On May 1 we left Fort Pierce and arrived at Apex Marina in Stuart, FL.  Kestrel will be there for the month while we have our chain plates and standing rigging replaced by Mack Sails.  Both jobs have been on the horizon for a while.  As far as we know neither has ever been done, and Kestrel is a 1989 boat.  We plan to cruise Central America in the coming year, and we simply couldn’t do that confidently unless the standing rigging was in top shape.  And while those two jobs are being done, we’ve added a few other changes that make sense to do while workers are up the mast such as installing a new wind sensor, replacing cable in the mast, and changing out our reefing system.

The chain plate replacement is a huge job.  The cabinetry and wall sections in front of the chain plates (starboard, port, and aft) are cut out, and the fiberglass over the existing chain plates is ground off.  The old chain plates are removed, and new chain plates are installed and bonded with fiberglass roving and epoxy.  Then everything has to be cleaned up from the insidious fiberglass dust, and the walls and cabinetry are replaced.

The first step in the process is to remove every single thing off of the boat—and I do mean everything.  They warned us that the fiberglass dust would be everywhere (and I’m glad we believed them, because they were right!), so everything had to be removed.  It took us two solid days to pack up and get everything off, one dock cart-load at a time.  I was absolutely crippled at the end of that part.  Mack Sails assigned us a pull-behind trailer in which to store our belongings, so everything that we packed is still accessible to us.

DSCF7318.JPG

Everything moved out except for our Dri-Dek locker lining, which we bagged and left in the V berth. 

IMG_1603.JPG

And here’s a couple of days ago.  The chain plates are being installed.

IMG_1604.JPG

Every time we visit, I grit my teeth and think, “Soon it will be clean again.”

We can’t live on the boat during these jobs, so we rented a condominium about 15 minutes from the marina through VRBO.com.  I had never used that site before, and I have to say I am very pleased with how easy it was.  Basically it’s like finding a hotel room using an aggregate search site but instead it’s condos.  The condo we rented through the site is perfect for us, and our “landlord” is a friendly and kind guy.

IMG_1536.JPG

The view from our porch.  Yeah, it’s a tough life.

We moved quite a bit of stuff with us to the condo so that we could work on projects off-site.  The Captain has been working on a number of splicing projects, including a new Dyneema jack line that we’re installing in the cockpit.  I have been working on canvas projects such as replacing zippers on our dodger and enclosure.  Both of us appreciate having more space to work in.

We’ve also taken the time to do some fun stuff.  We took the two-hour immersion tour at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, which was fascinating.  Harbor Branch is a research facility for scientists investigating a number of topics related to oceanography including marine mammals and fisheries, reef conservation, coastal ecology, robotic vehicles, aquaculture, ocean dynamics, and drug development.

DSCF7329.JPG

One of the first manned submersibles, the Johnson-Sea-Link II.  It was so neat to see it in person.

Martin County offers a 3-month library card for $20, and it’s the best deal going.  Not only have we checked out tons of CDs and DVDs, but I’ve also “checked out” time on a home sewing machine and free museum passes.  They have a really innovative program called the Idea Lab, and patrons can “check out” time on the sewing machine, a Cricut paper cutter, and even a 3-D printer.  Folks can check out laptops, iPads, and e-readers.  I’m already a library fangirl just on principle, but this place is amazing.

Thanks to the library we visited the Florida Oceanographic Center for free.  It’s a non-profit educational center that educates people on coastal ecology and promotes environmental stewardship.  Although it has animals there, it’s not a zoo, which was my primary concern.  The animals that they house are rescue animals that are too injured to return to the wild.

We had a two-hour guided tour that was incredibly informative.  I learned a lot, particularly about sea turtles.  We visited a sting ray tank and got to feed them (amazing!).  Then we learned about sea turtles and saw three of them bobbing around,  They had all been hit by boats, which screwed up their shells and their ability to dive;  the Center either gives them drugs to regulate intestinal gasses or glues weights to their shells to approximate their natural buoyancy.  The Center also has a huge saltwater lake that houses a number of native fishes, including nurse sharks.  Our guide was very passionate about conservation and stewardship, and it was invigorating to be around someone with so much energy.

As always, we’ve managed to find time to indulge in one of our favorite activities, which is eating.  Having a full-sized kitchen has been a ball, and we’ve been testing out new recipes and cooking some elaborate meals.  We’ve driven to Miami twice so that we can eat at our favorite Cuban restaurant, Versailles, and shop in the grocery stores in Little Havana.  We really enjoy Latin foods, and some of the ingredients can be hard to source.

DSCF7426.JPG

Every time we go to Little Havana, it seems like I see a new mural or artwork.

DSCF7424.JPG

Not the most practical table, but certainly unique.

IMG_1596.JPG

 

IMG_1601.JPG

Between the produce selection, meat selection, and lunch counter, Presidente Supermarket is hard to beat.

While it’s been great to have all of the space that a condo provides, a car to go anywhere we want, and air conditioning, we both miss living on the boat.  We visit every day to check on progress; after doing essentially all of our own work for so long, it’s difficult to step back and put the boat in someone else’s hands.  We’re both ready to have this project completed so we can move back aboard and start journeying again.