Preparing an 85-Year-Old Sailing Vessel for the summer season

Getting an 85-year-old wooden sailing vessel ready for months of daily sailing is no small feat. This grand dame of the sea has weathered many storms, and every year we need to ready her for another season of taking visitors on day trips out of Victoria Harbour. Here’s a look at the comprehensive process of cleaning up and revitalizing The Duen, from her wooden masts to her iron keel.

The Deck: A Labor of Love

A single year of exposure to the elements leaves a wooden deck worn and covered in grime and salt. We do what we can with tarps and covers over the winter, but The Duen does not fit in a boat house! Armed with brushes, mops, and plenty of elbow grease, each plank is scrubbed clean, revealing the rich wood beneath. We replace and secure loose planks as needed, ensuring a safe and sturdy surface for our future passengers.

Painting the Bottom

Before launching The Duen for the season, we need to address the hull's underwater portion. We haul her out of the water and carefully clean off barnacles and algae. Next, we turned our attention to the caulking between the wooden planks. Over time, the caulking can degrade, allowing water to seep in. We meticulously remove old and failing caulking and apply fresh compound, ensuring every seam keeps the water out. This not only keeps The Duen watertight but also maintains her structural integrity. Once the bottom is clean and caulked, we apply a fresh coat of anti-fouling paint to protect against marine growth. This crucial step ensures The Duen can glide through the water efficiently and stay free of harmful organisms – for about a year.

Painting the Topside

With the bottom painted and the caulking done, we moved on to the topside. We sand down the old paint, smoothing out any rough spots. Then, we apply a new coat of marine-grade paint, giving The Duen a fresh, vibrant look. The new paint not only enhances her appearance but also provides added protection against the elements.

Varnishing the Woodwork

The Duen’s wooden accents are a key part of her charm, and they need special attention. We carefully sand and clean the woodwork, preparing it for varnish. Applying multiple coats of high-quality varnish brings out the natural beauty of the wood while providing a durable finish that can withstand sun and saltwater. The gleaming woodwork adds a touch of elegance to The Duen’s overall look.

Polishing the Brass

No restoration would be complete without tending to the brass fixtures. From the portholes to the navigational instruments, every piece of brass is given a preservative coating, preventing corrosion from the salty sea air.

Maintaining the Rigging

The ropes and pulleys that control the sails are subject to careful inspection, replacing any that show signs of wear. Sails, block and tackle are all given a twice-over, ensuring The Duen’s sails can be hoisted and adjusted with ease.

Final Preparations and Government Inspections

With the major cleaning and repairs complete, we conducted a final inspection to ensure everything is in order. The Duen has the added challenge of being a Transport Canada licensed vessel and subject to rigorous yearly inspections and compliance. As a one-of-a-kind ship, this can get complicated. However, we enjoy an excellent relationship with the Transport Canada inspectors who assist in keeping our ship "old but safe" for all our customers.

When it comes to Transport Canada's requirements for transportation vessels, safety and operational standards take precedence. Vessels used for transportation purposes must carry appropriate safety equipment, such as life jackets, fire extinguishers, distress signals, and navigation lights, based on the vessel's size and passenger capacity.

Transport Canada has established stability and construction standards to ensure the vessel's structural integrity and seaworthiness. Licensing and certification requirements are necessary for captain and crew.

Setting Sail for Victoria Harbour

With The Duen revitalized and approved for duty, we perform a test sail to reposition The Duen from Canoe Cove to her summer residency in Victoria’s beautiful inner harbour. The Duen is not just a vessel; she is a piece of history, and we are proud to be her caretakers. She now ready to create new memories for all those who step aboard.