Category Archives: tugboats

2009 Week 19 in Review

Breaking down the party

I spent the first part of the week finishing the big M4 Party. Volunteers and I worked around the clock to clean up and return all the stuff, following the amazing show. Thanks to all those who helped this year!

If you want to be involved in the next M4 party, please contact me and I’ll put you in touch with the crew.

M4 Factory Party

Preparing for Illinois

I talked two weeks ago about how I’d been talking with the Indian Grave Pump House in Illinois about installing re-babbitted main bearings in their Fairbanks-Morse engines. I ended Week 17 hearing “we’re waiting for the bearings to come back from the shop,” and by this week they were back to “hurry hurry hurry,” so I’m getting ready to go to Illinois again.

I picked up more lapping compound (a big 5lb bucket this time), and cleaned up the shop. This time, the trip is indefinitely long, so I had to be sure the bills are paid and the chickens have feed. It’ll probably be two or three weeks, so stay tuned for blogs from the Midwest.

Business as usual

OTM Inc got audited by the insurance company. Lame.

Elliott Bay Tugboat Races

On Saturday, OTM Inc went to the tugboat races on Elliott Bay aboard the Maris Pearl. It was a great day for racing, and we had a blast:

Tugboat Races on the Maris Pearl

We also saw the Fearless out in fine form:

Western Towboat tug Fearless at the Elliott Bay Tugboat Races

Tugboat Night!

We had another session of Tugboat Night aboard the Arthur Foss. The next session is June 13, so we’ll see you there!

Labor versus Capital

There’s been lots of talk about our ideas of labor changing these days, but I want to know if our ideas of efficiency will change. I think it might have to.

Let’s say we give billions to the auto industry so that they can keep people employed. We as tax payers will pay them to make cars, but then no one wants to buy them. Did it work? No but if we give billions to an auto industry that makes cars by hand, using hand tools. And turn out less cars people keep their jobs.

By the same token, if we give billions to highway improvement, it will be under the banner of creating jobs and employing people. It sounds like a good idea, but I’m worried that what will happen when the government starts awarding contracts. If the lowest bidder is the company that wants to buy a big automatic highway re-paving machine that was made in China and can be driven by one person, then did the plan work? I say that it didn’t, if the original plan was to create jobs (unless we’re counting off-shore manufacturing jobs).

I’m worried that billions will go to replace old diesels for no reason except to keep the Chinese who build Caterpillars employed for another day. Ultimately the money earmarked for a cleaner and better running fleet should be spent to have engineers and mechanics replace the rings and injectors. A billion dollars can service a lot of engines and keep people employed right here – plus it will help protect the environment by both cutting emissions and preventing new engines to be shipped around the world and old engines to be shipped to the scrappers.

Really, if we clean up the engines that are already in use, the benefits will be compounded. We’ll have cleaner air, more work with less capital investment, a better life for mid-level educated folks, and no artificially-created demand for the new products. All the equipment serviced will already be in demand due to the fact that someone owns it.

So, government folks, please stop creating meaningless capital investment and buy labor, instead. There are millions of ways to improve the world with out making anything.

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2009 Week 14 in Review

We started this week by cleaning the shop really well, since I was headed out of town. I also tied up loose ends on the Arthur Foss and gathered parts for the Maris Pearl.

Tug for sale

The tug Earnest is for sale here in Seattle. It’s a great tug, 91 feet long and built in 1942. It used to have a 600-HP Atlas-Imperial just like the one owned by the Florida Flywheelers. It’s been re-powered with a 1,125 Caterpillar D-399 engine, but it’s still a good boat. Contact me if you or a friend is interested.

Enterprise R-Models for sale

We’ve heard that there’s two 8,000 horsepower Enterprise Model-R diesels for sale in Maryland. They’re part of a genset and that was supposed to power an island, but apparently the deal fell through. We’ve heard that these two were the last off the Enterprise manufacturing line, so we hope someone grabs them. Contact OTM Inc if you’re interested.


I just found out that an old neighbor of mine is a descendant of the guy who invented the Metal Marine Pilot, which was later turned into a Wood Freeman Autopilot. Huh.

Public Trust

We at OTM Inc have recently heard of a tugboat collection getting pushed around by the government.

