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One year!

It’s easy to remember, I signed the papers on my BFF’s birthday. She’s been a huge part in the project and had to listen to all my ups and downs with it. Thanks Julie, you are a saint.

I have to say that this did not come easy and even provided me with a mental break down, which lead me to take an entire month off of work to regroup. I was clearly not ready for a massive project, DURING a pandemic. We didn’t pick that one, didn’t we? Fucking bat.

Anyhow, I grew tremendously this year. I grew in maturity, financialy and emotionnaly. Actualy, in the midst of the bad emotions I’ve felt this year, I have to say that never, I regretted taking over Pacific Traveller. Today if anything, I am thankful. She showed me a side of myself I did not know, more vulnerable. She made me do a lot of introspection. Ironically, this is the main thing people always say about being at sea on boats, they force us to do introspection, to look within. Even on the hard, she managed to make me dig deep.

Here is an update of what have been done in one year:

- Approximately 80 frames (ribs) repaired or changed on the hull with yellow cedar

- Replanked on top of the new frames with fir and red cedar (We used what we could get quick)

- Complete repair of the cabin roof (frames, plywood and epoxy)

- Engine pumps rebuilt, engine room clean up

- Old batteries removed

- Galley/cabin makover (Still in process)

- Deck controls revisited/updated

- Complete strip of all electronics onboard

- Start of rewiring process, install of 110 outlets around the cabin

- Extensive troubleshoot of the diesel stove, which lead me to bring it to the dump and kick it off my tailgate accompanied with a very satisfying sigh.

The next steps

Step 1:

- Repair a few little pieces of wood here and there

- Remove the old oakum in the seams and proceed to recork her hull entirely (Big job)

- Reinstall the keel cooler

- Plug all the old nail holes in the hull from removed sheathing

- Paint (bottom and top side of hull)

- Make her splash 💦

- Tow her to her new berth

Step 2:

- Repair bullwarks and decks where needs be

- Build a new caprail all around

- Finishing around the cabin (Paint, molds, new door, glass, install diesel stove stack, etc)

- Install all new electronics

- Rewire entirely, install overhead lights in the cabin, port/starbord lights outside, etc

- Install the new Dickinson diesel stove in the galley

- Continue the troubleshoot of the engine (Reinstall fuel pumps, etc)

- Get new custom dry stack made out of marine grade stainless from engine up

- Insulate the said stack

Step 3:

- Decide what happen with the fish hold.

Step 1 is to happen in just a few months. Step 2 will most likely happen a year later to allow me to get ready financialy for it. Step 3 will happen when I make up my mind.

A ship christening celebration will be held the day she hits the water. If you are interested to come see, I would suggest you to stay home and watch the launch on social media instead. I will set up a reminder to go live the day of the launch.

Help will be appreciated (and most likely needed) for painting, last minute things to do, general manual labour and monitoring water in bilge when she gets in as planking swell back up, etc.

Let’s just put it that way: if you come, I will put you to (socialy distancing) work! Thank you guys for the continued support thorought the year and all the great advices you took the time to send me.

If you wish to financialy contribute to this project, you can donate on this fundraiser:

Mucho gracias! 🙏🏽

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Many people asked me if the project was on stand by since there has been no updates lately. So first, I would like to apologize for the delay. During Covid, I found myself under a lot of pressure. I am sure everyone can relate. It has definitely been testing us in all directions. Emotionally, financially, etc. I won’t lie, I wish I was warned before Covid... Because I definitely would have postponed this boat haul out.

Before you ask, I have to say that I am still happy I took the project. But lord, did it ever cause me stress. I had to be very creative with money sourcing during the initial, full lockdown of this pandemic. I was not working, I still had to pay for my usual bills and on top of that, I had to pay for boat materials, labour, land storage, etc... It was heavy. Very heavy.

Pacific Traveller in her glorious days

The first topic I would like to dip into today, is exactly this: Finances.

I say "dip", because I won’t get into very specific numbers. Most of these are personal deals I made with contractors and businesses, but I can certainly give you some pointers and rough numbers. I will warn you right away: if you can’t afford buying a boat in good shape, don’t get into a wood boat project. Their cost is most definitely the same, if not more.

