Tag Archives: ferry olympic

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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2009 Week 4 in Review

Work continues on the Catalyst

This week at OTM Inc, we finished fitting the rod bearings on the Catalyst and cleaned out the crankpit really well.

Then, we installed pistons. On most engines, you put the pistons in through the top, which means you have to have the heads off to get at the piston. On Washington diesels, though, you can put the pistons in through the bottom. This is yet another reason that Washingtons are the best engines ever made.

They actually have a recess in the liner on top – right where the top ring stops – so that there is never a ridge going forming that might break rings. This means that if a piston is loaded from the top, the rings will get caught. In other engines, you might need a fancy ring funnel to get around this, but on a Washington that’s unnecessary since the bottom of the liner is a ring funnel itself. Washingtons are build with the base doors big enough to lower the piston and rod right through and sit the piston on the crank throws at a 90-degree angle. You then rig it to be pulled right up into the cylinder. It’s really easy and can be done with the cylinder head still on. Wow. That Adrian Estep sure knew what he was doing.

An update from the Red Cloud

Rick on the Red Cloud is selling its air compressor and the fire pump, which are both very powerful. Contact me if you’re interested, and I’ll put you through to Rick.

A visit to the Maris Pearl

I helped Jay refuel the Maris Pearl and bring her out to Kirkland this week. It was nice to see the Pearl and talk with Jay again, and we talked about the project I’m starting there next month.

A rectifier for the Olympic?

Nobby from New York pointed out that a rectifier might be a good option for the Olympic (talked about in 2008 Week 49 in Review). A rectifier turns AC power into DC power, which would let the owners use the two DC electric air compressors, rather than waiting to for a replacement AC generator. That’s a good recommendation – I hope that the owners are interested in cranking the engine over soon.

Upcoming Engineer for a Day

I talked with John and confirmed the date of this year’s Engineer for a Day field trip for the Ballard Maritime Academy. We’re on for having 25 kids aboard the Arthur Foss, the fireboat Duwamish, and the steamer Virginia V. It’s scheduled for the end of February. This year is going be great, since the fireboat’s air compressor now works at full capacity. We might even get all three engines going for the first time in years.

Ongoing web updates

Here at Old Tacoma Marine Inc, we’re working hard to bring you more content in 2009. We’re adding more content to the website – more engines, more manuals, more photographs, and more articles. This week, we started making some behind-the-scenes changes to support new content, and in two weeks we’ll be meeting with Ed at the Washington State History Museum Archives to get more information on Washington Iron Works.

A disclaimer from Old Tacoma Marine Inc

I received a call this week from a reader who’s a fellow mechanic. We talked for more than an hour about what I do, and how he doesn’t blog and it’s pretty gutsy that I’m putting it all out there for the world to see. I got the feeling all through the conversation, though, that something was eating him, and I finally asked what was bothering him.

He asked me straight up “Did you really put valve lapping compound on your bearings and jam that on the shaft?” See, if you put valve lapping compound into a babbitted bearing, it’ll embed itself into the bearing and will grind away at the crankshaft while the engine is running. I told him that I was using Timesaver, which is a lapping compound specifically for soft metals, which won’t embed itself into a babbitted bearing.

I view this episode as a failure of me as a blogger: I didn’t provide all the information that made the story complete. If someone was trying to follow along at home, they might well have poured regular valve lapping compound onto their bearings and wrecked them. I’m glad that this reader called me on it – I view this blog and everything I do as a conversation. I’m trying to get as much of what I do up onto the web as I can, but it’s not all up there yet.

Until then, I want to warn everyone reading that all information from Old Tacoma Marine Inc – posted to the web, printed, photographic, and spoken – is for the purpose of discussion, not to be the sole source of information concerning rebuilding engines, managing museums, or succeeding at life.

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2008 Week 53 in review

Important winter warning

Now that winter is here, Old Tacoma Marine Inc reminds you to winterize your engine room! Use anti-freeze in your cooling system, turn on a heater in the engine room, and make sure to run the engines occasionally, even if you don’t leave the dock. These are very important precautions to keep your boat and its old engine safe during the winter.

Just last week, one of our favorite boats severely cracked some large castings in the Pacific Northwest’s cold snap and blizzards. We are very sad to hear about the damage and feel that we need to get out the word that the brittle cast iron easily cracks if the coolant freezes. Drain and pickle if the engine will be left for long periods of time, but using antifreeze, a block heater, and occasionally running the engine is the most effective to prevent freezing and cracking.

Work continues on the Catalyst

This week, I’ve continued work on fitting the main bearings into the engine. During the initial fitting, I used bluing and scrapers to get them to about the right shape; now I’m using lapping compound, which is a very fine grit, to get the perfect. This shows me exactly where the bearings and the journals actually touch so that I can scrape down any places that aren’t quite right.

