Changes on the foredeck.


The foredeck, as it appeared two months ago…

What’s wrong with the picture above? Well. the first clue is multiple coats of rubberized deck coatings. Like a snake-oil salesman or late-night TV preacher, companies constantly promise the elixir of waterproofing coating that will “adhere to any existing coating” so you can “paint right over it and be dry”. Yeah, right.

Second problem? Plywood over a planked deck. No wood boat designer has ever said – “and here we’ll put some cheap plywood right over that fancy planking”. Ever. It’s always a near end-game move of a desperate, dripping wet boat owner. I know, I’ve done it. There was more plywood and even roof tar paper under the anchor winch. The horror!

Third problem, for me, was that 2 foot by 2 foot pieces of plexiglass made a poor substitute for a sturdy deck under the feet of a fat man. Especially when they are in the only passage from one side of the boat to the other. Add to that the wood around the plexiglass hatch was so rotten it qualified as mulch and you get the picture…

Step 1: Rip it all apart

Remove the anchor winch, the plexiglass hatch, the plywood, the tar paper, and see what you are really facing. This is like the discovery phase in a trial, or going to your wife’s family reunion for the first time after you are already married. You don’t know what you are getting yourself into…


We found mulch!


Some of the deck beams were good…


Some were not.

Some beams had to be entirely replaced, some could have the rot cut out and new wood spliced in. Areas that could not be replaced now but will have to be dealt with later were soaked in as much Smith’s Penetrating Epoxy as it would handle and then covered with good wood. Any surface of the new wood that will not be painted was treated with pine tar, turpentine, and linseed oil mix.

The general plan was to move the anchor winch aft toward the wheelhouse and more centerline; replace the plexiglass hatch with a real keyed deck hatch; replace the rotten king plank and any other deck planks that were too far gone to be saved.


The picture above shows some of the new wood beams and the first two new planks. The big square hole at the top will become the new round escape hatch.


The rest of the planks went on and the square hole changed to round. This took several hours of work with the chisels, because the outer ring cut falls over some existing deck beams that I didn’t want to cut into.

Then the screw holes were filled with teak deck plugs and oakum was driven into the seams. The oakum is hemp fibers soaked in Stockholm tar. The compression of the oakum forms a watertight seal and keeps the deck planks tight. As you pound it in with the irons, you can hear the sound change when the seal is tight.


The next step is to heat up marine glue, which is basically pitch and india rubber, and pour it into the seams. This tar boils at 350 degrees, and protects the oakum. Turns out that boiling tar will immediately remove the top layers of human skin, too. Don’t ask me how I learned that…


I then picked up a piece of purpleheart from a local shipwright, cut it in two, milled it down with the hand planer and made the support beams for the anchor winch. You can see from the shavings where purpleheart gets its name. It’s a tropical hardwood from Africa.


Finally the anchor winch was mounted and the round deck hatch was mounted! At the end of the day it started raining. I’m on duty today but tomorrow I’ll find out if it leaks or not…



There are still a lot of planks to be replaced on the side decks. The front deck will get completely stripped and varnished later this summer, when we can count on dry weather. With two weeks until the big haul out it’s time to concentrate on the lengthy and unforgiving pre-survey to-do list.



And now a word about wood…

This picture illustrates the most difficult part about restoring an old wooden boat:


The bottom of the stack is a large timber of mahogany that was used for replacement deck beams.

The next up is a piece of 2″x8″ mahogany that was used as replacement planks.

The third piece up is a chunk of 1920’s British Columbia Douglas Fir. It was one of the old deck planks that was removed.

The top piece is a modern common douglas fir 2×4 (actually 1/75×3.75) available at any hardware store.

