Snow in Ketchikan

Valentines Day Feb. 14, 2021. Snowing again in Ketchikan. The weather has been pretty bad this winter, blowing a lot and rain/snow. The last four days have been in the teens 14-20 degrees and very windy. Warmed up today, 29-33, but snowing. Most likely it will not stick because the temperature is too high, but it’s still kind of pretty.

These two, the bald eagle and the osprey, are hanging out together on the breakwater about 60 feet apart. This is pretty odd behavior for them as they normally are fighting over fishing/hunting rights here.

That’s about all that is new, I will be starting to prep the boat for some cruising doing oil and filter changes and some other small maintenance items. Hope to actually be able to cruise in two weeks. Supposed to be a weather break. We’ll see.

Ketchikan for the Winter?

Lone Eagle standing watch

Saturday, Nov. 21

It’s six days to Thanksgiving 2020. Caroline and I are still in Ketchikan. It’s not too bad, really, as the view from the boat is nice and changes a bit every day. Ketchikan, like the rest of Alaska, is now in a lockdown situation with most businesses closed and no social scene at all. I am pretty much confined to the boat except when weather permits me to take a walk or go to the grocery store or shipping office to check on mail etc.

snow at under 500 feet

The main reason I am still in Ketchikan is a continuing problem getting a working alternator from the Balmar dealer in Bellingham, Washington. Caroline needs a custom built front end (pulley placement and type) on the high output Balmar alternator. So far I’ve had the new alternator sent to me twice in an inoperable state. I sent it back again last Monday to be properly prepped for installation. I hope it will come back to me in a usable state this time, but I am losing faith in the dealer to even back up their work. They certainly don’t double check to see if they have addressed the problem. Maybe something of a spiritual nature is hinting that I should take a step back and wait out the winter, or spend at least a bit more time, here in Ketchikan before I head further into the Southeastern areas of Alaska. Maybe with the massive spread of Covid here I’m not supposed to go anywhere right now. The original plan was to winter base in Petersburg and spot cruise, weather permitting, to other coves, islands and villages throughout Southeast Alaska until heading to the west in late spring to the Aleutians and the Bering Sea before cruising back down the inland passages to Washington and the rest of the west coast in late summer and fall.

Caroline’s slip/end-tie

I have been given a monthly slip for as long as I need it, even though it’s a bit exposed to weather. The prevailing weather from the SE is fairly protected, but from the WNW it’s wide open. Today, for instance, the wind is gusting to 35 from the SE with heavy rain. Whithecaps blowing past the boat on the Port side but no real swell, so not too uncomfortable. Ketchikan is actually a picturesque little town. Under different circumstances it would be a nice place to visit for a while.

view from Stbd. side
looking down on Ketchikan

All in all, I am lucky to be here lucky to be poised to continue this cruise when it’s supposed to happen and lucky to be healthy enough to do it too. The parts should get here in another week or so, depending on shipping, and then I can install all the new pieces and hopefully get Caroline up and running again. In the mean-time I need to stay positive and keep busy. More from us soon.

I guess I was a bit premature

Balmar H/O alternator

Yesterday I posted that I was getting ready to begin cruising again, but apparently that’s not going to be the case. I installed the new ammeter shunt, new ammeter and added new fuses where necessary and was waiting to find out if I have the right sized fuses to protect the circuits involved before I fired up the engine to test the alternator. I was sitting in the engine compartment and decided to turn on the alternator circuit breaker prior to starting the engine and KAPOW, very loud pop and some nice electrical smoke. The fuse between the alternator and voltage regulator blew. No Idea as yet why. So, another problem to deal with and most likely another new Balmar High Output Alternator. These are getting very costly. I think it might be that a diode in the alternator has fried and created a dead short / closed circuit situation, thus the reason for all the problems. We did take some salt water into the engine compartment through the ER vents during the gale on the way up. that’s when the alternator quit working. but I thought it was probably the burnt shunt. Well, more tests are necessary and of course more time spent waiting for parts etc. I’m really not good at the old hurry-up-and-wait game.