If you were to consider to take on a project like this one, I would highly recommend you find a shipwright (and more than one to compare their prices) and get a rough estimate for your project. I say rough, and keep in mind it’s also going to be rough to hear. If they say it’s going to be 20k, get ready for 60k. Nobody ever knows what’s hiding under old wooden planks until they actually start to tear things apart. Wood boats are very scary when it comes to budget planning. So be on your guards, and be ready to be stuck with the worst case scenario your shipwright will give you. There is a lot of stories of people starting wood boat refits and stopping half way, even before half way... Boats for sale fully stripped, etc. Very common.

The photo attached under was the first week she was hauled out. All of the original commercial fishing gear and rigging was still onboard, the only thing they did was to remove the starboard (dock side) sheathing and ground plate, where the black areas are situated. The colour black comes from the tar felt that was under the sheathing and plate.

She had no frames lefts forward of the stern blocking, but nobody could tell from the outside, of course. We just knew, from looking at the frame heads above deck level. The second photo is after we opened her. No surprise, they were gone. On the third photo, you can see the old foam from the fish hold. It was completely soaked.

First week out back in January 2020

The rotted frames.

A close view of the starboard hold's soaked foam

I warn you, don’t get fooled when looking for shipwrights. It is a fading trade and finding a good one is quite hard, because they are booked up months ahead and charge anywhere between 40$ and well over 100$ per hour, depending on their training, experience, skills and reputation. I guess asking your local chandlery for good, reputable names and local facebook groups should give you a pretty good idea on who to contact. It seems like most people who touch a wood boat call themselves shipwrights, so make sure to ask for references before you go ahead with anyone.

Now, prices. You’ve all asked for it, here they are.

First, you have to know that changing frames and planks ideally require two shipwrights, because someone who do not know anything about the trade would be completely useless as a helper. One plank of fir can cost 150$+ (rough) and it takes multiple hours to trace, fit, plane, steam, install, fasten, install the plugs, plane, sand to a finish product. So remember that a crew of two, to install one plank will cost you anywhere between 150$ (plank) + 5 hours if a good crew of two work on it, so 10 hours of labour total. Anywhere between 400$ and 1000$+ for just the ONE plank. This example is an approximate of course, in the scenario where they had their tools set up on the job site already. If they have a good go at it and they have been working on the boat for a while, they will probably be much faster than that.

Fir plank with freshly glued plugs.

For stainless steel fasteners, I believe I already spent well over 1000$ so far just on them alone. For the costs of wood (only for starboard side), we used yellow cedar frames, fir planking under the water line, some red cedar planking above the water line and one big shear plank was make out of yellow cedar. This should cost me around +/-3500$. Port side might be less, because we expect and hope for less to replace on that side. Bulwarks alone should be similar costs or even more since they are long, thick beams. So I expect to spend about 10k in wood only for the hull refit. This is just for the hull.

Engine room.

The Gardner 6LX between the two fuel tanks in the low overhead engine room.

A marine mechanic cost around 100-150$/hr, so if you have engine work to do, expect to spend that if you don’t have the knowledge to work on it yourself. Mechanical issues usually don’t take one hour to fix. It’s a lot of troubleshooting, so it can get pretty extensive in that department. I had my fuel injection pumps rebuilt for about 2k and I am not sure yet how much more I’ll have to spend on that engine. Surprise, surprise. But look how pretty my injection pumps are now! Lloyd from Action injection in Nanaimo did them.

Gardner fuel pumps

I will talk more about finances another time, but I want you all to realize that a project like this one is definitely not for everyone. I am sure you have an idea already but I really, really want to stress this in this update. I understand that dreaming of converting a cool, old wood boat sounds like a pretty neat idea for the handyman/adventurer that you are, but this type of work is a whole different, next level than converting a van, a truck, or renovating a house. It’s nuts.

The big thing is that they aren’t “just a boat”. Boats have souls, ships are alive. They keep you safe at sea. They are part if your life and they deserve to be treated the same way you would treat your own wife: with dignity, respect and love. Working on a boat is like getting engaged. It’s a big, expensive commitment, a hell of a roller coaster ride and it cost a lot of money, I bet this is why they are called her/she.

There is a good reason why retired, financially successful men generally refit old classic wood boats. I guess they have the piggy bank dialed in, the time to go for it and know (or at least should) how to treat a woman right.