The modern doug fir has about 5 growth rings per inch, the 1920’s old growth has 25-30 rings per inch. Modern second or third growth fir is not appropriate boatbuilding material. It rots in months, not years. So we have to go after the better woods imported mahogany, sapele, teak, etc…

If you think this doesn’t sound cheap, you are correct. The average stick of wood for this boat costs between $100 and $200. There are two suppliers around here, Crosscut Hardwoods in Eugene (4 hour round trip) and Edensaw Woods in Port Townsend (16 hour round trip). The good news is the box of stainless screws I most commonly use (#14×2.5″SS square drive) is only $44.

The hull planks are Norwegian Larch, air dried and delivered in a couple of shipping crates during the 1990’s. Most of it went in to Neil Young’s huge sailboat yacht, and the rest into my friend Dan’s 1917 salmon seiner Pheonix III. Dan and I made a road trip to Port Townsend a couple of months ago to pick up some true 2×10 twenty foot planks:


All in all, the skills can be attained, most parts can be found online or fabricated in town, but the hardest part of a restoration is finding quality wood that is as good as the original.



The deck work continues…


The past few days off have been spent trying to get the forward deck back together. The more I dug, the more rot I found. Not that this was a surprise.

The deck had been neglected for many years. I would guess that there have been problems for over three decades, judging by the layers of deck coatings and archeological repairs. The problems had been going on for so long that some of the deck beams had started turning to mulch.


So a lot of bad wood had to be cut out and replaced with good wood. Here is what the beams looked like today before the planking went on:


At the end of the day, all the planks were fastened and are ready for caulking. Each plank has to be cut to shape, then the top half of each side edge has to be beveled at 5 degrees to create a watertight seal at the bottom half of the planks and a quarter inch seam at the surface. The seam will then be pounded with cotton in the ancient art known as caulking. The cotton will then be waterproofed with a heated mixture of bees wax (thank you Oceana Co-op) and turpentine. After that dries, Marine Glue (basically pitch and india rubber) is heated and poured in (or payed into) the seams. The cotton is the actual waterproof seal, and compressing the cotton will tighten the planks and create structural stability.

Here’s what the front deck looks like tonight, with the hole for the forward hatch starting to show:


Here’s the jig I made to mark the 21″ circle for the deck hatch:



Changes over the years…

I thought it would be interesting to post a few pictures showing the changes over the years. The first picture is from the year she was born, 1930.


This next picture was from the early 1930’s, showing her with other commercial boats at the Vancouver Fish Buyer’s docks. She looks to have a little more wear and tear and is hoisting a different net. The wooden fish boxes on deck and the wooden tender (row boat) on top of the wheelhouse speak of a time when things were not so rushed.


The next image brings us to 1945, when she was fresh out of the yard having been lengthened 8 feet and having the fish hold replaced with yacht living quarters. New handrails with canvas dodgers make her look longer and a bit more beefy.


The Carlyle III just after conversion from a fishing vessel into a company yacht, 1945

The next picture jumps to the 1990’s when she has stopped working and become a private yacht in BC. I don’t think we are going back to the gray hull, and you can see there has been a rear cabin door with a scuttle added (recently removed). Celeste didn’t like what she called the ‘shark fin’, and I preferred the 1945 lines.


This is the only picture I have of her out of the water, until next month’s haul out. This was taken in 2009, but she was last hauled for maintenance in fall of 2012. The awkward looking aluminum shelter deck on the back has been removed and is forever gone.


And here she is last week, with the new stainless lifelines installed forward.



And now a word from our engine…

The heart of any old vessel is her engine. The Carlyle III originally had a 46 horsepower four-cylinder Gardner engine. Gardners can still be found on some older Canadian commercial fishing boats, and have enjoyed a long reputation as reliable and fuel efficient. In 1939, the fisherman who then owned the Carlyle had Finning Tractor Equipment Company install a brand new marine Caterpillar Diesel engine. According to Finning Company literature, this was the first CAT engine installed in a boat in Western Canada. A few years later when the fisherman retired Mr. Finning purchased the boat and had her lengthened and turned into a company yacht, in which capacity she gave many years of service and tens of thousands of miles along the beautiful British Columbia coast. Here is the original installation plate :