Part of this process is using a squisher tool to hold the bearing in place while I work. This is two pieces of aluminum that push the bottom half of the bearing down into the saddle:

bearing squisher tool on the MV Catalyst

Once the squisher tool is installed, I put the bearing in, put the lapping compound into the bearing, crank the engine around, take the bearing out, clean off the lapping compound, and look at the pattern of scratches that lapping compound left on the babbitt. If the scratches are in just a few areas, that shows me where to start scraping to get it to the right fit so that I can test it again. If there’s scratches all over the bearing, I know it’s getting good contact and is ready to go.

Once I know the bearing is getting good contact with the crankshaft, I need to test how high it is – how far up it’s pushing the crankshaft. If one bearing is holding the crankshaft up higher than the others, then the crankshaft will bend. This shows up when I do a strain test to determine how far apart the throws are. If the strain test shows that the bearing is too high, I roll it out, scrape it down, re-fit it with lapping compound to make sure that the contact is still good, and do the strain test again.

Continually rolling the engine over by hand to test the bearings like this is a work out. I only have three main bearings to test, but it takes a long time to get them just right. At least as I go, the bearings start to fit better and barring the engine over gets easier.

More information on the Olympic

I forgot to mention back in Week 49 that the ferry Olympic‘s main air compressor was surplussed and sold on eBay a few months ago. Nick just sent me an email with the link to the expired eBay listing with information about it. Since eBay eventually deletes old listings, here’s a screencap rather than a link:

eBay listing for an air compressor from the ferry Olympic

It’d sure be nice to get it back for the boat.

Happy New Years!

We’ll be spending the night of the 31st on the Skillful to watch the fireworks on the Space Needle. I hope that everyone reading has similarly fun plans!

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2008 Week 49 in review

Inspecting the Olympic

This week, OTM visited the Olympic, a 200-foot decommissioned Washington State Ferry with an eight-cylinder Fairbanks-Morse diesel engine. It’s currently tied up at the ferry graveyard in Eagle Harbor on Bainbridge Island, as it has been since the mid-1990s. It’s starting to show:

retired Washington State Ferry Olympic

We were asked to inspect the engine room systems to evaluate whether the engines were still operational. Apparently, the boat is currently owned by a non-profit foundation that sells boats at a profit to fund scholarships and other worthy causes, and they have a buyer lined up on the condition that the engine works and she can be re-commissioned. We started the process with some background research. As usual, the Evergreen Fleet proved invaluable, as did the venerable Ferryboat Book.

The MV Olympic was built in Baltimore in 1938 as the Gov. Harry W. Nice, with a riveted steel hull and a direct-reversing Fairbanks-Morse engine rated for 1,400 horsepower at 300 RPM. She and sister ship Gov. Herbert R. O’Conor worked the Kent Island-Sandy Point Bay route across the Chesapeake Bay. In 1952, the route was replaced by the Bay Bridge and the two ferries were sold to the Washington State Ferry system. Renamed Olympic and Rhododendron, the ferries went into service in 1954 to work the Clinton route. In 1969, the Kulshan started on the Clinton route, and the Olympic became the overflow boat. In 1974, she was moved to the Port Townsend-Keystone route, but when the new Issaquah-class ferries took over the route in 1979, the Olympic was scheduled for retirement.

In 1983, the Rhododendron was mothballed, but the Olympic kept running despite Coast Guard concerns over operating a single-engine ferry (following an engine shut-down that left her drifting in the Sound for three hours before engineers brought it back online). She was moved to lower-traffic routes (mainly the Point Defiance run) and scheduled for refurbishment with the Rhododendron, but cost over-runs on her sister ship meant that the Olympic was mothballed in 1993. She was surplused and auctioned off in 1997, and has been in Eagle Harbor since.

I don’t think that the boat’s been touched since she was mothballed the second time – she even has newspapers from her last cruise laying in the lounge:

passenger deck of the retired Washington State Ferry Olympic

More importantly, she still has the original Fairbanks-Morse diesel, an eight-cylinder with a 16″ bore and 20″ stroke:

Fairbanks-Morse diesel engine in the retired Washington State Ferry Olympic

The only major problem that I found is that the main diesel-powered air-compressor is missing. This is really the key to the boat, as, like almost any boat powered by a heavy-duty diesel, the Olympic needs compressed air to power nearly all of its major systems, including the generators and main engine. It still has two electric air-compressors, but they require 120 volts DC electricity to run, which in turn can be supplied by one or both diesel generators, but these each need compressed air to start. Oi.