Steve is a tugboat guy in Waterford, New York. He’s a little reckless, a little eccentric, and very passionate about what he does, which is to collect old tugboats. I can see you rolling your eyes out there, but if the tugboat collection is doing okay and not harming anyone, why bother him?

Well, the New York State Canal Corporation is apparently planning to remove Steve and his vessels from “their” waterways by systematically attacking him with court orders, restraining orders, fines, and the other non-violent weapons available to bureaucracies. The Canal Corporation is a state-owned operation designed to manage the public trust that owns the canal and river systems in New York. According to Steve, they recently changed the state law to say “no living on boats in the canals.” We at OTM Inc have not looked up the law, but find it unlikely that they made it that general; instead, we speculate that they changed the state law to read something like “no living on a barge called Pennsylvania No. 399 within 100 yards of Lock E-2.”

Anyway, Steve continued living on his boat, so the Canal Corporation had him arrested and issued a restraining order to keep him off the boats. Interestingly, the Canal Corporation then assumed care of the boats, until they can safely acquire title to them through the doctrine of adverse possession. I think we all can guess where they’ll end up after the Canal Corporation has title to them.

Steve is planning to strike back by accusing the Canal Corporation of “interfering with the safe operation of a vessel” and “forcefully taking control of a manned vessel.” Both of these are federal offenses and typically taken very seriously.

While researching this article, OTM Inc tried tirelessly to contact an official with the Canal Corporation, but received no response to any of the voicemails or messages left with the secretary. I can only assume that they are uninterested in making a statement at this time.

While I understand the need to put some vessels out of their misery, and that there are some situations in which a boat collector must be saved from himself, setting a bureaucratic precedent like this is disturbing. The idea that the same entity that obtains the restraining order can gain control of the vessel through taking care of it in the owner’s court-ordered absence is pretty scary, and a scenario I don’t want to see played out.

At the same time, there are some boat projects that really are hopeless and should be shut down before they end up costing a lot of taxpayer money to clean up. These projects are the one that linger for decades, with lots of time and energy and love and hope and money all wasted in the end because the project was hopeless from the start.

From my perspective, it comes down to how to define what projects are “hopeless.” Who gets to make the call on that? What’s their training? Who trained them? Are they licensed, and who licensed them?

Even more, are there any objective criteria or scale that this person or persons can use to judge boat projects as a potential success or failure at the beginning? Someday, I will assemble an interdisciplinary panel of experts in a variety of related fields, including psychologists, psychiatrists, economists, curators, drum circle hippies, demographers, maritime attorneys, navel architects, ship captains, surveyors, and boat repair specialists. This team will develop just such a scale to judge boat projects on, so that we can stop wasting years of hope and work only to lose it all to scrappers or government agencies. No old boat project should be judged without such a panel – one that includes both boat people and realists.

Until then, Old Tacoma Marine Inc will offer unbiased mediation services to assist parties with resolving such disputes.

Old Tacoma Marine Inc goes to Mexico

See you next week!

Old Tacoma Marine Inc goes to Mexico

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2008 Week 46 in Review

We took the rest of the main bearings out of the Catalyst this week. Bill and I rolled them out two at a time to look at them, clean them really well, measure them, and take pictures:

lower shell of main bearing on the MV Catalyst's Washington Iron Works diesel engine

Then we’d roll them back in and roll out another two. We were careful to not roll out adjacent pairs, since it’s important that the crankshaft stay supported even with a couple of bearings out. Now that I’ve said that, I’ll say that there was one exception: we rolled out both six and seven at the same time, because one of them is a small bearing beside the air compressor bay, so it’s not quite as important.

We also found that number six and number seven are bad, which makes three bad main bearings to be re-babbitted. One of them is ripple-y, like it got hot (maybe it was changed out and not scraped in, which would have caused it to heat up) and two of them are cracked very badly:

lower shell of main bearing on the MV Catalyst's Washington Iron Works diesel engine

One of the cracked ones was definitely from badly-poured babbitt (which I described back in Week 44), so the other one was probably bad babbitt as well, since they were probably done at the same time. It’s hard to tell, though, and we don’t really know when the babbitt on the mains was poured. It could well be the original 1932 babbitt! Maybe I’ll look it up in the log book to pass some time while underway next summer.

