Category Archives: Columbia III

Fall 2019, The “Gardner Report”.


There is a serious dose of synchronicity hovering around the COLUMBIA III, from the many personal connections with her history to her continued engagement on the BC coast. Here is yet another example.

The COLUMBIA III is 63 years old. Her engine is 63 years old. Very few engines last 63 years. But the engine in the COLUMBIA III is no ordinary engine. It is a “Gardner”. A British made engine famous for its reliability, economical fuel consumption, size and quietness. Gardners are legend! So much so that when I purchased the ship 15 years ago an old timer stopped me on the street in Campbell River and asked if the rumour was true, “So you own the old mission ship now, do you?” and I answered affirmatively. “And what’s it got in it for power?” and I replied, “An 8L3, (the biggest Gardner)” and the old sailor pulled off his ball cap and started hitting me with it . . .”You lucky bastard! You’ve got the COLUMBIA III AND it has a GARDNER!!! I hate you!!” Whack, whack, whack with his hat.

But I digress, new Gardners have not been made for years and their numbers have dwindled. And the mechanics who know anything about them have dwindled as well. There was an elderly gentleman in Victoria who was the only known Gardner mechanic on the Pacific coast, but he retired in his 80’s over 15 years ago.  But synchronicity struck again! Enter Terry Coak! Terry grew up in England and was trained as a marine mechanic. He apprenticed as a young lad when the system was more like being indentured. But Terry learned and learned well. He worked for decades on ships and the smaller vessels in the fishing fleet of Great Britain. And many of the fishing boats had Gardner engines. So Terry knows A LOT about Gardner engines . . . . now comes the cool part (if you are selfish like me). Terry decided to retire and move, with his wife, to . .  . you guessed it . . .  to CAMPBELL RIVER! The closest town/harbour to were we live and the COLUMBIA III is moored.

A real, live, genuine, smart, competent,  and experienced Gardner Mechanic! Right in my closest port! Hallelujah!!

Each spring for the last 10 years Terry has come down to give the Gardner engine a check-up and we  talked. Terry is about 75 now and starting, mind you, just starting, to dream of retirement from his job with Desolation Sound Yacht Charters. So I struck him a deal. When I finish my 2019 summer touring season I will bring the ship to Campbell River and you can take the heads off my engine and see what we find.

And Terry agreed. So…..

Cool Alert: Now there was some leg work to get settled before we commenced on the rebuild. After the all-important commitment by Terry the next crucial step is to secure parts. So I googled “Gardner Parts” and found a phone number in England. I then set my alarm and got up at 1 am to call England at business opening. I had found the engine serial number stamped into the block and I was ready when I made the call. It went something like this . . .

Ring, ring, ring . . .

“Hello, David Tobin here of Gardner Spares” . . . ( in the most perfect British accent. Instantly instilling confidence and good will!).

“Good Morning, This is Ross Campbell sitting out in British Columbia, Canada. I have an 8L3 and I need some parts.”

“Ok. Good day, sir. Do you have the serial number?

“Yes, 8L3 / 104634”

“Good. Let me put the phone down for a second as I run up stairs and pull the file.”  (!!!!!! 63 years later???)

and three minutes later, David jumped back on the phone, “Yes, that’s the right serial number. The file shows that your engine left our Works in June 1955, bound for Canada.”   WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So I ordered the initial parts that Terry thought I would need and had them shipped to Canada. . .  That only took about 6 days total! Then Terry and I finalized a start date. I then needed to bring the ship down the day before work commenced.

November 9th, 2019:  The COLUMBIA III had been out of the shed since the first of May. She made it home and into her shed in late October . . .  But out she came again in preparation for her trip to Campbell River for the main engine top end rebuild.

I left the masts down, so I couldn’t use my radars. I had to pick a good day to travel the 3 hours to town.

Bye, bye, Diamond Bay. When will the COLUMBIA III make it home again?

And the next day the work began. Terry arrived with his special Whitworth tools and we started dissembling the main engine promptly. Here the exhaust manifold is removed and the valve covers are off so we can loosen the nuts holding the heads down.

The water cooled exhaust manifold was very heavy, and we lowered it to the floor with a block and tackle. It stayed there for the whole rebuild. More later . .  .

and we broke the torque on the head bolts . . .

and the first six heads popped off very easily . .

