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2010 Week 9 in Review

Work continues on the Arthur Foss

This week, we finished resealing the Arthur Foss‘s number four cylinder head, with lots of help from The Anchor Program.

Every year the Arthur‘s engine gets better and easier to work on. The last five years of classes and some very involved maintenance has gotten all the parts freed up and we’ve acquired more of the tools required to easily accomplish repairs and maintenance. The engine sounds great, too – when running unloaded and slow we still have every cylinder firing.

Preparing for Engineer for a Day

Nothing focuses a group like urgency.

I began work with the Anchor Program on Tuesday to prepare the Arthur Foss the fireboat Duwamish and the Historic Ships Wharf at Lake Union Park for the annual high school Engineer for a Day class on Friday. The class teaches kids from the Ballard Maritime Academy about marine engineering and goes from the Arthur to the Duwamish to the steamer Virginia V to learn about each system. Like Arthur, the class gets a better every year.

With TAP’s help, we got all the engines running on both the fireboat and the Arthur, despite dead batteries, broken fuel lines, and dirt and grime everywhere. We had the main and both generators going on Arthur and both generators and the three mains on the Duwamish all going. It was great!

TAP also helped us get the wharf cleaned up and the fireboat pressure-washed and the tug scrubbed. Thanks for all your help, guys – we’ll have more work days like that soon.

High school on the wharf

On Friday morning, three engineers stood on the Historic Ship Wharf next to three historic ships open and inviting with eight diesel engines warming up for class. We were more prepared to day than the previous 3 high school classes down here.

For the fourth year, our Ballard High School class got to experience a marine engineer’s work and realize that the is the same even when the engine room is wildly different. They visited a reciprocating steam plant, a direct-reversing diesel plant, and a diesel electric plant all in the same day visit. They prepped and started up many engines throughout the day to give them the full experience and demonstrate how to operate the engines.

We did have one setback: the starter in the fireboat’s main generator went out, so the class exercise was a little limited, but part of why we hold the class is to exercise the equipment and try to find problems before they become larger issues. I would call the class a great success and we’ll fix that starter soon.

Work continues on the yarder’s injectors

We kept working on the fuel injectors diesel yarder in Eureka. This is the part of the job that is hard on the hands and fairly boring, since I insist that all the parts thread together interchangeably and entirely. It’s common for parts of these antique diesel engines to distort: the threads stretch, they rust, and tips flare the mating surface. Also, years of using pipe wrenches instead of spanner wrenches and hammers instead of heat beats the parts up further. I machine and lap everything and test every part against every other part to get them all fitting right. The process is tedious but it increases confidence when assembling, since every part fits the way it should.

Work begins on the Lightship No. 83

We dove into the Lightship No. 83 project this week: OTM Inc’s first task as Project Manager is to assemble a plan and supporting documents (like charts and tables) and prepare specifications for when we request bids for the work. It’s not like hammering on the hull or tracing leaks in the plumbing, but it’s really important work and it’s great to finally start on it.

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2010 Week 8 In Review

An Update on the Lightship No. 83!!!

This week, representatives of OTM Inc and Northwest Seaport met to sign the contract that names OTM Inc as the consultant for administering the federal TEA-21 grant administered by the state Department of Transportation to rehabilitate the Lightship No. 83. It was a momentous occasion, and we celebrated afterwards with a beer. Then we at OTM Inc got to work immediately, re-familiarizing ourselves with the extensive goals, plans, and requirements of the project.

Overhauling a yarder’s injectors

We got a call from the Timber Heritage Association in California about a few of their Washington-Estep diesel yarder‘s fuel injectors. After talking for a bit, I told them to send them on up for some servicing, since one leaked and the other two were rusty and dirty.

They arrived quickly and I didn’t put them on the injector stand to test for leaks, but I can confirm that they were rusty and dirty. What’s really cool about them is that they’re pressure-balanced injectors. The only other Washington we know of that uses pressure-balanced injectors, rather than the spring-balanced ones, is the old cannery engine at the Kodiak Maritime Museum.

I made a big fuss about the pressure-balance and then stripped all three down to begin cleaning and fitting parts. Stay tuned for how it goes.

Work continues on the Arthur Foss

I kept working on the Arthur Foss this week. First I spent some time searching through spare parts and found a usable head gasket of the old sandwich type asbestos and copper. Then I pulled the cylinder head off and cleaned parts for a while. I’ll get it assembled next week before our big Engineer for a Day class with the kids.

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2010 Week 7 in Review

OTM Inc started the week with another famous all-day bunch. We had artists and hippies and software geeks and rafts of boat trash, all swigging screwdrivers and champagne, eating eggs and bacon and all the hashbrowns they could tolerate.