Pacific Traveller with her lines out, trolling.

Now on the emotional side of this, the delay in posts was definitely due to a complete disconnection, and it was much needed. I had to make peace with the events to keep a healthy, positive view on this refit. I worked like a robot for almost three months during lockdown. I attacked the galley, then stripped the antennas/electronics, did some engine room work, electrical. I ate, slept, and worked on that boat for way too long stretches and I got very sick of it.

Wire cluster in the house when stripping electronics.

I left Nanaimo (and the boat) early june to go back to work up north in Alberta. Since it’s a 20 hour drive to go back to the boat, going there for a weekend was never an option until this contract was over. But I am okay with it. I am resetting my love button for the Traveller, and working on the piggy bank like the older dudes I’m competing with.

Let’s get to it.

Lots of you asked about the engine room.

Tanks looked good. Fuel was surprisingly nice, clear and the smell was very satisfying. I even did a burning test. There was no trace of bacterias in it, but they might be hiding at the bottom like usual, who knows. I will of course be extremely careful with monitoring the filtration system when I first run it. One way to find out if your tanks are infected with bacterias is by getting your fuel filters plugged quickly and frequently. Then, it would become a must to get them tanks cleaned up and the fuel filtrated by professionals. I do want to avoid calling them right now, because they would charge anywhere between 2500$ and 6000$ for my boat, and because I still have quite a lot of fuel in my tanks. They can hold about 1200 gallons total. To give you an idea, I could probably do Vancouver Island to San Diego without stopping with that much fuel. A test I will most likely do one day.

Back to the engine. It is an old Gardner 6LX, the one that came with the boat when it was first launched. A very quiet, super slow RPM, diesel engine. I spent countless hours scrubbing the rocker arms with a teeny tiny wire tooth brush. I used PLID, a Canadian “anti-corrosion penetrant spray” and with the little brush, I scrubbed. Hours of scrubbing. They were covered with a thin rusty film, but not pitted yet. I did an oil change on the engine and the oil I pumped out was super milky and grey-ish. This indicated me there was probably water inside and explains why the rocker arms rusted. Maybe having no cap on the stack outside made this happen. Sure did not help, anyways.

* * *

The BC ferries route was closed between Departure and Horseshoe bay during the pandemic, and the ferry was docked in Nanaimo the entire time. The surrounding boaters along with the ferry, made noise with their horns, pots and pans to thank front line workers, everyday at 7pm. It was amazing to be able to witness this selfless act of empathy, a true community effort like we have never experienced before. It made me smile day after day, and I soaked it all in while it lasted.

* * *


During Covid’s peak, I started picking at the cabin roof because it was mostly free and I did not need anyone to help me do it. It made it a perfect lockdown project. Tearing it appart was a painful task. I got stung by a yellow jacket when opening the soffits and ended up at the emergency, my hands were so swollen from doing pry bar for hours. The smell coming out of that old rotten roof was quite horrible as well, yuck. I saw a couple crawling, multi-legged bugs make their way back in their hiding spot as I was disturbing their house. Oh, lordy lord.

During my lockdown meditation, I took the decision to change contractors to continue the refit. This was a personal decision based on many influencing factors, which I will keep private so please respect this and don’t bother asking. The important is that I found a good fit to continue the project with Dawn Johnston from Gabriola island and Hamish Mayhill from Victoria. Both are skilled, trained, experienced shipwrights and they are fast, efficient workers. They worked together a lot and I also had amazing references about their work. They have indeed been performing a very impressive, high quality, quick pace job so far. Unfortunately, I have been away since they started working on the boat, but they never failed to update me with a dose of daily photo updates.

Here are some of the before photos of the roof.

One of the original nails I pulled out of the roof.

The old canvas waterproofing membrane.

I quickly realized the entire complete roof needed to be worked on, how surprising. So I just removed everything soft and rotted. I ordered 3/8 inch 10ft fir plywood sheets because the roof is almost 9ft wide, that had to be a custom order because plywood is usually 8ft long only. I wanted to do two layers of plywood like it was previously built. I decided on two layers of 6oz fiberglass cloth and epoxy rather than polyester to seal it all. I made this decision after consulting multiple, reliable sources. Epoxy is a lot more expensive than polyester but it will be worth it down the road.

