The ten days following our hoped-for launch date of June 10 were dominated by installing equipment. Once all the paint and varnish had dried, Seth mounted and wired our new solar panels: two on the forward end of the cabin top, two aft where the old Dorade vent was, and one on a swivel mount on the stern pulpit. (There had been a large one there, but it didn’t seem to be producing much—if any—power, so we replaced it.) Meanwhile, I was hard at work back in our hotel room putting together our Jordan Series Drogue.
As mentioned in my earlier post, the drogue (stern-set drag device for storms) consists of many cones strung out along a heavy line. The length of the line and the number of cones varies depending on your boat’s displacement. We conservatively got the drogue for a 20,000 lbs displacement boat even though Celeste is about 3,000 pounds shy of that. It had 116 cones, one of which had been attached by Ace Sailmakers so that I could see how to do the rest. The idea is to pull the six pieces of webbing attached to each cone (three on the narrow end, three on the flared end) through the outer part of the double-braided line and then tie stopper knots to keep each cone in place. It’s done with a loop of wire and a pair of Vise-Grips. After struggling with stiff electrical wire for about 20 cones, I discovered that clothes hanger worked much better because it was much stiffer and the Vise-Grips didn’t break it. To be honest, it was a tedious and simultaneously rather difficult job but I got decent at it fairly quickly and was able to complete it in two days, which I think was fast. My fingers were very sore by the end.
Back at the boatyard, Seth moved on from solar panels to putting in electronics. He rigged up the new tiller pilot’s computer as well as wiring the plug for its arm in the cockpit and mounting the pins for the arm on both cockpit bench and tiller. Celeste had come with an autopilot which had mostly worked last summer but had read some strange headings and had occasionally quit without reason. It had also been mounted backwards so that it would drive the tiller when it was flipped up to get it out of the way of the cockpit. That was a nice feature, have to admit, to have the whole cockpit free to move around in, but it deprived the autopilot arm of its best leverage. Seth rigged it up so that the new arm drives the tiller when it is laid down facing forwards. The tiller certainly dominates the cockpit now but the arm doesn’t have to work so hard, and we are a sailboat after all!
I returned in the middle of this project to help Seth mount the autopilot compass. We also mounted our new digital radar dome on the mast to replace Celeste’s original analog one. The old one still worked okay but we thought it prudent to update it since we’re headed to waters known for both fog and ice. Our new one also allows us to overlay the radar image on electronic charts which is a wonderful help in stressful situations (i.e. the times when you mostly use radar!). We discovered this in 2012 when we sailed through a whole mess of terrifying thunderstorms off New Jersey in a ketch without a lightning ground. Thanks to her radar/chartplotter we were able to dodge them all and keep away from the lightning.
Running the radar’s coax cables and mounting the chartplotter display took a little more time because we needed to order more cable and because Cliff was very nicely making us a hinged wooden box for the display to match the one for our engine control panel. In the meantime we ran coax cables for our new VHF radio (the original didn’t work and the new one has Automatic Identification System, allowing us to see ship’s names, courses, and speed), for the small and simple GPS we use offshore to conserve power (having no chartplotter function, or even color, it uses only 0.1 amps), and for our OCENS high latitude satellite phone antenna.
A big thanks to Rachel of Sophia: when she and Karl came to visit, she mounted the VHF and its microphone in the companionway. Also during their visit, Rachel and Karl helped with installing our MP3 player (an essential piece of equipment!). Karl and Seth mounted the gizmo itself in the nav station panel and Rachel and I figured out how the speaker wires for the old stereo had worked and re-ran them to accommodate the new one.
Our last upgrade was our Katadyn desalinator. Most of our other projects involved repeated trips to the hardware store or Radio Shack or they involved ordering from a chandlery in Seattle that delivers 3 times a week to Platypus Marine. We’d be in the middle of a project and realize we didn’t have a particular screw or connector and have to run across the street, or drive to the strip mall, or call up the chandlery and wait a few days. It was super frustrating and also made things go slower than they would have gone otherwise. The only project where this was not the case was our Katadyn watermaker. The PowerSurvivor came with every bit needed for installation, literally everything, right down to valves, hoses, and hose clamps.
We’d decided in advance to fit the watermaker in a locker in the head, thus using the existing saltwater intake and the existing sink drain hose. We fit a strainer on the hose before putting in a three-way valve to divert water for the desalinator when it’s needed. We did the same thing on the sink drain hose so that the briny waste could exit the boat that way. Then we put in another valve for the fresh water coming out of the desalinator so that we could run a small hose for testing the RO (reverse osmosis) water for any contamination instead of running it right into our main water tanks.
Katadyn prudently recommends collecting all your RO water in a jerry jug so that you’re doubly sure of its quality before committing it to the main tanks. The electrical connections were simple as well: we ran power from an existing terminal bar next to the mast. Physically mounting the unit was the trickiest part because it weighs about 25lbs, which doesn’t sound like much until you’re trying to keep it perfectly stationary while marking where to drill holes and then again while putting in the first two bolts. After that it was easy since the first bolts held it in place while we put in the others and tightened down on the nuts on the other side of the bulkhead.
We mounted the filter below the motor/membrane unit and left room for the silt reduction filter in case we need to install it later for shallow waters. As recommended by the engineers, we left extra hosing coiled next to it in case we ever have to pull it out for manual operation. With everything in place, we have easy access to the filter for inspecting and cleaning it after each operation and also easy access to the unit itself for treating the membrane when we know we won’t use the desalinator for over a week. (In the tropics that time frame is more like 3 days.) Finally, and quite importantly on a voyaging boat carrying a lot of gear, the locker still has ample room for stowing other items like paper towel, toilet paper, shampoo, laundry detergent, etc., so we didn’t really lose any space!
When we’d finally completed all these upgrades we were ready to tackle the boxes of gear in the shed. Our long days were about to get even longer as we pushed to launch!