Winter 17/18 Now what? Really? More?
You’d think I would simply run out of stuff to do on the old tub. Like, “COME ON! What could be left that needs fixing or changing???”. . . Well, well, well. If you have to ask such a silly question you don’t understand the intricacies of a wooden boat affliction/addiction. Nor do you understand how much fun a wooden boat owner can have whilst interfacing with Transport Canada . . . But more on that one, later.
But really, I took most of the winter off. I was far too busy writing letters to Transport Canada, upgrading ship’s procedures and making sure that Mothership Adventures has her ducks in a row with Parks permits, with land use permits and First Nations protocols and whale and bear and tourism associations. Really, we did nothing on the COLUMBIA III all winter. I completely ignored her. What old wooden boat? I just parked her in the shed and I won’t peek at her until a couple of days before April 1st when the annual sand and paint-a-thon begins . . .
Oh. Oh. I forgot. There was one nagging little project that I guess I did do . . .
The wheel house is a dense collection of electrical equipment and there has been a steady progression of upgrades. It is inevitable that some wires remain in place but no longer serve a function. Each time I need to access the area behind my main instrument panel I have cringed at the rat’s-nest of wires. The “action item” has been on my to-do list for years. Finally I dug into the “problem”.
I ended up cutting all the wire bundles to the electronic components and suspended the units from strings so I could access the cables. The main job was to identify each wire and trace its route. I then pulled and discarded any wire that was no longer serving a function.
Winter is the time to catch up on small discrepancies. Here I switched out a large, heavy duty 120amp 12VDC alternator that I had previously installed on the Gardner to charge the domestic battery bank. Sometime late in the 2017 season the alternator decided to produce only 80 amps, a sign I am told, that 1/3 of the windings are not producing power due to a “failed diode”. (I am not an electronics guy so a “failed diode” could be called a “failed woo-woo dinger”) but I am smart enough to carry a spare alternator aboard. We finished the season on reduced output and I needed to switched out the beast. I also had a v-belt rubbing inappropriately and it had made a black dusty mess. So I tidied up and switched the v-belt shive to the backup alternator.
A good mechanic always knows it’s wise to appease the gods of safe shipping. And Murphy seems to keep a close eye on me as well, so I donate a little blood to more projects than is good for my reputation. Some people give blood at the office, I do it in the engine room. Perhaps a Dr. of Marine Voodoo needs a refresher course on small wound care.
And another project . . . at Diamond Bay we have two generators for back up power if our solar and micro hydro can’t supply our needs. One is 12KW for running welders, and the smaller one is 6.5KW. Here the very old and tired Lister is removed from the generator shed . . .
And the new genset gets slid into place. I up-graded to an automatic remote start model but this entailed a fair amount of new wiring including a new 300′ run of cable between the generator shed and the house . . . just another little piece to the Diamond Bay homestead puzzle.
This winter Luke continued to work away at completing their house. It really is getting close . . . but I cajoled him into doing one major project for me.
The COLUMBIA III gets pretty well scrutinized each spring when we hand-sand everything . . . so we had noticed two small spots on the port bulwarks where the paint repeatedly blistered. Upon a little poking around with my trusty Leatherman I found some rot. “This will never do!”
So Luke’s task was to “fix the bulwarks”. This is no small feat on a vessel as highly finished as the CIII. But Luke loves a challenge and rises to the occasion with alacrity.
He carefully supported the hand rail from above, removed a bunch of stanchions, carefully chiseled out the wooden plugs over the bolts and removed the teak caps without damaging them. He then removed the sections of the bulwarks where the paint blisters had been. One never knows if the rot will be localized or if it has metastasized in a creeping wave of destruction. But the COLUMBIA III has received years of high quality maintenance and it showed here yet again. The two small spots where the paint had blistered were exactly that, two small spots of rotten fir each about the size of an egg.
The new wood starts to get bolted down in layers. Luke did a great job and we were lucky that he could reach the underside of all these timbers and bolt right through to the engine room and the accommodation areas. This is a bit magical as so much of the interior of the CIII is highly finished and these larger bolts are hidden.
We had done extensive repairs around this hawse-hole ring a few years back. It was a lot of work to literally rivet the two flanges together thru the timbers with 5/8″ bronze rod. We were loathe to do that again, so Luke squeaked the new timbers between the top edge of the hawse -hole rings.
The teak cap rail was over 20′ long in a single board in this section of the ship so rather than tear up sections of the bulwarks needlessly, Luke did some fine surgery and created a new scarf joint in the existing cap.
And finally, after sanding all the old finish off and fairing up the caps, the first coat of protective finish goes on. This is imperative before the CIII comes out of the shed on its way to the ship yard.
But Luke wasn’t the only guy working. I had big manly projects too, although I did need Luke’s help.
