Monthly Archives: July 2009

2009 Week 30 in Review

This week’s cruise aboard the MV Catalyst was from Petersburg to Craig, stopping at Labouchere Bay, Devilfish Bay, Spanberg Island, Anguilla Island, Port Real Marina, and Trocadero Bay.

On Sunday I hung onto the cell phone reception until the very last minute while leaving Petersburg. I have a much harder time leaving Seattle these days: I try to get a lot of projects going simultaneously, but shipping out mean that I more or less drop everything except what I manage by phone.

We headed south through the Wrangell Narrows and then toward the Pacific. This is a Craig trip, heading down the outside of Prince of Wales Island we should see lots of coastal animals and forests that have been tortured by the relentless wind and rain.

We stopped in Labouchere Bay, then on the way to Devilfish Bay we took the skiff in to Hole in the Wall. It’s a narrow entrance from Clarence Strait that goes to a small round bay on the chart. It really looks odd and like a hole in the wall. Kinda like Mats Mats Bay in Washington.

Then, we pulled into El Capitan Pass and visited what the captain called the “Hole in The Ground.” It’s a cave with an opening about 300 feet above the water – we had to climb 366 steps almost straight up to get there from the beach. The Forest Service maintains the trail, and they also installed a gate about 200 feet in. You can only go further back with a guide from the Forest Service. We’ll make a reservation for a guide next week on our way back. The cave was really neat; I can’t wait to take the tour.

Hole in the Ground cave

We continued on to Spanberg Island, and then on the way to Anguilla Island, we stopped at Eagle Island for some great tide-pooling. Millions of tiny critters were running around in the tide pools:

Then we stayed a night at Port Real Marina and then at Trocadero Bay, and finally on to Craig.

Engineer’s Log

The Catalyst, like any boat that is actually required to perform regularly, has many little work-arounds to fix common problems. Here’s a few accessories we’ve picked up. First, the tennis ball.

tennis balls

The engine causes the boat to vibrate in different places and at varying rates, all depending on the number of revolutions per minute the engine is running. Even though heavy-duties vibrate much less than modern high-speed diesels, they still have areas that rattle around. At 365 rpm, the wheelhouse doors become the position of the boat vibration wave anti-node; when the door is latched a few inches in the open position, it rattles on the hook. This calls for what we call Catalyst ingenuity: a tennis ball on a lanyard. The ball gets wedged between the door and the jam to stop the rattle. Also, when the door is opened from inside the wheelhouse by an unsuspecting visitor the ball bonks them on the head, an endless source of entertainment.

Another accessory is the playing cards in the fuel system. The engine has many parts that make up the fuel delivery system: the cam on the cam shaft, the cam follower roller, the adjusting screw, the bell-crank, the adjustable push-rod, the rocker, the button, the fuel valve rocking lever, the stem and seat, the injector holes, and four pins. Washington Iron Works had a difficult time making all the parts the same and it’s even more difficult to make them all wear exactly the same, so there’s a lot of little tiny differences to each part. We’re still able to set all the fuel adjustments to get very even exhaust temperatures between the cylinders, but any time the engine is sped up or slowed down, the temperatures are uneven again.

To compensate for this, we set the adjusting screws to full speed, and then when the engine is slowed the engineer inserts playing cards under the adjusting screw temporally to even out the cylinder’s load on each. The Catalyst‘s engine at low idle (190 RPM) with the air-compressor unloaded gets cards as follows: #1 cylinder takes three cards , #2 doesn’t need any, #3 takes two, #4 takes three cards, #5 takes four cards, and #6 takes five cards.

card adjustments to the Catalyst's Washington Iron Works diesel engine

There’s a ton of other accessories on the Catalyst that I’ll try to mention as the summer wears on.