But the #2 head (second from the bow) didn’t want to budge. We ended up using two small hydraulic jacks to apply steady, even pressure to slowly ease the head upwards. Once the head was off we  inspected the studs and noticed that they were quite pitted. All the other studs were smooth  and in “like-new” condition. With closer inspection we found that the small O-rings that channel the anti-freeze/coolant between the block and heads were degraded with age. It appears that the leaking antifreeze had corroded and ‘gunked up’ the studs.

I thought I had been “maintaining” the Gardner well over the years but it looked pretty scabby by the time we got the main bits apart. You can see the two nearest cylinders were the scabbiest. But HEY, nothing three weeks of cleaning, washing, degreasing, and painting can’t improve.

You can see the push rods sitting on the block. . .

Here the heads sit on a bunk on the first day, waiting to get carried up the dock to Terry’s truck.

More heads on the engine room work bench . . .

Initially Terry suggested I cut round cardboard inserts for each cylinder to keep the dirt out. I added clean cloth scraps to seal around the card board. Given the amount of grease, crud, brass wire wheel shards and emery cloth dust involved, I was super paranoid about contaminating any of the cylinders. I changed the cloths frequently and vacuumed repeatedly. The Gardner has the unusual feature that the pistons travel up into a recess on the heads so that I could roll the engine over by hand and each piston, in sequence, would protrude about an inch above the block. This allowed me to vacuum around each piston. .  . Repeatedly! I was really nervous that I would screw something up with all my cleaning so I was in hyper-vigilant mode!!   Starting to look cleaner!

Another important point regards the cylinder walls. I am not experienced but the cylinder walls were beautifully smooth and shiny and free of marks or scratches. Terry thought they looked nearly new in condition. As the engine has always run very cleanly and started easily, (lots of compression) and with no smoking, we felt there was no need to inspect the pistons and rings further. Everything seemed to be fine below the heads and we felt confident with rebuilding the top end of the engine. I have been trying to maintain the COLUMBIA III as best as I am able and now I know what the inner workings of the main engine look like. I was confident in the Gardner before in  a rub-my-rabbits-foot way. Now I KNOW I can be confident in it.

I found the best tools for cleaning were a new paint scraper and a variety of brass wire wheels run in the chuck of my drill. The brass could get into all the corners without damaging the parent metal. It took about an hour to clean the top of the block for each cylinder. And then I emery papered the studs until they shone.

There is a really interesting component to this story; the financial side of an engine that lasts 60-100 years. The 10 studs that were pitted were structurally strong enough to remain in service, but Gardner Spares in England could ship me new studs in a few days. At $70 each they might seem unnecessary, but the studs had been in place for at least the last 60 years, so why not make everything perfect now? The price will be spread over the next 60 years.

Once I had the top of the block cleaned and the cylinders spotless I kept the engine well covered.

A big part of this story is poorly documented. Terry took the 8 heads to his shop and completely dissembled them. He called me when he had them apart to report that all was well. There were no broken springs or other bits and the valves were slightly pitted but nothing a good honing wouldn’t fix. By the time I got back up to Terry’s shop about 10 days later, he had reassembled the heads and painted them. 

Here is close up of the underside of the head with the two valves that Terry laboriously hand seated.  The Gardner is unusual as it has no “head gasket”. The heads meet the block in a bare metal, finely honed metal to metal fit. Using a special Gardner tool, Terry had to hone the bottoms of the heads to a precision surface. It was a lot of hand honing . . . Terry said the main metal to metal seats entailed about a 1-2 hour hand-honing work-out per head!

Terry also dissembled the engine oil cooler. He cleaned the individual internal tubes, added a new 60″ long zinc anode inside and replaced all the gaskets when he reassembled it. Here is a peek into the inside of the oil cooler.

Meanwhile, back on the ship I continued my less fancy work. Because the exhaust manifold was too awkward to move, I had to clean the beast in place on the floor of the engine room. It got wire brushed, sprayed with degreaser, washed, rinsed, sprayed again with brake cleaning fluid, dried over heaters and then spray painted with primer and then two coats of grey engine paint. It was a filthy, smelly, time consuming job, especially bad as it was in my nice clean engine room getting every thing else dirty in the process . . . Oh the glamour of owning a wooden boat! and being a DIY’er!!!

