Welcome to Britannia Heritage Shipyard Society
Saturday, 10 April 2010
Another busy week with lots happening. The model boat gang is getting close to completion on the order for 1,000 models. These little kits are a huge hit with the young crowd. Pitate Birthday Parties and the annual Richmond Maritime Festival will probably use up the entire stock again this year.
Work on Iona continues apace. Her starboard side paint is pretty well complete as is the refinishing of her upper works. Prep on her port side is well advanced. The work to replace her horn timber is due to start soon. Then it will be a matter of a few new planks and some structural work to make her stern sound again and she should, we hope, be in the water by end of June. Well, July at the latest.
Merrilee II is undergoing a nearly complete rewiring. At 60 years of age, having served many owners and been subjected to countless upgrades it would be odd if her wiring weren't in dubious condition. Standards fpr marine wiring have changed substantially over the decades. Many of her circuits were of solid core wire, many had unacceptable insulation, many were under capacity. We've decided to completely remove the 120 VAC circuits from the 'house' (except for stove and one outlet for heater) to simplify. With a modern charging plant it's as efficient to light with 12 VDC. As with any job, it's more effort than one would at first think: headliners and wall panels must come out, berths must be pulled back, floor boards lifted, old wiring must be removed and new circuits planned. As usual, other things are discovered in the process. The unexpected discovery this time had to do with the carlins (roof beams) in the main cabin. Merrilee II is on her 3rd engine. At some time a hole had been cut in her cabin roof to allow the removal of an old engine and indtallation of a new one. The carlins were 'spliced' in a rather cursory fashion with 1/4" fish plate held in place by #8 wood screws. We were not at all comfortable with the thought of some 230 lb. guy wandering around up there with these light duty patches so the project got extended a bit. The new splpices are of 3/4" mahogany, one piece each side and through bolted with 1/4" stainless steel bolts. Should be m uch stronger.
Britannia recycles. In this case even if it isn't part of the official plan. Shown here is one of two stumps at Britannia with a spectacular diplay of 'Turkey Tail' mushroom. Fungus is Nature's way of returning material to it's origianl ciondition so that it can be used again. Here we see the mushroom breaking down the lignin & cellulose of the old stump into constituents for new soil. The Turkey tail (Trametes versicolor) is not usually considered an edible but is thought to have medicinal properties.
If you would like to examine these fascinating fungi in person you may find them just north of the new washrooms, by the path from the parking lot.
Saturday, 27 March 2010
Knotty, not naughty. Or so they say. Following a nearly decade long hiatus the Britannia Heritage Shipyard Society is glad to be back in the program business. A group of intrepid trainee rope workers participated in the season's first Knot Tying class where they were introduced to the ancient and endlessly intriguing art of knot tying. Part of the class poses here with event co-ordinator, Deb, and instructor Matthew.
Matthew introduced them to a series of basic but highly useful knots including the bowline with several variations, the reef, the thief's, the clove hitch and the intriguing monkey's fist. Following the ninety minute class room session the group headed down to the floats to practise the practical aspects of heaving a line, moorining a boat, making a line fast to a cleat, setting a spring line and all sorts of other essential dockside lore.
Further sessions are planned. The next one, in May, will delve into the aspects of splicing and whipping. Participants will learn how finish a rope end by whipping or back-splicing, how to splice two ropes together and other useful skills.
Deb & Matthew have their heads together planning a third session late in the year. They have conceived the idea of designing and making Christmas Wreaths using their new nautical (knotical) skills. Should be special.
Hurrah, hurrah. At long last, the gas tank issues with the Hyster have been resolved! The last line was connected, the last bolt tightened and the battery charged up. We keyed the starter briefly and, wonder of wonders, the old 6-cylinder flathead Continental came alive. No smoke, no unseemly roar; hardly the show we had expected. Just a quiet, contented purring. Quite frankly it has never, in the six years I've known it, run so well. My speculation now is that the earlier attempts to repair the leaky gas tank with some kind of chemical gunk poured into it has been continually contaminating the fuel supply over the years and causing incomplete combustion, smokey exhaust, fouled spark plugs, rough erratic running, balky acceleration, sporadic stalling and loss of power. How delightful.
Suddenly, after weeks of stripping away and then re-installing carburettor, manifolds, exhaust system, fuel pump, air cleaners and various other odds & ends there was nothing left to do but to re-install the cowlings and take it ofr a test drive. We hope & fervently pray this will be the last major repair for a long, long while. Nursing this cranky old beast back to a semblance of health may well have taken the best part of half a volunteer year.