By the end of the day, we’d rolled out all of the main bearings except for number one. This one carries the weight of the flywheel, which we didn’t want to deal with on this job. We’re going to assume that it’s okay for the time being, since the flywheel is a consistent load – it just goes around and around. The pounding of cylinders firing is the thing that’s really hard on the main bearings, so neither Dan nor I were that worried about number one. We’ll look at number one in the future, but this winter’s job is big enough already.

Later in the week, Bill and I took them up to Everett Engineering for estimates. We also stopped in by Striegel Supply to visit Steve and to pick up a piston ring from a DMM Enterprise. The DMM models have an 8″ bore, so we think that one of those rings might work for the 8″ Washington. It’s thinner, but we took it anyway and hopefully I’ll get it to work.

I introduced Bill to Steve, and we all chatted about how everyone owes us money. Striegel doesn’t really carry Washington stuff, but Steve’s a good guy to know – especially if you ever need Enterprise stuff.

An update on the Island Champion

While we were in Everett, I took Bill by the Island Champion. We went aboard to see some of the work that Hilbert’s been doing and he showed us the new floors he’s laid in the salon and galley, which look very nice. I would rather have seen the old floors refinished, since I’m old-school like that, but they do look good. Hilbert’s been doing a lot of other work on the boat and it’s looking great. He and Bill and I were joking about how it could work as a charter boat, but we weren’t really serious… or were we?

Being aboard reinforced the fact that we need to tie the boat up to a strong pier and run the engine for a few days, since it hasn’t been run since the last year’s swamping (I told that sad story back in Week 22). A few days after it was brought up, we flushed the engine really well, flushed the oil lines, and bailed out the crank pit. Then we changed the oil a couple of times, rotated the engine by hand, took all the reed valves apart, cleaned them, and put them back together. We also drained the Manzells and flushed them, then cranked tons of oil through them. With all that, the engine should be fine, but hasn’t been run since so can’t sign off on it yet—plus the engine should be run as often as possible, anyway. Hopefully, we’ll manage that over the winter, once my other jobs are done.

Speaking for Old Engines

I gave a talk for the Society of Port Engineers of Puget Sound, on Veterans Day. They have a speaker at their monthly meetings, and they were interested in hearing about the big old diesels. I don’t think of myself as much of a speaker, but this is the second time I’ve been asked.

Last year, I gave a talk for the Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society, and while I think that the guests might have learned something about the antique diesel engines, I wasn’t very animated. I ended up reading a lot of my talk from a script that I wrote beforehand, but other people say it was fine, so maybe I’m just oversensitive.

This year’s talk for the Port Engineers went a lot better. I started by telling some of my funny engineer stories, and then just talking about engines. Instead of preparing a Presentation, I put up pictures of engines and boats that I wanted to talk about and just talked about them. I got some good questions, and a bunch of people were nodding as I talked, so I think it went pretty well.

I want to thank the Society for the invite – I met a lot of interesting maritime folks. I look forward to visiting again.

A buyer for the Lake Superior?

Bob from the American Victory Mariners Memorial and Museum Ship called me the other day; he and his people are interested in maybe buying the Lake Superior. He wanted to know if there were parts and technical support available for maintaining a Q Enterprise. They apparently want to use it occasionally to move things around, but mostly as a museum ship. I told him that there were plenty of resources out there in the community and to keep me in the loop – and to call me for the cruise from Duluth to Tampa.

Later, I did some research on the internet and found an article at the Great Lakes & Seaway Shipping News Archives about the Lake Superior. Apparently, the Army Corps of Engineers gave it to the City of Duluth when they retired it in 1995, and the City tried to make a museum out of it by their convention center. I guess folks weren’t that interested in an old Army tug at the dock, since so few people took the tour that they actually cut a hole into the side of the hole to make an ice cream parlor. That didn’t work either, and they sold the tug to a private company last year.

I think it’s good that the city was able to move on and sell the tug when they saw that it wasn’t working as a museum boat, rather than getting completely stuck trying to convince the world that another old rust bucket was interesting. I’m all for preserving the old boats (they help keep the old engines dry), but museums and cities have to be realistic when they’re trying to operate a workboat as a museum. Sometimes it’s just not doable because people aren’t that interested. I think it’s better to sell the boat and move on than resort to gimmicks. I mean, an ice cream parlor? Are you kidding?