25 years ago, the COLUMBIA III under went an extensive program to bring her into modern safety compliance. At that time two large CO2 cylinders were installed in the chapel head for an engine room fire suppression system. Since that time these cylinders have been inspected by many different Transport Canada inspectors and they have always been approved. Then in 2017 a mid-season spot inspection by Transport Canada decided that this arrangement was incorrect and no longer safe. CO2 cylinders should not be located in an accommodation area. Fine. We will fix this, but don’t act like I have been hiding these cylinders under a blanket for 25 years . . .
So let the fun begin. Luckily there was room in the engine room to relocate the cylinders out of the accommodation area. This then required a “fire pull-station” outside the engine room for triggering the cylinders remotely.
This proved a simple and easily achieved project. All I had to do was create a spot in the engine room where one didn’t exist, relocate and up-grade a diesel fuel pump, move the main engine start battery box forward 4″, re-wire the starter circuit, create and weld a bracket to secure the large and heavy CO2 cylinders, clean the old tank storage area, create a new mahogany storage cabinet in the now vacant area, buy a pipe threading tool, create a “manual pull station” in the aft head and connect this pull station to the cylinders with a system of stainless steel pipe, wire and pulleys, make new placards and change the ship’s documentation to upgrade the SOP’s, emergency procedures and the employee safety training documentation.
Easy- peezy! (With maybe $5000 worth of parts and Luke and my time on top. . . )
As there is a remote fuel tank shut-off in that spot, Luke created a “shelf” for the two tanks to sit on. The new tank rack is now supported on the same steel stringer that supports the fuel tanks and is bolted to the fuel tanks themselves and to the deck head above.
With the removal of the cylinders from the chapel head, we have gained some valuable storage space. Unfortunately, it requires me to make new shelves and create a COLUMBIA III quality cabinet. More later on this one.
Here is part of pull-cable piping. There is actually a cable running inside that 3/8″ stainless steel piping and those brass thingys are corner pulleys. The one consolation is that the remote pull station heads are only $1000 each . . .
And if that wasn’t enough fun for one winter, I just couldn’t keep away for a skipper’s dream job; removing and replacing all the blackwater hoses, tanks and pumps from the ship. Despite flushing the system with fresh water, soap and bleach it was a smelly, icky job. Just the kind of job that a good skipper reserves for himself. It’s better to appear noble rather than be told to “take a long walk off a short pier . . .”
Here is two season’s of accumulation that has acreeted inside the black water discharge pipe due to a chemical reaction between urine and salt water. Now that is PLUGGED! (This is 1 1/2″ diameter pipe).
Up the stairs . . .
and out the door.
The first big step of spring maintenance . . .
After the COLUMBIA III was out of the shed, Theo (6) and Maeve (21/2) rowed home across the bay together. Its only about 150′ with mom on one dock and Farlyn and I on the other, but it was a classic coastal moment. These kids live, breathe and think boats and water. They will know more about the coast by the time they are 20 than I can absorb in my whole life. It’s rewarding to watch the process.
Early the next morning we jumped off the C III and watched her get lifted. I never sleep well the night before the shipyard. I toss and turn, worrying black, 2am thoughts of straps breaking or nasty damage I didn’t anticipate. Of course, Ocean Pacific is so gentle with the COLUMBIA III, the crews always like to see her again. Smiles all round.
So I try to play the seasoned veteran but I’m still a jumble of nerves until she is safely sitting on the hard.
Here the boot-top black strip is getting redone. By-standers often remark how spotless the paint job looks and I feign complete shock, “Oh no! That is last year’s paint job. We will be hand sanding and repainting the whole boat in April. Then she will look pretty sharp!”
Here is a rare image and not something I want to see very often. The wheel house GPS chart plotter shows the CIII pulling into the lift bay and being driven onto the land! It even shows the track of the lift jockeying back and forth to fit us into the Ocean Pacific yard.
Sure, I’m getting older every year, (like everyone else) but man oh man I am strong!
And now, the COLUMBIA III slips back into her shed. The crews show up in a week to strip her outside hardware and sand and paint in earnest.
By the end of the month she should be gleaming once again. That will be a separate blog if I remember to take pictures!
Oh, oh. An addendum. Silly me. I always start the spring maintenance on the 1st of April. . . So this year is just the same, right? Nope! Nobody showed up. It is Easter Sunday. Oops! I don’t look at a calendar much on Sonora Island. But Farlyn decided to work with me anyhow so we spent the day in the engine room. She changed oil, filters and impellers on our 2 gensets and replaced all the fresh water filters. Here she is changing the light bulb in the UV filter.
Whilst I had just so much fun trying out the new fuel transfer pump. It is only used once every 5 years if I need to top up the genset day tank . . . so I went cheap and bought the $350 model instead of the other pump which was $650 . . . Whilst Farlyn was working on once side of the engine room I was spraying myself and 25% of the engine room in diesel shooting out the SIDE OF THE BRAND NEW PUMP HOUSING! . . . I was also spraying colourful sailor language around the engine room as well. Poor Farlyn wasn’t blushing . . . she was laughing. No respect.