Category Archives: Winter Maintenance

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.

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.

And I sorted, removed, labeled and rationalized the wires behind the main engine panel in the wheel house.

New terminal boards to help make sense of the mess.

All back to normal now. More Dr. of Marine Voodoo.  If I do my job really well, no one will ever know!

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.

Here is the alternator bracket without the alternator.

Pulling the v-belt shive off . . .     

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.

Here is the 80 pound beast replaced and back in its home. . .

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 “affected spots” (read rotten) where cut out and then the timbers removed such that the replacement timbers would be long enough and their joints staggered enough to be strong.

 

A good friend on Quadra Island operates a small saw mill. Several years ago he had some very nice yellow cedar cross his mill. I bought some and it has been drying since then “just in case.”

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.

A combination of lag bolts and thru bolts were used. The plugs were applied even between the layers of timbers.

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 here the original cap, still with its gloss finish, is bolted down and plugged.

The new scarf joint Luke cut in place.

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. . . )

Here is the engine room before the relocation began.

And here Luke is making a pattern for the welded aluminum bracket to hold the cylinders in their new home.

And I removed the battery box to alter it’s hold down structure and move the box 4″ forward. I decided to sand and paint the box while I had it in my shop.

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.

I had to remove the old hand pump for topping up the generator and fireplace day tanks with an electric pump which was more compact. (See final entry of this post for a post-script on this pump!)

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 . . .

A bracket I made to support the pull-cable piping.

And the CO2 detector had to be relocated . . .

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).

You can see two plastic welded patches on one of the old blackwater tanks. I decided to replace them with custom welded stainless steel.

Number two tank getting ready to be removed. 

Up the stairs . . .

and out the door.

.

And about 6 weeks later, two new tanks . . . waiting for me to finish typing and get back to work!

Another tiny project . . .  the galley has a dry-erase board edged in stained and varnished mahogany. The old one was just too scratched and worn and needed to be replaced.

And installed in the galley . . .

And yet another small project . . . A gauge for telling how full my new blackwater tanks are. It will also read the diesel tanks as well.

The first big step of spring maintenance . . .

The ship comes out of the shed for the first time in 5 months in preparation for heading to the shipyard. It’s a big day and all the deckhands come out to help. Two skippers in training . . .

Maeve was helping alot too!     

The shed gate is closed again, ( this keeps the ends of the floating shed from flexing in and out in the waves) and the COLUMBIA III is ready to head to the shipyard.

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.

Farlyn and I head down to Campbell River, bound for the ship yard. Here we leave Diamond Bay and the boat shed on Sonora Island behind.

It was a wonderfully calm evening and SO!!! nice to feel the ship moving again. “This is what I work so hard for! This is it!”

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.

It’s always nice having Farlyn along. She emptied the chart table and sorted out all the bent paper clips and random accumulation of junk and presto! a chart table worthy of a blog shot!

Boot top touch up . . .

The shipyard crews needle gunned the rust off the swim grid and painted it.

Sure, I’m getting older every year, (like everyone else) but man oh man I am strong!

Five days later she gets an early morning lift. Done for another year I hope!

And back into the water. “Gently please! Gently!”

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.

I just spent the last few days sorting the paints and tidying the shed in preparation for the maintenance team!

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.

And very messy in my normally tidy engine room . . .

Blogs Never Sleep • Winter 2016/2017

        

   “Rust never sleeps,”  is the saying around the coast if you own a ship of steel construction. If one owns a wooden vessel it is, “Rot never sleeps”. But now I have a new menace lurking in the dusky corners of my consciousness, creeping like a damp fog into each spare or leisurely moment I snatch from the jaws of my self-employment. If I ever relax for even just a moment the guilt wracked thought strikes me, “The blog! I haven’t written in the blog!”

A few days ago I transported a new generator home in the back of the skiff. It was balanced precariously as Tavish veered through the whirlpools crossing the mouth of the fearsome Hole In The Wall rapids . . . Now that was blogworthy! But I was hanging on too tightly to even think of my camera until much later. Actually, after wrestling the heavy and expensive load out of the skiff after 5 days of travel to Victoria and Vancouver for meetings, I finally collapsed into bed, pulled the covers over my head and was just drifting off to my well earned sleep . . . when the thought hit me like an icy gale, “The blog! I should have taken a picture for the blog”. And the corollary,

                                                           “The blog never sleeps!”

So here is my winter’s blog. It is malnourished and underfed. But heck, I do have a few excuses up my sleeve. It’s up to you, the Reader, to decide if my excuses hold water, so to speak.

