October 31 – December 29, 2018.
Stop! Stop! Greg was down below winching me up the mast. I was about halfway to the top when I looked up and saw them. Hornets swarmed around the spreaders a few feet away from my head. Bring me down now!
We were just starting our project to replace Blue Wing’s forestay and roller furler which we had damaged 2 years ago when a White Squall hit us while we were crossing the Gulf Stream to Mexico. The impact of the Squall broke the cotter pin that held our forestay to the top of the mast, leaving the forestay, roller furler, and head sail hanging by the halyard that holds up the roller furler until eventually it also broke dropping everything it was holding up into the ocean. And with nothing left to hold up the halyard (which ran up inside the mast) it too fell – back inside to the bottom of our 50 + foot mast. The first step of our replacement project was retrieving that halyard, well, that was, until the hornets.
We looked up. The hornets were flying around about 20 feet halfway up the mast at the spreaders and at the very top, some 40 feet up in the air. I wasn’t too keen on going up again until they were gone. There didn’t seem to be a nest. They just seemed to be hanging out, circling the mast like they were at some cool roller arena dance party. We tried shooting a stream of some spray that promised to kill scary, stingy, swarmy, flying bugs at them, but our stream fell short, they were too far away. Greg soaked a rag with the spray, tied it to a halyard and ran it up the mast hoping the smell would make their little hangout inhospitable, but these party dudes didn’t even seem to notice. Days went by, we kept trying various things, but only one solution seemed really viable, someone was going to have to take the bug spray, go up the mast and join the festivities.
That person was, of course, me. Since I’m lighter and Greg is stronger, it is easier for Greg to winch me up the mast. Some dock neighbors loaned me a paper jumpsuit, I donned glasses, socks and shoes, a hat, and a face mask. I strapped on the bosun chair, grabbed the bug spray, and up I went towards the warm Florida sun. I was only able to get a few direct hits but apparently that was enough, the party was over, everyone, including the revelers at the very top of the mast, moved on.
The rest of the project did not go off without quite a few snags, but in the end it was successful. I could go into all the tedious detail right here, but have decided to leave all that for the picture captions – so feel free to either read the rest of the story in the captions or ignore the captions and make up your own story (which would surely be more fun).
We had allowed ourselves a month to complete our forestay project, do a few upgrades for Blue Wing, and finish getting her ready to sail, but by the time the end of that month rolled around we were begging the office for another. They never really told us we could stay (Indiantown was super busy in November and people were waiting for slips), but never told us we would have to go, so we decided to just stay until they kicked us out (which they didn’t).
This next part of my story here is all the other projects we worked on during our months in Indiantown. I’ve formatted it in a tidy little bullet list, so it easier to read and also easier to just skip (I’ll let you know where to jump back in) if you find all this stuff rather tedious and no fun (because really, it was rather tedious and not much fun at all).
- Besides installing a new forestay and roller furler (and the starter, fuel pump, starter battery, and glow plugs we talked about in the previous post), we also installed:
- A new stove
- A new VHF radio
- A new power inverter
- I developed some kind of allergy which we thought might be caused by mold so we cleaned every surface inside the boat. This included tight claustrophobic little spaces I had to crawl into, like the compartment under the vberth, as well as places I have never seen before inside compartments that obviously no one else had ever seen before (based on the thickness of the grime) where all the crazy scary looking wires and tubes run that connect all our plumbing and electricity.
- We moved our solar panels and refrigerator from the van and installed them on the boat.
- I emptied, organized, and cleaned all the cockpit lazerettes, pulling out multiple bottles of cleaners and boat fluids, consolidating them and getting rid of the stuff we had no idea what to do with.
- While cleaning the lazerettes, I found a dinghy part, which led us to realize that the inflatable dink, Jethrine, was falling apart the last time we used her. We pulled Jethrine out, inflated her, removed all of her rings and handles and glued them back on.
- Greg replaced/rebedded several eye snaps for our dodger.
- We added shelves to a hanging locker so we could have a tidy place to store all the spare parts – wire, fiberglass, pumps, etc. incase things started breaking while we are out sailing.
- While we were doing all this our water pump started acting up, after much diagnosis, Greg finally pulled it apart and fished a tiny piece of plastic out of it, after which we went to town, bought a pump filter which Greg installed.
- We discovered a leak in our kitchen sink and after much searching of various hardware store we finally found appropriate parts and fixed it.
- Since we were in a plumbing mood, we decided to finally replace the corroded parts on our bathroom sink, which took much searching for parts, breaking parts, and searching for ways to repair broken parts.
- Greg replaced nav lights and a few cabin lights with LEDs
- Greg replaced the steaming light after it was broken on a trip up the mast.
- Replaced all of our fire extinguishers after a recall by Kidde.
- Greg cleaned our anchor chain and I cleaned the inside of the anchor chain locker.
- And while we were in the anchor chain locker we decided to replace the rotting plywood divider in the locker with a new plexiglass divider.
- Greg replaced another halyard (besides the one we shredded during the forestay project – see the picture captions) that was showing too much wear.
- Greg checked and filled engine fluids.
- Greg unfolded and inspected all our sails.
- We made countless trips to Stuart for marine supplies.
- We made a trip to Miami to return the inverter for the van that suddenly stopped working.
- And we did a little maintenance on ourselves – getting physicals for the first time since we went nomad.
- Greg filled out water tanks.
- We bought 6 months of groceries, a couple months worth of beer and stowed it all on the boat.
- I went up the mast again to caulk some holes in the top of mast I had spotted on one of my previous trips up.
- Our last project was to get the outboard started. Greg cleaned the carbeurator twice, replaced the choke handle, and was about to clean the carbeurator again when we changed tack.
(JUMP BACK IN HERE IF YOU DECIDED TO SKIP THE LIST)
And through all of this we kept turning to each other and saying – wow, the van was so much easier.
Our decision to haul the boat out and go traipsing about on land, wasn’t just one thing – hornets, a moldy vberth, plumbing problems, broken motors. It was a cumulation of lots of little things. Blue Wing is probably in better condition than she has ever been, but she is a boat, which means there are many more projects in our future. Despite getting physicals, I think we need to put a little more energy into the project of us – catch up on writing, take care of dental issues, travel with fewer worries, spend more time decorating than repairing, and go somewhere with less scary, stingy, swarmy, flying bugs.
* All pics are click to enlarge.