Whilst Terry was doing all the work that needed a real mechanic, (someone with years of experience and a knowledgeable, stead hand), I was doing the dirty, mindless nonetheless fun and personally enriching de-greasing, cleaning, priming and painting of the main engine block and lots of various pieces. As I was living on the ship at the time, I painted outside as much as possible to reduce the ship board fumes. Nevertheless, I did take a hotel room for three nights as I repainted the main block. It was just too toxicly smelly to eat and sleep on the ship.

Here the injector fuel lines get a coat of primer on the back deck.

Everything was painted with three coats. So I tried to keep the rotation happening, even if it was a quick coat late at night, just before bed.

I also loaded up on automotive polishing supplies and went to work on the engine air intakes.  Usually I have to travel several hours to pick up supplies but being in town with the boat was a novelty. I would often end up in Campbell River Equipment Supplies several times a day for more paint, or cleaning fluid or brass wire wheels. The guys at the counter knew me pretty well after my month at the dock.

As I was working on the ship I really missed having access to a bench vise to hold the parts in place. I ended up with the pieces clamped between my knees on the aft deck! I think I got as much polish on me as I did on the engine components.

But things got very shiny!

Here is my salon with parts awaiting polishing or painting. I bought a roll of cardboard and covered the floors to keep the carpet and flooring from getting soiled.

And the big day arrived! Here Terry is unloading his truck with 8 rebuilt heads! Ready to go back onto the engine. Exciting!!!

and one of the new studs . . .

. . . and Terry gets the various gaskets ready before we installed the first head.

On the left side of the engine are the two holes that the push rods come up through and it’s the place all the oil lubricating the rocker arms returns to the base. Terry is placing the new O-rings that keep the oil where the oil is supposed to be right before we lower the heads into place.

There are also 4 O-rings per cylinder with little copper sleeves that direct the water/coolant from the heads through to the block.  These little grommets had deteriorated and had been leaking coolant on the outside of the block. Terry concluded that we overhauled the engine at just the right time. There was no physical damage to the metal components but the rubber bits were failing and needed to be replaced. Not bad for ++ 30 years . . . There is no “head gasket” as such on a Gardner. The actual seal between the head and block is a hand-honed metal to metal fit.

I rigged up a 7 foot metal bar lengthwise above the engine so the block and tackle could slide along to any position. Here the first head is lowered into place. I thought the ability to lower the head slowly and in control was a good idea as Terry had worked so hard to hone the bottoms of the heads to perfection. I didn’t want the honed surfaces to get scraped on all the metal studs sticking up out of the block. The first head is now in place. . .

Head number 2 in place . . . this is the head that was difficult to remove but now it slid easily into place on the 6 new studs shipped from England.

And heads 3 to 7 . . .

Here you can see the push rods sticking up and Terry seating the O-rings for the last head.

And the nuts go on the studs snugly but not tight . . .

Then the long exhaust manifold and intake manifolds are bolted in place. Since the heads were not yet bolted down tightly they could individually align themselves squarely with the manifold. Then we could torque the heads down.

Torque the heads? . . . super easy! I watched and Terry worked up a sweat. I was such a great helper!

After the heads were all in place, Terry reset the valve clearances whilst I rolled the engine over by hand. We had also taken the “Gardner” name plates off the heads as the access hole offered a great lifting point. Now, with the heads torqued down, I could start blinging the old girl with my polished hardware . . .  Bling is very important on the COLUMBIA III!

We had removed the fuel control on the second day and dropped it off in Campbell River for over haul. The report later was that the control was in excellent shape and required only a few parts and gaskets from England. Three weeks later we picked it up. Here Terry reconnects the two fuel controls in preparation for reinstalling. . . .

… on the engine . . . Note the levers that can pump fuel up to the injectors individually or lock out the fuel supply to any particular cylinder if one chooses. My old Skipper, Dennis Mattson, has the same engine in his fishboat and he often runs the engine with several cylinders isolated if he has to idle for an extended period. The engine then operates as though it is under a load and doesn’t soot up .. . .

