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 tapered 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 . . . .



(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.





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 . . .