This part of the refit was 1000$ in epoxy, 1000$ in 10x4ft fir plywood, 400$ in fiberglass cloth, some fasteners and two weeks of two shipwrights salary working together on it.

The roof was previously made the old fashioned way with a soaked + stretched heavy cotton canvas and lead pain with many many layers of paint to seal it all. I never heard anything about this roof getting replaced since it was made back in 1966, so if this was the original one like I think, darn was it ever effective! 54 years of waterproofing with a simple cotton canvas. The plywood was in very good shape in the middle of the cabin, but starboard side was rotted out and the aft section was completely gone (there was a leak inside the cabin on starboard side).

What explains this issue in my opinion, is water pooling in the lowest point of the roof’s camber the drain being installed further aft, towards the aft end of the roof where it gets higher in elevation.

If you know anything about fishing boat physics, you will understand that when you are loaded with fish or cargo, the entire boat’s aft will sink lower. This will reduce your freeboard, increase your draught and ultimately affect the way the boat generally sits in the water. Now back to the roof issue, I realized the drains were positioned perfectly for a loaded scenario, in order to drain. I like the sound of having a hold filled with fish at all times, but it is not realistic. I believe this is the main reason why this roof was so bad in those specific areas.

The yellow cedar beams holding the roof were completely rotted on their starboard butts and I was well aware new ones would have to be scarfed in. I knew I needed more expertise to do this, so I left them as is. I stripped everything I could and got ready to have a crew of skilled people jump in on this at some point. I did my part to save money, because paying a shipwright to demolish is a very concerning way to spend a substancial amount of money in my opinion.

You get the picture.

They started off by tearing the rest of the cabin’s roof appart in order to repair it all. Not an “out of the water” priority, I am sure you would agree with me, but it had to be done right away since I exposed that darn roof myself. Covid project! It was also a shorter job from start to completion, perfect for us all to get a feel on how things would work out between everyone.

Many beams were scarfed as predicted and the structure was completely re-built were needed before laying down the new plywood on it. They sealed it with the epoxy, soaked in the fiberglass cloth, and added a good layer of primer on top to protect the epoxy from the UV rays.

Having a leak and worry free roof is a pretty amazing feeling. I asked them to make the roof water tight only. I will get to fine details like trims, installing the oil stove chimney and engine stack later on. Priorities are under the water line right now. See progress photos here.

Beams getting ready to be scarfed.

Repaired forward section.

View of the construction zone from the inside of the cabin.

Beautiful camber.

The roof was extended further aft for more protection in rough or rainy days.

Getting ready to lay the fibreglass cloth.

After the epoxy.

Final look, after sanding and one coat of primer.


After the roof got sealed, they were able to move on to the bigger jobs. The hull was left open during covid, with exposed ribs. The look of her was starting to weight on everyone at the yard, myself included even 2000 km's away. Dawn and Hamish buttoned up starboard all the way up to the (future) bulwarks. They used some wood the yard had handy for above the water line planking, red cedar. We discussed about the different options in essences of wood and I preferred continuing with fir as it it a more durable and much harder essence. But since I was not going to deal with any long lining hauling or cannonballs in the future, we agreed it was okay to use red cedar above the waterline. They started to rebuild the stern blocking and she looks so skookum now!

See the progress photos here.

Rot in the blocking

Keeping the bullwarks is important to keep the original curves of the ship.

Nice lines.

The new planks looked amazing let alone, but once the primer was applied, it really took shape and she looked like she was fitted with a beautiful hull again. It almost felt like the entire covid months, she was bare naked and now she finally got some clothes on and got her dignity back. It’s very satisfying and motivating to see this side all white again.

Probably the most satisfying photo I have seen so far.

I will do another update when we hit another milestone, until then, feel free to share this blog post and ask me questions if you have any. I will try to answer them as quickly as possible!

Next time, I would like to chat about

  • Plugging the nail holes on the hull planking

  • The cutlass bearing on the shaft

  • Loosing my mind over the oil stove

  • The making of the new galley (An entire blog post about this itself)

  • The satisfying stripping of the electronics

  • The not so satisfying stripping of Cetol making me senile

  • The exhaust/asbestos issue

  • New, sexy electronics

  • Keel cooler

Please feel free to comment and suggest other topics you would be interested to read more about. Until then, stay away from trouble.

