“To bed”

At the end of every season we put the COLUMBIA III “to bed” for the winter. As we live on a remote island and produce our own limited power through solar, micro-hydro and back-up generators, we do not produce enough power to plug in heaters in the ship over the winter. The modest salon fireplace running on stove-oil provides the only steady source of heat. It flickers away 365 days of the year. As a consequence of this limited heating, we remove as many items made of fabric or paper from the ship to avoid attracting moisture and mildew.

Therefore, every book, cardboard box, mattress, towel, sheet, face cloth, quilt, pillow, life-jacket, spray skirt, . . .  (I expect you get the idea) is  removed from the ship . . . .

and lugged up the dock . . .

in many, many loads . . .

up to my small cabin and stored here for the winter!

Funny how my small place gets even smaller with the extra “supplies” on hand . .  . I certainly rock the concept of an emergency preparedness kit  . . .

For those of you attentive Readers, I know you will be concerned. Yes, the little stove-oil fireplace runs 24/7/365 even when the ship is only checked once a day during the quieter winter months. And I am the kind of Skipper that would worry dark and troubling thoughts in the wee hours of a winter’s night . . .  so many years ago I designed and installed an automatic thermal fuel-shut-off system for the fireplace. If the fireplace even “thinks about overheating” a thermal switch shuts off the fuel supply with a fire-proof rated solenoid if the air temperature ever rises above 85ºF/30Cº. Worry-wart Skippers (me) need to be able sleep in the winter too  . . .

Oops, I got side tracked . . .

For me, the ship is not truly “stood down” until she is emptied and every cupboard and compartment is left open and special ventilation fans (with their own dedicated power receptacles) are installed and running that I consider the current season is over.

The lazarette (nautical talk for storage area in the back of the ship) houses a wwwwide range of items during the summer; from spare wine glasses to extra engine oil, from beer to bilge cleaner, from wine to wire, from dish soap to dinner plates, from gumboots to garbage bags, from hose to hand sanitizers, from v-belts to sea-chests . . . uhh, a lot of spares . . .

So we empty the “laz” to ensure the area is well ventilated and to weed out the “necessary” from the “accumulation of the extraneous”. Here Steve is spelunking the “laz”.

We also have a system (of course we have a system!) of ropes and pulleys installed in the rafters of the boat shed to hoist each kayak up out of the way for the winter. This makes winter and spring maintenance a lot less cluttered.

Steve is on the roof connecting and lifting . . .

and I am on the dock pulling like mad and tying off one kayak at a time.

I often get the sensation that I am swimming under-water watching the fleet of mothership kayaks passing by. A seal’s eye view if you will.

The ship’s non-perishable food stores are pulled out of their nooks and crannies and organized and inventoried. We will compare preseason shopping lists against post-season inventories and adjust the master shopping lists for next year.

Phew! It is always a busy final push when everyone’s energies are waning; the pull of home projects, family and friends beckon after the long busy season.

Once the crews finally left after the day’s toils, I sat by myself on the sofa in the salon, glazing about me with relief that another touring season has come and gone. I am not religious per say, nor especially superstitious, but I am still completely comfortable with pausing by myself and thinking. “Thanks.” Thanks to the ship, her crews, her guests and the good fortune of this BC coast. My personal motto for my little business has always been: Safe, Fun, Viable.

Safe: I want everyone; crew, guests and bystanders to be safe.

Fun: Life isn’t worth living if it can’t be fun (and admittedly I am willing to work for this!).

Viable: I want my business to flourish enough to treat my crews well, provide my guests with an exemplary experience, maintain this heritage ship as best I can . . .

And have some left over for me too.

Thanks. 2022 was a good season.

Ross, Owner/Skipper/Chief washer

Spring ’22. Sand and paint . . .

Oh My!! I am getting behind on my blogging. April 1st snuck up on me and Pounced with a Vengeance! All of a sudden crews arrived and “stuff started happenin!”

So I decided that just this one time we would do a quick n’ dirty, once-over-lightly, git-her-done refit.  You know, after all my Covid losses it was ok to cut as many corners as possible . . . .