400 amp engine charging system

I’ll try to keep you all up to date as I attempt to get underway again.

Crew Day Off

The crew took a day off last Friday to do some rock climbing here in Ketchikan. (Photos by Max Psaledakis)

Josh Cook, on the wall.
Brady Knippa, looking determined

The guys have been learning to climb under the tutelage of our youngest crew-man, Max Psaledakis. Max just turned 21 on the 15th of October.

A photographer, Dustin Safranek, from the Ketchikan Daily news came by and made instant celebs of my crew by running a full page shoot and story. It’s a little tough to have a crew who are local celebrities, but they seem to love it. Caroline is not, by the way, a Bertram Yacht. I think she has way more character than a Bertram Motor-yacht and definitely uses a lot less fuel.

Thursday, we took a leisurely tour around the Island for Max’s birthday. Saw some great sights, learned a bit about the history of Ketchikan and Revillagigado Island. The Island is really a beautiful piece of landscape and we had a great day touring and eating great food at some of the local restaurants. Max took some spectacular pics of some of the road trip.

(photo by Max Psaledakis)
(photo by Max Psaledakis)
(photo by Max Psaledakis)
(photo by Max Psaledakis)
(photo by Max Psaledakis)
(photo by Max Psaledakis)
(photo by Max Psaledakis)

I hope that soon I will be able to publish some photos of my own, but I bought a new non idiot-proof Nikon and, being an idiot, am having torouble learning hoe to take decent pics with it. The parts for repairing the electrical glitch have finally arrived and soon we should be up and running again. Next, off to Misty Fjord National Monument. 103 miles of fjord and spectacular cruising.

Crew Perspective

We are in Ketchikan, Alaska. We left from Port Angeles Wa. on Thursday Sept. 1st at 0800 in dense fog. Our first two days were in pea-soup fog conditions and we didn’t see the sun until late on Saturday, October 3. The prevailing ground swells were very large but, due to a lack of any real breeze, they were pretty far apart and gentle.

That soon changed around 1 PM Saturday as the wind began to increase and the seas began to build. The wind reached about 30 knots mean with gusts to 45k from the SSE, the seas were coming in from NNW creating confused and very large troughs. Our nice comfy ride was turning into a bucking, pitching roller-coaster. We took some deep rolls and the auto-pilot was unable to steer without contributing to the roll. We were forced to hand steer through the night and much of Sunday as well. We had rough seas the rest of the way into the Dixon entrance on Monday albeit less wind.

Caroline on a roll; note the angle of the horizon vs the angle of the deck
900 foot tanker taking seas over her bow

By late Monday afternoon we were able to re-engage the autopilot and finally get some respite from needing to steer. We had a beautiful crab salad for an early dinner to celebrate arrival in Alaska at last. Caroline reached the Port of Ketchikan at 10:45 PM Monday evening and we are now making a few repairs before heading further into Southeast Alaska cruising grounds.

Brady Knippa

I have asked all the crew to add their perspective to the posts and here is a piece from Brady.

Ever wonder what it’s like to live and work on a boat? Well buckle up buckaroos, it’s story time.

Caroline has been home for 2 months now, and it has (almost) quite literally been a rollercoaster of a season. As I’ve come to learn, it takes a considerable amount of time and energy to maintain this 44 ton floating home’s seaworthiness. (If you ever need someone to lay fiberglass, install cabinetry, repair marine bodywork, or make decades-old teak sparkle, hit me up). The work was tedious in the beginning, but the end goal was never meant to come easy.

As days and weeks passed in the small US/Canadian border town of Blaine, I saw a seagull fledgling take flight for the first time, witnessed the resident bald eagle’s weekly hunting routine, took countless walks along the bay as fall crept in, and made several friends along the way. Though our stay in Blaine was mildly extended due to minor mechanical failures and a to-do list that read like a Melville novel, I’m thankful for time well spent.