Anyway, here’s the numbers for the 12th trip of the 2009 season:

hours underway: 41:05
hours on main: 43
hours on the generator: 44:35
hours on the water maker: 10:20
miles traveled: 231
gallons of fuel used: 169
gallons of water made: 620
gallons of gas used: 8.8
gallons of propane: 4.5
gallons of lube oil: 5

And finally, here’s a tasty recipe from the Catalyst‘s galley:
Twice-Baked Goat Cheese Soufflés

Ingredients
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 ¼ cups hot milk
pinch cayenne pepper
squeeze of lemon juice
salt and ground black pepper
3 ½ oz semi-hard goat cheese crumbles
2 eggs, separated
melted butter for brushing
3 table spoons dried bread crumbs
3 table spoons ground hazelnuts
2 egg whites
spinach leaves
halved cherry tomatoes
toasted walnuts
dressing

Instructions
1. Melt two tablespoons of butter and stir in three tablespoons of flour. Cook to a roux for a minute then gradually whisk in one and a quarter cups hot milk to make a thick white sauce.
2. Simmer for a minute, then season with a pinch of cayenne pepper, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a little salt and pepper. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in three and a half ounces of semi-hard crumbled goat cheese until it melts. Cool slightly, then beat in two egg yolks.
3. Brush the inside of six ramekins with melted butter and coat them with bread crumbs and minced hazelnuts. Shake out any excess.
4. Heat oven to 375 degrees and prepare a bain marie (roasting pan half-filled with boiling water.
5. Whisk four egg whites to the soft peak stage and carefully fold them into the main mixture.
6. Fill each ramekin and place in the bain marie and bake for 12-15 minutes until risen and golden brown. Serve
or
7. to serve twice baked, allow to cool, then chill. Run a knife round the inside of each ramekin and turn out each soufflé onto a baking tray.
8. Bake at 375 for about 12 minutes
9. serve on a dressed salad.

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2009 Week 29 in Review

News from Alaska

I’m onboard the Catalyst again and I’m meeting boat friends everywhere: the crew from the Liseron, former crewmates Chuck and Nissa from the Mist Cove, and the crew from the Catalyst, who are all being relieved today by a whole new crew. Captain Steve, chef Lisa, deckhand Lia, and I will be running the boat together for the next few weeks.

Lia and I flew in on Saturday and after some last-minute chores and drinks at the Alaskan hotel, we picked up our passengers on Sunday and headed out to Endicott Arm.

This week’s cruise was from Juneau to Petersburg, stopping at Sanford Cove, Fords Terror, West Brother, Sheldon Cove, West Brother, and Scenery Cove along the way

We kayaked through Fords Terror, picked up a bunch of Dungeness crabs at Wood Spit, made a campfire on West Brother in Frederic Sound, and watched some bears in Sheldon cove.

We got to Sheldon cove early, so I pulled four valves to clean and swap. I exchange intake for exhaust valves every so often so that they wear evenly and we get more life out of them. Washingtons are hard on their valves for some reason.

We liked West Brother so much that we stopped there again and this time we had Norio Matsumoto over for dinner. He’s a great wilderness photographer and he showed a slide show of his work. On the way to Thomas Bay we watched some whales, then anchored in Scenery Cove and went for a walk to Baird Glacier.

Once we got to Petersburg, the whole crew was anxious to connect with the world we all had a cell phone attached to one ear while cleaning the boat, provisioning, and doing other chores.

This week was so nice. Getting aboard Catalyst was like coming home and I ran into each room to revisit great memories and see that everything is still where I left it. Frederick Sound is also some of the best cruising in the world – especially with the great weather we’re having. I have never seen so much sun up here. It made the glacier a beautiful sparkling blue, and it was so warm I could wear shorts and a t-shirt while on our hike there.

sunny days on the MV Catalyst

Engineer’s Log

Valves from 1 and 2 pulled, cleaned, and swapped in for out
Ex-valve for #3 reinstalled after Eric pulled it
Wiggled cord for the shaft tachometer; no improvement, still reading really low or not at all
Re-soldered wire to stateroom five port forward reading light
Cleaned and flushed bilge

