Winterworks 2013

I putter along on the Columbia III all winter. Some projects are for fun, some are to make the boat more efficient, some make the boat safer and some are simply repairs keeping a 56 year old boat in tip-top shape. I also answer emails, take reservations and field questions from potential guests but generally at some point in each day over the winter I put on my coveralls and head down to the boat and/or workshop to move forward on some aspect of the various projects I have chosen.

This year I decided to refinish the 5 salon chairs. What a simple statement!!! Five chairs dissembled into 20 legs, 20 braces, 5 seats, and five tired backs. I drove the 4 hours to Victoria and bought a 4″x6″x12′ timber of mahogany and designed and then paid to have 5 new chair backs machined on a computer controlled router. I constructed five new seat bottoms and ordered a custom green cowhide and had the new seats cushioned. I sanded all the pieces with 80 grit, 120 grit, 240 grit with power sanders and again by hand. I stained all the pieces twice and hand rubbed them to set the stain. I varnished all the pieces  and sanded them again, and then Luke took a day to reassemble the 5 chairs . . .  now they await 2 more coats of varnish, ( hand sanded between coats don’t forget!) and then the leather will get installed . . . . Remember the question? “What do you do in the winter?” !!








There will be more pictures of these chairs as the work progresses.IMGP5212

Here, Tavish and I remove the main anchor winch drum to repair a broken safety “dog” on the drum. Only one day to dissemble the winch, extract the broken bolt, manufacture the replacement and reassemble the drum and recoil the cable and chain rode.IMGP5223

Another little project. The wheel house driver seat was showing signs of wear and was just not up to Columbia III standards. We had to custom order an entire hide to match the existing  leather upholstery. The craftsman who did the replacement work did an excellent job of matching the old seat back with the new seat bottom. IMGP5253

Oh, oh!  . . . and  I had to find time to make our grandson a present for his first birthday. Wow! It took alot of time to make that little toy . . . two coats of grey and red and black and white and green and brown and varnish and brass tie-up posts . . . . like I don’t spend enough time in the shop working on boats as it is!IMGP5260

Ok this is crazy, but it took 2 1/2 months for a replacement coffee maker that fits the galley to arrive in Campbell River . . . I don’t know how many phone calls I made just arranging a COFFEE MAKER . . . shheesh.IMGP5279

Here I had 3 “trays” custom made to catch dust under the wheel house floor grates. There is a lot of storage here but dust and dirt rained down through the grates and I was tired of the messIMGP5281

Little idea #44385: We never have enough reference book shelf space and I saw a potential spot. Here is the stairway down to the forward accommodations. I removed the fish, repositioned the light and installed a new shelf.IMGP5102

As I had the brass plaque off, I revarnished its mount and polished the heck out of the brass.IMGP5132

Here is the finished shelf. I had to have a machinist replicate the brass rod holders for each end of the brass retaining bar. At only $75.oo each I am glad I didn’t make the shelf more complex!! When I went to move the light down 8″ its copper clad wire wasn’t long enough. So I spent a whole day pulling a similar wire out of a different hidden part of the boat (which I could replace with more modern plastic coated wire) so I could match the copper sheilded wire used in the rest of the salon . . .IMGP5283

Here is a small safety related project: I installed 3 new check-valves to prevent accidental flooding. Because of the complexity of the emergency pumping system, it was previously possible to allow sea water to enter the ship if the wrong combination of valves was opened. The new check values remedy this issue. Nothing several days of plumbing couldn’t fix. First the “old”  . . .IMGP5084

and a few fittings . . . IMGP5096

and then the “new” check valves installed.IMGP5091

A good friend of mine retired to Mexico and lives in shorts all winter. Our boat shed is unheated and temperatures often hover about freezing. I dress accordingly.  When it is really cold I count all the pockets I have on . . .  4 on my jeans, 2 on my shirt, 3 on my down vest,  6 on my coveralls and 2 on my fleece coat. Pocket index: 17. My friend wrote me an email, “Ross, take a break. Come visit me in Mexico. Pocket index: 1.” I sent him this photo . . . IMGP5106

To meet modern environmental standards I took much of the winter to figure out how to retro fit blackwater holding tanks into the Columbia III. This was quite a project to find room, plumb in and integrate the new system into the existing high quality woodworking on the boat. Here is a sequence of shots as I installed a holding tank in the very bow of the ship for one cabin’s toilet. The custom made tank is on the floor . . .IMGP5097

and then secured in place . . .IMGP5116

and plumped and covered . . .IMGP5172

and sanded . . .IMGP5216


and the whole area repainted and trimmed with varnished mahogony and a new toilet installled . . .IMGP5284

and new mirrors cut and fitted.IMGP5288

And then I started on a second holding tank for the aft head, shoe-horned into the engine room.IMGP5085

Here with a new extension to the workbench to integrate the new tank into the ship’s engine room.IMGP5095

And the aft head now needed to be pumped through the water tight bulkhead into the engine room. Here is the new fitting in place, viewed from the toilet on oneside and the engine room on the other.IMGP5173


And then, of course, as I had the toilet out and drilling holes in the bulkhead, I may as well sand the whole room and repaint it . . . and then install a new toilet . . . more pictures yet to come.IMGP5289

Project #5355.4  We found a small patch of “soft” wood on the bulwarks last summer when a chair bumped the area and it was on the list of winter repairs. Here my mentor/skipper Dennis inspects the small patch showing just beside the hawse hole. IMGP5112

. . . and a whole new “project” begins . . .IMGP5110

Daylight is short here in the wet Pacific Northwest and Luke often worked late getting the bulwarks repaired. Here are two night shots of the boat shed viewed from the walkway in front of our house.IMGP5125





After routing out any unsound wood, Luke laminated new clear fir into the slot.IMGP5128



A large part of this job was the removal of the metal hawse hole ring. It was riveted on with 4, 8″ long x 5/8″ bronze rods. Now bronze rod is not easy to locate anymore, but a marine foundry in the States was able to mail me the required material. Here are some shots of the riveting process.IMGP5275



And while Luke as in the “mood”, he repaired two short deck planks that had a small patch of rot around one butt joint.IMGP5134

Mentor Dennis leads the deck caulking class . . . IMGP5141

Here is some nice clear, edge-grained fir I flew down the hill with the helicopter over 15 years ago!!IMGP5142

Here’s another little project. I felt frustrated that my navigation computer didn’t have easy access to a keyboard. The wireless one I had been using was big, clunky and often buried in a chart drawer when I wanted to make a simple entry such as a chart notation . . . so I had an idea . . .    Here, the first shot is of me gluing up a new ‘housing’ to store the new keyboard in . Unfortunately, I am not the greatest woodworker and I made three, yes three! of these mahogany stands before I felt comfortable that the quality would match the existing wood work in the Columbia III’s wheel house. My work shop is pretty cold in the winter and I carry the projects up to the house for the glue to set up over night.IMGP5083

Keyboard on brass tray pulled out on stainless steel ball-bearing slides.IMGP5179

And keyboard pushed in when not in use. . . . A mere 200hours of fiddling and ordering in special slides by mail and locating brass sheet and having a metal shop fold its edges and staining and varnishing 4 coats , and remounting the monitor. . . . I think you get the idea.IMGP5180

And we had the boat out for the annual below-water maintenance. This year, for the first time in 56 years, the COLUMBIA III was airborne.IMGP5224





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