Preparing To Move North

Most of May and June were spent preparing the boat to go north. Before we moved to another marina, the hull needed to be painted above the waterline and the engine room needed to be gone through. Some lighting was added to the engine room, all wires, belts, and hose clamps inspected and tightened, batteries checked, and I spent some time looking through lockers and boxes to see what spare parts were onboard. The impellers were changed in all the water pumps, and fuel lines were all inspected.

Engine room on the Pokalong

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Our dock neighbor Ernie is a marine electrician, and he rebuilt the starter and replaced the solenoid on the 8.5 KW generator which was a real help. Toward the middle of June it was time to do a sea trial, so the girls and I headed upriver for a day and got to test the autopilot and run the engines up to temperature for a while. All performed well, and we were happy to find a favorite local pizza chain had relocated near the boat harbor in Toledo. The picnic lunch Celeste had packed was moved to dinner so we could enjoy pizza for lunch, by unanimous vote.

My running partner Dan’s 100 year old seiner, Pheonix III

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Pokalong tied up in Toledo, note the Bering Sea king crabber tied up in the background

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Caomi and Mocha enjoying the boat ride

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The sea trial was considered a success by all. Now we had to find a balance of days off work and weather window to move north and inland on the mighty Columbia River.

To be continued…

 

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My name is Chris, and I have a problem…

There’s a place where people with a serious addiction stand around drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes, and none of them encourage the rest to confront their problem – quite the opposite. It’s any commercial fishing dock on the west coast, and for that matter, probably around the world. But beyond my wooden boat issues, I have a longing to return to salmon trolling, making a living tricking the majestic king salmon into coming aboard your boat. This longing is not based on common sense, certainly not on economic principles or good judgement. But salmon trolling for a living is a lifestyle, it’s a place in the world that you either belong in or you don’t. To put it simply, of all the things I’ve done in my life, the one thing I daydream about, miss, and would wish to do again is troll salmon for a living on the open ocean.

So in the spring of 2018 as I was tearing out rotten wood and replacing it with new on the Pokalong, all of my friends across the bay were painting and stocking and coaxing their boats back into life for the salmon season. I would sneak across the bay and look at two boats in particular, the Norma Jean and the Lone Eagle. Both needed serious work, but I formulated the grain of an idea that I could restore a salmon troller by the time I retire and then go back to fishing full time until I couldn’t do anything anymore.

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The Norma Jean

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The Lone Eagle

Both boats are ‘Tacoma Boats, built by the famous shipyard in Tacoma. The Norma Jean was built in the late 30’s, the smaller Lone Eagle was built in 1928. Both needed serious work with years of deferred maintenance. Both were rigged for salmon trolling and appealed to my salmon sickness in the worst way. I would walk over, look at them from every angle, then go back to the Pokalong and think about it. Back to the warm teak glow of the Pokalong, with the diesel stove and all the comforts of home. At some point it dawned on me, what I needed was to build what Dan and I refer to as a “geezer troller”. A carefully set up troller that is so well outfitted and designed that it can be fished into a ripe old age. We have both known fishermen who have trolled into their 80’s and 90’s.

Since I had to rebuild the aft deck house anyway, what if I just decked it over and added a door to the rear deck. The existing lazarette could easily be converted into a troll pit, the small recessed cockpit in the back that the fisherman works in. What had been a queen sized bedroom would make a large fish hold, and to avoid fiberglassing and insulating the entire thing you could store fish in insulated totes. Back to the line drawing:

Pokalong troller

Now there would be a fine “geezer troller”. A walk-out door straight to the back deck. Remove a couple of windows from the back half of the boat to reduce the greenhouse effect. Add a real mast with trolling poles, and install commercial fishing gear on the back deck. This is all doable.

So I explained my plans to the bride of the king salmon ride. She is so used to my hair-brained schemes by now that she nodded her approval, with one condition: you can fish on your off time, but don’t quit your job! Luckily for me during the spring of this year I had been moved to a rotating shift, working 48 hours on followed by 4 days off. This actually could work! We were in South Beach marina, where the weather severely limits the time you can do exterior boat work. The thick fog and steady 20-25 knot NW winds scream down the beach and through the marina all summer long. During the winter, up to 90 inches of rain falls and storms march through sporting 70-100 knot winds. The next step would be to move the boat from Newport to somewhere with better weather where I could work on her.

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A rare calm evening. Under the bridge, the fog bank can been seen retreating to the 30-fathom curve.

To be continued…

The Pokalong

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The Pokalong as she appeared before purchase.

Our new to us liveaboard, the Pokalong, is a 1973 Grand Banks 42 classic. She was loved and cared for (and fished hard) by a wonderful friend of mine. After retiring, for many years he took her up to Barclay Sound on the west side of Vancouver Island in BC for the summer. He was a meticulous mechanic, with spare parts for just about everything aboard. The engine room was famous in town for being ‘polished’, always bright and clean.

