Our last post, recounting our rather difficult 3-week passage from Point Barrow, ended with just one day to go to Dutch Harbor and with the highest mountains of the Aleutian Islands (namely Shishaldin Volcano, 75 miles away) just in sight. That final day was overcast and a little foggy, but the sea conditions were happily just as kindly as they had been the day before, when the fin whales had paid us a visit.
We entered Unalaska Bay around lunchtime and were thrilled to see the beautiful big green mountains rising up into the clouds all around us. It had been months since we’d seen mountains and the volcanic peaks of the Aleutians are stunning.
An hour or so later we had tied up to the dock in the fishing boat basin and were stepping ashore for the first time in 20 or 21 days – we’d actually lost track. It was so exciting to walk on land, and on such beautiful land as Unalaska. Our friends were there to greet us and we had a long chat before they had to head back home and the two of us went to the bar to celebrate!
That evening we sat out in the cockpit, savoring the warmth of the land – amazing to think that we would ever have considered the storm-tossed Aleutian Islands a haven of warmth and tranquility, but so it was after the Arctic and the long passage through the Chukchi and Bering Seas.
The next day we started in on winterizing Celeste for another season in Dutch Harbor while we would be back at work in Switzerland. It was pretty much a reverse of what we’d done in June (minus the upgrades). Here is a sample of what we did, off the top of my head. We were too busy to record any of this in the log, so this is just what I remember:
- Replaced halyards with feeder lines to reduce windage and weight aloft.
- Pickled the watermaker and ran it dry (important for below-freezing conditions).
- Hooked up shore power to keep the batteries happy all winter (this was actually a pretty big job on account of the fishing harbor having different AC voltage than the boat…).
- Arranged docklines, chafe gear, and fenders.
- Rinsed and dried the anchor chain so it wouldn’t rust in the bow locker.
- Lashed plywood to our solar panels to protect them from breakage (e.g. if an object hit them during a storm – Dutch Harbor occasionally gets 100-knot winds in winter).
- Went up the mast to remove tricolor light, VHF antenna, and wind indicator. This is on account of the eagles that perch on the mast and tear anything apart that they might find amusing.
- Removed all on-deck items (including dodger – too much windage) and stored them in our friends’ container (shipping container on their property).
- Removed jib from roller furler and mainsail from boom and stored the sails in the container.
- Removed all food and either stored it at our friends’ place or gave it away depending on ‘best-by’ date. This was on account of the rats that are reputed to live on the docks and make a mess of boats that are left with food on board.
- Removed anything that might mildew – mattress, cushions, bedding, towels, clothing, books, charts, sails, lines – and stored it all in our friends’ attic (yes, we have the most amazing friends!!)
- Normally we would change the engine oil and fuel and oil filters, but this time we had done that in Barrow and hardly used the engine since – we’d never been at a loss for wind! We did not fully winterize the engine because our friends run it for us periodically. (Did I mention how amazing our friends are??)
- Fully drained the water tanks.
- Fully topped up the diesel tanks (to prevent condensation).
- Topped up heater tank to prevent condensation.
- Thoroughly cleaned the head (marine toilet) with white vinegar.
- Wiped down all surfaces with diluted bleach as a preemptive strike against mildew – we really, really hate that ‘boaty’ smell!
- Sponge-dried the bilge so that it was completely dry. (No boaty smell, thanks!)
- Set up the big General Electric dehumidifier to drain continuously down the sink.
- Gave the boat key to our friends.
During all this we made time to socialize with our friends who would be taking care of Celeste over the winter again, with new friends we’d made who live in Unalaska and run a dry-suit dive club (!), and with the crew of another boat. We also managed to draw the attention of the police when we went down to the town creek to take underwater pictures of the salmon spawning – they thought we were spear-fishing! It made for a good laugh all around when the misunderstanding had been cleared up. The underwater pictures didn’t come out wonderfully due to the algae in the creek, but seeing all those hundreds of salmon coming up the river was quite the sight!
Then it was time to leave again and make the journey back east, first to New England for personal/family reasons and then eventually to our home in Switzerland, via Iceland where we were awed by the most spectacular display of the Northern Lights.
We’ve had a very busy but also a good year back in Switzerland – stay tuned for some land adventure photo-blogs – and now that it’s spring we’re looking forward to re-uniting with Celeste and exploring ever more of Alaska!