Every year the COLUMBIA III starts her season “all spruced up” . . . And last year was the first spring maintenance done under cover of the new floating shed. In 2011 we took the opportunity to paint the ENTIRE outside surface of the boat, from the mast tippy-top to the bottom of the keel and all surfaces in between. So this spring with the mothership under cover for the whole winter for the first time in 56 years, much of paint and varnish survived very nicely indeed. So, rather than rest on our laurels, we used the “extra” time to get down to serious restorative maintenance. For the month of April, we have had 3-4 workers (read mainly family) stripping, sanding, painting, oiling, varnishing, revarnishing, reoiling, revarnishing, resanding, revarnishing, reoiling, resanding, polishing, resanding . . . I think you get it . . . Also, as you look at the photos, you will see glimpses of the internal structure of the boat shed with its curved steel trusses.
Here my mentor, Dennis Mattson, long time boss, skipper, family friend, uncle, intentional grandpa and now great grandpa, master shipwright and general treasure chest of marine knowledge, helps me fabricate a mast-mounted radar base for a new, second radar for the Columbia III.
We had to push the mothership out of the shed to stand the forward mast up to test the new radar. This is an experiment for us. To save space in the wheelhouse and to keep current with technological improvements, this radar uses the latest in navigation software allowing the radar image to be “overlayed” on the GPS moving-map display on the ship’s computer. A new gadget for me to become familiar with this summer! The second radar also adds the safety feature of the redudancy.
This is small example of the kind of preventative maintenance the new boatshed allows us to perform. The scuppers were never carved quite deep enough to drain all the water off the side decks. There was often a small pool of water that lay undrained. The total protection of the shed finally allowed us the opportunity to carve 6 scuppers (really a channel through the raised covering board) without fear of exposing bare wood to the winter rains. This will really help prevent long term damage to the deck planking.
This year we took the time to strip to bare wood the very glossy handrails, cap rails, guardrails and aftdeck hatches. All the finishes were getting too thick and the details of the fine teak grain was lost under the mirky layers. Here Farlyn is resanding the handrails after a heat gun was used to remove the old layers of finish.
And the first coat of finish is applied. It is always an exciting time! One of my biggest problems on this kind of maintenance is sequencing. What should I do first and how will it affect my ability to keep the crew working every day. I did start with the stripping process but then we were committed to getting enough layers of finish on the bare wood to protect it from the subsequent powdery paint dust when we sanded other surfaces of the ship such as the white wheelhouse walls or grey overhang above the handrails. The shed does provide a dry shelter but not a warm one. As the rains pour and we work, slow set times are an obstacle when we try to keep everyone working.
As the main crew worked on the exterior I continued in the engine room fabricating a belt guard for the front of the Gardner main engine. This is a tiddly and time consuming safety improvement for the engine room.
One of our challenges is finding enough space to lay-out our work as we refinish it. This is especially true when we take an item down to bare wood as it will need 5-7 coats of finish before it is ready to go back on the ship. As all finishes are sanded between coats and we are working on other aspects of the boat simultaneously, dust control is a big issue. Here our back porch is far enough from the workshop and the boatshed to allow for refinishing. Often to shorten cure time the pieces are moved into our house for the night to kick off the finish.
Here Farlyn is “cutting” the line between the white wheelhouse wall and the dark deck. With a wooden boat, it is nearly impossible for masking tape to be used effectively, so a good brush and a very steady hand is best. And a rag for the slips!
I like the ship’s tender to be “presentable” too. So it got a good scrub, waxing and new lettering . . . as well as a new 60hp outboard for the upcoming season. Note the new grandson sign is still up!
And finally, for now, this innocuous shot of the wheel house. I have included this for me. Yesterday I vaccumed the wheelhouse, and cleaned the whole area. I waxed the floors and polished the brass and cleaned the windows. I even posted the daily tides on the wall for next week when the mothership comes out of the shed and heads to Campbell River for several inspections. Finally the wheelhouse is back to normal. All winter I was working here; installing the new radar, the new satellite phone, new computer software, new electronic heading indicator, new VHF antenna connections for 2 radios, plus inventory, radar control panel and new radio station lighting. There were times this small room was filled with dust, tools, wire bits, software manuals and dirty coffee cups . . . So a big sigh of relief to have her spotless again and ready for another safe season.