As far as I can tell, everything else is in decent condition and looked like it had been well-maintained during its working career, but without that main air compressor we couldn’t turn it on and tell for sure. Anyone getting the boat back to operational condition will be fighting corrosion every step of the way, and that every valve will need to be exercised and every pump will need to be freed up before putting the systems back online. It also means the new crew will need to do a lot of cleaning to make it possible to work in the spaces:

Engineer's office in the retired Washington State Ferry Olympic

After the trip, I put together a list of recommendations for the organization and any potential buyers. Most importantly, I told them to change one of the small air compressor motors to AC power and a voltage that can be provided at the dock, in order to let them exercise the machinery and demonstrate that the main engine runs (or doesn’t run, whichever the case may be). Both DC air compressors look like they’re fine, so just switching out the motor should be pretty easy:

AC air compressor in the retired Washington State Ferry Olympic

Here’s the total process that I recommended:

  • clean the vessel, giving it at least a once-over
  • change the air compressor motor
  • start the auxiliary generators
  • put systems on line and test
  • install switches for steering and jury rig manual wheel; test steering
  • blow down main engine; bleed fuel lines; repair oil filter
  • tow the vessel out and test-run the main engine
  • re-assess the condition and determine the next steps

This would be a great project, since the Olympic is a great boat in very good condition, considering that it’s been basically untouched at the dock for over ten years. It’s also pretty historically significant as an example of state-run ferries from the 1930s to 1970s, since most of the other ferries of this era have been re-powered, scrapped, or otherwise lost. I hope that the potential new owners get as excited about the project as I am, and that they call me in as a specialist to help re-commission the boat. Stay tuned (I hope)…

Work continues on the Catalyst

I spent the rest of the week on Catalyst, continuing to file and sand the oil hole ridges off the crankshaft. I feel like I’ve been sanding forever, and I’ve still got some left.

The rod bearings also came back from Everett Engineering, freshly babbitted and looking good. I inspected them again and found two things. First, one of the check valve balls was rusty and sort of pitted. These check valves are in the top half of each rod bearing, right against a hollow tube that runs up through the rod itself to the wrist pin. This keeps the rod full of oil after shut-down, so that oil gets up to the wrist pin as soon as pressure comes up. Since balls for the check valves are cheap, I bought new ones for all six bearings and put them in.

Second, some of the peel packs, which are a set of shims stuck together with solder that fit between each half of each bearing set, were replaced with plain shims. This isn’t really a big deal, except that I like peel packs better. I might get new ones, but I haven’t had the time to look into yet.

We also decided to send some of the cam followers and wrist pins to be flame-sprayed. In preparation, I stripped the followers and sent the wrist pin bushings to Asco to be honed down. The bushings (which are made of brass) wear down unevenly during normal operation, so it’s important to get them straight and round before the wrist pins are fit in. Honing is done with a specialized tool made up of three or four stones (they’re sort of leg-shaped) that push against the outside of the bushing and grind a small amount of material off while they turn.

I sent the wrist pin bushings off while they were still in the rods:

Connecting rods on their way to be honed

OTM’s tips for getting your heavy-duty through the economic crisis

All owners of heavy-duty engines are going to feel some pain from the current tough economic times, but OTM has some easy tips to help your engine (and your boat) survive the recession.

Get to know your boat, and want to get to know your boat. This will not only save money, it will make cruising safer and more pleasant. Get a flash light and get under the deck plates.

Clean the whole boat – especially the engine. I cannot overemphasize the importance of cleaning. This simple task addresses nearly all problems with the engine or other systems. If cleaning doesn’t actually solve the problem, it at least will keep the problem from getting worse – plus it makes it much easier to find and note problems so they can be addressed before they get worse. I have heard customers say “I haven’t wiped down the engine for a while so you [the mechanic] can find the leaks easier,” but I then have to spend the whole day cleaning the engine in order to find the leaks. This adds to the bill. It’s also just easier to work in a clean engine room, so the mechanic will be more efficient and productive than in a dirty engine room.

Simplify. In all situations, it’s important to just keep it simple. Good examples include:

  • selling the crane and using davits and block and tackle instead. It looks more elegant and is not much more work (and you hardly ever lower the boats, anyway)
  • removing the hydraulics in a small boat, because you don’t need them. Hydraulic systems are very powerful and few small boats need that kind of extreme power
  • forget about the second radar unit, and clean the windows in the wheel house instead
  • insist on smaller systems. Try to install “normal” systems: no one thinks a whiz-bang radar-guided autopilot is impressive unless the rest of the boat operates flawlessly, is used often, and has demonstrated a need for the device

Focus on need. Often the neatest-looking boats are that way because of how the owners meet their needs simply. I mention often how I like the “lived in” feeling of any structure that is well worn in. Another example is a small line attached to a door and frame to keep it from opening too far and slamming, which is a simple and elegant solution. A megayacht outfitter will try to get you to spend $2,500 on a mechanism to accomplish the same task, which needs to be greased monthly and rattles at full speed.

Break down jobs. See the trees in the forest and make a list with four-hour tasks. Don’t put things on the list like “rebuild engine”. It’s okay to cruise with broken parts as long as you know your limitations. Break the jobs into manageable pieces, and do some now and others next year.

Stay busy. If laziness sets in, the complacent attitude will sink the boat. Stay on task, look at the list, and keep making forward progress – even if it’s slow.

If you follow these tips, you’ll both keep your engine in good shape without spending too much money, and get greater satisfaction out of being proud of the work put into your boat.

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