Following another week of work in Anacortes and an overheating issue off Lopez island in the San Juans, our departure date had arrived, albeit a month behind schedule. On October 1st at 8am, Caroline and her personnel weighed anchor for Ketchikan, Alaska.

Still with me? This is the fun part.

The will of Mother Nature bends for no man, as made abundantly clear during our passage. The first 3 days of our 700 nautical mile journey were veiled in a thick fog, cutting visibility across the water to less than 100ft. A drop watch schedule was adopted, with 4 hours on and 6 off, 24/7. Little did we know an Alaskan gale was about to slap us silly. At roughly noon on the 4th, the first swell sent us rolling. Chairs, books, dinnerware, and any other loose object had to be immediately and tightly secured as the boat rocked port to starboard at nearly 45 degrees of tilt. 40 knot gusts and 20 foot breakers pummeled the hull unrelentingly for a full day. The weather was too tumultuous for the autopilot to function properly, leaving us to hand steer in darkness through most of the night. Cooking, sleeping, and showering were entirely out of the question until the seas calmed later on the 5th, bringing us to or current position.

Today I’m happy to announce Caroline and her crew have safely completed the trip up to Alaska. The boat handled the storm like a champ, with only a few small repairs in order. The next few months are sure to be wild, but we’re all very fortunate to be here. More updates to follow!

Finally Underway

anchored in Watmough bay, Lopez Island

We have begun our journey at last. It has been a long time in the preparation. I bought Caroline on June 13 2018 and immediately started the refit process. She is a beautifully built boat, but was sorely out of date and suffered from lack of maintenance of the systems. I have replaced or repaired all the systems aboard and have also continued to test and modify the boat for maximum efficiency.

The boat has been rewired and brought to a “better than code” status electrically. New charging, inverting, battery banks, automatic and manual charge controllers and step-up isolation transformers are in operation.

All electronics are new, fresh water system (which has been a real problem) has been gone through, new water pressure pumps are in and we are replacing lines as necessary. All new bilge pumps (4) and auto switches are installed. The new water maker is in, new salt and fresh water wash-down systems are working well, the Boston Whaler dinghy has been refurbished and runs well. The main engine, a 3304 Caterpillar, has been taken down, looked at and all pumps, hoses and belts replaced, new high output Balmar alternator and regulator installed. Total time on the main is about 2800 hours and these engines typically run for 300,000 hours with regular maintenance. The 20 KW Northern lights generator has had the same service as the main and has about 760 hours on it. Mechanically, she is in top condition. The windlass and 400 feet of chain and SS cable have been serviced.

We are in Port Angeles, Washington as I write this. We are fully fueled, provisioned and prepared to set off for Ketchikan, Alaska later this morning. The Crew consists of Josh Cook, Brady Knippa, Max Psaledakis and myself.

I’m looking forward to posting more often now that the real tedious work is coming to an end. From now on we hope to find more outlying ports to see while we continue work on Caroline. (A boat is never complete. If you are lucky, you get to work on her in beautiful, exotic surroundings)

Mt Baker at dawn

Many thanks to all who have helped me make this next chapter of my life possible, especially Caroline, for whom the boat was named.

Still In Blaine, Wa

We are still in Blaine, still trying to complete the remaining projects. The weather here has not been cooperating. It has been pretty much continuous rain and also cold. There has been record rainfall, even for Seattle. I am taking my accomplishments as I can, and trying to not get too discouraged by the amount of time required to get some of these projects done. It is also tough to do some of this work alone as it requires, almost always, a second person on the other end. Below is the new forward housetop Butterfly hatch deck box. It weighs over a hundred pounds and has a huge capacity for deck gear, dock lines and fenders. We will mount it next Monday as we are supposed to have some sunshine. After it’s attached to the housetop I will varnish it and install latch hardware.

