Gone Floatabout

Sailing, Photography, Wilderness

Back in Dutch Harbor/Unalaska



In my last post I mentioned that we were back on board Celeste in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. So here’s what we’ve been up to:

Fishing boats tied up near Celeste

Bering Sea fishing boats moored near Celeste

After a very long day of airplanes and airports, we arrived back on board Celeste late at night on June 9.

Return to Dutch Harbor

Flight into Unalaska/Dutch Harbor

Return to Celeste

Moving in again… Long way to go to make her home-like once more!

At first glance she was very much how we left her, but closer inspection revealed the damage wrought by a big storm (ex-typhoon from Japan) over the winter. The storm is still talked about all over town, and many houses still bear the scars: roof panels gone, whole windows gone and boarded up, broken glass. Considering the 150mph winds from several different directions, the damage to Celeste wasn’t as bad as it could have been. But she wasn’t unscathed either. The wind heeled her over so far that she got caught under the dock and the force was enough to bend our largest chain plate (the big stainless steel plate fastened to the hull that holds down the rigging, which in turn holds the mast in place). It also bent one of the turnbuckles on the rigging and three of the stanchions (stainless steel poles that hold up the lifelines around the boat).

Mashed turnbuckle

Mashed turnbuckle and chain plate (behind) from the ex-typhoon

Although replacing the chain plate was a fairly big job, the biggest damage was to the toerail (the piece of wood that lines the edges of the boat) and the genoa track that’s bolted to it. The toerail was really chewed up – big splinters of wood, cracks, whole pieces torn away.

Toerail damage

Torn up toerail

We’ve epoxied the worst of it back together, but it will need to be replaced once we reach Platypus Marine again. The genoa track (which holds the cars (big blocks – pulleys) through which we lead the sheets (ropes) that control our biggest headsail) was bent and will likely also need replacement. Finally, the cars were mashed to bits.

We started with the chain plate, as it would have been unsafe to sail with it in its bent and compromised condition. It actually turned out to be slightly easier than expected to replace it: we did not have to grind out the outside of the hull to reach the bolts, and a local welder was able to fashion a new plate within 24 hours! So the new one is now installed and ready to go!

Installing new chain plate

Installing the new chain plate

Our next project was to repair the worst of the toerail damage with epoxy and then wrestle with the bent jib track to remove the smashed cars and install new ones.

New jib car and damaged car

New genoa car installed; mashed one on deck next to it – the other one was mashed even worse – in about 6 pieces…

It (understandably) takes a long time for items to be delivered to Unalaska Island (the jib cars only took a week thanks to 2-day shipping!), so very fortunately our friends here had a spare turnbuckle that we could use as a temporary replacement for the damaged one. We’ll probably have to replace that in Washington State as well, just to be safe, because it’s a bit old.

In addition to repairing the damage, we’ve been busy with the usual re-commissioning. Seth scuba-dived on the boat again to clean off all the algae/seaweed that had grown over the winter, and went up the mast to re-install our navigation lights, VHF radio antenna, and halyards (ropes that pull up the sails). I’ve changed our engine oil, stowed the gear we’d taken off the boat, stitched our jib back together where it was ripped in strong winds last summer, flushed our water tanks, and cleaned our decks which were covered in gravel that had blown on board from the road during the big storm. We’ve also topped up our propane tanks, fuel tanks, and food supplies. Now we’re just waiting for the arrival of our new stanchions and for the weather gods to smile on us!

Because of the repairs, we haven’t been able to hike as much as last summer, but we have managed a few hikes on the hill closest to our dock from where we can get a great view and spot lots of eagles, Arctic ground squirrels, and occasionally whales when they come into the bay. I continue to be awed by the untouched beauty of the Aleutians. We’re almost done with our boat work and ready to go, so the blog will be on hold for a bit here as we sail without internet. Thanks so much for your understanding! We’ll try to catch it up when we get a chance! Meanwhile, here are some shots of the beautiful Aleutians!

Unalaska eagle

Arctic Ground Squirrel on the look-out for eagles

Arctic Ground Squirrel looking out for eagles…

Humpback Whales

Humpback Whales spouting close to shore


Another day in Paradise!



12 thoughts on “Back in Dutch Harbor/Unalaska

  1. Enjoying your blog I ran into a mention of Andy and Camden whom we remember fondly from a summer in Mexico with them after their circumnavigation. Can you put me in touch with them? We miss our buddies and may go visit. Thank you. Lauri and Dois, sv Ashika

    • So I guess I never replied to your comment, though of course it doesn’t matter as we’ve been in touch by email. Hope you were able to reconnect with Andy and Daneen!

  2. Pingback: Boat Repairs, Part 1 | Gone Floatabout

  3. Pingback: Dutch Harbor to Kodiak: Great sailing and great wildlife! | Gone Floatabout

  4. Poor Celeste! Must have been a big storm.

  5. Now that Teleport is “offline” glad to found you. Was felling a little out of sorts w/o someone to live vicariously while stuck on the Cdn prairies. Well, close to the Rockies at least, so not ALL bad.

  6. Once again enjoyed your update and impressed with you’re resourcefulness and equanimity in dealing with the winter damage. Cheers, Thomas Winkler

    Sent from Cape Town, RSA


  7. We once had our old boat mashed up against a jetty during a mean East Coast low… So we can relate to what you are describing here – your poor Celeste! Just as well you weren’t on boatd as it would have been quite frightening! Hope you can bring her to an operational state and enjoy the season. Thinking of you😊

    • Thanks, guys! It sure sounded like a terrifying storm – people are still talking about it – apparently the wind shifted in a really weird way and that was when all the damage happened – to Celeste and to all the houses and trucks around town. I’m just glad it wasn’t worse and we could deal with all the structural stuff pretty well. Hope you two are doing well and your preparations for full-time sailing are coming along!