Lots of pent up demand for its services. It had been pronounced fit for service for less than 15 minutes before the yard crew had it out rearranging the Fraser River skiffs.
Here Jim is coaching Kevin in the gentle art of moving thousand kilogram boats with a still slightly balky and geriatric forklift. And Yes, that's an ICBC Graduated Licence Progrm "N" sign on the front of the machine! No one seems to know how it got there.
Friday, 12 March 2010
Here Jerry is painting and filling the starboard side of Iona. The Iona is definitely looking much better these days. Her first coat of paint is being filled with putty and sanded smooth ready for the next coat.
The issue of Iona's stern has been carefully considered and pretty well settled. She was originally built in the 1920s as a double-ender, meaning she had a pointed stern. A decade or so later, as table-seining became more common she was converted to a blunt stern for better net handling. As so many other conversions of this nature, the rebuilt stern was a source of structuaral weakness and was prone to rot, especially given the then common habit of pourning concrete into the stern lazarette for ballast and structural rigidity.
We must take off pretty well the entire stern area and rebuild it with new timber and planking. We considered the idea of rebuilding her to her original double-ended configuration but felt that the scope was simply too large for the Society at this time.
Saturday, 6 March 2010
Ferdie, Jim & Fione ham it up in Richmond Boat Builders. Ferdie is our lathe meister and excells in turning beautiful wooden items on his lathe. His jemel boxes, fids and other articles can frquently be found in the gift shop for astonishingly reasonable prices.
Ferdie uses a wide range of hardwoods on his lathe. Fids might be made from lignum vitae or other exotic hardwood. Some were made from locally grown cherry. Jemwel boxes are turned from blank that Ferdie laminates from a number of different tropical woods.
A small team of woodworkers has been diligently sawing, shaping and sanding as they make up an order of 1,000 model boats. These highly popular kits are the delight of children of all items because they get to make their very own boat.
The kit consists of a hull, made from 2x4 material, a wheel house and a wheel house roof. The components are pre-drilled enabling them to be assembled into a toy boat with a single nail. The kit also comes with three coloured beads, one white, one red & one green which can be affixed with smal nails to represent navigation lights or, simpy, decorations.
Although simple and easy enough for anyone over the age of 6 to put together the results are infinitely creative and variable. They are extemely popular at Pirate Birthday Parties and at the Maritime Festival.
Saturday, 27 February 2010
Projects proceed apace as high numbers of volunteers turn out to work on the Britannia fleet and plant.
Our geriatric fork lift, a 1947 Hyster, is a cranky beast at the best of times. Late last year the gas tank gave up up its ever-so-vital ability to hold fuel. There is no easy access to this component; we had to strip off covers, shrouds seat and manifolds to remove it for inspection. Once exposed, the lower half of the steel tank looked more like lace than sheet metal.
Once we discovered a second hand replacement tank would cost over $1,000 we set about find a repair option. A kindly fabricator cut the lower 8" off, had the inside sandblasted to remove the black gunk left by earlier repair attempts and welded on a new bottom.
Here is Larry, up to his elbows in forklift, trying to figure out how to get the repaired and repainted tank back into its cramped space.
In other areas: we continue to scratch our heads over the best plan for Iona. Her stern is in very rough shape. She was, like many vessels of her day, converted from a double-ender when table seining equipment was developed in the period following WWII. The conversions, often hastily done, can be a weak point in the hull. Certainly that is the case for our vessel. Considerable rot has been removed but we fear more remians. We have arranged for a professional surveyor to look at her and provide some guidance.
We are about to begin re-wiring the Merrilee II to bring her up to modern standards. It is remarkable how many problems creep into a system in 60 years.
Friday, 19 February 2010
Sad News: Tallship Concordia sunk off the coast of Brasil. All hands reported rescued safely. See CBC News item.
This image of Concordia at Britannia's floats, by the Phoenix netloft, was taken in the summer of 2004 and was entered in the Society's first photo competition in 2006.
We mourn her loss.
Thursday, 18 February 2010:
A regiment of seagulls stands on guard over the netloft at Britannia.
Saturday, 30 January 2010:
It was a pretty full week. The Harbour Authority dredged the area in fornt of our floats. This operation is in preparation for the 2011 Fesitval of Tall Ships. Due to silt in the river water the bottom continuusly receives a deposit of sediment. Over the years this builds up to become a hazard to progressively more shallow vessels. Tall ships draw plenty of water. We had to move out the boats, then the floats. Dredging itself was done in three days, the huge suction machine working all night to get thte job done. Then, tow the floats back in and return the vessels which had been tucked away in various neighhbours' establishments for the week.