It looks like the folks in Tampa might be able to make a go of it – it sounds like they have lots of activity and know how to keep big old boats (like their flagship, American Victory) interesting and working.

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2008 Week 43 in review

The Duwamish, completed!

Last week I finished rebuilding the Duwamish‘s air compressor, but didn’t have time to test it. This week, I ran it for a few hours while I cleaned up the engine room a bit. It worked great! Before the rebuild, it basically didn’t work at all because the air compressor’s valves didn’t get a seal and therefore didn’t compress any air. When I turned it on after the rebuild, I had one tank at 450 psi in about half an hour – way better.

This will also make our next Engineer for a Day class much easier to set up for, since it won’t take so much effort to get enough air pressure to start the engines. For one class, we had to run an air hose from the Arthur Foss over to the fireboat so we could start the mains.

Tire-kicking with Brian

Occasionally, Old Tacoma Marine leads a tour of old boats with old engines in Seattle. This week, after Brian brought three drums of oil down to the Arthur Foss (thanks, Brian!), we drove all around Ballard on the grand tour. We visited the Northwest Marine Propulsion Museum to see Mike’s little three-cylinder Atlas-Imperial and the Washington that was never installed in a boat, as well as the Ruby XIV and its Washington. We then visited Dan Grinstead’s tug Lorna Foss with its direct reversing Atlas-Imperial (the only model with a sliding cam), and then went over to the Angeles, a project tug with a DMG-6 Enterprise.

Jason, who owns the Angeles, hopes to sell the boat to someone unafraid of woodwork. I hope he finds someone, since the tug would make a great cruiser.

After this whirlwind tour, it was back to work – mostly in the office this week, as we’re getting ready for the Catalyst to arrive for her winter engine project.

“New” tugs and engines on the website

Old Tacoma Marine Inc has located another few heavy-duty diesel engines: an Enterprise in the CN Tugboat #6, another Enterprise in the tugboat Lake Superior, another enterprise in the tugboat Edward H, and an Atlas-Imperial on display at Antique Powerland in Brooks, Oregon.

The CN Tugboat #6 (“CN” stands for “Canadian National”) has a DMG6 Enterprise rated for 575 horsepower and is owned by the S S Sicamous Restoration Society, which operates the Okanagon Inland Maritime Heritage Park. Until 2006, it was owned by the City of Kelowna, but it sounds like they had no idea what to do with an old tug and finally donated it to people who know boats. The Society has three other old boats, so I hope that they know what they’ve gotten into:

Tugboat #6, owned b the SS Sicamous Restoration Society in Kelowna, British Columbia

We couldn’t find as much information about the Lake Superior or the Edward H, but according to the Great Lakes & Seaway Shipping News, they’re both WWII tugs of the same class as the Maris Pearl and the Red Cloud and all the rest, powered by the big Q Enterprises. They’ve both been based in the Great Lakes for several years, have been bought by new owners, re-located to the Duluth area, and are being put back to work. If anyone has any more information – or engine pictures – about either of these tugs, please let us know.

Finally, the Antique Powerland folks have a four-cylinder Atlas-Imperial on display at their grounds in Brooks, Oregon:

Atlas-Imperial diesel engine on display at Antique Powerland in Brooks, Oregon.  Photo by Wikipedia user Bluedisk

According to user Bluedisk, who took this picture and uploaded it to Wikipedia, this engine came out of a tugboat. If anyone reading this knows more about the engine, please let us know!

As always, send us any updates, corrections, or other heavy-duty diesels that we haven’t “found” yet.

On the subject of preserving old stuff

Last week and this week got me thinking about old engines in museum collections again. Mostly, I’m very happy to see museums accepting engines into their permanent collections, but I see some downsides to it. The biggest problem is that museums don’t necessarily understand how to care for a diesel engine. They’re used to preserving artifacts by making storage mounts and keeping them in a climate-controlled space and not letting anything damage them – which works great if the artifact is a hat or a map or a sea chest or something like that:

Part of the Burke Museum's collection of ethnographic arrows

Engines are different, though – they have to be exercised and maintained in order to preserve them. If you let an engine just sit, even if in a climate-controlled room, it will slowly destroy itself. The oils and lubricants degrade over time, which then allows rust into the unpainted parts of an engine. Even worse, if it was ever seawater cooled then the cast iron pieces have salt permanently stuck in them, which will rust an engine from the inside out. If you just let the engine sit, then the interior parts of the cooling system will fill up with rust and then start pushing out. Eventually, the engine will literally explode – very slowly, but the rust will push its way out and break the castings.