We also did the numbers for this trip, the 11th of the 2009 season:

hours underway: 52:45
hours on main: 53.8
hours on the generator: 35:.6
hours on the water maker: 17:45
miles traveled: 231
gallons of fuel used: 179
gallons of water made: 1,035
gallons of gas used: 8.8
gallons of propane: 4.5
gallons of lube oil: 4
qts of half and half: used 6 (unusually high)

And finally, here’s a tasty recipe from the Catalyst‘s galley:

Crab
drop crab pots in 40 feet of water in top secret location with herring bait caught from just off the Taku fishery pier.
soak for one to two days, pull
return small ones and females
pull all legs of each crab, bracing the center of the body on the boat rail; legs and body meat should come right out of shell
scrape off gills
boil for 11 minutes
shell and eat

Kitchen notes: Crab-eaters of the world are divided into two groups: pilers and gobblers. Gobblers eat each piece of crab as they pull it out of the shell, while pilers pile up their pieces on their plate. Pilers beware, for the gobblers are happy to steal your pile.

Finally, crab-crackers are for newbies.

Waving to the Heavy-Duties

On the way into Petersburg, I saw the Katahdin, the Barron Islands, and the Cape Cross, each powered by a heavy-duty. It’s great to see the old workboat yachts out there.

More scraping at Indian Graves

In news beyond Alaska, I heard that the Indian Grave engine #3 ran for an hour and then the #2 main bearing got hot, so they scraped it down some more. This isn’t unusual – even with a good pattern on the bearing and the engine turning by hand really smooth, more scraping is often required after actually running the engine the first few times. Sounds like it’s going well.

Sexy sailor women

Diana the OTM Inc museologist had pictures taken for the 2010 Sexy Women of Maritime Calendar produced by Jack Tar Magazine this week. Apparently, the photos turned out great, but you’ll have to buy the calendar to see them because she isn’t sharing.

Social Networking

Old Tacoma Marine Inc. joined TheBoaters.com, which is like Facebook for boat trash. Check us out!

New owner for the Sound

I heard that Anthony bought the Sound. Poor sucker – he already owns the Chief. I love Enterprises, but there is such thing as too much of a good thing.

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2009 Week 28 in Review

Early Sunday morning, I picked up all the remaining tools from the Arthur Foss, put the yacht back in the driveway, cleaned up my desk, and got back on a plane to Quincy, Illinois.

Back to Quincy

I went back to the Indian Grave Pumpouse despite the bad news that only two sets of piston rings had arrived, so I spent the week setting up the remaining rod bearings as close as I could without the pistons. I used a spare rod dangled from above to allow me to tighten the rod bearing bolts and get a more accurate bearing running clearance. Then, I used an old technique Dan told me from a while back: how to set bearing clearances without using dials.

I adjust the shims until they’re really close, then continue to adjust them one thousandth by one thousandth until the bearing just starts to drag on the journal when I move it side to side. When it starts to drag, that means it’s basically at 0, so I add shims one by one until I get about .004 worth of clearance.

I really needed this method because without the piston to center the bearing, it was too squirrelly to bump without a dial. Once the pistons are installed all the clearances will be set precisely, but I did this initial setup to make the final bump faster.

I also made some special tools to fit in place of rod bearing shims, allowing the piston height to be easily set, since I accidentally destroyed some valuable shims using a big stack of them to set piston height earlier. I only got to use the tool two times this trip, but I also got to show it off to the Fabius River Drainage District commissioners and the operator.

custom-built tool for setting the piston height

All the roustabouts and pump guys have been working four ten-hour days, so they all get Friday off. I chose this day to invite the Fabius guys to the Indian Graves Pumphouse to discuss maintaining their Fairbanks-Morse (6)32E14s. The meeting went great! I had all the tools and Nathan’s help to show how easy it is to repair and maintain big heavy-duties like Fairbanks. As a demonstration, we pulled a rod bearing, looked at it, and then put it back and checked the piston height. All of them were impressed and Nathan and I felt like we may have saved two amazing engines from the scrapper.

