Category Archives: Winter Maintenance

“To bed”

At the end of every season we put the COLUMBIA III “to bed” for the winter. As we live on a remote island and produce our own limited power through solar, micro-hydro and back-up generators, we do not produce enough power to plug in heaters in the ship over the winter. The modest salon fireplace running on stove-oil provides the only steady source of heat. It flickers away 365 days of the year. As a consequence of this limited heating, we remove as many items made of fabric or paper from the ship to avoid attracting moisture and mildew.

Therefore, every book, cardboard box, mattress, towel, sheet, face cloth, quilt, pillow, life-jacket, spray skirt, . . .  (I expect you get the idea) is  removed from the ship . . . .

and lugged up the dock . . .

in many, many loads . . .

up to my small cabin and stored here for the winter!

Funny how my small place gets even smaller with the extra “supplies” on hand . .  . I certainly rock the concept of an emergency preparedness kit  . . .

For those of you attentive Readers, I know you will be concerned. Yes, the little stove-oil fireplace runs 24/7/365 even when the ship is only checked once a day during the quieter winter months. And I am the kind of Skipper that would worry dark and troubling thoughts in the wee hours of a winter’s night . . .  so many years ago I designed and installed an automatic thermal fuel-shut-off system for the fireplace. If the fireplace even “thinks about overheating” a thermal switch shuts off the fuel supply with a fire-proof rated solenoid if the air temperature ever rises above 85ºF/30Cº. Worry-wart Skippers (me) need to be able sleep in the winter too  . . .

Oops, I got side tracked . . .

For me, the ship is not truly “stood down” until she is emptied and every cupboard and compartment is left open and special ventilation fans (with their own dedicated power receptacles) are installed and running that I consider the current season is over.

The lazarette (nautical talk for storage area in the back of the ship) houses a wwwwide range of items during the summer; from spare wine glasses to extra engine oil, from beer to bilge cleaner, from wine to wire, from dish soap to dinner plates, from gumboots to garbage bags, from hose to hand sanitizers, from v-belts to sea-chests . . . uhh, a lot of spares . . .

So we empty the “laz” to ensure the area is well ventilated and to weed out the “necessary” from the “accumulation of the extraneous”. Here Steve is spelunking the “laz”.

We also have a system (of course we have a system!) of ropes and pulleys installed in the rafters of the boat shed to hoist each kayak up out of the way for the winter. This makes winter and spring maintenance a lot less cluttered.

Steve is on the roof connecting and lifting . . .

and I am on the dock pulling like mad and tying off one kayak at a time.

I often get the sensation that I am swimming under-water watching the fleet of mothership kayaks passing by. A seal’s eye view if you will.

The ship’s non-perishable food stores are pulled out of their nooks and crannies and organized and inventoried. We will compare preseason shopping lists against post-season inventories and adjust the master shopping lists for next year.

Phew! It is always a busy final push when everyone’s energies are waning; the pull of home projects, family and friends beckon after the long busy season.

Once the crews finally left after the day’s toils, I sat by myself on the sofa in the salon, glazing about me with relief that another touring season has come and gone. I am not religious per say, nor especially superstitious, but I am still completely comfortable with pausing by myself and thinking. “Thanks.” Thanks to the ship, her crews, her guests and the good fortune of this BC coast. My personal motto for my little business has always been: Safe, Fun, Viable.

Safe: I want everyone; crew, guests and bystanders to be safe.

Fun: Life isn’t worth living if it can’t be fun (and admittedly I am willing to work for this!).

Viable: I want my business to flourish enough to treat my crews well, provide my guests with an exemplary experience, maintain this heritage ship as best I can . . .

And have some left over for me too.

Thanks. 2022 was a good season.

Ross, Owner/Skipper/Chief washer

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!

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!!!