Monthly Archives: March 2019

Winter 18/19 . . . a few, wee projects on the go . . .

Ok, This is supposed to be the maintenance blog of the COLUMBIA III. I have been collecting a few photos over the winter and dropping them in this post for later assembly into a coherent, cogent, witty and illuminating wooden boat testimonial . . .

But now it is March and I am in the shipyard working on the underwater component of our maintenance schedule and as I start to assemble this blog I review the photos and edit the duds and the repeats and try to build a story . .  but I am exhausted. A few days in the shipyard, chasing welders and getting the hull ready for anti-fouling has left me weary. Today was a big day. I was out sanding the water-line boot-top and gumwood from 7-9 am and then the welders showed up to create a new stainless steel bow iron. That was almost 7 hours with the welders without a stop. I tried to suggest a coffee but they didn’t bite. “Just get us a glass of water . . .”

So here is a look back on the winter’s projects and I weary just reviewing the first steps we made last fall. There is nothing more “classic wooden ship” then digging into a potential Pandora’s Box when a fool (read “Ross”) decides to make some aspect of the ship a little bit more ship-shape.

The tale starts like this . . .

Last fall, my good friend, Mark, came for a visit and tied to my dock for a few days.

Ross, is there anything I can help you with?”
“No, no. There’s nothing really.”

“Well, If I don’t have anything to do then I am going to leave tomorrow . . ”

“Ahhh, It depends on what you mean by “helping”, Mark. If you mean putting in long hours of dirty grinding and sanding and wearing respirators and hearing protection then you can help. If you mean keeping your town clothes unsullied, then you will want to move to a quieter bay for tomorrow night.”

So Mark said he wanted to work . . . and here he is bringing a paint float into place for me.

I started the winter with a process of triage.

#1. The bow iron has been bugging me for years. It was rusty and perilously thin. Paint would no longer stay on it and I recoated it several times a summer to hide the ugly rusty bare metal.  So this was the winter to do something about it. I wanted to take a look in behind the metal early enough in the winter that I could allocate time for major repairs if I found anything scary lurking behind the plates.

So with Mark holding the paint float steady I beavered away with a cutting disc to remove the old bow iron. . . actually about 10 cutting discs . . .

I couldn’t cut off the metal below the water-line, but I could take off enough to see the gumwood bow stem was still in good shape. Sigh. Nightmare #2,334 averted. (You might gather that I am prone to 2am restless sleeps imagining the WORST outcomes . . .) But I didn’t need to replace the bow stem and I would budget extra time in the spring shipyard to get the metal replaced.

So . . . #2. “Mark, let’s now cut off the rusty, deck staining anchor roller off the front deck and see what we find . . .

Extra covering to protect our fine ship . . .

And it came as no surprise that some of the Douglas Fir decking that had been hidden for 60 years was rotten. We had never had a deck leak but I guess the metal plate was acting as a sealant.

With this new information, I decided to remove the anchor winch to see what was under IT! (It is handy having a steel framed shed over head for a lifting point!)

I used a second come-along to pull the winch over the boat shed walkway.

It was winter, daylight was short and I worked nights as well . . .

I used a tiger torch, scrapers and a heavy duty sander to expose the rest of the fore deck.

I almost melted my phone trying to capture this selfie!

And if we were going to redo the front deck, the forward hatch coaming had to come off too. Here I used a circular saw to whittle it down . . .


“Gee, the forc’sle just got really dirty and drafty!”

#3. Well, we didn’t seem to have enough joy in our ship-maintenance life so we thought we might look for more fun in our transom . . .  I have always been noticing that we had a hard time keeping the varnish on the transom looking perfect. It tended to get cloudy too quickly and we had been stripping the whole transom to bare wood every two years trying to keep it looking acceptable. Something was wrong and I wanted to find out.

As the stern was made of two layers of 3/4″ mahogany planks we thought we would remove the outer layer and see what was going on . . . This is were Luke jumps in with glee and I have to look away and kinda peek over my shoulder to see what he is doing. . . . POOR COLUMBIA III !!

And we found the problem. At some point in the restoration of the COLUMBIA III during the 1990’s, the stern was replaced, but the shipwrights erroneously constructed the two layers of mahogany without any ship’s felt or sealant between the layers. Water was therefore getting in and being trapped between the layers. Despite being above the water line, the boards in both layers were soaking wet. It was no wonder that we had trouble getting the varnish to stick . . . So, in for a penny in for a pound,   Luke and I removed the galvanized swim grid and got serious!

Wow! The lazarette just got so much more ventilation!!

I think Luke gets just a little too happy taking my boat apart  . . . I guess it does help him finance his winter!

So now we had our winter’s work laid out for us. Luke took on the reconstruction of the front deck and the transom and I went back to my usual invisible maintenance chores. I tend to do the more menial tasks and Luke takes on the jobs that require his fancy wood and metal working skills. As the weather stayed a chilly -3-7 degrees C, Luke alternated between the front of the boat and the transom. If something was gluing, he might take some time on the bow. If it was really cold, he’d retreat to his shop to prepare his materials or work on the new deck box.

So whilst Luke proceeded on the projects with clear objectives that he can budget his time around, i chip away on the smaller, fiddlier details.