No, no, no. Really! You are hurting my feelings if you believed that last paragraph . . . have you learned Nothing  from the last decade of  boring maintenance minutiae?? No, I had 7 crew, logging over 600 hours on payroll, just to make sure my very, very, very fastidious guests (both returning and new) would find our humble ship worthy of their journey . . .

And a quick drum-roll/ gallop through some photos…

On the first morning I usually walk around the ship with the crew and we look at different aspects of the ship and what we think needs regular attention and what needs the “next level” treatment. Generally, some part of the ship’s wood-work needs to be stripped to bare wood and refinished starting from scratch. If certain parts of the exterior of the ship are getting chipped or tired, we put that area to the top of the list. This year we choose to strip the salon windows and the aft 1/2 of the ship’s high profile handrails to bare wood, and also sand the aft deck coating off.. See next . . . And we usually sand and paint the main deck house/wheel house every two years and this was the year…

We had an unusual misadventure with the finish on the aft deck last season. I am not quite sure how I managed to trick a dark brown deck finish to go white when it got wet or cold (honestly!) but it needed to be stripped off with aggressive sanding . . . I’m so good with Aggggressive!

And Nadya seemed to be getting aggressive too, so she tried her hand on the decks as well.

While I worked on the aft deck, the crews began sanding  . . .

and the hull of course.

The port holes on the hull have bronze “beauty rings” that we remove each year for painting. But the screw holes were getting stripped so I  glued dowels into each existing screw hole and then sanded the area flush. Then we started as from scratch to re-attach the rings.

For some unknown and perhaps unknowable reason, the green paint on the forward port bulwarks seemed marred by old blisters while the rest of the bulwarks seemed fine. So we cheated here by stripping just the troubled section hoping the ship’s name would cover the less than perfect transition from new paint to the existing paint.

And of course, my grand daughter, Maeve, had to do her pre-season salon sofa trampoline check . . .      the test went pretty well until grandpa called an end to the session!

Here the aft hand rails get stripped to bare wood and sanded to perfection.    

Here’s a “project” for you. The salon has 3 large windows on each side of the vessel and I have been struggling for 17 years to have the exterior finish look as good as I want it to be. I have tried several different types of marine varnish and none have stood up to the UV exposure these windows  seem to attract. The feature transom on the ship suffered the same fate and I found that Cetol Marine Gloss finish solved the problem . . .So this spring three crew spent a lot of time carefully hand-stripping the old finish off, resanding the bare wood and then refinishing the windows with 3 new coats of Cetol. These are custom ordered, tempered glass, thermal-paned windows and I made it really, really really really, really clear I wanted the old finish removed and NONE OF THE GLASS scratched or broken from the heat guns stress fracturing the glass . .

My line was, “I am paying you to go slow!”

At some point Robin cheerily reassured me that, “Each window is going to cost you about $1000.00 just to strip the old varnish off!”

“Ya, ya, Robin. Just get back to work . .  .”

After all the dusty sanding the whole ship is washed, from the masts down to the water line.

And finally the paint starts to go back on.

and the clear finishes on the bright work.

We usually paint in teams of 2 or 3. 1 rolling the larger areas and one “tipping” or smoothing out the roller marks for a gleaming final gloss look.

We go through a lot of paint, paint brushes, foam brushes, rags and yogurt containers saved from last season with the guests. Here ace guide and chef, Robin Humphreys, readies her tools. But perhaps with the exception of the skipper/owner guy, all the Mothership crews are “Ace”.

And the salon windows get their new Cetol finish applied.

and the handrails start to shine.

and the sundry bits that were removed get a refinish.

. . . shower grate renewal.

Somehow or other, Leah and Nadya were able to paint and dance at the same time.

One of the final steps is applying finish to the decks. Hopefully this one doesn’t go white when it gets cold or wet!

As this was a “post Covid” spring . . .  meaning I was watching my cash flow and being a bit chintzy .  . I didn’t embark on too many new projects, but the ship’s under-water hydrophone, (that allows us to listen to whale vocaliztions!) needed replacement.

And Tavish suggested we create “windows” on the main-engine belt-guard so we could monitor v-belt wear when the engine was running. So Luke removed the guard and added grilled inspection ports.

