Gone Floatabout

Sailing, Photography, Wilderness

Port Angeles, Part One


New GRP, Kevlar, and barrier coat put on over the winter

New GRP, Kevlar, and barrier coat were put on over the winter

As most of you have already guessed from our posts about our Katadyn watermaker, our Rolls batteries, and other projects, we—and the guys at Platypus Marine—have been hard at work refitting Celeste for ocean voyaging in general and high latitudes in particular (one reason that these blog posts are so far behind reality!). Over the winter and spring, Platypus Marine did the most major projects, especially sheathing the hull in GRP and Kevlar, barrier coating and painting the whole hull, and installing our new diesel engine. Seth and I arrived in Port Angeles in May to finish the refitting by doing the finicky (and high labor cost!) projects ourselves.


Re-doing all the electrical circuits

Although we arrived on a Sunday, our project manager Stewart very nicely came down to the yard to let us in so we could immediately start work. We thought we’d begin with installing our battery monitor (which tells us exactly how many amps we’re drawing or generating, what voltage the house and starting batteries are at, and how many amp hours we’ve discharged or generated). To do so, we unscrewed the panel covering the wires to the circuit breaker. Huge disappointment! Almost none of the original wires had been marine-grade (tinned to prevent corrosion), and, as new instruments or lights or equipment had been installed over the boat’s lifetime, connections had just been piggy-backed onto older terminals so that nothing made sense. For example: the aft cabin lights and radar were hooked up to the same breaker, and it was impossible to run the tricolor (a sailboat’s masthead navigation light) without also having the running lights on. There were also multiple hanging, disused wires, which—though not dangerous because not getting power—made things messy and confusing. Finally, there were a bunch of leftover wires from when the boat used to be bonded (a questionable idea for a boat made partly of wood and thus abandoned within the first year of Celeste’s life). There was nothing for it but to tear everything out and start re-wiring.

It took us over a week. We spent our twelve-hour work days crawling into awkward spaces wearing headlamps, unscrewing hangers and snipping old zip ties, discovering we didn’t have the right gauge wire or the right ring terminals or enough terminal bars and ordering more, soldering and heat-shrinking connections, and running around the boat with an ohm meter and a long bit of 18 gauge wire to find out what the hell those mystery wires did. By the end of about 10 days, though, every wire had a bit of painter’s tape saying what it did, and our breaker panel made a lot more sense. Now we have separate breakers for navigation lights, radar, autopilot, other electronics, fridge, watermaker, and the cabin (lights, propane solenoid, water pressure, stereo, bilge pumps, 12V outlets). Each of the breakers now leads to switches that make sense: when the electronics breaker is turned on, you can turn the switches for the depth sounder, GPS, and VHF radio, for example.

Rolls batteriesOf course, none of those things were yet installed to receive power, nor were the batteries installed that would give all this circuitry power! Our batteries arrived first from Rolls, so that project came next. To fit the increased size (and amp hours), we had to move some of the ducting for the old forced-air heater and we also had to put in eye straps to which we could tie webbing to hold the batteries in place in the horrible scenario that Celeste ever capsizes. A huge thanks to our friend Karl aboard Sophia who came to visit just as we were finishing the wiring and took over this project for us. Meanwhile Seth crimped and soldered the huge 1-gauge wires that run from the batteries to their switch and from the engine to the battery switch, and I stitched together the webbing straps. Actually putting in the batteries was the easy part!

Securing our new Rolls batteries

Securing our new Rolls batteries

Installing our low-draw fridge compressor

Installing our low-draw fridge compressor

Before installing our electronics (minus the depth sounder and speed transducer which Platypus Marine had already put in), we switched gears a little bit. We replaced much of the fresh water plumbing throughout the boat: making it easier to level out our two tanks, putting in new hosing for the pressure system, and replacing the malfunctioning pressure water pump. We serviced some stiff seacocks (valves that let water in and out of the boat’s through-hulls), and replaced the two cockpit drain seacocks as well as their hosing. Seth ripped out the power-hungry refrigeration unit, built a platform for our new low-draw magnetic compressor, mounted it, and installed the cold-plate while I ran the compressor’s hoses, hung its electric wires, and filled in the gaps in the insulation left by the old cold-plate with foam.

Solar panel installation

Installing solar panels, varnishing hand rails

Working on the heater project

Working on the heater project

We also worked on some sanding, painting, and epoxying. To mount our new solar panels, we had to remove the Dorade vent on the port side which left a six-inch hole in the cabin top. Seth filled it with a round piece of wood and fiberglassed and epoxied it over. Cliff, one of the joiners at Platypus Marine, provided me with an orbital sander for fairing it all down before painting, saving me a whole day’s work, but I couldn’t use that on the varnished hand rails with all their fiddly curves. They were showing a lot of bare mahogany which needed protecting from rot before we could mount the panels over the aft end of them. Hand sanding those fair took me two days but it allowed me to make a good job of the varnish so that it won’t peel up again (if we don’t let it go, of course). The priming and painting itself was enjoyable, although it took time since each coat needs about 16 hours to dry in the cool temperatures of Port Angeles in June. Cliff had also modified our starboard Dorade vent to accommodate the chimney for our new heater, so I varnished that while Seth clear-seal-epoxied the wooden collar through which the chimney would go.

By this time our hoped-for launch date of June 10 had already passed. The boat was still completely torn apart with power tools, screwdrivers, pliers, soldering irons, spools of wire and hose, sand paper, respirators, and cans of paint everywhere. A long list of projects remained and all our gear—from the mast to the sails to cooking pots to clothing—still sat in boxes in one of Platypus Marine’s sheds. Our long hours sans weekends was set to continue.


8 thoughts on “Port Angeles, Part One

  1. What you guys are doing is really amazing!

  2. Wow, what hard worker bees you two are. I’m so impressed at your knowledge and skill set! It’s incredible to get a glimpse into this labor of love. Love this post – keep it up!

  3. Have you considered documenting your trip with video and making a feature length documentary on this historic voyage? I just watched “Maidentrip” (about Laura Deckker’s circumnavigation and being the youngest person do do so solo) and it was fantastic. I suggest you two see the film as soon as you can. I think it came out on DVD this past week (and it’s also on the internet, if you want to save those costs to prepare your boat :)) The film truly captures life at sea and Laura herself is quite a charismatic young lady which made for a great view. I suspect Ellen would rather write about the journey but as a famous film maker once said “film is truth, presented 24 times a second on screen.” I believe he’s referring to the number of frames per second in film. I guess it would be too late now to start, so this idea might be moot. But I thought I’d pass it along.
    Maybe you could make a short-doc of just the voyage itself? I’m sure you will see breathtaking things along the way.

    Whatever happens, the most important thing is that you both make it home safe. Safe travels, Seth and Ellen, I wish you the best.


    • Hi John,

      Many thanks for your support and thoughts. It’s probably a bit late for filming as you said since we lack the equipment (we’re pretty focused on still photography) and probably the time to put it all together as well. We’ll look out for Laura Deckker’s film though – sounds interesting and it would be great to see how other people go about it.

  4. sounds very frustrating

    • Definitely is frustrating when you’re working to a tight time frame–I don’t think I’d really find boat work that frustrating otherwise–it can be really interesting to puzzle out problems, etc. when you have all the time in the world. Unfortunately that really wasn’t the case in Port Angeles…

  5. Wow, what an incredible amount of work you have done to prepare for this trip. I hope you are able to geton the water soon! Great work you guys!!!