Chat soon! ⚓️

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The past few days, I have been working on the aft section of the cabin, where all the controls are.


I started by rerouting the cable for the Wagner engine controls, which was coming out of the wall, hanging inside the cabin and then back inside the wall towards the outside. I had to cut it behind the control box and I got a little worried I was not going to be able to reassemble it. I took a photo to have a reference on where the wires were supposed to go. After rerouting the cable, I made a new waterproof mounting box and talked to a knowledgeable guy that was in the boatyard and he helped me figure the connections out. I was able to learn how the little wire clamps work and I reconnected each wire one by one where they belong to make sure there was good, tight contact. I looked at it as a forced maintenance to inspect everything, so I was very happy to see how it was made and understand for future potential troubleshooting. Never know!

The previous box was super dry and mounted on the outside of the cabin. I hated it, it looked like it was a quick job done in a hurry, very common in commercial fishing boats! So I cut a hole to fit the new box inside the bulkhead. I sealed around it with Sikaflex for now. I will scrape and repaint the entire cabin outside so I did not bother spending more time on a nice finish. It’s already so much better!

There was a very rusty coupling mounted on the hydraulic steering pump‘s shaft and I expected to spend some time trying to remove it, but it turned out the thing just broke in half and fell on deck after a few little hammer taps. haha! This was a great surprise, for once things were smooth.

With a few years of millwright apprenticeship under my belt, this is something I am used to do and I actually quite enjoy playing with these things. Fits and tolerances, scotch brite, emery cloth, WD40, pullers, etc are all things I have used lots at work and I was happy to get to this point on my own boat. After a little effort, the rewards were quite satisfying and I was happy to see a super shiny stainless steel shaft that looked like a brand new one after cleanup!

Cleaned shaft

I went to Harbour Chandler and got an 8 inch sterring wheel, which came with a tapered, 3/4 inch hole. My caliper read 0.8750 inch on my shaft, which means it is a 7/8inch shaft, and it is straight, not tapered. Of course, I could not order a little wheel to fit, so I brought the one I got to Alistair at Head Tek machining in Nanaimo and he milled it to a 7/8” for me, I got the wheel back the day after. He was lovely and great to do business with.

Next job was to make a new wooden cover plate. I made the new one out of 3/4” fir plywood. It took me two cuts to make it right, but the last try was a great fit. I was going to use my holesaw to make the round hole, but turned out I got the wrong pilot drill bit for the set that I got and I had to make the cut with a jigsaw. I was quite impressed at myself, with a beautiful round cut!

I also added two more fasteners for the top part of the plate as there was only two at the bottom of the previous plate and it make the plate lift on top. I will leave this on stand by for now as I have to repaint the cabin and I think the wisest decision for this mounting plate would be to seal it on the new cabin paint with a gasket of sikaflex in case I need to get in there in the future to do some work on the steering pump.

Since my wheel got milled to a bigger size, the key hole was very shallow and I had to spend some time filling it with a hand file. I also filed key holes on several stainless steel washers, since the wheel has 2 centimeters less in lenght then the total shaft lenght. I found the right size bolt to secure the wheel and will shim the difference with washers and cap it with a custom sapele varnished wood cap that I will make later. the wheel came with a black plastic cap and I just can‘t put this on.

Now the issue is that the 7/8” wheel hole feels like a couple thousand of an inch too tight. I tried to heat the wheel to make it expand to install it with a tight fit, but she won’t go further than 1/4 inch in. Steering pumps are finicky pieces of equipment and I don’t want to bang it in, so I will go back to Alistair on monday and ask him to shave a little bit off.

Another thing I have done in this area is install shore power. There was none originally and the previous owner had shore power going through the cabin window. This is not something I wanted to keep doing so I bought a shore power inlet. I picked the “Smart plug” as it is a lot safer. I know this boat will be left alone sometime so worrying about a fire due to bad contact is not something I wanted at all. Doug at Stryker Electronics in Port Hardy got me the cable I needed for it and I wired it inside the inlet. The smart plug comes with a dumb proof colour coding and it is very straight forward to wire it in.

The hole freshly cut with the new shore power cable.

The new shore power inlet in, before I did work on the rest.

It is motivating to see this little area change day after day and I am so glad I attacked it. It will be great once it’s all done!

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