And some of the original instrumentation:


One of the great things about this boat is the extensive documentation. The Carlyle III is a piece of history – I am just a temporary custodian. The previous owner, Rick, recognized this and I was delighted when he came up with the original engine owner’s manual and parts manual from 1939:



One of the greatest challenges of caretaking this boat is becoming competent with the engine. Learning to care for the engine is as daunting as medical school for me: it’s part engineering, part foreign language, part physics PhD, and part voodoo. I have captained boats for decades, done basic shipwright repairs, dealt with emergencies at sea – but this engine will be a new and challenging responsibility. In the youtube link below video Rick showed me how to start her and checked on her after a lay-up:

A little bit of painting weather…

20160317_162500We got a little weather break in March and got some painting done. Celeste wanted the blue and green exterior paint gone, so I went with older more traditional colors…

My deckhand is showing off the new colors on the front of the wheelhouse:


Remember the old spider webs?


The wheelhouse cleaned up and looks better with the original cabinet doors in place.


We also got the new (1920’s) compass installed.

Sometimes you have to stop and just enjoy it…



Safety First…

One of the first projects I undertook after initial cleaning was to get the handrails and lifelines up around the boat. The back deck was really open and I didn’t want to hear a splash when my little deckhand was aboard.


The previous owner, Rick, found most of the original bronze stanchions and handrails in his incredible boat shop. Overall we were missing seven stanchions which were recreated in mild steel…




So the stanchions were made, the wood handrails were patched together, and the stainless steel lifelines were run.


Quarter inch stainless wire cable, by the way, turns out to be $1.03 per foot if you buy a 500 foot roll. Yikes!

Let there be light…

One of the first projects was to add light to the engine room. An afternoon spent policing dangling wiring , removing an old dead garage-type fluorescent fixture and wiring in new LED strip lighting turned night into day. And made me realize how much more work there is to do in the engine room…


The Carlyle is powered by a 1939 D13000 Caterpillar engine that produces 100 HP at a maximum 900 rpm. she is started by a two-cylinder gas pony motor, and it is pretty much a religious ceremony to get her started. The little engine warms up the big engine and turns it until it creates enough heat in the cylinders to ignite the diesel fuel. but thankfully I will never again have to lay on my belly to work on an engine below the floorboards…


I have always dreamed of an engine room big enough to have a workbench and a vise. And now with new lights I can see I need to clean and paint an engine room big enough to have a workbench and a vise…



Before photos, interior

Inside the vessel most of what was needed was some serious elbow grease, and it took about two weeks of solid cleaning to remove the mildew and spider webs. I thought about leaving the swallows nests, but my bride gave me “the look” when I suggested it, so they had to go.

Salon looking forward:


Galley looking forward:20160126_105253

Aft stateroom:


The wheelhouse (did I mention there were spider webs?):


The Holy Place:


The foc’sle (which was a rain forest):


Before photos, exterior

Here are some before pictures to reference our starting point. The worst of it is she needs half a dozen planks each side, a lot of “bleeding” fasteners dealt with, and serious work on the front half of the decks.


Parts of the foredeck were spongy, and it was all covered in every bright idea in deck coating since the 1980’s, about six different materials in all.


I love the ghost in the window in this picture.


It’s Celeste, but it’s hard to see her through all the spider webs.

Here’s a look at things topside:


And where the decks are stepped is pretty spooky, this will need some attention:


The good news is that the entire stern was rebuilt less than a decade ago, and it is purpleheart about a foot thick. Along with that project the leaky aft decks were replaced with two layers of marine plywood and a very professionally done fiberglass job. But there’s plenty in the above pictures to keep me busy for a while.

Here’s a picture of the rebuilt stern – the plywood rub rail is a temporary feature and will have to be replaced around the entire vessel.