Therefore I commence:

After a punishing winter last year of way, way, WAY too much work on the COLUMBIA III, and then a totally grueling summer on the  water with, well you know, great guests from around the world, and well, great food, and certainly great wildlife and great paddling and yes, hanging out on the coolest boat on the coast, (I know you can feel my pain) . . .

Well after such abject hardship I really thought I needed a holiday. I had this image of what I deserved and how much I deserved it, and it went something like this:

I was going to go home. I was going to park the COLUMBIA III in her shed and totally ignore her. I was going to leave my dusty, glue crusty coveralls down in the workshop and I was going to sip coffee, curl up with a stack of good books, and watch the world go by my seashore window . . . .  wow, that would have been so nice.

But our daughter, Farlyn, stopped by before I had my first sip of coffee. I was actually just making my first pot upon arrival back at Diamond Bay with the COLUMBIA III at the end of last season when she “popped by” to say “hi”, catch up on the news and drop the daughter-bomb:

“Hey dad, now that you’re finally home, and I know you don’t have much planned, I could sure use help finishing the spiral stair case Jody roughed in. You are such a good wood worker, Daddy Dearest”.

You know the routine, smiling daughter, ego-puffed dad . . . Just a few weeks of measuring, planing, gluing, sanding and installing later:

(Funny, where did that really nice, clear old growth boat lumber go?)

“And Daddy Dearest, we really don’t have any place to put our dishes” . . .

“Or our cups . . . “

Or our pots and utensils . . .      

To be fair, I offered to help Farlyn that first morning – the one before I had a chance to sit quietly and gaze wisely out the window. I’m just trying to use Farlyn as an excuse to have a break from the COLUMBIA III. Plus, what dad doesn’t want to hang out with his daughter in his workshop on either side of a roaring thickness planer??!

Then the COLUMBIA III was really calling me.

“Ross, I’m feeling neglected”.

But then granddaughter Maeve turned 1 and she really, really needed a wooden pull toy. And no, I have no idea, except it looks like a chipmunk head stuck on Ogo Pogo.

But you know family dynamics, just as I was getting ready, really ready to knuckle down to working in the COLUMBIA III,  Farlyn’s older sister dropped a few pretty clear hints to me that she had her nose seriously out of joint because I was helping Farlyn so much. Naturally, the only clear solution was to make something for Miray to get myself back in the good books of Mothership Adventures’ office manager.

Here is a new hat and mitt trunk for Miray and Luke’s entrance way.

Selfie in dusty, glue crusty coveralls in sub-zero temperatures making the corner posts for Miray’s trunk.

Fancy “slow close” pistons to keep wee grand children’s fingers safe.

“Gee, I seriously thought I had more clear boat lumber in my shop. Where is it disappearing? . . .”

But you know how it goes . . .

I seemed to be in the shop quite a bit so it was “only natural” that I give April a hand with a “few” new shelves for her sail boat:

I am a hack wood worker, but I seemed to be able to wow April, which was pretty fun.

35 years of making stuff in this 20’x36′ shop I built before Miray was born.

And a nice little fir table for April.

But despite my modest philanthropy, I did keep the COLUMBIA III projects inching forward. (Well, late at night after everyone else was asleep. Long hours, brutal conditions, heroic stamina. All the manly grit required for a Post Doc in Marine Voodoo).

Here is one little project I worked on this winter: I decided the ship would be safer if I was able to remotely shut down all electrical power. This might be a really good idea if there was an electrical fire in the engine room. To date, the Master would have to run into the potentially smokey engine room to manually shut-off the 4 battery switches. A much better and safer solution was to purchase and install 4 remote battery shut-off switches.

But, if one shuts off the power the ship will also get really, really dark as all the lights go out! Mmm . . .  Maybe it would be a good idea to have a relay sense this power-loss and automatically illuminate a string of emergency lights located at strategic locations like companionways, stairs and Muster station . . .  Gee, I wonder how Dr. M. Vodoo could arrange that?

Well, a little head scratching, some research, and homespun electrical schematics:

And then just gathering a “few” supplies (brass plate, remote battery switches, painted backing board, wire, circuit breakers, emergency lighting control relay etc) and just a little bit of work at the kitchen table (read: not cold boat shed)

. . . and it’s ready for installing on the boat.

Here it is, installed, wired, labeled and protected with a Lexan shield.

But the wheelhouse is a long ways from the engine room and I had to find space for a bunch more wires and a small control panel in my densely equipped wheelhouse. A second pipe was installed (and painted two colours) to bring in the new wires . . .

Which wire goes where?

And finally equipped with the 4 new remote battery switches.

