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.
As most of you have already guessed from our posts about our Katadyn watermaker, our Rolls batteries, and other projects, we—and the guys at Platypus Marine—have been hard at work refitting Celeste for ocean voyaging in general and high latitudes in particular (one reason that these blog posts are so far behind reality!). Over the winter and spring, Platypus Marine did the most major projects, especially sheathing the hull in GRP and Kevlar, barrier coating and painting the whole hull, and installing our new diesel engine. Seth and I arrived in Port Angeles in May to finish the refitting by doing the finicky (and high labor cost!) projects ourselves.
On the recommendation of a trusted friend and shipwright, we placed Celeste with Platypus Marine in September 2013. We subsequently negotiated sponsorship with them. In short, we only work with companies whose products we would use regardless of sponsorship.
Celeste was beautifully constructed and designed when she was built: her cold-molded hull was meticulously laid up and saturated with epoxy; her decks, cabin trunk, keel, and rudder were all sturdily built; and everywhere is evidence of the skill and workmanship of both her designer Francis Kinney and her builder Bent Jespersen. Celeste was also maintained excellently by her previous owner. He especially took care to keep the bilges completely dry—we’ve found some spare pieces of wood he kept there that didn’t even have a drop of moisture stain! Nonetheless, all boats come due for a refit after about 20 years and Celeste’s has been particularly thorough in view of the waters we’re hoping to explore. Thanks to our boatyard in Port Angeles, Platypus Marine, we’re setting off with a classic-looking yet robust and technologically up-to-date vessel. Continue reading
When we realized that Celeste needed a new auxiliary engine, Seth and I went with a Yanmar because of our good experiences with the used one we had installed on Heretic during our circumnavigation. We were also most familiar with maintaining Yanmars. We were very pleased, therefore, when Yanmar agreed to support our expedition by providing all our spare parts!
Arctic voyagers, from Roald Amundsen to the present, have realized the importance of auxiliary propulsion as an aid in negotiating tidal currents, variable winds, and tight anchorages. On our circumnavigation we were impressed by the performance and reliability of the 20-year-old Yanmar engine (35 horsepower) that we installed in New Zealand. We also became adept at maintaining it ourselves, even re-building it in Australia after we had (stupidly!) over-pitched the propeller. So we turned to Yanmar again when it became clear that Celeste’s 30-year-old engine would need replacement.
After circumnavigating with almost no communications, we knew we wanted good services for our high latitude voyage. Friends had spoken highly of OCENS, so we approached them for sponsorship. We only work with companies whose products we would use regardless of sponsorship.
Communications are vital for voyaging in higher latitudes where weather is volatile and can be severe, and where ice conditions can change even faster. Aboard Celeste we’ll need access to good weather forecasts starting upon departure from the Strait of Juan de Fuca. They’ll become even more vital when we cross the Gulf of Alaska and when we enter the Bering Sea. Upon reaching Arctic waters we’ll also need daily ice charts so we can make informed and safe decisions. Thanks to OCENS and MVS we’ll be able to do all that reliably and quickly through OCENS’s excellent weather and e-mail services and through our Iridium Extreme phone and airtime. Continue reading