#4 thru to 386 . . . We have always had difficulty with a pair of fresh water tanks under our #4 stateroom bunks. They would often air-lock, not fill completely or seem to not drain completely. A better venting system was on the long term “to-do” list.  Then last summer a very high pressure marina fresh water hose was used that split one of the two tanks . . . I managed a temporary patch for the last month of the season but the tanks needed replacing.

Here are two new tanks with new fittings installed on the dock. I carried them down and installed them under the bunk in stateroom #4. While I was in there, i added a new 3/4″ vent line magically snaked through the engine room and the salon and out the side of the deckhouse.

I didn’t like how the tanks where held in place so I used  “the-old-scraps-of-wood-and-glue-gun” technique for making some patterns and found some nice clear yellow cedar for a support system . ..

and the leather sofa, yes, yes the most comfortable place IN THE WORLD to have a morning coffee, was showing signs of wear and it seemed perilously thin. It would seem like a simple matter but it took a long time to find an upholstery expert up to the task of repairs.  Then all I had to do was shrink wrap a 110% water proof packaging and drive the 5 hours to Victoria from Sonora Island to drop it off.

and the ship’s emergency radio battery bank needed replacement and an ancillary 120VAC charger upgraded . . .

and two new maple cutting boards made for the galley as per chef’s request . . .

and install a new transmission pressure gauge in the wheelhouse in an unused spot on the panel . . .

and add back lighting for all the gauges . . .

and . . . .get the swim grid to Campbell River and borrow a flat deck truck and a helper from  the shipyard and get it to a sand blaster to clean it and then get it to the freight company north of town and ship it to Vancouver and get it re galvanized and get it shipped back to Campbell River and borrow the flat deck truck again and move it back to the boat launching ramp in Campbell River and bring it back to Sonora Island by skiff . . .      

Meanwhile, Luke kept working . . . We decided it would be best if he dissembled the front deck planks so he could make patterns if required as the pieces came off.

Here, the new clear fir starts to go back on. The deterioration of the decking thankfully did not transfer into the deck beams. The “bad” was removed and the solid deck beams were ready to receive new planks. As we still have left over 3 1/2″ silicone bronze #14 screws left over from refastening the hull, we used these to secure the deck planks.   

OH!!! These shots really warm my heart! Look at that BEAUTIFUL new wood that will be securely holding my anchor winch next summer!!! Gawd!!! Luke does nice work! . . . I’d stop by the front deck and gasp, “Luke! I love you!!”   I hope he’s used to having a weird father-in-law by now . . .

and a new clear yellow cedar deck hatch made in his shop and now bolted down.

When it came time to caulk the decks my Skipper and Mentor for the last 47 years, Dennis, came to demonstrate the fine art of cotton and oakum  . . .  Grandson Theo listened in too.

Although the two projects proceeded simultaneously, I have kept the photos in two separate threads here to keep you sleepy readers from blacking out in boredom . . .

Here the first inner layer mahogany plank is getting installed . . .

and for your sake, I haven’t included a photo of each plank as it went on but this process happened over about a 30 day period.

The last board is jacked into place with small hydraulic jacks.

and teak covering boards over the ends.

I am particularly happy with the results. We changed the construction method and screwed the first layer of planks to the vertical frames, but the second layer was COMPLETELY bedded with Sika Flex sealant and secured with screws from the inside of the vessel. This eliminated dozens and dozens of exterior screw heads that would have  required to be counter sunk and plugged. All the tiny plugs were a big source of water incursion in the transom before we started.

and of course, I gave the renewed swim grid two coats of epoxy primer to better protect it . . .

and drilled and tapped holes for holding on the new rubber bumper . . .  Now that was sticker shock! . .  20 feet of rubber . . . everything else was renewed, I may as well replace the rubber while I’m at it .  .    It was $60 per foot!

The final fairing and sanding commenced . . .

. . . adjustments to the swim grid pads . . .

One coat of varnish and we re hung the swim grid . . . This took about 4 hours for the two of us.


WOW! That looks spectacular, Luke!!

And the shipyard date was fast approaching and Luke was working long, long days to get the ship ready to leave her protective shed.

Yes, that is a lot of masking tape to ensure the sealant stayed where Luke wanted it.

Cotton, oakum and then sealant . . .  getting close!

Mixed in with all this, Luke welded up an new deck plate for the #2 anchor rode. I shipped it to Vancouver and it was also galvanized. I had the roller sand blasted and italso made the trip to the galvanizer in Vancouver. Here I am epoxy coating the pieces in a spare bedroom. My shop was too cold . . .


And Luke created new gumwood bedding blocks for the anchor winch with new stainless bolts

Yay!!! The new deck plate that started this whole restoration was finally back in place. Now, what is not wonderful about this!!!

Complete with a new stainless steel bolt tapped by a machine shop for an inset grease nipple and grease channel .

The anchor winch swings aboard hours before the boat is due out of the shed. Luke’s timing on the two month long project is down to the wire! Here Luke’s dad is helping out . . . The other Grandpa.

Then the gate swings open. Push Theo!

Now, Pull Theo!

A temporary spare anchor for the trip to Campbell River. The main rode is still lying on my dock.

And I woke up with the COLUMBIA III sitting outside my window ready to head to the shipyard. Whew!, That was some winter of laying around doing nuthin!

Later that afternoon, I pulled away from my dock, headed for the shipyard and that adventure! 

I guess my company name is “Mothership Adventures!”

All these wonderful behind-the-scenes, wooden boat maintenance ADVENTURES!!!