Monthly Archives: February 2016

Glamour Boy vs Marine Voodoo

So our son-in-law, Luke, gets all the glory.

He gets to take a chainsaw to the pristine woodwork of the Columbia III and then he gets to fix it with all his glamorous skill set. He gets to use gorgeous clear first growth fir and he uses ostentatiously showy fancy wood joinery to piece it all together. Nothing but the best for Luke ($5000 worth of glue alone so far) and everyone in the channel stops by to see how the progress is going. Accolades always follow, topped with the really grinding comments reminding me how lucky I am to have Luke on the team.

Well, really? I am tired of it all!

I have worked every day since the ship tied up in October, but does anyone ever ask me what I am working on? Oh no, no, no! I have the “Marine Voodoo” file.

What is in the “Marine Voodoo” file? Well, thanks for asking!

All the stuff that keeps the ship running smoothly or allows it to remain up to date in the highly regulated world. Most notably, it is all INVISIBLE! If I do my job really, really well, all the work vanishes and the average guest will simply look out at the leaping whales, the grizzling grizzly bears and the overpoweringly scenic scenery. But they will never know about the magic marine voodoo that keeps toilets pumping, water flowing, electronic gizmos interfacing, and government regulators sleeping soundly.

So for those of you fascinated by the Voodoo file, you will be intrigued to read about my heroic (though invisible) exploits.

A major commitment for me this winter was the installation of a water maker. In the already densely complex engine room I had to find space for a new system of pumps, filters, desalinator membranes and the the plumbing to get sea water to the system, waste-water over board and fresh water into the existing tankage. Certain existing systems had to be relocated to make room and then 12VDC and 120VAC power had to “magically” be provided for the desalinator. If all goes well and the machine performs as specified, guests won’t know the machine exists. The only difference will be silent acceptance where once there was chiding for those taking a lengthy shower. But to the Doctor of M.V., it’s $10,000 and a month of invisible work.


I know the next photo is boring. Being a Dr. of M.V. IS boring, but this picture means a lot to me. The new water maker required that I relocate the vent for the fresh water tanks and this discrete little vent (yet to be painted white) represents a passel of trips to the plumbing store, yards of new piping and yoga master contortions by the Dr. of M.V. to get it all hooked together in cramped quarters. All, so that no one will ever know or care. What a rich life I have!


And part of the freshwater system upgrade was the installation of an ultra-violet sterilization filter. Sounds easy, but the engine room on the Columbia III is pretty crowded already, so fitting this in took a certain magical touch.

Not all projects just work perfectly the first time. In this instance I neglected to put a critical o-ring in place. It was about 8pm when I opened the water value to test my workmanship. There was a SPECTACULAR spraying of water over my entire work bench, tools and supply shelves in the engine room.

“Mmm, I think I’m done for today”.

I turned off the water, left the engine room work bench dripping and walked up to the house for a small scotch.

“Three steps forward, one step back.” There is always tomorrow.


Next on the list was the installation of a new state of the art Fire Detection system to meet modern passenger carrying regulations. It is easy to say, “Install 13 new smoke detectors”.  It is quite a different matter to magically sneak 250′ of wire through out every room of the ship and have the wires not sully the classic look of the completely finished interior wood working. And then I had to connect all this to the new brain box, and interface this new system to the existing general ship’s alarm panel.

Sitting on the wheel house driver’s seat, our guests are unaware that I spent quite a bit of time stringing detector wires in the compartment directly below.


No corner of the vessel seemed to escape the turmoil.


A new detector in the wheelhouse . . .


Bunks dismantled to facilitate stringing wires from the wheel house at the front of the ship to the very aft storage compartment called the lazarrette.


New detector in the main salon,


The new fire detection system brain box.


And the new annunciator panel.  After all that work I lit a piece of paper towel on fire and waved it below the new salon detector.

“Bells!” “Buzzers!” “Strobe lights!” “Annunciators!”, “Salon Fire!!”

. . . . Magic! And satisfying.


Another couple of small projects were the installation of a new satellite telephone, (they are like cellphones and require frequent upgrades),


And an upgraded third VHF marine radio.  These little projects in the wheel house always need a lot of new wires and connections to external antennas  that require a “tidy hand” to keep the wheel house looking professional.


Of course, Glamour Boy Luke has no compunction about asking for assistance with his higher priority project so I was pressed into service in the evenings helping to pre-coat the plywood for the aft-deck-head.


Dr. of M.V. selfie:


vs. Glamour Boy portrait:


Of course the ship needs to stay warm all winter. The small salon fire place runs 365 days a year. But, oh, oh! That requires a few trips a winter to Campbell River. Its about an hour each way by skiff to pick up a couple of barrels of stove oil, then I transfer them into barrels in the boat shed. Free coffee at the fuel dock to send me on my way.


Another project on the go. The existing domestic hot water heater decided to start leaking last summer… Yes; Luke was the one to devise an epoxy patch to make it through the summer. Heroic? Yes. Somewhat less glamorously, here I am dry assembling the new tank and its fittings in preparation for installation.


Pet-peeve list number 2,348.5. The main electrical panel is inspected in detail each year.  The power must be off for the inspection, so the operation occurs in the dark. So, I thought it would be professional to provide the wonderful inspector a 12VDC light to make his inspection more “Columbia III-ish“.


The galley stove is the Percheron work horse on the ship and the cook is the true unsung hero of the summer. A better, more level work surface was requested and I custom ordered in a new center grill for the big Wolf Stove.


Happy cook, happy ship.

When all the galley stove burners are in use cooking a meal, the large kettle had no “home”. Because ships galleys are never big enough the kettle was constantly in the way. Solution? Special order two stainless steel hooks and bolt them to the stove ventilation hood for a new kettle home.



More invisible magic: I always have a private pet-peeve list.

I made two nice mug racks about 10 years ago but then we upgraded to a set of mugs more “classic shippish”. The new mugs rattled in their slots. Here are two new racks I made, roughed in and awaiting finish sanding, staining and, well you know, 4 coats of varnish.


Speaking of magic, Dennis is the Master of Marine Voodoo and my “go-to” reference for anything and everything Marine. Here, my skipper of 44 years turns 81. Cake compliments of Fern.


The magic continues… A leaky main engine fire pump is getting replaced and all ancillary parts over hauled.


Four main salon windows were fogging up on sunny days. Voodoo: I made patterns and ordered in the custom cut, tempered and sealed thermo-pane windows. Now we need to destroy the existing teak window frames to remove the old panes, make new frames and, well, you guessed it, varnish! 5-8 coats of it, as these are an exterior surface which need the extra protection.


Ok, ok. Invisible marine magic isn’t glamourous. I know. I know! The next post will feature Luke’s exciting new developments in the aft roof reconstruction.

Let me know if anyone wants a post on my “Doctor of Office Voodoo” file. It’s super invisible.

Ross, Dr. MV