Category Archives: Spring Maintenance

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 . . . .



(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.





Spring 17 Painting

Between the puttering winter maintenance when I work mostly alone and the intense maintenance of April when the crews show up to work, I pull the Columbia III for her annual haul-out. Transport Canada requires to see her out of the water every two years and of those two year inspections, there is the requirement to pull the rudder, propeller, drive shaft and all underwater thru-hulls every four years for an extra thorough inspection. This year is a “tween” year, so usually this means a pretty straight forward lift, wash, paint and re-zinc but no particular official “underwater” inspection. But of course, the annual haul out is my chance to check for problems or possible damage (such as  a ding in the propeller). As it was a quick turn around this year, I took the boat down alone and the Ocean Pacific crews did the washing and painting.

Here the COLUMBIA III is heading back into the water.The tide levels can’t be too low for the lift procedure so the crews arrived early to slip me back into the water. I am always happy to have the CIII safely back in the water. “It just don’t seem natural” to have my ship swinging around in the air!

Whilst I am living aboard the CIII on the “hard” in downtown Campbell River I put the time to advantage by buying as many  supplies as I can think of. But I am still puttering along on my own. If the shipyard has a certain cadence, that mood entirely  vanishes when i get home and the CIII is slipped back into the shed.  The dry erase board in the shed gives you an idea. For any of you new to this blog, S&P = sand and paint, S&C = sand and Cetol,  and I know you’re really smart, S&V = sand and varnish! Awesome, you’re on fire now!


Let the sanding and washing begin . . .



Tavish figured out a way to lift the tender inside the shed. This allowed us to paint the bottom without without removing the outboard, or miss spots trying to paint on a trailer and it was out of the spring rains. It did look a little weird suspended from the ceiling!

Here is a bit of creativity. The 2″ thick fir deck planking of the Columbia III is held down with galvanized nails pounded in over 60 years ago. Each nail is counter sunk and covered with a 3/4″ wooden plug.  With time, if the plug cracks or deteriorates, water can work under the plug and begin to rust the nail head. The rust expands and pushes the plug upwards and this makes the plug sit a bit proud. We notice the little bumps in our decks and get really distraught. Luke figures out the answer. Chisel out the wooden plug, drill and tap the nail head, thread in a small stainless steel boat and extract with the custom made visegrip-plier-nail-puller-slide-hammer thingy, and wallah! A SS lag screw is used as a replacement with a new epoxied plug. Luke processed quite a few of these just so I can sleep easily at night knowing I won’t be confronted with distressing and unsightly little bumps in MY decks!

Beautiful new teak steps to replace the existing set. These are on the exterior of the wheel house and get a lot of wear and tear. The old steps looked like they had been made of re-purposed wood with some extraneous holes and plugs where none were required. Luke made this new set for the CIII. As usual for something boaty, the steps are curved to fit the deck house wall. Luke also made stainless steel hanger bolts so we can remove the steps more easily for painting behind the stairs.

The galley door was stripped to bare wood and refinished. As these doors are over 60 years old, there are some cracks that always let moisture in behind the varnish. The only way to keep the bright work looking really good is to keep the ship in the shed all year long, or strip the finish off completely every few years . . . certainly less than 5 years. As a consequence, we usually strip an exterior door or two each year to keep the “beautification” cycle in sequence.

Summer must be coming as the sun is starting to pack some heat. The boat shed is wonderful in the rain (and in brilliant sunshine too) but on the first sunny days of spring the shady, water cooled  boat shed can feel pretty chilly . The first warm rays of the year beckon just a few feet away! We often work on individual projects and we don’t really adhere to set coffee times, but I did catch the crews loafing around in the sun and started yelling at them to get back to work! I even took a photo to document their slovenly behavior.

Every year or two at the most we empty the lazarette completely  for vacuuming. This is a great way to re-inventory the supplies we carry and to sort out any stuff that found its way into the storage area. The laz serves as a major storage area for spare . . .  well spare EVERYTHING! From dinner plates and wine glasses to rope, engine hoses, toilet paper, electrical wire, hose-clamps,paddles, life-jackets, walking sticks, water glasses, hand soap, electrical fixtures, engine oil, hydraulic oil, antifreeze, wine, kayak foot pedals, recycling, pipe fittings, lengths of pipe in plastic and metal, readi-rod, skiff anchor and small quantities of paint and varnish for midsummer touch ups, power tools, extension cords, pop and beer, epoxy glue and fillers, spill pads, laundry soap, hand sanitizer, kayak spray skirts and . . . and . . . well, I think you get the idea.  Here Steve is unloading the Laz as step no.1.

Here is a small diversion. I always worry about getting my anchor “stuck” on the bottom in the middle of the summer. We often work in very remote locations so its not that easy to “find” a spare set of ground tackle mid season. So this year I bought a new “rode”, the chain and stainless steel cable that anchors the ship at night, and it is neatly hidden under a bunk just in case a time of need arises.  Or doesn’t “arise” off the bottom as the case may be!  That’s about $2000 worth of piece of mind for me . . . .

The new replacement generator installation is finally completed.

And painting after the sanding . . .               


Skipper/daughter Farlyn pulling something apart needlessly as her usual way of logging more hours in the S&P column.

This is always a good omen, the finishing touches are starting to happen!

And finally the kayaks are scrubbed and back on the roof and the COLUMBIA III comes out of the shed. She won’t make it back inside for the next 6 months!

A final scrub, the masts go up, the inspection cycle begins, the ship gets all the bedding and food stores loaded and in about 3 weeks the first guests of the season arrive . . .

“Wow, the ship looks way better than the photos and the photos looked too good to be true on the website! Do you spend much time in the winter on maintenance . . . . ?”

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.


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?


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.

ciii outof shed mar 16

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.


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


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.


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.


The new shaft being manufactured.



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.


Until the new shaft was ready to be installed!


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


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


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


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

CIII shipyard 16

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


“Let the sanding begin!”


Can you hear the fluttering?


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


Steve pauses his fluttering hands for a quick thumbs up.


After a good wash, the refinishing begins.





















of the…




got painted…






By who? Meet the painting crew!


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!


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.


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


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!


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.



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


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.


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


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


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.


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


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


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.


(photo by Max, documenting the process)


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.



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


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.


Tavish bolts the racks in place.


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.


The socks-only phase of ship maintenance.


Then the the crew coats the decks.


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


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


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.


A birthday dive.


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.



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


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



A beautiful evening for a cruise around the channel.





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



Heading home to the bay at last light.




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


Tavish tidying up the rooftop that evening.


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?”