And what marine blog would be complete without some “potty talk”? I bought 3 new toilets and installed them just to make sure everything worked smoothly in that department.

And you know computers of all makes and sizes save us all time and money . . . Here is 1 of 2 ship-board GPS’s that I upgraded. The old ones worked just fine, except that in case of an emergency, my emergency radios (which derive location from these devices) would proclaim to the world that I was in really desperate difficulty in 1978! It was an irreparable software glitch. Oh well. At least the new GPSs were only $1300 each.

So when the Skipper was starting to lose his composure, Nadya led us in group equanimity exercises.

A finishing touch to the spare anchor hawshole.

The life raft returns after its bi-annual recertification . . .  darn this is super heavy and just so much fun to wrestle into and out of a truck and skiff on a beach . . .

Leah relashing the kayak paddle racks that were removed for refinishing the stanchions.

Supplies for the ship . . . two new custom mattresses for the aft staterooms, part of our routine upgrading process . .  .

The ship’s tender gets cleaned, painted and waxed.

and finally the ship’s inside supplies are moved down from my cabin .

Lunch time at my place.

It’s a lot of dusty, chemically smelly, tiring, repetitive, boring, and personally uplifting and inspriational work getting the ship ready. . . .

and a few motivational shots for the season ahead . . .

Paddling the Great Bear Rainforest.

calm and secluded anchorages

cool mid summer evenings

Yup! I want to be there again! I suppose I really do love sanding and painting.

Ship Yard 2022

Hopefully this is a sign that life might be returning to normal. By that I mean that I have enough bandwidth to write in this blog in the same year that the photos are taken.

Early on the morning of March 6th, 2022 Tavish and Deirdre were warming the engine on their “Harlequin”. They were headed north to the Great Bear Rainforest on a continuing filming project for a First Nation there.    And they were in my way . . .  So we said our Mariner’s good-byes . . .  they hope to be filming for at least two months and they steamed away . . .  There is something about the comings and goings of mariners, seeing Tavish and Dierdre disappear around the corner . . . when will I see them next and under what circumstances . . .  Rounding Cape Caution traveling in opposite directions like last year . . . whatever our paths will be, I always get a lump in my throat seeing Tavish heading off once again…..

The “Official” start to Spring is not the arrival of robins, nor first snow-drops poking through the snow or some minor celestial event like an equinox . . . . no, no, no.

The true start to the spring season is the opening of the boat house gate and the rather scandalous promenading of the COLUMBIA III as she comes out into direct sunlight for the first time in 5 /12 months. I often hear Heavenly Hosts singing glorious praises as she slides out of the shed . . .  ok, ok, that’s a bit over the top but it is always a really big deal for me, mainly because it indicates that I have hit the “GO” button on the conveyor belt that is going to keep me, the COLUMBIA III and many other players hopping in all the preseason preparations that seamlessly (I hope) flow into our touring season . . .  

and the shed always seem so huge when it is empty . . .

A few last items from my house . . .

and off Steve and I went, stopping at Whaletown to pick up  Jonas for extra help.  We went straight to the Ocean Pacific travel lift. There is something deeply disturbing about having the heritage vessel 20′ above the water! I never really relax until she is safely back in the water again . . . If you ever want to “wear my shoes” you can YouTube boating travel lift accidents and you will understand my anxiety.

By chance one of the big sheds was available so we had the premier accommodation for the week.

The usual sanding and scrapping . . .

And then the painting begins . . .

Here’s a little “tour”around the vessel’s underside . . .

This is a close-up of the cooling pipes that cool the main engine without any corrosive salt water coming into contact with the Gardner engine. These pipes, the wooden protection around them, the copper cladding behind them AND the planking behind all that were removed and replaced as needed during our hull refastening in 2014 . . .

And final anti-fouling paint touch-ups in the spots the jack stands covered.

Note the masts are still hinged down because she will be going straight back into the shed for spring painting.

And back in the water!! Phew!!!

Now time to load up on sand paper, tools, paint, stain, paint brushes, respirators, masking tape, paint trays and rollers. The real work begins April 1st.