The way to prevent this from happening is to exercise the engine as often as possible. This means lubricating everything and running it if it still runs, or barring it over if it doesn’t. Doing all this will also let you inspect the engine, clean it up, and hopefully notice any problems that need more attention. I know that actually using an artifact like this flies in the face of a lot of museum theory about conserving the original fabric of the object, but since it’s impossible to preserve it without exercising it, I think that museums need to widen their definition of collections care if they have engines in their collection.

Exercising an engine also creates more opportunities to involve the public with the artifacts. A static engine quickly gets boring to all but the most ardent enthusiasts, but a working engine that the public can watch and listen to is interesting for a lot longer to more people. Running an engine also means that a museum can hold repair workshops and engineering classes, which provides yet another layer of “interpretation.”

With all this in mind, I propose that all museums that own an old diesel at least occasionally run the engine, to both preserve the moving parts and also to give members of the public more opportunity to understand 1920s diesel technology.

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2008 Week 42 in review

A visit to the Sakarissa

I finished my trip to Portland by visiting the Sakarissa, which is tied up in the Columbia River:

tugboat Sakarissa, powered by an Enterprise diesel engine

It’s a World War II tug (YTM-269), powered by a DMQ 8 Enterprise (serial number 41119). It has a new governor, a new seawater pump, and a Sperry steering system (with a few problems). Jerry gave us a great tour all throughout the boat.

Back to business

After I got back from Portland, I did some cleaning at the shop and found some interesting links to share. Here’s an old but interesting article about my friend Rick Boggs (and yes, two of the photo captions are mixed up), and here’s the website for the Tugboat Enthusiasts Society. Check out their article on Enterprise diesels.

I also got a long email from Doug Leen about his experience with Mercs. He’s also posted it to his blog, so you can read about it all here.

Lead ballast for the Catalyst

On Friday, I picked up about 2,000 pounds of lead to help ballast the Catalyst a little better. I had to borrow Dan’s truck to haul it up to Port Townsend in one load.

While in Port Townsend, I stopped by Sirens for a drink with Crystal. We ran into Lee Ehrheart, the marine surveyor who works on the Adventuress and other local historic ships. I guess it’s hard to go to PT without running into boat people.

The Duwamish… Finished?!?

I finally finished the work on the fireboat Duwamish‘s air compressor and got it all put back together. I was planning on test-running it, but I had to transfer fuel by hand and ran out of time for the day. I’ll run it for a while next week and see what kind of pressure we can get out of it now.

A visit to Seattle’s sewage pumps

Nick took me on a tour of the sewer pump facility in Interbay, where all of downtown Seattle’s waste water and rain water is pumped out to the treatment plant. They use three big 48-inch pumps, one electric, one Waukesha natural gas engine, and one Chicago Pneumatic natural gas engine:

Chicago Pnuematic diesel generator powering some of Seattle's municipal sewage pumps

The city’s planning to replace them all with electric motors, with a diesel generator on standby. Nick loves the old diesels and wanted to show off the Chicago Pneumatic a bit before it goes.

Community dinner

Everywhere I go, I run in to folks who are connected to heavy-duty diesel engines.

On Thursday Lia (naturalist on the Catalyst) and I (relief engineer on the Catalyst) attended one of the communal dinners that Chef Anne Catherine (cook on the Catalyst) holds. We arrived, and there were Eric (former engineer on the Catalyst) and Laura (with Eric, owner of the Atlas-Imperial-powered Newt). We were joined a little later joined by Hugh and Teresa (owners of the Atlas-powered Westward).

We all sat with fifteen others for an amazing dinner of fresh, local ingredients prepared by Chef Anne Catherine, who told about how each had been acquired from a local farmers’ market. After dinner, we went for a nightcap at the Ballard Smoke Shop and ran into Harry (engineer on the Atlas-powered Velero IV).

