

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Christine in the cockpit of her sailboat s/v Audacity

Christine always had a desire to learn how to sail. However, living in landlocked Durham, North Carolina, didn’t make sailing an easy goal. After a failed brush with windsurfing—“I was horrible,” Christine admitted—her dreams of sailing seemed like they would be left unfulfilled.

Then one summer, Christine, along with her husband, Mark and their twin sons, started camping at Kerr Lake, a large lake not far from where they live. Now that they were spending time regularly at a lake, Christine thought it would be fun to get her boys a Sunfish so they all could learn how to sail.

When Christine took to the Internet to find a small sailboat, she stumbled across something a little more interesting. A Craigslist listing advertising a 26’ C&C Yacht valued at $8,000, with a $4,000 price tag. Not entirely convinced that it wasn’t a joke or a scam, Christine sent her husband the link anyway, and the pair went to take a look at the boat.

When they got to the marina, the boat they came to see was nowhere to be found. After they returned home, Christine got a phone call. The boat was leaking diesel and the marina manager had moved it because of the leak. The seller, anxious to get the boat off his hands, offered it to Christine, as is, for $100, Christine explained. And just like that Christine and Mark were the proud owners of a sailboat.

Fixing up their boat was the first task and while they had the leak fixed and the motor tuned, Christine turned her attention to the cushions in the cabin.

“They were the original 1976 cushions and they were super smelly. Everything smelled like diesel,” Christine remembered.

She decided to make her own cushions, despite the fact that she hadn’t sewn anything since high school home economics. To prepare for making cushions, she watched Sailrite videos.

“I watched all the videos,” Christine said. “If there is a video with the word ‘cushion’ in it, I’ve watched it.”

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Christine’s cockpit cushions

When she had completed all 12 of her cabin cushions, Christine was proud of her accomplishment and completely hooked on sewing. She knew that it was the right time to get a Sailrite Ultrafeed LSZ-1 Sewing Machine.

“I’m addicted to [my Ultrafeed,]” Christine laughed. “It’s really quite a problem.”

Christine has since made cockpit cushions, replaced the sacrificial sun cover on her jib, and has just finished making a new bimini and bimini boot.

She compared the excitement she gets working on a sewing project to reading a good book that you can’t put down.

“I think, I’m taking my time on this, because this rocks!” Christine explained.

She encourages others to try sewing for themselves and her number one advice to new sewers is “do not be afraid.”

“I think people are afraid to be a do-it-yourselfer because it won’t be perfect,” Christine said. “I tell people, ‘I may not be really perfect at this, but I sure do enjoy it.’”

She would encourage beginners to start with small, affordable sewing projects if they are nervous to dive right into a larger project. Christine also attributes a portion of her success to the Sailrite videos, which she recommends highly.

“There is nothing, nothing, like the Sailrite videos,” she said. “If you have any inkling that this is what you want to do, start at Sailrite and watch the videos.”

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Christine’s bimini boot

Christine also recommends investing in some tools to make the job a little easier.

“The hotknife is so worth [the purchase] and the binder. Oh my God, I could not live without the binder,” she said. “It’s worth it to invest a little bit more and you will be successful.”

This next summer Christine hopes to improve her sailing skills on the water and to also work on some new sewing projects for her home including new patio cushions and a sail shade.

As a girl growing up in Minnesota, Kelly “Kelly Girl” Waterhouse never dreamed of sailing around the world. In fact, she didn’t even know how to sail. But if you ask her today about the four years she spent circumnavigating the globe with her husband, she’ll gush about her boat, her travels, and the freedom of sailing on the open ocean.

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Kelly and Kelly Girl Waterhouse

Kelly Girl’s sailing story starts years ago when the restaurant she managed in Minnesota sent her to open a new location in Seattle, Washington. It was there that she met Kelly Waterhouse, one of her lunch regulars. The pair hit it off and eventually got married. Since they have the same first name, she became known as “Kelly Girl” to avoid confusion.

Kelly was an experienced sailor and had grown up around boats. However, sailing didn’t play a big part in their relationship until after they were married, and it wasn’t until after the couple bought a little Catalina 22 that Kelly taught Kelly Girl how to sail on the Puget Sound.