The woodwork, however needed some work. The mahogany hull is in excellent shape, but the flying bridge, bulwarks and wheelhouse were showing their age.

My lovely wife was happy aboard, our daughter thought it was a great adventure. Then the rains came. The stress of owning 2 boats came. I got grumpy being thoroughly soaked in drenching rain and 50 knot winds down the 2000 feet of our dock. That my wife remained married to me at this point is much more a mark of her stubbornness than it is my value as a husband.

So we ended up moving ashore, relocating to a much better school district and much better weather in December. I was working M-F at the time, and would stay a few nights a week on the boat to reduce the number of 100 mile round trip commutes.

Moving off the boat gave me a chance to start tearing into the boat and finding out the depth of the rot, which is more difficult when everyone is living aboard. It soon became apparent that 3/4 of the flying bridge needed to be replaced, about 20% of the wheelhouse walls, and 100% of the aft cabin walls. This would have to wait until better weather.

Come the spring, work could be started in small bursts then covered with a tarp between days of rain.

First to go was the flying bridge. The more I took apart, the more problems I found. During one of the rainy days I added up the cost of replacing the entire flying bridge, and it came to materials of about $1500 and a significant amount of time. Then I started toying around with the idea of removing it all together. I had seen pictures of this done on a handsome GB in Puget Sound called ‘Ebb Tide’. I modified the drawing:

I also considered what it would be like to extend the house aft on the main level, or remove the aft cabin all together. Something needed to be down because all 3 bulkheads in the aft stateroom were rotted out from window leaks, in various stages of disrepair.

First the flying bridge was removed, and the topside turned out pretty clean:

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Pokalong 24 April 2018 topside

To be continued…

Update on the Carlyle III

Let’s do a quick catch up of the past year. We sold our home in July of last year and moved onto the Carlyle when a couple of issues became apparent, the kind of things that don’t pop up when you are overnighting on the boat, but become readily apparent when you live aboard her. We talked about the problems and it became apparent that the galley and dining would need to be on the same level, and we needed an alternate way to get to the foc’sle without going through the engine room. After measuring, reviewing hundreds of old boat plans, re-measuring, and sleeping on it, I found that altering the original layout was not practical and would not improve the boat.

After about a week the girls went on a pre-planned month long trip oversees to visit big brother who moved over last summer to attend college. Just before they left I noticed a Grand Banks 42 was for sale again, needing some attention, in the same marina. I knew the decades-long owner and had been to sea on the boat a couple of times, and I had once owned and lived on a Grand Banks 36. The long term owner of this boat had done incredible work in the engine room and maintained detailed records. He had sold the boat a year earlier to someone who used it once then tied it up, not even leaving a window cracked for fresh air. The Central Oregon Coast experiences up to 90 inches of rain a year, and old Grand Banks have lots of windows. The combination of a few window leaks and the greenhouse effect had caused the boat to become covered in mold and mushrooms inside. I took the bride over to see the boat before she left, and I think largely because she was excited to go on vacation and see her baby boy, she seemed unfazed. She said ‘I’ve seen what you can do with a boat, I like the layout, if you get it and clean it up by the time we get back we can live aboard her’.

Challenge Accepted.

I tracked down the owner (actually his mother) and made a deal to purchase the boat. I then began a manic 4 week undertaking to make the boat inhabitable. First thing was to get the boat moved over to side tie to the Carlyle, so I didn’t have to keep walking and carrying things back and forth over half a mile in the marina.

After 4 weeks of work, the interior paint had been sanded and repainted, all carpets and cloth curtains had been removed, the master stateroom bed had been modified, and all systems aboard the boat were working. The around the clock work had kept me busy enough not to think about the inevitable question of owning two boats.

Summer turned to fall, school started, and the reality of 2 boats set in. We were paying over $900 a month in moorage, and the Port was getting ready to raise rates again. We reluctantly put the Carlyle up for sale, and quickly realized that although we had over 200 inquiries, the age of the boat and the remoteness of Newport to any major population centers was making it a very, very hard sell. The market for large 1930’s vessels is very small; the chances of selling a boat the size and age of the Carlyle so far away from Seattle, Portland, or San Francisco was remote. The price fell each week and disappointment came after each showing hearing ‘she’s just too much boat’ or ‘she’s just too old’. Eventually she was sold to a retired merchant mariner who entered the boat, stood in the wheelhouse, grabbed the wheel and gazed out the windows. “I’m home” he said quietly. He paid the now tiny asking price in cash which figured out to be about 1/10th of what we had spent on her. Such is the cost of loving old wooden boats.

To be continued…