Now here’s a story!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The injectors . . .

Settle in, this is going to take a while . . .

Terry and I took the 8 injectors to a local shop but after a couple of days they decided they did not have the capability  to overhaul the injectors. . . . So I called Gardner Spares in England and arranged for the injectors to be overhauled there. Sounds simple. I paid $500 for next day delivery to England only to have British customs seize the package and demand 500 Sterling Pounds for import duties.That took a week to sort out. Then the folks at Gardner overhauled the injectors in just 4 days and promptly shipped them back to Canada. Unfortunately the courier stalled the shipment in Vancouver and waited a week to notify me! Then it took a mandatory 48 hours for the correct destination to take effect . . .  What! It only took 48 hours to come from England . . . So we had about a week when Terry cooled his heels. I used the  time to reassemble many of the ancillary components to the engine:

Here the new $600.00 coolant thermostat,

and reinstalled water coolant pipes and new silicone hoses and clamps . . .   

new hoses on the engine coolant pump . . .

and the coolant supply lines cleaned and painted and the hoses and clamps replaced

Here the coolant flow sight glass is cleaned and getting repainted . . .

and polished and re-installed . . .

As we had the transmission cooler off I had it overhauled at a radiator shop in town and replaced all the hoses on the cooler and on the main engine. . . . I had it apart, so I may as well replace all hoses too!

I also used the waiting-for-injectors time for upgrading the ship’s radiant heat system of valving.

But the rebuilt injectors finally arrived from England . . .

. . . and were installed and the fuel lines replaced.

Terry then bled the fuel control and used the unique individual pumps that let him pump fuel up into each injector as I slowly rolled the engine over by hand to relieve that pressure on the cam shaft.

And finally there was nothing left to do but press the starter!  The old girl turned over a few times and then simply fired up! Amazing! Terrifying!! I raced up on deck to check the exhaust stack but it was completely smokeless! Cleaner burning than before, even with a cold start.

Awesome! Phew!!!!

Here is a brief video of the first few moments when the Gardner fired up after the top end over-haul. IMG_5283  

And Terry stood and listened and looked and listened and checked and inspected. There were a few water leaks on the fittings I worked on and one fuel leak on a fitting I neglected to tighten . . .

Checking the individual temperature of the exhaust ports.

Then we shut down the engine and re-installed some of the final bling, the valve covers I polished to a glinty gleam were reinstalled.

Then we ran the engine again at the dock for about 30-45 minutes for Terry to give his final listen and visual inspection. It was quite anti-climatic (in a really good way!) when I helped Terry pack his tools off my boat and back up to his truck. A formal handshake and off he went. Wow, Terry! Thank you!

But before the COLUMBIA III left harbour Santa Claus was able to sneak a bottle of good scotch onto Terry’s work bench in his shop . . . .

Here is a seasonal uplift! I spend quite a bit of time, and some money, in the local ship’s chandlers, Ocean Pacific Marine, Enough time that most folks there know me . . . in a nice way. So as the engine rebuild was nearing completion I popped back into the store for the 10,245th time in the last month and they presented me with a present for being their favourite customer.

I’m sure they must have many “favourites” in Campbell River but I was willing to oblige them and shamelessly accept the gift and the boost to my ego . . . I left the store with a lighter step and an arm load of sweets!

Then as is usual after any major stay in Campbell River there reaches a point when all the work is done, the purchases are made, the test runs completed at the dockside and there is nothing left to do but leave. After 33 days, there were no crowds waving handkerchiefs, no brass band blaring triumphant fanfare . . . . nope.  I just started the Gardner up, (no smoking and nice high compression start), untied the shore lines  . . ..

and puttered out of the harbour.

But I had imaginary crowds waving and bands playing and maybe even a 3 gun salute . . . .  it was a lot of work for the last 33 days and the first month of my winter “off” .

Finally!!! The COLUMBIA III is underway again! YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Leaving Campbell River!!!!!!!!!!!

And 3 hours later, just before I made it home, a few transient (Biggs) killer whales passed by. This is such a cool place to call home!


And finally up in my house, a toast for the next 60 years on the venerable Gardner engine in the COLUMBIA III!

