Fluttering Hands

The other day our daughter Miray, with her 4 month old baby strapped to her back, was running a chain hoist for me to lower the COLUMBIA III’s mast onto a herring skiff below. Grandson Theo, 4 years old now, was holding the huge skiff in place with a pike pole braced on the rocky sea floor. And me? Well, catching said 25′ long, heavy steel mast.

So where is the cool shot capturing this multi-generational moment of wooden boat/family business bonding? Oh! No photo. The tide was dropping quickly and I forgot to think, ‘blog‘. The mental image will have to do.

In the past few weeks, the COLUMBIA III travelled to the ship yard where she (and I) lived on the hard for a few weeks, before returning home again. As soon as she was tied to the dock, the crew jumped into action; sanding, washing, painting, and then detailing the ship. Now, the COLUMBIA III is finally starting to come together, giving me a chance to update you all on the busy pre-season activities in full swing here in Diamond Bay.

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Humour me here; let’s pretend the COLUMBIA III is hovering fully out of the water for all to see, from the top of the mast to the base of the keel.

Imagine the ship slowly turning.

We see port, stern, starboard, and bow. We listen closely. We hear a fluttering sound; a sound almost of bird wings pushing air. It is the sound of the fluttering of hands. Hands fluttering as they touch every single surface of the COLUMBIA III with sand paper, rollers, paintbrushes, all with a maintaining touch. There are hands darting with masking tape along the water line, tightening the giant nut that holds on the propeller, removing every door knob, every life ring bracket and downspout and wire bundle for painting. Hands that sand; sand everything you see. Hands that then replace wires and door knobs and life ring brackets. If you walk up to the ship at a dock, imagine all those hands at work, going over every single square inch of exterior surface above and below the water. Can you hear the sound of fluttering hands that inspect, repair, replace, and upgrade?

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Above, our youngest daughter, Farlyn, adds her hands to the detailing of the ship.

Here are some glimpses into our preparations for the fast-approaching season during late March and all of April. If you listen closely, perhaps you’ll hear the fluttering of hands.

Out of the boat shed the COLUMBIA III comes for a 3 hour journey to Campbell River for the ship’s annual haul-out. She looks pretty good considering that is last year’s paint. The sanding and painting for this year will begin when the COLUMBIA III returns home after her time in the Ocean Pacific ship yard.

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Once we made it to Campbell River, the COLUMBIA III is lifted clear of the water in preparation for her annual inspection and 4 year Transport Canada mechanical inspection.

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She is placed in her new home on the hard in the Ocean Pacific ship yard in Campbell River.

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Whilst Steve attended to the copper painting, boot-top, and draft marks, The shipyard crew pulled the rudder and propeller off and withdrew the main drive shaft for our Transport Canada 4 year underwater inspection.

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Although the main shaft seemed in acceptable condition, I decided that nothing but the best was good enough for the COLUMBIA III, so we had a new custom-made stainless steel drive shaft made and installed with a new cutlass bearing for good measure. Here, the new cutlass bearing is being installed.

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The new shaft being manufactured.

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To allow for the shaft to be made, I ended up living ‘on the hard’ for 2 weeks.  A good chance to catch up on little projects around the ship. A dry COLUMBIA III and set of stairs acted as my home away from home.

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Until the new shaft was ready to be installed!

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The wheel is tightened and a sigh of relief is released as the ship is pieced back together with strong new components.

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Little details are tended to; the stuffing box collar is cleaned up by the machinist.

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Transport Canada needs to see our two anchor “rodes” every 4 years to ensure our guests can sleep well at night.

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And a mere $20,000 and 2 weeks later, she slips back into the water, 60 years young and stronger than ever.

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The COLUMBIA III arrives safely home to her boat shed, ready for everyone’s least favourite job to begin.

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“Let the sanding begin!”

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Can you hear the fluttering?

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We use a wide variety of power sanders, but all the bright work is done by hand, mostly with excitement, as Steve happily demonstrates.