Ever since Kelly was a little boy he had dreamed of one day setting out to travel the world, but he never thought he could do it with a wife, Kelly Girl said.

“He introduced me to sailing and to the idea of sailing the globe and I was like ‘Really? We could?’”

And so the pair began planning for their sailing adventure, thinking at first that it would be a long way off.

“We had talked about retiring young, like at 50, and then going,” Kelly Girl explained. “But we’re very mortal. There’s no guarantee that we would be there tomorrow. You just know you don’t necessarily have all the life you think, let’s do it now.’”

Despite many friends and family members thinking they were crazy, Kelly and Kelly Girl set out in search of the perfect boat to sail around the world in.

Eventually they found Moorea, a 35 ft. Dufour Sloop built in 1974.

“She was beautiful. She had a thick hull—sturdy and heavy. She was great for two people, and she had all the things we needed,” Kelly Girl explained.

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Moorea anchored in Hiva Oa, Marquesas

The couple lived aboard for two years in Seattle while they readied her for the sea and saved up for their big adventure.

In 2006, at 35 years old, Kelly and Kelly Girl finally set sail, heading down the west coast of the United States to Mexico.

“We had the worst weather on the west coast going from Washington to California,” Kelly Girl said. “It was our first time sailing offshore and night sailing.”

The pair had hit a squall and their boat was creaking loudly in the waves.

“You really don’t know your boat until those situations,” she said. “Once I realized that she was a solid boat, I really wasn’t ever nervous again.”

The Waterhouse’s circumnavigation took them 4 years and 35,000 nautical miles to complete. They stopped in 30 countries spending anywhere from a week to six months in any given location.

After all the traveling was done there were two aspects of the journey that stood out to Kelly Girl.

“[My favorite was] visiting countries that are so different from your own, like Thailand—the people there were so kind and welcoming. Just visiting new cultures, learning to say hello and thank you,” she explained.

“That, and getting to a place by your own means—by the wind—the freedom of it is addicting. You feel like you’re the only ones on the ocean.”

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Kelly sailing in the Marquesas

Like most sailors the Waterhouses frequently rely on their DIY skills. Kelly often hires himself out to other cruisers to fix problems on their boats for extra cash. And throughout their travels, they always have their Ultrafeed LSZ-1 Sewing Machine on board.

“We love our machine. It’s always been very reliable. Other cruisers know we have it and always want to borrow it!” Kelly Girl said. “We’ve fixed our sails—and I mean our heavy-duty sails, not just the light ones. It’s saved us a lot of money.”

On one fateful passage, the Ultrafeed even saved the day. While cruising through the Gulf of Aden, the couple had to make an emergency spinnaker repair.

“We were trying to keep up with our boating flotilla through pirate alley and pushed the spinnaker too hard,” Kelly Girl said.

They immediately pulled their spinnaker down and set to work on repairs. Kelly Girl was thankful that they were able to do the fix themselves.

“In situations like that, there isn’t a professional near you,” she said. “You don’t have to be an expert.”

While admitting that she is not the most talented sewer (Kelly is the go-to sewer on board), Kelly Girl feels a sense of pride from the things she’s DIY-ed. Together they’ve made a wide range of projects for their boat including: dinghy chaps, a binnacle cover, a shade system, jerry can covers, and courtesy flags.

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Kelly Girl and friend, Lisa from s/v Ohana Kai, making flags with the Ultrafeed LSZ-1

Today Kelly and Kelly Girl are living in Phoenix, Arizona. They have a new 42 ft. project boat, Trini. She currently resides in Houston, Texas, where Kelly travels to work on her sporadically. The couple hopes to be living aboard again by this time next year with plans to return to coastal cruising soon after.

Kelly Girl urges other sailors dreaming of sailing full-time to follow their dreams.

“I just warn people if they do it, they might not want to come back,” she said. “If it’s the lifestyle for you—and it isn’t for everyone—but if it’s the lifestyle for you, go for it.”

Kelly Girl is the author of Sailing the Waterhouse: Swapping Turf for Surf, a story of the couple’s transition to life on the water and their first ocean passage. Her second book is due out next year.

To learn more about Kelly and Kelly Girl Waterhouse and their adventures, follow their blog: Sailing the Waterhouse One Wave at a Time.

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