Small world.

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2008 Week 39 in Review

Back to business-as-usual

This week, I’ve gotten back in the shop. I worked on cleaning up an engine control station that I picked up recently. It’s a neat find, perfect for a direct-reversing twin-screw boat. After I finish cleaning it up, I’ll post pictures and put it up on eBay – hopefully by next week.

I also worked on the Duwamish a bit – I checked the cylinder height with a standard gasket and it is too low. The piston goes up past the liner slightly, so next week I’ll put a thicker gasket under it. I’ve got to get this project wrapped up soon, though.

I also cleaned up the shop a bit, and caught up on news from the shop partners. Brian and his shipwright partners are all settled in, John moved out, Grant is moving into John’s old space, and we’re going to be looking for another shop partner soon. My space is right in the center of the shop, so I spend quite a lot of time BSing with everyone who works there. I call this an investment, rather than a waste of time. We may not talk about anything important, but this business requires a lot of social interaction. When I have a question, I can get answer much faster if I am all caught up on the news.

I also worked on taxes and other “business” things. Lame. Stuff like this takes the fun out of running a small business.

Sakarissa moves

We received the following email from Jerry, who works with the Amphibious Forces Memorial Museum, which is thinking about buying the Sakarissa (a WWII “Yard Tug,” sister ship to the Maris Pearl and the Red Cloud):

YTB-269 was built in Tacoma and commissioned 12 April 1944. She served in the Pacific assisting in the operation and transport of ABSD-1 (advance base sectional dry-dock). These large docks were capable of lifting a battleship and were used to repair ships in Eniwetok and Guam during and after the war. The ship returned home to San Francisco on August 22, 1946. She was used for assist duty for the USN until 1974 and was then transferred to MARAD at Suisan Bay tending to the needs of the mothball fleet there. The Sakarissa will join the growing fleet of historic vessels in the Portland/Vancouver WA area. She will become an educational resource attesting to the era when maritime services played a major role in the economy of the Northwest and of the labor that built ships and those few still working to preserve that history.

Jerry also sent a bunch of pictures of the tug, including this engine room shot:

Enterprise DMQ-8 diesel engine powering the ex-Navy tug SAKARISSA

This is the same engine built on the same contract as the Red Cloud and the Maris Pearl, but unlike those two it doesn’t have the clear camshaft view ports on the starboard side. Interesting.

Thanks for the update and the photos, Jerry – I hope that I can make it to the Sakarissa when I’m down in Oregon next month.

Footage from the Quail

Dirk and his friend were treated to a demonstration of the tugboat Quail‘s Atlas-Imperial diesel. Here’s a video of starting her up:

Thanks, Dirk!

What is “original?”

When you’re taking care of engines for which spare parts haven’t been manufactured for 50 years, things tend to get changed around a lot. While I try to stick to the original manufactures’ parts and process, I have had to stray sometimes. If I can’t keep the engine “original”, then the next most important thing is to document the changes that do happen. I’ve been keeping track of the changes I’ve made, but I need to start making better records of the process. I’m going to start a list of variances to the OEM (Original Engine Manufacturer) designs here and on the website. Over time, I hope to document all of the changes I’ve made – and all of the changes that other people have made and told me about.

Here’s a few to start off with:

On the Arthur Foss‘s Washington:

  • the fuel pressure regulator is an Atlas-Imperial fuel pressure regulator
  • numbers two through six cylinder heads are a newer style with two studs and a collar to hold the valve cages, instead of one big castellated nut around the cage
  • the new set of tappet guides have a zerk fitting or 1/8-inch pipe tapped hole in each

On the Catalyst‘s Washington:

  • the injector tips, while Washington-style on the outside, are Atlas-Imperial-style on the inside
  • the fuel pressure regulator has an atlas imperial seat and stem – inferior to the reversible Washington design
  • the new valves are one-piece (this is forgivable)
  • the valve cages have new noses and are not one piece any more
  • the guides are off the shelf (from MAN or something)
  • the rod bearing nuts are nylock and not “large profile”
  • the clutch guide pins are two piece
  • the pneumatic shifting has been replaced with hydraulic

On the Westward‘s Atlas-Imperial:

  • no Manzell

On the Thea Foss‘s Atlas-Imperials:

  • much of the engine room controls have been replaced or altered to allow better remote operation

On the Briana Marin‘s Enterprise:

  • the thrust bearing and carrying portion of the bed plate has been removed to make room for the gear

That’s it for now. Mechanics, owners, enthusiasts: do you know of any other changes to any other heavy-duty boat? Comment here and we’ll start putting together this record.

