Category Archives: Columbia III

Winter 18/19 . . . a few, wee projects on the go . . .

Ok, This is supposed to be the maintenance blog of the COLUMBIA III. I have been collecting a few photos over the winter and dropping them in this post for later assembly into a coherent, cogent, witty and illuminating wooden boat testimonial . . .

But now it is March and I am in the shipyard working on the underwater component of our maintenance schedule and as I start to assemble this blog I review the photos and edit the duds and the repeats and try to build a story . .  but I am exhausted. A few days in the shipyard, chasing welders and getting the hull ready for anti-fouling has left me weary. Today was a big day. I was out sanding the water-line boot-top and gumwood from 7-9 am and then the welders showed up to create a new stainless steel bow iron. That was almost 7 hours with the welders without a stop. I tried to suggest a coffee but they didn’t bite. “Just get us a glass of water . . .”

So here is a look back on the winter’s projects and I weary just reviewing the first steps we made last fall. There is nothing more “classic wooden ship” then digging into a potential Pandora’s Box when a fool (read “Ross”) decides to make some aspect of the ship a little bit more ship-shape.

The tale starts like this . . .

Last fall, my good friend, Mark, came for a visit and tied to my dock for a few days.

Ross, is there anything I can help you with?”
“No, no. There’s nothing really.”

“Well, If I don’t have anything to do then I am going to leave tomorrow . . ”

“Ahhh, It depends on what you mean by “helping”, Mark. If you mean putting in long hours of dirty grinding and sanding and wearing respirators and hearing protection then you can help. If you mean keeping your town clothes unsullied, then you will want to move to a quieter bay for tomorrow night.”

So Mark said he wanted to work . . . and here he is bringing a paint float into place for me.

I started the winter with a process of triage.

#1. The bow iron has been bugging me for years. It was rusty and perilously thin. Paint would no longer stay on it and I recoated it several times a summer to hide the ugly rusty bare metal.  So this was the winter to do something about it. I wanted to take a look in behind the metal early enough in the winter that I could allocate time for major repairs if I found anything scary lurking behind the plates.

So with Mark holding the paint float steady I beavered away with a cutting disc to remove the old bow iron. . . actually about 10 cutting discs . . .

I couldn’t cut off the metal below the water-line, but I could take off enough to see the gumwood bow stem was still in good shape. Sigh. Nightmare #2,334 averted. (You might gather that I am prone to 2am restless sleeps imagining the WORST outcomes . . .) But I didn’t need to replace the bow stem and I would budget extra time in the spring shipyard to get the metal replaced.

So . . . #2. “Mark, let’s now cut off the rusty, deck staining anchor roller off the front deck and see what we find . . .

Extra covering to protect our fine ship . . .

And it came as no surprise that some of the Douglas Fir decking that had been hidden for 60 years was rotten. We had never had a deck leak but I guess the metal plate was acting as a sealant.

With this new information, I decided to remove the anchor winch to see what was under IT! (It is handy having a steel framed shed over head for a lifting point!)

I used a second come-along to pull the winch over the boat shed walkway.

It was winter, daylight was short and I worked nights as well . . .

I used a tiger torch, scrapers and a heavy duty sander to expose the rest of the fore deck.

I almost melted my phone trying to capture this selfie!

And if we were going to redo the front deck, the forward hatch coaming had to come off too. Here I used a circular saw to whittle it down . . .

 

“Gee, the forc’sle just got really dirty and drafty!”

#3. Well, we didn’t seem to have enough joy in our ship-maintenance life so we thought we might look for more fun in our transom . . .  I have always been noticing that we had a hard time keeping the varnish on the transom looking perfect. It tended to get cloudy too quickly and we had been stripping the whole transom to bare wood every two years trying to keep it looking acceptable. Something was wrong and I wanted to find out.

As the stern was made of two layers of 3/4″ mahogany planks we thought we would remove the outer layer and see what was going on . . . This is were Luke jumps in with glee and I have to look away and kinda peek over my shoulder to see what he is doing. . . . POOR COLUMBIA III !!

And we found the problem. At some point in the restoration of the COLUMBIA III during the 1990’s, the stern was replaced, but the shipwrights erroneously constructed the two layers of mahogany without any ship’s felt or sealant between the layers. Water was therefore getting in and being trapped between the layers. Despite being above the water line, the boards in both layers were soaking wet. It was no wonder that we had trouble getting the varnish to stick . . . So, in for a penny in for a pound,   Luke and I removed the galvanized swim grid and got serious!