Road Trippin’

Right after the meeting, I wrapped everything at Indian Graves up to go back to the airport, so that I could get to Seattle and immediately turn around and fly to Alaska to ship out on Catalyst.

Well, things just got ridiculous. I got a flat tire on the rented Prius. Damn. Oh, well. I put on the spare tire, then made one more trip down to the levy to drop off an engine manual, and then I’ll be damned – I got another flat and picked up a nail in a different tire.

With the flight leaving in 3 ½ hours, I was able to look up the closest tire repair shop on my phone. “Ron’s Tire Shop” sent a truck right away. I reported the incident to the rental company over the phone, and arranged to have someone drop me off immediately once I got to the rental office in the off chance that I got there in time. Then, I arranged new flights in case I missed this one, and reserved a hotel room across the highway from the airport, and began re-scheduling the flight to Alaska (currently set for 10:30 AM pacific time).

While on the phone, the tire repair guy was carrying on with the mechanic. He had to drive back to the shop and get two new tires. I’ll take the time to file a claim later. Finally, the tires were installed and the one with the nail patched, then I hit the road. The drive from Quincy to St. Louis (which I’m getting really familiar with) usually takes two hours; this time, I made it in one and a half and made the flight with seconds to spare. Wow! Once I got my boarding pass and went through the security check-in, I heard the elevator music movie scene from the Blues Brothers where they are in the elevator after the best car chase ever.

The Ready hauled-out

We heard that the tug Ready was hauled out and looks great. Sounds like the new owners are making progress – I hope they get the engine running again soon!

A new Portolan is out!

I just got a newsletter from Nortwest Seaport with all the non-engine news from the organization. They included a feature article on the YMTA Engineer for a Day field trip that I ran for them last February. They’ve put up a .pdf version on their website if you haven’t gotten yours by mail, so go check it out.

It looks like they’re doing really good things these days. I might even renew my membership.

Hand-fitting versus precision parts

Whenever I’m scraping bearings in, I get a lot of grief from spectators who see all my fuss over each engine part and how I seem “overly concerned” about fit and how the method is slow. Fitting bearings does take a long time, but it’s not a process that you can take shortcuts on. I rarely use power tools on parts that must fit precisely, because the margin for error is just too great. Scraping in a bearing is a time-consuming process that requires patience and seems to be seen as a dying art.

New engines use all precision parts that you can just bolt on and go. This is desirable because labor rates are higher than the cost of parts and parts can now be machined with fairly close tolerances. The same holds true for a lot of things these days: engines, furniture, trains, buildings, jewelry, or martinis. Houses can be assembled without using a saw, trains are delivered in a box, and I even drank a mixed drink from a can while I was on the airplane. However, I know I’m not alone in my belief that finding a mechanic who can hand-fit bearings is like finding a bartender who can make that perfect cocktail the old-fashioned way: it may take longer and it may be more expensive, but it’s totally worth it at the end of the day.

I do regret that the fitting take so much time and believe me when I say there is progress – though it may be hard to see behind the ever-mounding pile of emery bits. Most of all, be patient!

Off to Alaska

On Saturday, OTM Inc’s lead mechanic took off to Alaska again to work on the Catalyst until September 1.

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2009 Week 27 in Review

This week, we put the Arthur Foss all back together. All the parts are cleaned and many painted, the head is down, the piston is in, and the rod bearing is in, and I tightened everything down and painted the cylinder and deck plates just in time for class on Saturday.  But first:

More Enterprises

Doug reminded us via email to include the Alaska Ferries Malaspina and Columbia to the list of Enterprise-powered boats. Will do, Doug – does anyone know what model they are? The Golden Bear is powered by two big R5-V16 diesels – do the ferries have that same model?

New owners for the Kaluah Maru?

I’ve heard a rumor that the Kaluah Maru, a boat in Hawaii with two Superiors, has new owners. Anyone hear anything concrete? OTM Inc is investigating.

