Monthly Archives: October 2020

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.