Wow! The lazarette just got so much more ventilation!!

I think Luke gets just a little too happy taking my boat apart  . . . I guess it does help him finance his winter!

So now we had our winter’s work laid out for us. Luke took on the reconstruction of the front deck and the transom and I went back to my usual invisible maintenance chores. I tend to do the more menial tasks and Luke takes on the jobs that require his fancy wood and metal working skills. As the weather stayed a chilly -3-7 degrees C, Luke alternated between the front of the boat and the transom. If something was gluing, he might take some time on the bow. If it was really cold, he’d retreat to his shop to prepare his materials or work on the new deck box.

So whilst Luke proceeded on the projects with clear objectives that he can budget his time around, i chip away on the smaller, fiddlier details.

#4 thru to 386 . . . We have always had difficulty with a pair of fresh water tanks under our #4 stateroom bunks. They would often air-lock, not fill completely or seem to not drain completely. A better venting system was on the long term “to-do” list.  Then last summer a very high pressure marina fresh water hose was used that split one of the two tanks . . . I managed a temporary patch for the last month of the season but the tanks needed replacing.

Here are two new tanks with new fittings installed on the dock. I carried them down and installed them under the bunk in stateroom #4. While I was in there, i added a new 3/4″ vent line magically snaked through the engine room and the salon and out the side of the deckhouse.

I didn’t like how the tanks where held in place so I used  “the-old-scraps-of-wood-and-glue-gun” technique for making some patterns and found some nice clear yellow cedar for a support system . ..

and the leather sofa, yes, yes the most comfortable place IN THE WORLD to have a morning coffee, was showing signs of wear and it seemed perilously thin. It would seem like a simple matter but it took a long time to find an upholstery expert up to the task of repairs.  Then all I had to do was shrink wrap a 110% water proof packaging and drive the 5 hours to Victoria from Sonora Island to drop it off.

and the ship’s emergency radio battery bank needed replacement and an ancillary 120VAC charger upgraded . . .

and two new maple cutting boards made for the galley as per chef’s request . . .

and install a new transmission pressure gauge in the wheelhouse in an unused spot on the panel . . .

and add back lighting for all the gauges . . .

and . . . .get the swim grid to Campbell River and borrow a flat deck truck and a helper from  the shipyard and get it to a sand blaster to clean it and then get it to the freight company north of town and ship it to Vancouver and get it re galvanized and get it shipped back to Campbell River and borrow the flat deck truck again and move it back to the boat launching ramp in Campbell River and bring it back to Sonora Island by skiff . . .      

Meanwhile, Luke kept working . . . We decided it would be best if he dissembled the front deck planks so he could make patterns if required as the pieces came off.

Here, the new clear fir starts to go back on. The deterioration of the decking thankfully did not transfer into the deck beams. The “bad” was removed and the solid deck beams were ready to receive new planks. As we still have left over 3 1/2″ silicone bronze #14 screws left over from refastening the hull, we used these to secure the deck planks.   

OH!!! These shots really warm my heart! Look at that BEAUTIFUL new wood that will be securely holding my anchor winch next summer!!! Gawd!!! Luke does nice work! . . . I’d stop by the front deck and gasp, “Luke! I love you!!”   I hope he’s used to having a weird father-in-law by now . . .

and a new clear yellow cedar deck hatch made in his shop and now bolted down.

When it came time to caulk the decks my Skipper and Mentor for the last 47 years, Dennis, came to demonstrate the fine art of cotton and oakum  . . .  Grandson Theo listened in too.

Although the two projects proceeded simultaneously, I have kept the photos in two separate threads here to keep you sleepy readers from blacking out in boredom . . .

Here the first inner layer mahogany plank is getting installed . . .

and for your sake, I haven’t included a photo of each plank as it went on but this process happened over about a 30 day period.

The last board is jacked into place with small hydraulic jacks.

and teak covering boards over the ends.

