Winter Maintenance 2015/2016

Well, we’ve been planning this one for years. An older wooden vessel is a “work in progress” and the COLUMBIA III is no different than any other classic wooden yacht. And I think the word “classic” means a classically huge amount of work. The roof covering the aft deck provides wonderful shelter from hot sun or driving rain, but it was getting tired. We have made some pretty major repairs to portions of the structure but it was taking more and more time with diminishing results. So, we had some wonderfully clear, old-growth Douglas Fir cut especially for the project about 2 years ago in preparation, and this was stored in the boat shed. After Luke and I penciled in the calendar we decided this was the winter to remove the entire aft deck roof structure and replace it.

First on the list was to remove the steel mast which when folded down to fit in the shed would be in the way of the work. Here we winched the mast up to the ceiling of the shed, pulled the CIII out and then lowered the mast onto the herring skiff to transport it over to the welding shed for winter storage and future spring maintenance.


Skipper/mentor/great grandpa Dennis brought his skiff in to move the mast. You can just see the CIII outside at our main dock waiting to get tucked back into the shed for the winter.


All the kayaks were hoisted to the rafters to make room . . .


And then, as some macabre scene from a wooden boat owners worst nightmare, Luke began chainsawing the Columbia III to pieces!


We wanted to retain the individual pieces to use as templates, so here Luke cut the plywood decking material out from between each rafter and then removed the rafters for future measurement.


Although the roof was about 95% sound, there were certainly areas of concern that we were very aware of. The roof itself was added on in the early 1970’s and it had held up amazingly well for the harsh marine environment of  the BC temperate rainforest. We had replaced the corner structure on the port side a few winters ago and here was the starboard roof corner. This was the main reason we chose to refurbish the roof. I decided it would be more cost effective to replace the roof completely rather than patch areas continually.


Here is a cross-section of the roof trim and plywood deck . . . . a good section.


Here is a section that justified replacing.


And the demolition continued . . .


Finally we got to dig into the lumber stored for the project.


You can see the “gate” to the boat shed is open for the herring skiff to come in to pick up the lumber . . . .


. . . .for transfer to Luke’s shop for running through his big thickness planer.


And then . . . I forgot to take pictures for a few weeks and presto! It looks like Luke is a really fast worker!


Note the clear, fir! And some brass rods installed for coat hangers next summer.


The new structure will be much stronger and certainly more water-tight to prevent the water damage we had to replace. All joints and connections are being glued together with epoxy.


And because glue is drippy, sticky and icky on our otherwise pristine vessel, we wrapped the bright work in towels for bump-protection and then plastic-ed the entire aft of the ship to catch the random drips that might occur.


Here is a sneak peak into my workshop. 20’x36′ is never enough space, but a lot of wood working has occurred here in the last 32 years. Luke’s brother, Malcolm came to visit and here he is checking out the project.


Next in line is getting the  marine grade plywood ready to lay on the roof joists. By planing a fixed bevel on the ends of the sheets, Luke is able to glue the sheets together end to end to make the joints stronger and easier to make water-tight. Here is a detail of the scarf joint.IMGP6578

And two sheets gluing together before they get covered in fiberglass cloth and epoxy resin. They will then be transferred down to the ship for gluing in place.


The Columbia III is at sea for about 5 months each year, and the most asked question by guests is “What do you do in the winter?” The ship works in the summer with the guests aboard. We work all year around to ensure this heritage boat stays in top shape for the next season’s guests. And yes, many of you return and I have to maintain the image!

Here, April Bencze caught a great shot of Luke; master paddler/skipper/woodworker/naturalist and pretty good son-in-law too.


More posts will follow. I am keeping busy on other aspects of the ship. Stay tuned for fascinating details!

All the best,


Spring 2015: SPV

Sand, Paint, Varnish. REPEAT!!!!!!!!!!! Steve started sanding as soon as the boat was back in the shed after the ship yard. The WHOLE boat got sanded on the outside (O.K. I lied. We didn’t do the masts this year. We did them last year and just did touch-ups this year.)IMGP6133

And I “dug into” a small issue. The deckhouse roof was fit out 50 years ago with galvanized steel downspouts. I wanted to replace one of the worse and chiseled and cut the first one out of the roof.


The old downspout hanging below the deckhouse soffit.IMGP6184  IMGP6140 IMGP6141


A crude router jig to clean up my chiseling surgery . . .

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The new brass fitting right before I epoxied it into place. Good for another 60 years!IMGP6185

Then I clamped in a piece of yellow cedar to repair the cut-out I had made . . . IMGP6192

The new brass downspout in place.IMGP6187

AND  . . . Sand and sand and . . .IMGP6144

sand  and . . .



and sand . . .



and sand . . . IMGP6148

and sand . . .IMGP6149

and sand . . . .