The Dunlin moves to Seattle

I got an email from Keith in which he said that the Dunlin has moved to Seattle. I can’t wait to meet the new owner and see the boat!

Diesel Engine Theory Session Five!

With all the parts ready and all the tools laid out, the class attacked the engine early Saturday morning. We wanted to get a good start on the work left – bumping the bearings, timing the valves and injectors, and getting it ready to run –since Saturday also started the 34th Annual Lake Union Wooden Boat Festival! Since 2005, OTM Inc has been a part of the show by running the Arthur‘s engine throughout the festival as a demonstration. The public loves it, and this year the students were going to help us keep it going.

the final session of the 2009 diesel engine theory workshop in the Arthur Foss

While the engineers were in the engine room, chef Kim was in the smoking hot galley. She baked bread all morning, turning the galley into a roasting pit of despair, but the bread was very tasty. Here’s the instructions and recipe, tailored for baking on the Arthur Foss:

At 7 or 8 am, turn on the stove; first, remove the firebox cover and vacuum or scrape the bits of carbon out of the firebox and the diesel cup. Next, open the valve from the day tank, open the valve to the meter, open the valve on the meter, and turn the meter up to full. Look down into the firebox; when you see a little diesel trickle out of the hole, light it with the blow torch that’s kept in the galley drawer. You’ll probably have to fire it for a while with the torch to get it alight.

Once it’s on, let it get hot and smoky and fiery, then turn on the fan. Open the fan damper until it doesn’t smoke any more – but not too much, or the fire will start to flicker like a strobe. Adjust it until you find the happy medium between strobe and smoke, and continue to check it for the next several hours.

Have some coffee, run the generator, clean the counter, have some more coffee. At 10 or 11, when stove is nearing 300°, dissolve 2tsp yeast in 2 cups warm water, then add:

5 ½ cups flour
¼ cup sugar
1 to 2 tsp salt

Mix, not knead, all this together and fold dough into a rounded lump. Cover lightly with cloth and put in a warm, not hot, place. The dish rack over the sink is perfect, and keeps it out of the way. Let rise to double its size.

Divide dough in half, form into two lumps, and place in the big glass pan. Cover lightly and let rise to double its size and the oven is between 350° and 400°.

Place in center of oven and bake 10-15 min, or until top is VERY golden brown. Remove the bread from the oven, wait no more and no less than five minutes before removing from pan. Eat it hot with butter.

bread baked in the Arthur Foss's diesel oven

The original recipe is featured in Lin Pardey’s awesome seacook’s book: The Care and Feeding of the Offshore Crew. Kim sliced most of this loaf and left it out on the counter with butter, and it was gone within an hour.

Back to the engine. We had everything buttoned up by one and we all held our breaths as we blew down the engine, then started it up. It started right up – but the new head gasket didn’t fully seat and a little air hissed out between the head and the cylinder on every compression stroke. We shut it down quick because it was making sounds like a dying goose.

After we cleaned up, the students had the next two hours to check out the Wooden Boat Festival and all the great old boats at South Lake Union for the weekend. Sadly, no other boats with heavy-duty diesels came, but it was still a great show. Meanwhile, tons of kids mobbed the boat for Pirate Story Hour:

pirate story hour on the arthur foss

At four, we all headed over to Buca di Beppo for a very tasty celebration dinner.

At six, the show closed and the class ended. Everyone filled out course evaluations at the restaurant, and they gave us rave reviews. Here’s a sample:

I think the program was coo. I really liked it and learned a lot. It would be better if we had a couple of days in the week instead of one. MoB MoB MoB L*fe L*fe L*fe.”

We think that’s a complement.

I know that I had a good time this session. It’s too bad that the head gasket didn’t fully seat, but it wasn’t anyone’s fault; the engine is old and sometimes these things happen. Despite not running the engine all afternoon Saturday, I would still say that this was one of the best classes and we addressed many issues with the engine, so the class was definitely a success.

dirty hands on the arthur foss

Next year, we’ll do Cylinder One.

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