Marina del Rey live-aboards lost everything they own, but friends have launched a crowdfunding campaign to get them back on their feet

By Gary Walker

Marina del Rey live-aboards Christina Ferrell and James Evenson were left homeless after their boat burned in September Photo courtesy of Heidy Gross

Marina del Rey live-aboards Christina Ferrell and James Evenson were left homeless after their boat burned in September
Photo courtesy of Heidy Gross

Marina del Rey live-aboards Christina Ferrell and James Evenson found themselves not only broke but also homeless after their 28-foot Islander sailboat burst into flames on Sept. 2 while docked at their slip near the Neptune Marina townhomes complex off Marquesas Way.

Planning to sell their boat to a friend later that week, Ferrell and Evenson had just cancelled their insurance but had not yet moved out. They were planning to move to a different boat.

Suddenly, the couple’s every worldly possession was gone.

A mechanic was working on the boat’s engine when the fire broke out and suffered severe burns to his hands and forearms, Ferrell said. To make matters even worse, Evenson came down with a respiratory infection that the couple blames on his inhaling fumes of charred fiberglass while scavenging the boat for anything he could salvage.

“I couldn’t believe what was happening. It all seems so surreal. Losing the boat was terrible, but thinking that I could lose my boyfriend was the worst,” Ferrell, a dog walker in Marina del Rey, recalled.

Enter fellow Marina del Rey boater Heidy Gross and the powerful influence of social media.

The very same day, Gross posted an Indiegogo.com crowdfunding appeal to help out her destitute neighbors. The campaign, which runs until Oct. 2, has so far raised a total of $4,856 through 65 donors.

The international crowdfunding website, based in San Francisco, launched in 2008 and allows charitable efforts, startup businesses and other projects to post calls for funding to which users can give using PayPal or a credit card.

Escondido-based Stone Brewing Co. raised $2.5 million through the site in August to fund the launch of a new series of beers (offering free bottles for donors). In June, a developer of sturdy solar panels designed to replace asphalt on roadways raised $2.2 million. Several feature-length films have also been funded through the site.

“I was in New York when my boyfriend called me to tell me what happened,” said Gross, a flight attendant. “Even though I had never used Indiegogo, I thought it would be a good way to help Tina and James. I felt obligated to help a fellow boat owner.”

Others in the Marina del Rey community have offered support by giving money and clothes in addition to the crowdfunding pledges.

“Because of what Heidy did, the news of what happened to us has spread like wildfire,” Ferrell said. “Friends and strangers are offering us things that we need since we lost everything. It’s incredible.”

Evenson is now out of the hospital and recovering from his infection. The couple is staying with the friend who had planned to buy their boat.

According to the campaign, Ferrell and Evenson plan to share some of their donations with the injured mechanic.

“I’ve lived all over the country and I haven’t felt the sense of community like I do in Marina del Rey,” said Gross. “The boating community is really a tight-knit group.”

Through this experience, Ferrell has discovered the charitable side of the marina in a very personal way.

“I now have a lot of faith in humanity,” she said. “I had lost all faith and hope. What Heidy has done is just amazing.”

To read the campaign for Ferrell and Evenson, visit indiegogo.com and search “boat fire.”

gary@argonautnews.com

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