Autumn Programs at Northwest Seaport

Old Tacoma Marine Inc has a very good relationship with the Northwest Seaport and I try to help them out when I can. I’m of course most interested in the programs involving the Arthur Foss. I teach all the engine classes held aboard, and last year I not only directed (instigated) the Classic Workboat Show, but I was also the largest sponsor of time and money. Autumn is planning season for Northwest Seaport, so I’ve gotten more involved again by helping them plan next year’s programming and raise funds to make it all happen.

As a start, I went the Lake Union Park Working Group meeting, held every other Friday. All the groups with a stake at South Lake Union send representatives to discuss everything going on, from individual projects to giant joint programs. A major item on the agenda this week was planning joint programs for 2009, but we ended up pushing that back to the next meeting to give all the groups a little more time to recover from the summer. I’m going to meet with Northwest Seaport before that next meeting to commit to expanding the programming schedule just a little more, like we’ve done for the past few years.

I have a few programs that I try to put on every year with the Seaport and the Center for Wooden Boats: Engineer for a Day, Diesel Engine Theory, and the new Tugboat night. These are each engine-centric, mostly on the Arthur, but Engineer for a Day uses all four boats on the wharf (I wrote about it way way back in February). The biggest (and most expensive) single class is Diesel Engine Theory, which is our take-it-apart-and-fix-it class that we’re using to restore the Arthur‘s big Washington:

Diesel Engine Theory 2006 aboard the tugboat Arthur Foss

We’re planning out next year’s programs and finishing this year’s, and finding (as usual) that the main need for each class is participants and funding. For this year’s Diesel Engine Theory class (the only remaining 2008 program), we’ve already got two or three people signed up, and Northwest Seaport is already a third of the way towards raising the total cost of the program (thanks to a 4Culture Special Projects grant), but we really need to fill the class and get the other two-thirds of the money in hand before we start this year’s work.

Northwest Seaport’s staff and board are very busy, so I usually take on a lot of the behind-the-scenes program management. This includes advertising the class and fundraising, on top of the mechanic stuff I need to do to get ready (we really need to order rings soon). This work is essential, since without the organizing, advertising, fundraising, and paper trail, we are spinning our wheels as opposed to building something solid and sustainable that transcends the boat itself.

This gets back to one of my major philosophies. To lift up a boat (or a maritime organization) you need something bigger than that boat (or maritime organization). I think that the best “something bigger” is education. Engine room education is important (the YMTA can tell you why better than I can) and the Arthur Foss just happens to be the best platform for this type of training. She’s a really neat boat, owned by a museum that’s dedicated to keeping her around to teach the public about boats, and she’s moored in the middle of Seattle. The classes and programs we run aboard her for the benefit of the general public can lift the Arthur Foss up and make something more of her than just an old boat.

Of course, last year a program literally lifted the Arthur Foss right out of the water:

the tugboat Arthur Foss in dry-dock, October 2007

That was a great feeling.

Getting back to the upcoming Diesel Engine Theory course, we need behind-the-scenes funding to get it off the ground. If you can help out, contact me now.

The wish list as it stands for the upcoming Arthur Foss programming includes:

  • cash
  • diesel fuel and lubricating oils
  • program participants
  • time on a dry dock
  • (1) 18-to-one torque multiplier
  • volunteers to do behind the scenes work (advertising, fundraising, setup, etc) – sign up for one or more positions now!


Filed under museums, programs, tugboats, week in review

2008 Week 38 in Review

This week on Catalyst, we finished up the Alaska cruising season:

Sunday, September 14 – Montague Harbour to Friday Harbor: clear into US, pack and prepare for reentry to “real” life

After I stepped off in Friday Harbor, I headed for the nearest restaurant to feed my need for fried food. I had a great time on the boat, but it was good to get ashore again. I’ll see the Catalyst again in a month or so when they come to Seattle for winter repairs.

