If a man is to be obsessed by something I suppose a boat is as good as anything. Perhaps a bit better than most.
- E.B. White
Spring breezes at Britannia. Days getting longer, weather getting nicer.
Welcome to the Britannia Heritage Shipyard Society Blog
Note: Most images are now 'clickable.' Click on any image to see a larger copy.
17 April 2014
The joy of using tools: We have started a reguar, weekly program of shop training on tools. While the emphasis will be on power tools to instill safe practice, there will be instruction on the use and care of hand tools as well. Every Saturday morning,at 11:15, a member shares his or her expertise on some aspect of shop practice. Particular attention is paid to safety as these powerful machines can, in an eye blink, change one's life forever.
For now the sessions are strongly urged for all active volunteers and open to all Society members. In the near future we hope to invite members of the general public.
In this image we see Dave laying his talented hands on the flywheel on an antique Easthope engine in an effort to make it run. This engine was probably manufacturred in Steveston before the Easthope foundry moved to False Creek.
This engine, and its close relatives (viz. Vivian) was thepower plant of choice for fishing vessels in this area during the '20s, 30s and into the 40s. There are still a few in service in vessels that are retired from active duty but are still operated by their owners for love rather than money.
The sound from this engine is the distinctive 'kachung - kachung - kachung' of the 'one lunger.' ( On the East Coast it was the (in)famous Lunenberg engine.)
These engines are pretty well gone from the industry now and only a few remain in museums and private collections.
Dave got a few detonations on this day but smooth running remains a future goal.
The Eva, a classic 1937 gill-netter currently in Finn Slough. is powered by an Easthope engine. She makesvisits Britannia from time to time. This brief video features the sound of her engine at idle: hear Eva Idling at Finn Slough.
12 April 2014
The Society held its Annual General Meeting on Saturday the 12th. A gratifying number of members took advantage of the beautiful, sunny day to elect new members to the, Board, return some long serving members for another term and say goodbye to a few retiring members.
Elaine has served on the Board for at least a decade and has done yeoman duty as Secretary and, when needed, as Treasurer.
Less official, but no less valued, perhaps even more appreciated, Elaine has ensured a steady stream of her delicious baked goods flows into the Society lunch room and into volunteers' tummys. She has also kept the Murakami garden in show condition and generally improved the place with her sunny disposition.
The Society, deeply appreciative of her long and diligent service, presented her with a retirement gift. We hope she will like the secateurs. She has told us that,t despite stepping away from Board duties, she plans to stay on as head weed puller and chief Cookie Baker and Bottle Washer. (Come on guys! Wash yer own cup, eh?)
20 March 2014
The very welcome first day of spring. With improving weather we can expect operations to begin moving outside and we ought to be able to start leaving the big door on the Richmond Boatbuilders open more often
She came in white but, the longer we looked at the pictures in "Wooden Boat" magazine the more we thought blue, as her original designers suggested, was the way to go.
Here Larry is seen inspection the application of the first coat and lamenting the quality of the underlying preparation. It looked so perfect before the shiny paint started going on.
19 February 2014
Iona has been moved into Richmond Boat Builders and her survey has commenced. The previous job of recaulking has not held up well and the hull will need a lot of attention. She also sports a moderate list of deficiencies: she has developed rot on wheel house sides and roof; her transmission is seized. here we see a crew pulling out her transmission. Though it only weighs 207 lbs (according to the manual) it is in a tight spot and is extremely awkward to man handle. It comes out easily with a good come-along.
Work has begun on the "Skiff Division" fleet. The society has a number of skiffs from different periods and of different styles. The intent is to be offer rowing and sailing programs this summer.
Here we see Allen and Alex working on the Daisy's interior in the left hand panel, Becky and Davis in the right hand image.
1 December 2013
Two plus years of work have at last culminated in 'the big reveal' as Larry and Kerry get the last bit of anti-fouling paint applied. The last critical bit of equipment has been re-installed. Radar, radios and galley gear will be done while she floats. In fact, the 6-cyl, 120 HP Ford Lehman diesel engine has not been fired since she last floated so there's plenty of work left to do before we take her out for a real cruise
.I doubt she has ever looked so lovely. It's almost a shame to let her get wet. But, that's what boats are for! So, back to her native element.
Of course, as in Cole ridge's famous poem, 'all the boards did shrink,' and so she took on water at a daunting rate. The bilge pump kept ahead of the ingress so no major worry. None the less, we did have the big, gasoline powered dock pump standing by, primed and ready to go. Kerry drew anchor watch for the first night, Bob for the second.
