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,


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