It was great, but whew – we might need a few days to recover. It’s a good thing we don’t have to do that again…until next time.

Get it right!

This week we striped down the number 4 cylinder head on the Arthur Foss‘s Washington Iron Works Diesel to replace the head gasket – again.

During the last Diesel Engine Theory class at the Northwest Seaport, we overhauled cylinder four and reassembled it using a solid copper head gasket.

It turns out that the solid copper types don’t squish enough for a diesel the size of Arthur‘s. Heavy-duty engines with cylinder liners have a very wide sealing surface between the head and the cylinder, so the gasket must be very soft. Some folks use compressed graphite to get a good seal, but originally they were all made with a sandwich of copper and asbestos.

When I was getting ready for the class last May, I made the mistake of thinking the sandwich gaskets would be too expensive and that our head and liner would be clean enough and flat enough to seal with a solid copper gasket. Of course we annealed it to make the copper as soft as possible, but it still leaked compression out the seams when we test-ran it. We may have been able to make a difference just by drawing up the head nuts tighter, but I can’t say that for sure.

Instead, I got ready this week to replace the solid copper replacement gasket with a new copper-and-asbestos sandwich gasket. I’ll let you know how it goes when I get it done.

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2010 Week 6 in Review

This week I had to give up and put a slow bell on the reversing mechanism until I find a piston shaft and hub. Just as a precaution, I visited the Dominion to see if they have a Westinghouse reversing mechanism. Maybe they can help engineer the one for the Maris Pearl1.

A Thanks for Shilshoal Marina

Also this week, we took the Maris Pearl to the Shilshoal fuel dock where we used their bilge pump-out service – a very economical way to get rid of oily bilge waste. Thanks, folks – we hope to keep using this service for years to come.

A visit to Brady’s Atlas-Imperials

I visited Brady on Whidbey Island to take a look at his two Atlas-Imperial diesels. He has a three-cylinder model we estimate as from about 1923 – making it one of the three oldest Atlas Imperial diesels that I know of. Even better, it will run again: very little stands in the way of Brady reassembling the engine and running it.

His four-cylinder needs a bit more work, but can be parted out if it’s found to be beyond rehabilitation:

This first meeting was a great chance to take inventory and document progress on the engines, especially the three-cylinder that Brady’s working on. OTM Inc will be cheering on, encouraging and bothering him throughout the project, it’s that great.

For the rest of you with never-ending projects, consider employing OTM Inc to be the monkey on your back in case your wife is not enough: we have reasonable hourly, weekly, or long-term rates!

Olympic Display

While coming back from Whidbey Island, I noticed that the ferry had a display set up of the ferry Olympic‘s steering gear:


More Diving with Sterling

Sterling Marine Services Llc and I dove at the Center for Wooden Boats again to put more barrels under their docks.

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2010 Week 4 in Review

Valve-grinding: a team effort

This week, I finished cleaning all the valves for the Thea Foss. Engineer Ron ground the valves and observed that “the first one is fun and the rest of the 24 are boring,” which I definitely agree with. Then Vince came out of retirement and over the mountains to grind the seats, and we had a nice team to get the job done efficiently.

A visit to the Cape Cross

Later this week, I visited the crew of the Enterprise-powered fish tender Cape Cross. The engine’s running well and best of all, the boat is gainfully employed.

Dry-suit repairs

After last week‘s brush with carotid sinus reflux, diver Duane helped me replace the neck seal in my dry suit. Apparently adding a latex neck seal to a neoprene suit is pretty common, and it’s an easy process. First, I coated the sealing area with AquaSeal and let it cure, then I put another coat on to adhere the latex. Then I trimmed it and put one more bead of AquaSeal on edges, and the suit was ready to go.

Giving the CWB a lift

On Saturday, I worked with Sterling Marine Services Llc to level out some of the floating docks at the Center for Wooden Boats by installing some new barrels. Once we got we got a system down, it went really fast. Sterling Marine Services Llc has posted more about it in their brand-new blog here.

Repairs and updates on the Island Champion

I visited the Island Champion this week to isolate the overboard through-hull fixture from the engine. This is an area of excessive stray voltage, which induces electrolysis in the surrounding planks and makes them rot out a lot faster – according to our resources, it’s like nail sickness from increased alkalinity.

I installed piece of hose to separate the engine from the through-hull fitting, which disrupts (in theory) the electrical current running between them:

This should hopefully stop the electrolysis and save the hull timber a little longer.

Also, boat buyers take note: the Island Champion is not for sale anymore.