Restoration operations continue on the Iona. Here Richard has exposed another body of rot in the stern lazarette, just where the need for structural strength is the greatest: surrounding the rudder post. That concrete sure did a lot of long term damage. The amount of compromised timber is, not surprisingly, worse than we had hoped. It brings up some interesting questions about the restoration. At one time we thought Iona was built as a double-endeand that she was later converted to a table seiner when that technology became popular. Later thinking and close examination of her ribs and planks have pretty well dispelled that notion. More likely her pattern was the result of a hasty dedesign from a double-ender to a blunt stern to facilitate the table seine gear.The conversion seems to be a source of weakness and is not particularly lovely.
The suggestion has arisen to consider turning her back to a double ender. It has been resisted initally because of the additional work & material required but... as we uncover more rot the disadvantages diminish in comparison.
A boat builder friend of Al's recently passed away. He wanted his lapstrake skiff, built as a project when he was an apprentice in the '30s, to be enjoyed and admired. Al brought it in on Saturday alomg with some other delightful bits from the boatbuilder's trade and it certainly caused a ripple of oohing & aahing. No doubt about it, she is a pretty little gem. Her condition, perfect, shows that she has been well loved. She has all her tackle: mast, sail, oars, dagger- board. The Society is thrilled to be chosen as Stumpy's keeper for the next phase of her career.
I expect she'll end up on a decorative cradle in the Shipyard except when we put her in the water to keep her hydrated and strong.
Dale continues his careful restoration of the Glenelle sailing skiff. This is another little gem in our collection and she is particularly lovely. As she does not, however, enjoy a particularly historical connection to the community I expect she'll end up "For Sale" sometime this year.
Somebody's going to get a beautiful boat!
Saturday, 23 January 2010:
A dull day but, as usual, delightful by the water, especially as it was almost eerily calm.
Boat drill was the order of the day. The harbour in front of Britannia's floats is to be dredged to make ready for Tall Ships 2011 and so not only must the boats leave to make room for the week-long operation, we must also move the floats. Scooting Merrilee II up to the Nelson Pond at Paramount was a simple and rewarding task.
Much more challenging was the move of Shuchona 1V to temporary moorage in Steveston. The poor old girl rests at the float with a slight list to starboard; not only is her engine currently inoperative, her steering is seized. Gave Dick, the tow boat operator an awful time, especially as we had to thread our way through inbound fishing vessels and the sprawl of the dredge which spread out over the entire harbour. Dick took it in stride and with good humour, owever, and grinned as he told us how he used to deliver fish to her when she was a cash boat. He sure is an artist with that tow boat of his, balance tide, wind and traffic in ridiculously tight spaces.
Visual highlight of the day had to be the double rainbow over Nelson Pond. Almost as good as a pot of gold, the Merrilee II could be found at the end of this rainbow.
Welcome to new member Marianne who has, just this Saturday, thrown in with the Iona crew.
Wednesday, 21 January 2010:
High tides and the surge caused by an onshore gale caused extensive flooding at Britannia Hertage Shipyard Monday. The Murakami home and boatshed were flooded and will require floors to be taken up during restoration.
Conservation: an endeavour more difficult to practice than one would have thought. The Vasa, a Swedish warship from the 1600s and raised from Stockholm harbour in 1961 has recently been observed to be degrading rapidly from the chemical reactions based on iron in the vessel. Read the article and fins related stories in Science Daily: Degradation Of Wood In Royal Warship Vasa Is Caused By Iron (Sept. 2008)
Saturday, 16 January 2010:
The gang is slowly recovering from the holidays. Although the crews are not yet as large as they were in early December they are getting there.
The little Mukai is getting steady and careful attention. Seen here, Jim is bedding trim detail on the wheel house.
The 'Mukai ' was a retirement project of the the late Steveston boatbuilder, Sejei Mukai. Is a at 18 feet LOA it is a 50% scale model of the type of craft Sejei built throughout his career. This pretty little runabout is equipped with a Volvo Penta inboard-outboard drive train,
Iona has pretty well been stripped as far as she needs to be. There are still a few seams below the water line that require raking but the crew are now busily ploting the restoration. Of critical imporatance is the installation of internal beams, bulkheads and stringers for the vessels strwngth depends upon these. Origibnal bulkheads have been removed because they were in an advanced state of decomposition./p>
Jerry and Al are seen here discussing details of the Iona's internal structure.
Friday, 8 January 2010:
Councilor Steves plugs Britannia: "When visitors come to Richmond we take them to the Britannia Heritage Shipyard and other heritage sites..." See complete article in tte Richmond News.