After a rainy day anchored in Chenega Bay near the mouth of Prince William Sound while a gale raged outside, we made a break for the open sea. As the National Weather Service had predicted, the wind moderated in the early hours of August 14, so we set off after breakfast. It was still pouring rain, but we were pretty used to that by this point. Continue reading
Happy Thanksgiving to the Gone Floatabout subscribers! A couple of the blogs I read have been posting 50 things they’re thankful for, and I liked the idea so thought I’d put up mine! (They’re listed in the order in which they came to my head.) Continue reading
In my last post about Prince William Sound, I wrote about the benefits of sailing without cruising guides: wonderful unexpected places and experiences. But you also run the risk that the unexpected might turn out badly, as I hinted was the case for us in Whittier. We found out later that the locals call it Shittier. . . . Continue reading
In a highly unusual turn of events, the weather gods were smiling on the Gulf of Alaska from July 30th to August 2nd. According to our GRIB files from OCENS, a high pressure of 1025 millibars was moving up the coast and would be positioned over Cape Spencer just as we’d be exiting the Inside Passage on the evening of the 30th. If all went well, we’d move with it along the northern Gulf as it strengthened to 1026, 1027, and 1028 millibars. Our precipitation GRIBs were showing no rain whatsoever (amazing occurrence in this part of the world!); waves were forecast to be practically nonexistent (see image left); and OCENS’ wind predictions showed 5-10 knots, at first favorable and then shifting onto the nose. If we were really picky people (or if we were sailing in places with more consistent wind like Maine or the trade wind latitudes), those extremely light breezes could have bothered us. But this is Alaska, where everyone you meet rightly cautions you to ‘be careful out there.’ We were thrilled! Continue reading
On the day following our hike in Thomas Bay (July 17), we’d planned to sail about 30 miles and be well on our way to our next big stop on Baranof Island. We only made it 5 miles. Almost as soon as we’d left our anchorage, we saw a whale spout, then five, then dozens. Frederick Sound was teeming with humpbacks! We motored a little closer to a big pod, then cut the engine and drifted, watching them spout lazily on the surface and dive every now and then, showing their distinctive black and white flukes.
Every mariner knows not to sail on a Friday, but in the long run it’s turned out for the best that we did. On the morning of Friday, June 27, our projects were finally complete, our fridge was stocked, and the water tanks were full. We didn’t relish sitting around waiting for Saturday to dawn considering how far behind schedule we already were after all the work on Celeste. That was likely the first (and last) time we’ve ignored our superstitions. . . .
(NB: This stuff about superstition was meant to be tongue-in-cheek! Everything that happened would almost certainly have happened had we left the following day. Blaming it (in a tongue-in-cheek way!) on leaving on a Friday was intended to inject humor – apologies if it didn’t work, as some readers took it at face value – sorry!) Continue reading
We were floating, but we weren’t gone yet. We had some last minute projects to do before we could depart from Port Angeles: installing heavy duty cleats for our Jordan Series Drogue, figuring out how to work our heater, and trouble-shooting our autopilot issues. Ace Sailmakers specifically says not to run your drogue to your primary winches for fear of tearing them out with the load, but we had no other strong points on the stern. We made some by installing cleats with huge backing plates.
On the big day, June 18, Seth and I arrived at Platypus Marine at 7am to find the ‘heavy lifting crew’ already stepping our mast. We scrambled up the ladder to help with guiding it in and attaching the stays. Stepping the mast had been delayed until the day of our launch because we’d found by a pretty minimal hammer hit that the old mast step on the keel was corroded into aluminum dust. We had a new one shipped overnight from Rhode Island (we were thrilled to find we could purchase one at all—the mast is no longer manufactured) and then had to affix it, being super careful to bed the stainless steel machine screws to prevent future corrosion. But all that was now behind us and we were actually stepping the mast!
As mentioned in Port Angeles, Part Two, stowing all our gear was the next daunting project before launching. It took some creativity to fit everything we need for ourselves and the boat. We stowed our many tools and our hardware store worth of fasteners, plumbing and electrical fittings, and paint and epoxy first since it was already on board. We had to be careful, though, to avoid the temptation to stow the first things in the most inaccessible places. However much we wished we were done with boat work at that point, the reality is that little things always come up and routine maintenance is important. So the tools got prime locations and we’ve been glad since then that they did!
Since our projects on Celeste took so much longer than Seth and I had expected (we often have this problem, we should change our expectations!), we ended up working pretty much every day for a month from 7am to 7pm and often more hours. We both actually enjoy doing boat work: it often means a puzzle that needs a creative solution; it’s a great feeling to know your boat inside and out; and it’s always satisfying to fix up your home and make it the best you can. What we don’t much enjoy is the stress of having to do all the projects within a certain time frame, exactly what we’d inadvertently done to ourselves in Port Angeles. Fortunately for our sanity, we had a couple of welcome diversions from work.