To bond or not to bond

This brings up the age old-argument: “to bond or not to bond.”

To bond, or not to bond: that is the question:
Whether less noble metals should suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous corrosion,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And insulate them. To dielectric: to isolate;
No more; and by isolate to say we end
The corrosion and the thousand natural shocks
That hulls are heir to, ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To dielectric, to isolate;

On the subject of galvanic corrosion: the way I read it, impressed current is best but anodes are easier and more common. If using anodes, quantity and placement are very important to get right and bonding or isolating is addressed on a case-by-case basis.

Some fittings below the waterline, if isolated, can take a long time to degrade, while others will need to be wired to the anode using a resistance-free electrical circuit with heavy-gauge wire, good connections, and keeping it out of the bilge water. When working with mili-volts, a loose connection is no connection: the mili-volt will not jump a gap. I think it is this sloppy wiring that causes bias in our maritime tradesmen.

More important than the bonding and anoding, boats and equipment should be inspected and repaired regularly – and repairs should be made before small problems are catastrophic. It pains me to hear folks argue about bonding while the boat is sinking. While limiting galvanic activity is important – keep it in perspective!

Update on the Maris Pearl

Meanwhile on the Maris Pearl, we’re down to just looking for the shaft that attaches to the piston in the reversing mechanism and the camshaft gear.

Who’s got one? Any drawings? Anything? Help?

Work begins on the Arthur Foss

The Northwest Seaport started their “Stop the Leaks” project on the Arthur Foss; it sounds like the first step was to take off the big rubber fender on the bow. They took a lot of pictures of it – and better yet, wrote a blog about it! Check it out here!


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2010 Week 3 in Review

More work on the Maris Pearl

I’m still working on the Maris Pearl‘s reversing mechanism, trying to track down parts for it. I’ve been working with suppliers and calling collectors and engine owners I know who have spares. The Westinghouse controls rarely need attention, so there’s not a lot of information available on these units. It’s taken some extra time to search it out.

Winter Work on the Thea Foss

The Thea Foss‘s twin Atlas-Imperials are getting some attention this winter. The boat’s engineer worked with Dan to remove all the valves, start valves, and injectors out of both engines, then I spent a lot of time this week disassembling and cleaning everything.

As you remember, this process involves disassembling them each, putting them in a solvent bath, flushing the water jackets, sand blasting and another solvent bath, flapper the guide, and wire-wheel the stems.

2010 M4 Party

The big annual art and music event that OTM helps sponsor now has a not-for-profit fiscal sponsor, so make your donations out to Shunpike, with M4 mentioned as the program.

This year’s show will be the 10th annual, on May 1st. The steering committee is planning furiously, and it’ll be even bigger and better than last year (always our goal).

Working on the bow thruster

We got the new parts and tools to fix my good customer’s bow thruster, but still got caught inadequately prepared. I had to run out in the middle of the job to get more parts.

I also had a problem with my dry suit: the neck seal was too tight. Apparently, this can cause Carotid Sinus Reflex, when your neck seal presses against the carotid artery and makes your brain think your blood pressure is too high and lower your pulse rate to compensate.

The symptoms can include nervousness and a shortness of breath, which at the time I attributed to being out of practice from not diving enough. While it is true I am a little out of practice, the nervousness and shortness of breath were actually due to the neck seal. I’ll replace this before next week, in time to dive next Saturday at the CWB.

Despite all this, we still got the bow thruster fixed right up.

Boats for sale

The Pacific Sunrise is for sale. It’s a sweet boat with an Atlas-Imperial 6HM1125 diesel, and is going for $75,000.

The Island Champion is also for sale. She’s a great boat with a Fairbanks-Morse 35F14 diesel.

Bonus! Mention this ad and get a free OTM Inc T-shirt with your purchase!

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2010 Week 2 in review

The Maris Pearl‘s new control head

This week I kept working on the Maris Pearl‘s reverse mechanism. I continued disassembling it and cleaning the useable parts, then I went through all our books to get as much info as I could, and put in a parts order with Bruner and Striegel Supply.

Sterling quality for all your diving needs

Later in the week, I got a call from a good customer with a line stuck in the bow thruster.

Sterling and I geared up and dove on the boat on Saturday; we got the line out okay, then found that the prop nut was loose. We pulled the nut off and found that the threads were gone, so we made a plan to get the necessary equipment to finish the job next Saturday.

OTM’s preferred vendor for underwater work is Sterling Marine Services Llc., a newly formed father-and-son company that’s enthusiastically gaining both momentum and gear. With luck – or at least with the energy of a young wharfrat businessman – the company will profit enough to send the kid to college.

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