I am particularly happy with the results. We changed the construction method and screwed the first layer of planks to the vertical frames, but the second layer was COMPLETELY bedded with Sika Flex sealant and secured with screws from the inside of the vessel. This eliminated dozens and dozens of exterior screw heads that would have  required to be counter sunk and plugged. All the tiny plugs were a big source of water incursion in the transom before we started.

and of course, I gave the renewed swim grid two coats of epoxy primer to better protect it . . .

and drilled and tapped holes for holding on the new rubber bumper . . .  Now that was sticker shock! . .  20 feet of rubber . . . everything else was renewed, I may as well replace the rubber while I’m at it .  .    It was $20 per foot!

The final fairing and sanding commenced . . .

. . . adjustments to the swim grid pads . . .

One coat of varnish and we re hung the swim grid . . . This took about 4 hours for the two of us.

 

WOW! That looks spectacular, Luke!!

And the shipyard date was fast approaching and Luke was working long, long days to get the ship ready to leave her protective shed.

Yes, that is a lot of masking tape to ensure the sealant stayed where Luke wanted it.

Cotton, oakum and then sealant . . .  getting close!

Mixed in with all this, Luke welded up an new deck plate for the #2 anchor rode. I shipped it to Vancouver and it was also galvanized. I had the roller sand blasted and italso made the trip to the galvanizer in Vancouver. Here I am epoxy coating the pieces in a spare bedroom. My shop was too cold . . .

 

And Luke created new gumwood bedding blocks for the anchor winch with new stainless bolts

Yay!!! The new deck plate that started this whole restoration was finally back in place. Now, what is not wonderful about this!!!

Complete with a new stainless steel bolt tapped by a machine shop for an inset grease nipple and grease channel .

The anchor winch swings aboard hours before the boat is due out of the shed. Luke’s timing on the two month long project is down to the wire! Here Luke’s dad is helping out . . . The other Grandpa.

Then the gate swings open. Push Theo!

Now, Pull Theo!

A temporary spare anchor for the trip to Campbell River. The main rode is still lying on my dock.

And I woke up with the COLUMBIA III sitting outside my window ready to head to the shipyard. Whew!, That was some winter of laying around doing nuthin!

Later that afternoon, I pulled away from my dock, headed for the shipyard and that adventure! 

I guess my company name is “Mothership Adventures!”

All these wonderful behind-the-scenes, wooden boat maintenance ADVENTURES!!!

Critical winter works commence . . . 2018/19

So the long and arduous summer season is now over. All the frivolities are dispensed with, (wine, gourmet food, wonderful new friends, amazing wildlife, spectacular paddling and chill’n on a gorgeous classic wooden heritage vessel . . . yes, yes, deeply arduous . . .)

ah, where was I?

Yes, yes. After the frivolities of summer have been survived, the COLUMBIA III is back in her shed and I am raring to go on critical winter maintenance projects that will maintain and enhance ship safety and integrity. Obviously, it’s important it dig right into the really big projects looming on the winter’s horizon to ensure the scope and scale of the up coming work is allocated appropriate time and resources.

Ok, ok, that’s getting a bit thick . . .

So my first super-critical project of the winter was to create a  better window wedge for the galley window. Strongly worded complaints were registered by the Food Services Department of Mothership Adventures and a remedy had to be found.  ie the galley window was hard to open and close because the window wedge was too small . . .

So. . . . a scrap of teak was used for a longer wedge with finger hole and taped to allow the wedge to be placed tightly alongside the window frame and still have room for your finger! A simply amazing design. . . .

. . . and another high priority project to hone my skills before commencing critical ship’s maintenance . . .

Every sailor worth his salt needs to know how to repair his sails as well as sail the vessel. In the spirit of sailor craft, I took up my thread and needle for my granddaughter’s 3rd birthday gift.

Wash and Sand and Wash and Paint and Varnish and Cetol and . . . .

OK! OK! The COLUMBIA III  season has begun. She is already up the coast with guests aboard. Farlyn is skippering and I have a few days to finish this spring-painting blog before it all gets too stale in my mind . . .  One last bloggy push at the keyboard. Hang on to your hats, more super boring, behind the scenes wooden boat invisible magic . . . .

So the boat returns to the shed after the ship yard stint. Now the real fun begins!