It was a substantial move, the biggest we've tried in a decade, maybe ever. It went without a hitch. No one yelled, no one broke into a sweat or even mussed their hair. Two sets of Merrilee II's former owners showed up for the splash and both said they were delighted, thrilled even, with the work done on her. Indeed, she looked magnificent.
Tom Plain of Alltow displayed his usual skill and made look easy. That guy can spot his 40 tonne rig and its 40 foot trailer within a quarter inch of his intent, first time, every time. It is a treat to watch him work.
So, now the fun is done and it's back to the grind. A shipwright's work is never finished. The weeks and months ahead hold all sorts of delights. We hauled Iona - cross hauled her with Merrilee II's launch - and she now sits, redolent of the river, in Richmond boat builders awaiting scraping, painting, re-caulking, remedies to transmission (which has been inoperative since her last haul-out) and some top sides work. She'll probably need her deck recaulked as well. We're astounded at the amount of marine growth and the degradation to her paint since her last haul-out about 4 years ago. More evidence that a vessel ought to be hauled and her bottom scraped every two years. She's got way too many soft spots so we can expect her to be in the Boatworks for a year at least. More like two. A complete work list will be drawn up soon. I'll post it on Iona's page when I get it.
Another project starting, one dear to my heart, is the formative "Britannia Skiff Division." The Society has a nice collection of skiffs. The large end of the skiff spectrum is held by the Fraser River fishing skiffs, the small end by an 8' sabot that has been on the bottom of one of the ponds for a few years. (That one may just become a planter.) In between are a half dozen or so pieces in the 9' to 12' range. The skiff fleet includes the delightful little Stumpy, the Daisy and several others. The plan is to use these craft as skill builders for wannabe boat builders and then to [gasp!] sail them around the harbour.
Here Mike and Nathan are at work on the Daisy, stripping her old varnish and prepping her for new.
29 November 2013
Merrilee II Launch date set for Sunday, 1 December 2013. We expect the truck to arrive at 10:30 am. By then we must have cleared the access and removal route, moved Iona to the outside of the floats and then to the Number 2 Road boat ramp. made final inspection of Merrilee II and placed aboard dock lines, life jackets and extra pumping capability as her planking will need a couple of weeks to take up following two years of dry storage. Considerable interior work remains on Merrilee and she is not yet ready for sailing. But, if we are diligent and fortune smiles on us she will be navigating on the water under her own power by spring.
Britannia visitor and sketch artist, Jorge Royan, sent us a copy of a sketch he made this summer. His drawing depicts the old planer located in the Shipyard Building. The details of the line shaft system and flat belt drive details are clearly visible. Gracias, Jorge.
The work on her is now of the finishing and (re-)installation type.
Here we see the radar antenna staged for re-mounting.
In addition to new paint, new batteries, new through-hull fittings, new zincs the Merrilee II also gets new wiring. One of the many challenges with restoring old vessels is the wiring. Standards for vessel wiring have advanced unbelievably in the past 50 years. The old plants simply don't measure up. Previous owners have attacked the wiring with different skill levels, different ideas and different materials so that by the time we get them the best that can usually be done is to tear out the old plant and install new wire and fittings. This is not inexpensive. The new lighting fixtures for Merrilee's interior are going to run a little over $600!
The crew takes a moment to mug for a photographer in the Namu.
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Passing it on: Ferdie has been Britannia's Master Wood Turner for many years. He produces a great number of beautiful and elegant items on his wood lathe: jewel boxes, pens, fids and other items both useful and attractive. Becky joined us several months back and was instantly drawn to turning. By the time she had been with us a month she was spending most of her time at a lathe turning tool handles, bowels, bungs and various other items needed for our vessels.
Here Ferdie shows Becky some tricks of the trade.
Merrilee II: Her progress towards relaunching continues. The work on her hull was finished when Jim completed caulking the garboard plank replacement.Her glass is all in (the big wind screens were a nasty bit of work,) her electrics are being brought up to scratch. One of the issues with heritage vessels is trying to remain faithful to the original construction while maintaining an adequate level of vessel safety. The standards for vessel wiring has changed greatly since Merrilee II was built in 1950. From the looks of the original wiring, there were no standards, or if they were, they were not applied very vigorously.
We did not worry over much we have several wood carvers in our group and David was willing to take on the challenge. Turns out the new name boards are much nicer than the originals.
Here is David getting ready to mount his newly finished name board and grinning with well deserved pride of a task well done. Thank you, David