Remember I still needed 6 new LED emergency lights installed throughout the ship. But the COLUMBIA III can’t just have fancy brass dome lights. No, no, no, the new lights have to match the existing lights, and they have nice shiny smooth and curvy varnished mahogany bases, of course . . .

Here is the Chapel stair case’s new and automatic emergency lighting.

And the aft companion way emergency lighting illuminating the evacuation plans and the exit stairs. The new lights look pretty simple unless you think of the 200 feet of wire I Houdini’d invisibly throughout the ship. (or is it Voodoo’d?)

At least the work in the shop was broken up by relaxing and fun (read hectic) trips to town with my shopping list of boat errands . . .

Working nights between daughter projects . . .

Here is another little “Ross Project” that is also a safety upgrade.

I had previously installed a propane shut-off switch in the galley to ensure the propane was electrically shut off at the main tank at all times unless the galley stove was in use. But I like things that shut-off when they get too hot as well. We have heat detectors to sound alarms if anything gets out of control, but wouldn’t it be better if the stove sensed the overheat condition and shut itself off?

Ok, you get the trend. Another schematic got sketched and more Google research for a suitable thermal switch . . .

I had to use a drop sheet to cover the big galley range to catch the stainless steel shavings from the modifications, have a placard made and install the new panel . . .

Now this is pretty cool, even for a Dr. M. Voodoo like me. If the galley range gets too warm it shuts off the propane before the alarm sensor has a chance to wake up!

And when I wasn’t in my shop or on the COLUMBIA III, I was attempting to keep the office “afloat”. I apologize if I was slow to reply to your email . . . .

And here is a HUGE fir log our licensed beach-combing daughter Farlyn found . . .  more boat lumber!

Oh ya, and I installed two new inverters in the engine room to replace the 20 year old units that I inherited with the ship. Of course these required a new brass plate to hold the digital control panels and a bunch of drilling, cutting, wiring, and zap strapping cable bundles.

By this time, Spring is now just around the corner and I am getting ready for the real work to begin on sanding and painting and varnishing the COLUMBIA III.

I thought it was time to make the shed more efficient. New storage shelves, tool bench and tool box area and 260  feet of Tech cable to have 120VAC outlets more accessible for the sanding tools around the ship.

But just when I started to despair with my work load, Tavish amazingly volunteered to strip, sand, paint, repaint, varnish and reassemble 3 staterooms. Really, he volunteered! A very, very dusty, smelly, tedious, finicky job. “Go Tav Go!”

With the COLUMBIA III, we try to keep her looking  really “top drawer”. But for this to be maintained, we need to repaint areas that don’t really look that bad. We never want someone to say, “Well, that needs repainting” We can’t have the ship look that bad. So we refinish things that don’t look like they need refinishing. Cool!

Tavish sanding the forward stateroom.

And painting . . .

And the ship gets pretty messy . . .

The staterooms have an immense amount of surface area and facets with all the exposed deck beams and trim detail. Tavish is certainly the guy for the job as he has very high standards.

Here April caught Tavish in a contemplative moment.

And as I was headed to Victoria for meetings anyhow, the liferaft joined me for its annual re-inspection.

And here is the new generator waiting to get installed. You know the one. The one that I didn’t take a photo of as we negotiated the whirlpools . . .

The old generator being uninstalled . . .  Not quite as simple as hitting the “Uninstall” button on my laptop.

The old and the new generator weigh 320 pounds each and it takes a lot sliding, come-alonging, winching and back-straining shuffling to get the old one out and the new one in.

And now a bunch of wires, hoses and stuff to get it up and running . . .

And just to add to the fun, Nick and Yas showed up to help Tavish de-hardware, sand and varnish the salon. Wow! Three people can sure dismantle my ship with alarming speed.

Lots of bits and pieces to sand and varnish.

But the varnish is going back on! It looks very, very shiny.

 

And I stayed out of the way in the engine room working on small projects: a new hour meter on the water maker . . .

An upgraded control panel for the diesel fired water heater:

Plus  the new panel installed:

All the while the salon got shinier and shinier!

Phew! That’s enough typing for one night. Enough already . . . .  But . . .

Hey! There are those same dusty crusty coveralls. I think I had them on most days this winter. (Not Christmas dinner). I think the fashion is catching on. Check out Tavish.

But never get me wrong. I love dusty crusty coveralls, my shop, my boat, my business, this coast

                                                                 and my family.

 

Next stop is the shipyard, and then, well then, we can start to really get down to the business of ship’s maintenance when the April 1st crews show up.

Someday I must sit at my window and read a book. That sounds so cozy.

Ross