The general plan is to start on the roof and work down.  We sand all the  painted surfaces and then wash. We do not sand the brightwork surfaces at this time as the fine paint dust seems to get embedded into the brightwork if the paint dust lands on the sanded varnish. So we sand the painted areas, then wash and usually paint before we even touch the brightwork. It is best to have the boat all freshly painted and clean before we take on the brightwork. We then clean the decks and do them last after we are done dripping and spilling.`

It is never good for finishes on a wooden boat to get too thick. Actually this is a very common mistake. Heavy layers of paint actually lock the moisture in the wood and hasten rot. Therefore we have a loose system of stripping some portion of the boat to bare wood each year. 2018 was the year to do the inside surface of the bulwarks on the forward 2/3’s of the ship. We did the aft 1/3 a few years ago and Luke had already been working on the bulwarks so this was the natural time to torch off the old white paint . . .

This is also a great way to check for deteriorating wood. Here you can see some staining by a hawse hole ring. The wood is still completely sound but that dark stain needs to be watched closely.

And the hull gets its annual S&P.

Ace kayak guide Robin Humphreys decided to learn more about the process that keeps her mothership looking so shiny!

Last year we experimented with trying to get two seasons out of the wheelhouse paint job. It worked well enough, but now we had to do the entire wheelhouse again. Hopefully we won’t do the wheel house white again until 2020.

The 60+ year old “smoke stack” had some crummy rusty spots on the metal so Luke ground them out and filled the area in with epoxy. The “stack” is an aesthetic accouterment.

Many small components are transferred to the workshop for sanding and refinishing. In the first weeks of April the  3-6 degree C outside temperature in the boat shed can mean slow drying times for washing, filling and painting. Its good to have some projects in the shop . . . beside the wood stove! Here Farlyn and Robin try to look busy when I walk in with the camera.

Hatches, cupboard doors . . .

stairs, running light boxes, hand rails . . .

more back-deck cupboard doors . . .

life jacket boxes and fire bucket boxes, freezer box lid . . . .

kayak life jacket racks . . .

Aft deck drawer fronts . . .

. . .  ship’s lettering . . . See the toy tugboat on the shop window sill! I made that for Miray in 1984 when she turned one. It’s in for an “overhaul”.

And then the first paint starts to go on!!! No more dust!!

This and Robin and Steve with their “It’s almost quitting time!!” smiles . . .

Even Skye wanted part of the fun . . .  it is always good to share . . .

Hey that Brightsides green gloss paint is pretty darn shiny!

. . . . and the white . . .

Of course the “office” never sleeps! Steve, Farlyn and I are up for lunch and Miray stops by to help keep ahead of bookkeeping, parks permits and emails . . . ..Yes, I know we don’t always return emails as quickly as we might!

The guard rails get scuffed by tie up lines and fenders. So, despite crew protests, (“Dad, they look fine for another year!” ) I forced the crews to strip the guards to bare wood, re-sand, re-stain and re-finish with 2 coats of Cetol marine gloss clear.

  

Of course I was NOT loafing. The finishing touches when into the C02 cylinder relocation. . .

These are high pressure hoses that needed a hydrostatic test to ensure they were still in good working condition.

Another little upgrade. A tank level monitor for fuel and black water . . .

And I had some rewiring in the main AC panel to make the #1 inverter easier to remove for maintenance . . . ie the wires were too short when I installed the new inverters last spring and it bugged me!           

The continuing saga of the blackwater system upgrade. Here the tanks are getting re-installed.

New work bench matting as the fittings on the new tank ended up in just a bit different places . .

matting installed . . .

Small project # 445283. I installed a new aft kayak hoist and upgraded the control cords. I think 96.3% of all tools in the engine room are used on every project . . . but I always bring them up one at a time!

And as the painting gets completed (ie no more dust) we can sand and varnish the exterior bright work.

The galley is a very high-use area. It takes the most wear and tear of the inside of the ship. Here, Robin and Farlyn strip wires and shelving and sand a portion of the galley walls.

When the bulk of the drippy painting is done, the decks get “de-specked”, vacuumed and masked off for the non-skid coat. We re-do the non-skid every two years. The decks get too slippery if we leave it for three years.

Here one crew rolls, one cuts the edges and one sprinkles sand onto the fresh finish.

And then 2 days later the decks get done again to seal down the non-skid sand.

With winch painted and the decks done, Farlyn and Steve roll the cable and chain rode back onto the anchor winch drum.