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Steve pauses his fluttering hands for a quick thumbs up.

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After a good wash, the refinishing begins.

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Just…

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remember…

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every…

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square…

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inch…

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of…

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the…

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entire…

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exterior…

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of the…

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COLUMBIA III…

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got painted…

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this…

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spring!

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By who? Meet the painting crew!

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Long time family friend and conveniently living around the corner in the next bay over, Max Bakken joins the crew to prepare the ship for the season, where he will be working as chef on board a few trips this summer!

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Our son Tavish is rarely without a smile whether he is guiding kayakers and teaching them about marine life during intertidal tours, or making the ship shine every spring.

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Tavish’s twin sister, Farlyn is looking forward to captaining trips this summer, especially after all the elbow grease used to detail the ship.

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Long-time kayak guide extraordinaire of the Mothership Adventures family, you probably know Steve from previous blogs/posts! Steve spent the winter as a kayak guide in Antarctica, visited New Zealand, and returned home to Sonora Island to get the COLUMBIA III ship shape!

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When we start to get caught up on the main painting, it allows us to switch our attention to other details. Farlyn and I replaced the galley counter top which was showing signs of wear after all the thousands of meals made here.

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I cut a hole under one of the bunks and trimmed it to accommodate a designated 1st Aid locker.

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Steve was happy to get out of the shed and into the sun to sand and paint the aft mast that was removed for the duration of the construction phase.

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While Tavish remains in the shed to upgrade the kayaking winch electrics.

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Which we let him install in the sunshine on the dock.

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I’m thanking all you guests in advance for noticing this new and noteworthy detail when you step aboard the ship. I custom ordered a stainless steel soap dish for the galley soap dispenser. Now even I had to swallow hard at the $330 price (ouch), but darn it looks good.

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While I admire the shiny new hand washing station, Tavish strings new aft deck lights for the new roof (still smiling).

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While Steve sorts and stows a season’s worth of wine (all smiles)!

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After the paint dries, the reassembly continues. Max is tasked with replacing the lettering on top of fresh paint to spell out the ship’s name.

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(photo by Max, documenting the process)

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Luke replaces the aft counter top and installs a cool brass trim to protect it from all the cameras and kayak paddles that always seem to damage the wood work.

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Luke made custom “rivets” to hold the half round brass in place.

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As the old kayak racks were removed with the old roof, we designed new, more efficient pivoting racks. Tavish and I fabricated the parts, and Luke did the welding.

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Tavish bolts the racks in place.

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And finally, we carefully clean the decks of every tiny dripped paint fleck and glue blob, and mask off the areas for the non-skid coat.

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The socks-only phase of ship maintenance.

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Then the the crew coats the decks.

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And do you remember Luke’s huge project this winter building a new roof for the aft deck?

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Well, here is the nearly completed new aft deck cover. A huge THANK YOU to Luke!

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Luke recently celebrated his birthday, and we let him off early on the eve of his birthday to go free diving with Tavish, who snapped these photos, just around the corner from the boat shed.

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A birthday dive.

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And finally, the crews are finished.

I enjoyed my first morning without crews in over 6 weeks, but the day was so beautiful, and the ship looked so grand that Tavish and April decided we just had to leave the dock for an evening photo shoot.

Here is a glimpse of the COLUMBIA III now, after 6 weeks of fluttering hands carefully going over every inch of the ship.

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Fresh bright work, a new aft deck roof, and nearly ready for the 2016 season!

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While Tavish was zipping around getting aerials of the ship, April was in the wheelhouse with me snapping some photos.

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A beautiful evening for a cruise around the channel.

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The scale of the coast dwarfs the ship from some angles.

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Heading home to the bay at last light.

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Back to the dock for final touches over the next few weeks.

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Tavish tidying up the rooftop that evening.

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Two thoughts:

  1. I am so lucky to work with my family.
  2. I have to prepare myself for the inevitable question, “What do you do with yourself in the winters, Ross?”

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