Completed Deck Box
Gutter detail
stopwater detail
stopwater detail
More stopwater detail
Butterfly Hatch, one wing open

I am also nearly finished with the propane stove installation, just waiting for a custom made one-piece hose from the propane tanks located aft on the flying bridge to the galley which is situated forward of amidships. I will try to install the new stern anchor chocks on Monday also. That will give me two more completed projects. Anyway, back to this rainy Thursday.

A Cold, Wet Winter

snow on the forward house top
snow piled up outside the pilothouse door

Well it has been a long cold and eventful winter so far. I seem to be experiencing a lot of failures. First the wiring was replaced and completely upgraded, then the charging system off the main engine took a dump, so new high output alternator and regulator/ACR systems. New main engine pre-heat components and main engine ground circuit. All systems now are breaker and fuse protected or both, positive and negative legs.

some of the new wiring
starboard side new battery banks, same on port side.
New HO Alternator

Then we had a really cold snap and the Webasto furnace quit working. The Shore power can’t keep up with the demands for power out this far on the finger, so the three space heaters can only be run at half power to prevent blowing circuit breakers due to overload. With temps in the single digits, 2-7 degrees Fahrenheit, for a few days I resorted to using the generator and electric galley stove for extra heat. Then the stove blew the 220v resistor and quit working. So now I am still in the throes of repairing the furnace and am installing the new galley stove and propane system for it.

troublesome Webasto furnace
New Force Ten Propane stove, oven and broiler
space prepped for the new stove, just needs a coat or several of varnish

The Water maker still need to be installed, the cabin side port lights sweat like mad in the cold weather. I need to figure out how to cure that problem as they drip water almost as much as if the were leaking. I think it must be the moisture from my breathing and from cooking below that puts humidity into the air and the cold transference from the glass and metal frames that causes the condensation. There still is a need for touch-up paint and lots of varnish also. It’s so wet all the time that I can’t even clean the exterior very well.

Hopefully the weather will improve soon so I can really get at some of these projects and finally get underway! My neighbors, this eagle couple, don’t really seem to mind the weather as much as I do, but then all hey really need is a belly full of fish or other prey.

my neighbors, the bald eagles

So, back to work for me for now.

Still working away

The Water maker panel and cabinet

Still working on systems, New water-maker, and new cabinetry to accommodate it. Also still in the process of rewiring and adding an isolation transformer to handle all possible electrical inputs. I’ve installed the new ladder to the Fly-bridge hard top and now am designing a new Kayak deck chock to carry both kayaks on the forward house-top. I will be back in Santa Ynez for Thanksgiving and a couple of medial appointments. It looks like I will be able to take off for Alaska right after Jan. 1st.

New ladder. 13.5 feet tall
New custom aluminum propane tank mount and tank.

Above are some Great Blue Herons. They sit here waiting for the tide to go out so they can forage for clams and other crustaceans. Sometimes there are bald eagles sitting here as well.

Twin Kayaks

Back to Blaine tomorrow

Mt Baker from Anacortes Bay

We’re heading back to Blaine tomorrow (Monday 9/29/’19) having completed some more work on Hydraulics, electronics and new battery charger and new larger inverter systems. Still in process of installing the Cruise RO water-maker and some other electronics functions, but definitely closer to leaving Washington for B C and Alaska.

the neighbors after a post squall sun bake

I will miss my slip neighbors here at Cap Sante’ Marina. They’re actually very quiet and seem to want to keep to themselves. Good qualities in neighbors.

Took on Fuel yesterday and topped up the tanks Diesel in Wa. is a much better deal than Ca. I paid $2.30 a gal less the road taxes (don’t know the exact amount until I get the state rebate check) probably a couple C’s.

looking forward to a nice trip back op to Blaine tomorrow, the weather is supposed to be moderately sunny and no rain predicted.

Liam and Jose hard at it installing the new charging and inverter systems