Just to add to the mayhem, Nick on the research vessel ACHIEVER came for a week to use our shop and tools. It was our small way of helping support  the Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

The Achiever pulls out of Diamond Bay with a few improvements to help them meet Transport Canada compliance.

Our salon table gets refinished and re-polished almost every year. Last year we tried a new epoxy finish designed to last YEARS on hard wood floors. Tavish and master table refinisher, Luke Hyatt, inspect the table closely for signs of wear and unsightly tear. This cracked team of experts concluded the table refinishing could wait until next year . . .  then they quit for the day . . . .

Well, perhaps Luke went and finished installing the new cabinet he made to fit the spot the C02 cylinders occupied for the last 30 years.

Another skipper-behind-the-scenes project. The galley faucet was getting loose and worn and I decided it was best to replace it now rather than at some awkward time mid season. But of course the exact replacement faucet was new and improved and its dimensions were different . . . So I spent quite a bit of time IN the sink cabinet chiselling wood and “stuff”.

And every year I lift the engine room aluminum floor plates and vacuum and hand scrub the bilge. It’s a good time to check for wear and tear . . . . You can see one of the lighter coloured planks we installed a few years back.

The tender is painted and lowered back into the water to make room for the COLUMBIA III to leave the shed.

Oh this is EXCITING!!! we are getting down to the little details!!

And the gate gets opened . . . .

ALL HANDS ON DECK !!!!!

THE COLUMBIA III IS COMING OUT OF THE SHED FOR THE NEXT 5 MONTHS!!!!

(God willing, as my mother use to say!)

Pull THEO!                           56 tons vs 56 pounds . . . .

“Grandpa!!!! I can’t hold it!!!”

AHHHHH!!!!!! The boat is finally out of the shed! This is HUGE! This is AMAZING! I feel like crying and laughing but I just gaze down from my window and sigh . . . “What a lot of work . . . ”

Of course, we’re not done. Just the projects are less dusty. Hundreds of little details to attend to. Here Theo, assisted with a small bowl of raisins, is learning how to lash kayak paddle racks onto a stanchion. Tavish does the neatest lashing so he has become the “go-to” man for all the lashing.

All the emergency flashlights (with glow in the dark markings) have the batteries preemptively replaced at the start of every season.

Here’s a make work project. I noticed a small kerosene leak under the roof top day tank. This supplies the cozy “fireplace” with fuel. We keep this stove going 24/7/365. I erroneously thought a fitting was loose . . . but upon removing the tank to investigate I found a small corrosion pit in the aluminum side wall of the tank . . . . oopsey! My screw driver pushed right through in several spots! The 1/4″ thick aluminum was shot.

So I sketched up a plan to give a metal fabricator in Campbell River . . . .

Fitted out with the appropriate bits . . .

Raised onto the roof and . . .

. . . magically installed back on the roof.

And Theo hands Steve screws, one at a time . . .  The final brass rub strips go back onto the guards.

I spliced new hand lines on the tender . . .

A season’s worth of wine is stored . . .

3 new double kayaks to keep our fleet in top form . . .

. . .  and a final inspection by Transport Canada. The boat shiny and all safety gear was on display . . .

So this blog post draws to a close . . .

Here’s a cool shot. This is taken from Miray’s living room window.

All of time is a river, and paths cross and uncross. This is one of those note-worthy intersections. The fish boat in the foreground is my skipper, Dennis’s. At 83, Dennis is Theo’s great grand uncle. The next vessel is Luke’s dad’s sailboat, Theo’s other grandpa. The next boat is Uncle Tavish’s and then the Columbia III sits ready for the 2018 season. What are the odds that Theo might end up with a boat in his future??

So the COLUMBIA III is ready for another season. We do not own the COLUMBIA III. We are her custodians for this portion of her existence. We hope she will be sailing long after I have retired and gone to the happy Sea in the Sky. Here Farlyn leaves Diamond Bay on her own with the COLUMBIA III. If all goes well the ship will not be back home until mid October, almost 5 months from now.

As Farlyn is skippering the first tour of the season I am home alone. I awoke that first morning with a start looking down from my bedroom window.

Where’s the COLUMBIA III ?????”

Ahhh, off with Farlyn. All well.

May our 2018 season be safe and fun and viable for all: Guests, Crews, Ship, and all sundry folks and boats that cross paths with the COLUMBIA III this 2018 Spring, Summer and Fall.