The next day, December 15th dawned sunny and warm and we slid the boat back into the shed for the rest of the winter. It seemed to me like I hadn’t had a day off since early September. . .  Now I can start my winter maintenance!!!!  (and write this blog!)

BUT! There were certain other pressing matters awaiting my return after being gone so long! Christmas was right around the corner and my grandson, Theo, was eager to get to work making presents for his immediate family and friends.  The last few years have seen wooden toilet paper holders in the shape of Orcas, (and yellow excavators, Theo is a boy after all) and small wooden boxes for his sister’s treasures and one year, hand-sewn cloth bags for everyone. But as we were short of time I suggested a gigantic batch of Nanaimo Bars . . .  one of the sweetest desserts on the planet. Here he is mixing  a massive bowl of icing sugar and custard powder . . .

And the “fruits” of his labours? Enough Nanaimo Bars to keep a dentist busy for a decade . . .

And finally, all wrapped into individual portions for his list of loved ones! “Merry Christmas Everyone!”

It’s a good thing i washed my hands when I got home!

Spring 19 Regular preseason S&P&V and . . . .

Come April 1st, Sam and Robin and Farlyn and Luke and Steve arrived to begin the annual spring sanding, painting, varnishing and cetoling. Tavish arrived a few days later.

There are hours and hours of dust and sand paper, but mixed in are a crazily disparate list of tasks needing completion. This year seemed especially hectic for me and I didn’t take enough photos, but here is a sampler of the month’s activity.

The usual fun begins with sanding the ship’s exterior . . Here ace kayak guide, Robin Humphreys gets to work . . .

and Luke leans into a special sanding tool he made to clean out the seams on the hull. Bystanders often think our hull is fiberglass and are surprised that it is original wood.

And skipper/daughter Farlyn working away . . .

And another Ace kayak guide, Sam Lam, decided to see what all the excitement was about in April . . . “Here’ this is a wire wheel. Clean my engine room floor boards.”

One of the consequences of redoing the front deck is that the underside of the deck is the ceiling of the forward stateroom and toilet. This might sound like a small detail, but it wasn’t. Number one, ALLLLLLLL the debris, (read rotten wood, shavings, sawdust, rusty bolts and drippy hydraulic oil) fell through the deck beams onto the bunks, toilet, vanity sink and floor below . . . And Tavish had meticulously resanded and painted and varnished this state room only two years ago . . . So I cleaned the room repeatedly to keep ahead of the debris and finally made new ceiling panels using the old ones as patterns. These were then painted and finally reinstalled, plus the hydraulic lines, water lines,  electrical connections and  ceiling lights . .

And the first exterior paint gets applied. We start on the top of the ship and work down . . .

The lazarette was completely emptied, vacuumed and painted. Here the removable floor boards are sanded and painted.

After much sanding the Cetol oil finish is applied to the gumwood . . .   

And whilst the sanding and paint of the ship proceeds, there are numerous side projects that get attended to . ..

Here Steve makes a replacement box for our spare life jackets . . .

I modified a book shelf in the salon to add critical library space aboard . . .

And I was fed up with replacing expensive waterproof kayak lifting winch controls that leaked and failed  . . . .so I designed my own controls out of mahogany and brass that are easy to maintain.

If anyone ever wonders why my tours are so expensive this photo might help them understand . . . The diesel fired water heater has three small sensors that regulate its operation. I goofed up and “blew” one of the overheat “fuses” and so when I ordered a replacement I thought I would get “spares” for the ship’s inventory . . .  2 of each, 6 total. . . .

You guess . . .        Well, it surprised me at $700.00 for the 3 little baggies!

And FINALLY the transom is DONE, DONE, DONE!!!!  Sanded, stained, 5 coats of varnish, new stainless steel ladder and crisp new name decal . . .  Now that was a lot of work. Phew!           THANK YOU, LUKE HYATT!!!!

Ah! The annual joy of getting the life-raft winched off the roof of the COLUMBIA III, transported to Victoria for inspection and returned to Sonora Island a month later. Here Steve meets me at the end of the road with my skiff. The sheet of plywood acted as a bridge between my truck backed into the water and the skiff with its special rack made to hold the life-raft . . .