Research into proper propeller pitch & keel cooling

Since one of the Catalyst’s big winter projects will be to resolve the overloading issue, I called Sound Propeller Services about re-pitching the propeller. They said that it sounded like it needed to be re-pitched, and recommended that I look at what size the original propeller was.

Dan also told me a cute equation to figure out how to re-pitch a propeller to resolve an overloaded engine:
1) divide achieved RPM at full rack by nameplate RPM to get a decimal amount (0.XX)
2) multiply pitch by ([current pitch] by 3) and that should be the new pitch

I don’t know how scientific it is, but it sounds close. For Catalyst, that’d be 390 divided by 450 to get .86, multiplied by 32 equals 27.5, so it should have a propeller pitch of 27.5 inches. Hmmm…

I also called Keith Sternberg for information about installing a keel cooler on the Catalyst. He recommended one-inch brass pipe in a pattern to get the same surface area as the heat exchanger (or more). Larger than the heat exchanger is fine, too, since the thermostat equals it all out anyway. The most expensive part of the process will be the fittings.

Catching up with the museum ships

I spent a bit of time this week at Northwest Seaport working on some of their projects. Up in the office, we’re wrapping up some final reports for Arthur Foss programming and repairs (mostly last year’s haul-out), and planning the big fall take-it-apart-and-fix it. More on that later.

Down on the wharf, I’m working on the Duwamish again. I’m making slow progress on this project, but I’ll pitch it up after I catch up on everything else. I’ve been gone for quite a while, so there’s plenty to do.

More construction at Lake Union Park

Back in Week 19, I wrote about how excited I am about re-developing Lake Union Park. Well, they finally kicked off Phase II this week by starting to demolish the old yard:

Daily photographs of Phase II construction (and demolition) at Lake Union Park, from Northwest Seaport

This makes me just a little sad. I lived on board the Arthur Foss for two years, starting right after the “old crew” left in August of 1996. Back then, we moved the boat around quite a bit. I had a great time tinkering in the engine room, which then turned in to a full time “job” of volunteer management and program coordination. We got some good work done then, like raising a new aft mast, painting the whole boat, and training up a crew for deck and engine room work. I lead the group through all the projects, just like I was taught in Sea Scouts. We had a good crew.

Much of our time was spent moored at South Lake Union where the Northwest Seaport had its small shipyard. I had a blast working there – fully recognizing that there was no way that it would be a permanent facility. It was prime real estate, and we were just playing in it.

It was a funny place. The land is a small industrial hold-out right next to downtown Seattle, that’d been completely forgotten by the city. Back then, the Navy owned it and trained reservists in the buildings there, but Northwest Seaport had a long-term arrangement with the City to have historic ship maintenance facilities and moorage there. We had “maintenance” toys like a big old crane and a forklift (we used both to make a 12-foot snowman one winter). We used them to get a lot of work done, but we also did stupid things like taking “crane rides.” We’d hang a fender from the crane, get someone to sit on it, and then swing the boom up and around. Wow. Completely dangerous, but fun.

We also met a lot of people this way. Some of them were short-time volunteers or tourists, but others were “regulars” around the yard. They happened to live there, under the picnic tables or in the out-buildings. They’d be up early for coffee, very respectful, and often worked on the boats or served as crew when we needed an extra hand. They just had a hard time fitting into “normal” society. Maybe 100 years ago they would have been old-time sailors working a respectable job, but now they’re just bums in the park.

Those were the fun times, and I enjoyed them while they lasted, but now the days of the Seaport yard are over. I think it’s for the better – the “interactive” shipyard takes too much space in return for too little public benefit, and it’s declined in the past few years to be just someone’s spare lot to park their junk in (to be fair, a lot of organizations have parked their junk there; not just Northwest Seaport).

So I’m a little sad to hear it’s going since I have good memories of that space, but I’m really excited that it’s being made into a park for a lot of people. I welcome the planned grassy hills and park benches, and even the “interactive fountain.” Let’s hope this change reintroduces more people to their watery roots, and sparks the love for the boats that represent the remaining bits of maritime heritage.

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Filed under museums, tugboats, week in review