Another small side project. The main ship’s batteries were never properly vented to the outside, So I made a new vented box over the batteries with a small computer fan for extra venting under conditions when the batteries are gassing such as when they are equalized.IMGP6166 IMGP6167

Sand the transom ready for varnish . . . IMGP6180

A bit of repairs near the bowstem. i am SO not a ship wright. The small piece of wood was totally non parallel, curved, slanty, tapered and generally confusing for a poor carpenter that likes right angles and parallel sides . . . . I made 3 until  I  got it right. . . . IMGP6182

Selfie  . . . .


Sand, Sand, Sand . . . . What a MESS!!!!IMGP6188 IMGP6190

The big day came when the sanding was finally finished and the sun shown brightly. So we pulled the CIII out of the shed to wash her clean and dry her in the sun . . . IMGP6193 IMGP6196

Wash, wash, wash. from the very top to the water line . . .   IMGP6198 IMGP6200 IMGP6202

Even the deck chairs were scrubbed with scotch brite to prep them for another coat of Cetolclear gloss finish . . .

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Stain the transom . . . IMGP6205


A small diversion. the lid for for our roof top freezer box was mistakenly opened too quickly on a gusty, windy day and the lid was damaged. It was easier to make a new lid than repair the old . . IMGP6206 IMGP6207 IMGP6208 IMGP6209


Varnish the transom . . .  4 times . . . IMGP6210

Paint the green bulwarks . . . IMGP6213 IMGP6216 IMGP6217


Paint the roof details . . .   IMGP6219 IMGP6221

Wipe the varnish clean with paint thinner . . . IMGP6222

Varnish the exterior teak doors and windows . . .IMGP6223 IMGP6225 IMGP6226 IMGP6228

A few accumulated cans of paint and spare paint brushes . . . IMGP6230

Cold zinc the stanchions  . . .

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Paint the deck house . . .


Paint the hull . . .



Paint the inside of the bulwarks . . .


and paint . . .


and paint . . .!!!!!!



2015 Late Winter Maintenance.

As per usual, I putter on the COLUMBIA III on various behind-the-scenes tasks. And as the month of May approaches the pace seems to slowly pick up. Here is the usual catalogue of crazily disparate details that go into keeping a heritage boat operating.

#1 of many. The main engine had a coolant circulation pump that was getting tired. I removed the pump to have the bearings changed and the shop deemed the pump too worn to repair. Unfortunately, it took 6 weeks to find a replacement pump and then its mounting specifications where different. It took me a while to create an adaptor plate on which to mount the new pump.

The old pump comes off . . . IMGP6052

And the new pump goes on.IMGP6080

As they say in the magazines, “the belt guards have been remove for clarity. Never operate equipment without safety guards in place.”IMGP6082

And both generators were due for some mid-life service. So I removed the heat exchangers for cleaning and inspection. injectors and fuel pumps out for over haul, thermostats, belts, riser boots,  and one water pump  and one heat exchanger core replaced.IMGP6053

And its always amazing how many tools it requires to complete a job.IMGP6057

And how big a mess I can create on the  ship’s small workbench. Here are the 2 heat exchangers off the gensets sitting on  the workbench.IMGP6063

Skipper Farlyn helps reinstall all the bits and pieces on the gensets and she set up the valve clearances on both generators.  I think the 6.5 kilowatt generators cost about $10,000 each. Funny how the 4,000 hour rebuild cost  over $3000 for a small cardboard box of parts. My labour was free  . . . but I  pay Farlyn.IMGP6089

And the office still needs my attention! I come up from the boat shed and check the phone for messages (there is only cell coverage in the office as we have a “boosted signal” here only) and scan the emails for items that need immediate attention. When guests and potential guests call I often mention that I am just up from the boat . . . and I mean it. The office is “coveralls friendly”.IMGP6058

Then Steve showed up to begin work and my dogged pace bumps up several notches to keep ahead of Steve. First we got the kayaks off the roof and into the boat shed rafters and gave the whole boat a scrub just to get ourselves oriented.IMGP6059

One of Steve’s first tasks was to remove a substantial portion of our black water plumbing and replacing it with new hose to ensure all systems are “go” for the summer. No one wants black water woes mid season!IMGP6065

After all the work in the engine room we scrubbed the whole E/R with soap and water and Steve polished the checker plate aluminum floor boards to add that ‘CIII sparkle’ to even the engine room.