Every two years, (if we are lucky and the guests have been behaving . . .)  Luke removes the salon table from the boat and takes it to his shop to refinish. Usually it only needs sanding, a couple of new coats of finish and a good polish to ‘shine’r’ up. Here the finished table travels across the bay by water . . .

Gets off loaded onto my dock . . .

and bolted back in place. I advise my passengers at the start of every tour to “Please treat the bright-work like it’s your Grandma’s coffee table!”

Every 12 years our CO2 cylinders need to be hydro-statically tested. That is easily said, but not easily done. The two cylinders weight over 150#s!!, have no handles and must come up a spiral staircase, go over the side of the CIII, onto the dock and then into a skiff that transports them by water to my truck waiting at the waters edge on the beach. Then they are loading into my pickup truck and driven to Campbell River 2 hours away and unloaded at the inspection depot. 2 weeks later, reverse the procedure . . . 

and here is a funny one . . . A wooden boat colleague recently retired and inquired if I was interested in his accumulated supply of edge-grain clear boat lumber. Unfortunately he forgot to confirm our rendezvous so I awoke to the sound of his text saying, “see you in two hours!”

“What!! The herring skiff was fully loaded with a pallet of cement and lumber for Steve’s construction project . . . So we scrambled to get the skiff unloaded and zip to Brown’s Bay where we meet the trailer of lumber precisely on time. Here Steve is lounging on the return home.

And into a shed for dry storage.

I need to accumulate good boat lumber when and where I am able.

Another little upgrade . . . we use a boarding ladder to climb aboard the COLUMBIA III at dockside. But we never had a real designated place to store the ladder whilst on tour. So I moved our EPIRB and created a spot and Luke created a custom ladder holder. Now the ladder is stowed and lashed and ready for inclement weather.


And yet another little project . . . two years ago Transport Canada asked me to move my 2 big CO2 cylinders into the engine room as a precaution against inadvertent leaks into the passenger accommodations . . .  but then TC contacted me to request I upgrade the protections on the system now located in the engine room. So after deep and ponderous thoughts, I found a CO2 detection system that could be modified. Now if my CO2 systems leaks CO2 into the engine room there is a warning (audio and visual) that alerts the crew and an exhaust fan is automatically triggered to vent the engine room too. But as Farlyn pointed out, I also needed to be able to disarm the system when I actually wanted to  fill the engine room with CO2 in the event of a fire . . . So a new switch and placard and updated Standard Operation Procedures Manual.. Here is my rough schematic. . .

And one of the displays located outside the engine room compartment.

And the real sign that we are getting close to being done is when the decks get refinished. No more dust or paint drips or even shoes are allow now!!!

And the biggest day of the year when the ship comes out of the shed, polished, painted, sparkling and glinty into the bright light of day.

WOW!!!!! YAY!!!!!!!!!! PHEW!!!!!!!!

And the masts go up, with Tavish in the rigging . . .

There she is!

And another project!!! I added a new weather station sensor, a new anemometer and a transducer that reads sea level temperature. These were then tied into the main ship’s computer for display on the navigation program. The photo below shows my wiring of the various components. Projects like these take a lot of time as I have to learn the system requirements, figure out what is needed and then try to squeeze it all in somewhere in the wheel house in a logical, tidy manner . . .

The weather station sensor.

Once the ship is painted and cleaned, all the mattresses, bedding, towels, books and kayaking supplies move from my house down to ship. When we start making beds with quilts and pillow cases we know we are getting close!

And the annual emergency flashlight battery replenishment . . .

Here some of the crew are engaged in the annual spring recurrent training. There are usually several upgrades to procedures and the Standard Operating Procedures manual to review.

Before our annual Transport Canada dockside inspection we test all the safety equipment including the fire fighting pumps and hoses.

We must be getting close to completion. Three copies of my “Pre-Dockside Inspection Report” are finally completed.

And finally the ship is PERFECT for the arrival of our Transport Canada Inspector. I try to get everything ready for him. Here is the wheel house waiting for his inspection. Important documents laid out and the contents of our Abandon Ship bag on display.

Essential gear ready for easy inspection in the tender as well.

