Unalaska returned to its more normal state of cold, wind, and clouds after our hike and we went to work on the boat in earnest. Andy and Daneen had very nicely offered to store all our junk in their attic, so we took everything off the boat. The point of this on the inside was mostly to prevent mold from growing on the cushions, sails, books, woodwork, etc. and to keep stuff from freezing that probably shouldn’t freeze (like my dad’s Mason jars of soup, pasta sauces, etc.). The point on deck was to prevent loose stuff from blowing away or getting stolen (like our Mantus anchors and extra propane cylinder). This took a couple days and more than a couple truck loads.
Then we had to take care of a couple systems. We had run our Katadyn desalinator on our passage to Unalaska and had very happily discovered that it didn’t use any more power than usual despite the cold temperatures of the Bering Sea (about 9 degrees Celsius, 48 F). Neither had it slowed its output, keeping steady at 1.5 gallons per hour. We’d saved up 1 gallon (twice as much as recommended in the Owner’s Manual) with which to preserve the membrane for winter storage. We used this plus the Membrane Preservative to clean and store the watermaker so that it will be ready for use again when we return.
Our next project was to install a ‘smart’ battery charger we’d ordered from Hamilton Marine. We were going to leave Celeste plugged into shore power during the winter to keep our Rolls AGM batteries all topped up and to run a dehumidifier to keep the cabin dry and mold-free. AGM batteries require a slightly higher charge than wet cell batteries to top them up fully and the new charger would accommodate this.
We didn’t completely winterize the engine because Andy was going to run it periodically instead. The sea doesn’t freeze in Unalaska thanks to a ‘warm’ current coming over from Japan, so we didn’t need to worry about that like we do in Maine. Instead we simply changed the engine oil and filters and topped up the diesel tanks so they wouldn’t condensate (which gets water in the fuel—awful!).
To guard against Unalaska’s enormous eagles (who eat the offal from the fish processing plants) from damaging things, I winched Seth up the mast where he took down our VHF antenna and tricolor light. On deck we boarded up our solar panels with plywood to prevent breakage.
Unalaska’s notoriously high winds were another concern, despite our location on a fairly protected dock. We’d dealt with this before when we stored our first boat Heretic in a hurricane hole near Cairns, Australia on our circumnavigation. Off came the sails and anything loose on deck. Then we replaced the halyards with small feeder lines and took off all the lines except the mainsheet (holding the boom in place) and the jib’s roller furler line. Finally we bought really good thick dock lines from Alaska Ship Supply. Two of these we prepared with chafe guards off our Jordan Series Drogue, and the rest with flexible tubing as chafe guards.
The last items on the list were to wipe down all the surfaces inside the boat with diluted bleach as further mold prevention and then to plug in the dehumidifier and a tiny heater which would keep the ambient temperature at 49 degrees, just warm enough for the dehumidifier to work properly.
So many people were so kind during our stay in Unalaska, and during Celeste‘s stay after our departure. Andy and Daneen top the list, and our heartfelt thanks go out to them as they looked after our baby Celeste and our mound of stuff during the winter. We know it blew over 100 knots a few times; we know they had not a few blizzards; and we know they were checking on Celeste and her docklines the whole time! It means the world to have such awesome friends! We’re also so appreciative of how they welcomed us into their home, where we spent every evening for showers, laundry, and Daneen’s amazing dinners. The harbor master and all the people in the harbor office were also hugely helpful in getting us a spot on a protected dock. We started off in a quite exposed transient spot but thanks to their ingenuity and initiative we ended up tucked up in a nice sheltered corner, which made all the difference. One of the best things about sailing is the people you meet, and we couldn’t beat Unalaska for that!