One fun project was the location, purchase and installation of a new 19″ navigation monitor. The old 17″ monitor was good, but I really wanted one that could be manually dimmed for night operations. Of course, they make monitors like this, but they are only the top of the line, marine navigation monitors that have this capability. The manual dimmer is essential as the skipper needs to be able to reach over in total darkness and find the knob that will bring the GPS plotter screen into view, and then return the screen to darkness again. Any sort of menu-driven option for screen dimming requires a mouse and a screen brightness that allows enough visibility to find the dimming menu. When I am running at night, I don’t want to be fumbling for a mouse trying to change my screen intensity. Obviously the big boys felt the same way . . . only for me, a $4000.00 monitor was a big investment! Of course, the new monitor was powered from a different source and needed an external speaker installed . . . so lots of rewiring and rerouting of “stuff” and a custom aluminium stand had to be created.IMGP6066 IMGP6068

Here you can see the radar image on the right, the GPS plotter image on the left and the orange radar overly on the left screen that matches the image on the right screen. The AIS traffic is listed on the panel on the far right.IMGP6118

Then when I was finished with the wheel house, Steve took it all apart again! The wheel house has a two tone decor and Steve pulled all the wires, knobs, radios, window handles, control panels etc etc .!!! off the walls so he could sand and paint the dark green accent.


And while he was in the wheel house making a mess we decided to revarnish the bright work in the wheel house including the bits and pieces we could remove for ease of sanding like the cabinet doors and the driver’s seat step.IMGP6083


And we are trying an experiment. We use 50′ of 5/8th” galvanized chain and we have 300′ of 5/8th stainless steel cable  for our anchor rode. The stainless and the galvanizing are not a happy combination and the zinc galvanizing disappears very quickly from the chain. And rusty chain stains the decks and looks crappy! SO . . . new chain this year, and a novel idea of separating the chain from the SS cable by 12″ of 3/4″ spectra rope. This is the insanely strong new fibre rope that far exceeds the load rating of the chain. i am hoping this rope link will act as an electrolysis insulator and protect the zinc coating on the chain. But the anchor and the old chain had to be removed to a float,IMGP6069

.  . .and we painted the winch as it’s easier to do with the rode off of it . . .


And then we reinstalled the cable and the chain.


Then there was the sofa. A really nice, leather sofa. The seat is a large expanse of smooth leather and i always worry that it might get damaged accidentally during the course of the summer. I called our “upholstery specialist” and he informed me it could take weeks to get a colour matched hide so as a precaution, I ordered 1 1/2 hides. Now, I carry a lot of spares on the CIII; everything from spare coffee makers to spare water pumps. I expect I have $20,000 dollars worth of spares aboard. And now spare leather. Just in case.   IMGP6093 IMGP6102

And off we went to the ship yard for our annual haul-out, washing, painting and zincs. I am always nervous as the boat lifts clear of the water. It had been 13 months since I last saw her undersides. 13 months since  our last intense refasteneing of the hull. “I hope everything is ok. I hope there are no surprises like a propeller that has been damaged on a hidden dead-head . . .”

IMGP6107 IMGP6108

But the ship yard crews washed her clean and all was well. She hardly needed a paint job.

IMGP6111  IMGP6114

So Steve and I dodged bad weather and got the ship’s underwater portion of the hull painted , the boot top painted and the water-line gumwood oiled. The back deck is not its usual tidy self when “on the hard”.IMGP6116


We even had time to cork an extra 60 bottles of wine and start another 300 bottles for the 2016 season. This year we will be casking our red wines in oak for the extra special “note”.IMGP6115

Here`s a `small town`story. I bought a new and high quality radar last year and that was stretching the budget for 2014. But I really wanted the Automatic Radar Plotting Aid (ARPA) which is an optional circuit board for the radar. So this year I called the dealer and ordered in the component. ($700.) When the CIII was on the hard in the shipyard I thought it would be a good time to take the radar into the shop for the installation . ..  But when I walked up to the wheel house the radar was GONE!  But I had a pretty good idea of where it was. After a quick call I determined that the radar tech was working in the area and saw the Columbia III in the shipyard and stopped by to ask if I wanted him to take the radar to the shop. As no one was aboard at that moment, he just took it anyhow . . .


ARPA tracks a selected target and predicts its course to determine if a risk of collision exists.



Here’s a cool little side note, on the way home from the shipyard, a 3 hour run in the CIII, a deer swam past in the middle of a swirl of Okisollo Channel tidal whirlpools and back eddies!IMGP6125


And Lead Guide/Skipper, Luke was busy when Steve and I were in the shipyard. He stripped the high profile salon table to bare wood and is in the process of refinishing it. After the stain/sealer he now has about 7 coats of finish on the table and it is starting to look pretty nice!IMGP6129 IMGP6132


Grandson Theo helped the whole family get the CIII back into the shed so we can get serious with our real spring maintenance! Stay tuned for the next exciting, even scintillating blog installment of `Spring Sanding, Painting and Varnishing!