And yet again, despite lazing around all winter, despite completely neglecting the COLUMBIA III in the off-season, despite financial neglect and inattention to detail, our Transport Canada inspector begrudgingly issued a safety inspection certificate for another year . . . Phew!.  Scraped by for another year. I guess I should try harder to maintain the old girl.

Maybe next winter I’ll get around to doing some maintenance on her . . . . .

Shipyard. Spring 2019

Ok Ok, Trying to get the ship ready for the season AND write about it is kinda crazy so this is going to be quick.

The COLUMBIA III comes out of  the water every year for at least a minimal wash, inspection, anti-fouling paint job, and replacement of zincs. In boater talk this is called “a shave and a hair cut.” Other years require more in-depth procedures like pulling the rudder off and drive shaft out for Transport Canada to inspect. But this was an “off year” and therefore a smaller work load for me. Except, that is, that I cut my bow iron off.

As I say every year, I NEVER like seeing the COLUMBIA III lifted high out of the water, “It just don’t seem NATURAL!” And I never really relax until she is safely back in the water again.

Here she comes out and I have my first peek at her undersides since last May, 2018.


The first order of business was for me to sand the water-line gumwood. It seems like the ship is 150 feet long when I am holding a heavy sander up on the top of a step ladder. Add the poor visibility of a face respirator and you have all the makings of a fun few days!  

Here’s a quick step back in time . . . another project was to make a mount for a new transducer for a second sounder. This will enable me to have sea water temperature readings in the wheel house. Cool and useful for research tracking for the local First Nations . . .

and here is the finished product. I think this particular job required at least 87 trips between the chapel bilge on the INSIDE of the vessel, up the internal stairs, out the door, along the side deck, down the 15′ shipyard staircase and crawl on my hands and knees to the point on the OUTSIDE of the hull where the new transducer was going to go . . . . only to realize I’d left the wrench I needed back inside . . .  it’s good exercise working without a helper on the INSIDE.


and then new bow iron . . . .  It is always good to remain flexible . . .

I had planned on having the bow iron made out of regular steel. This would require the iron to be fabricated in place on the ship, then removed and shipped to Vancouver to be galvanized and then reinstalled on the ship . . . But after a whole day with two welders attempting to make the iron in mild steel, the welders vetoed my plan. They felt there was no way to make the iron in place that would not cause it to spring inwards upon removal for galvanizing. They felt I would never get the iron back onto the ship. So they suggested I switch to stainless steel that they could form and secure in place on the ship. So, on day two they started again. Here they ran a new SS bar down the stem and tacked the side plates on.

There was much bending, prying and trimming before I added many, many tubes of Sika FLex  sealant to the hull before the plates were welded into place. I was able to locate the forward most oak rib in the for’csle and I ran 1/2″ SS bolts thru to pull the side plates against the hull. It was satisfying to see the sealant squeezing out along all the edges. These bolts were then carefully welded in place and the nuts cut off leaving a flush but secure fastening. The 1/2″ x 5″ SS lag screws that hold the bar against the gumwood stem were also welded in place and ground off flush after.

The existing portion of the bow iron that was well below water-line had not deteriorated and the new SS sections were welded into the lower portions of the existing iron.

And the boot top!!! . . .  The shipyard  crews were supposed to do the waterline detail but they were too busy . . . . so I did it myself. I do love working on the tippy top of a step ladder . . . Here’s a dusty me, getting the water line ready . . .

and taping the waterline . . .

and painting the black boot-top stripe . . .

Getting pretty shiny!        

I also painted the draft marks carefully. . . . very carefully!      The gumwood was sanded and refinished as far up as I could reach standing on the top of a step ladder. The rest can be done from a paint float in the boat shed. Starting April 1st.     

Oops! . . . . how did this picture of my grand-daughter, Maeve, slip in here  .. . . .?

The new bow iron in all its glory! The best part about the new stainless steel bow iron is that now, when the swinging anchor bumps the bow iron, it will not chip off the zinc coating and it will not rust!!!! YAY!!!!

And one week ahead of time, (because I didn’t need to ship the bow iron to Vancouver to get galvanized) the COLUMBIA III slipped back into the water.

The new bow iron gets wets!

And I am finally home. Shipyard alone is a lot of work for me. Now to get ready for the REAL work to begin with the crews, April 1st!  But that’s the next post . . . . .