Gone Floatabout

Sailing, Photography, Wilderness

Work and Play in Port Angeles, WA (September 2017)


Seth hiking in the Olympics

Seth hiking in the Olympic Mountains

After a speedy Inside Passage transit coming south this year, we returned to our old haunts in Port Angeles, Washington. We’ve spent quite a bit of time there now, between outfitting CELESTE prior to our first departure for Alaska back in 2014 and then last winter living aboard and giving our floating home the TLC she needed after her journey to the far north. So it felt a little like coming home again. Seth and I caught up with some good friends and had a great party on CELESTE with them. We restocked our provisions, had dinner at our favorite Thai restaurant, and replayed two major parts of our previous Port Angeles lives: boat work and hiking.

CELESTE’s head (that’s nautical-speak for toilet) had been annoying us for years… but we hadn’t yet done anything about it because we had other, rather more pressing projects (like waterproofing the hull and replacing the rigging). This time, though, we decided to tackle it.

Old Head

CELESTE’s old head removed!

The problem with it had gotten worse and we’d run out of spare parts. Because it was an odd brand – not the standard Jabsco – finding new spare parts was going to be difficult. And we kind of hated the over-engineered design anyway. So we rented a car, drove to the marine store in Port Townsend, and bought a new, simple, easy-to-fix-in-the-future Jabsco. We thought installing it would be no drama, but of course that’s never the case with boats….

So we spent the following day hoofing it (no more rental car) all over Port Angeles to find the appropriate hoses to modify CELESTE’s plumbing.

Head Project

Mid-project… Old plumbing has to go!

Hoses and connectors finally located and another long day spent fighting everything into place, and we had a wonderful new, smoothly functioning head! Yay! It’s been everything we thought it would be – a huge improvement in quality of life.

Fortunately we also got in a gorgeous hike in the Olympic Mountains, an area I’ve really come to love during the time we’ve spent in Port Angeles.

Trail bridge

Trail bridge over a quiet stream on our hike

We thought we’d hiked pretty much all of the day-hikes already, but we managed to find one we’d overlooked previously: a lovely 4-hour loop down to an emerald-colored lake and back up about 2,500 feet to a ridge with stunning views. We were lucky to have perfect weather and splashes of brilliant fall color. Grand Lake


Dragonfly hovering over the lake

Fall Colors in the Olympics

Fall color on the ridge

We knew from last year that we really couldn’t linger in Port Angeles if we actually wanted to get further south before the weather turned, so we headed down the Strait of Juan de Fuca on September 28, which happily was a nice calm day, not blowing strong from the west like it usually does in the Strait. The rule of thumb is that if you round Cape Flattery (the northwestern tip of Washington State) by October 1, you’ll have decent weather for the passage to California, so that was our goal!

16 thoughts on “Work and Play in Port Angeles, WA (September 2017)

  1. Pingback: 2017 in Photos | Gone Floatabout

  2. Pingback: Passage to San Francisco (October 2017) | Gone Floatabout

  3. Hey guys, what was your plan heading South from Port Angeles? I see a lot of different approaches, everywhere from coastal hopping to going 200 miles offshore. Is your next blog post about that?

    Next April/May I’m heading North as far as I can go, before heading South at the end of summer all the way to Mexico but still trying to line up all the timings/routes etc.

    • Hi Matt,
      Yes, I am planning to write about our passage down the coast, so stay tuned! I’ll answer your question about the route in an email, so I can write more. Great to hear about your planned voyage, though!

  4. Welcome home to Port Angles. Its great getting those big little things done. I loved Sandra Gary’s comments. You both have a Merry Christmas!

  5. Hi Ellen and Seth,

    I continue to enjoy your posts. If you ever stop in Campbell River please do let me know it would be nice to see you and Celeste. Do you ever promote businesses and such? I am a realtor and have ended up listing a few private island type of listings recently and thought it might be an idea to move in that direction. I built a new website recently to help promote some of my own listings http://www.oceanhome.ca All the best for the holidays to you both.


    Michael Stricker Re/Max Check Realty Campbell River, BC 250.203.3046 http://www.stricker.ca http://www.oceanhome.ca

    • Hi Michael,
      It’s great to hear from you, and I’m glad you’ve been reading along and seeing what we’re up to on Celeste! We did hope to stop in Campbell River this year on our way south but unfortunately ran out of time. Hopefully we’ll have a chance in the future! I’m sorry that we don’t really promote businesses in that way. We have relationships with a few sponsors but that’s really it. Good to hear you’re working in real estate now, though, and best of luck with your listings!
      Merry Christmas to you and say hi to your parents from us!
      All the best,
      Ellen and Seth

  6. Congratulations on the new toilet! Only a fellow boater understands the agony and the ecstasy…

  7. Nothing like tackling the nitty-gritty of boating head on. Bravo!
    And bottoms up! adds John.

  8. Hi Ellen,
    I wish I’d have known you needed a head, I have a spare in Port Angeles (son lives there). I would have gladly given it to you. I live in Alaska (Kenai) and have a boat in Anacortes, and am considering sailing her north. In your opinion, how much time should I allow for the trip? Steady on sailing, say as far as Seward? (I’ll add on to your estimate for side trips)
    Also what’s the earliest I should consider leaving?

    • Hi Steve,

      Thanks very much – very generous of you to think of it!

      As for your trip north, I would basically give yourself as much time as possible. Between the vagaries of weather, especially in the Gulf of Alaska, and the fact that there is so much to see along the way, the more time the better. It is possible to move fast, but it’s nicer not to have to.

      At bare minimum, I would give yourself 3 weeks for the Inside Passage from Anacortes to Cross Sound/Glacier Bay. You could do it in 2 weeks, but that’s going full-out, pretty well nonstop, which would be a shame – stressful and you miss some of the best cruising in the world. If you have a month or six weeks, even better.

      After the Inside Passage, you’ll have to cross the Gulf to Seward. You can do this as a 3-4 day passage if you get the right weather for it, but of course one usually has to wait for the right weather to materialize. Or you can do it in a series of overnights, stopping at the various places on the outer coast and then in Prince William Sound. Again, the more time you have to do this the better, given that you might have to wait for weather, and given how incredible these places are as cruising grounds. Prince William Sound alone could keep you occupied for years. You probably know that, though, being from Kenai.

      Of course, it is possible, if you get the right weather (rare) to make a direct passage from Cape Flattery to Seward without stopping, but it’d be a shame to have to bypass some truly stunning cruising and I don’t think it’d be a really enjoyable passage….

      Finally, the earlier you leave the better (within reason, of course). The weather in the Gulf (as I’m sure you know) tends to deteriorate by August. We left Port Angeles at the end of April this year and it was a little chilly, but great sailing. I’d say it’s a good time to go if your boat is set up for cold. You could leave anytime between then and the end of June and still have a good amount of time to get to Seward and see a bit en route.

      Hope that’s helpful and enjoy your trip!
      All the best,

  9. Great Photos and story as always.