Tag Archives: lake union dry dock

2009 Week 10 in Review

Work starts on the Maris Pearl

I started working on the Maris Pearl this week, starting at the top of Jay’s checklist. I serviced two of the generators; changed the oil filters, and looked at the belts and impellers. This is all really basic maintenance – just like what you get when you go to Grease Monkey, but it’s important to keep on top of. Next up will be working on the bilge pumps and oily water separators.

Wawona moves

The Northwest Seaport moved its old lumber schooner Wawona on Wednesday. I won’t go into all the emotions and relationships that I’ve had with the Wawona over the years, but its departure from South Lake Union was a very moving event.

The city, which was the driving factor behind the move, hired Global Dive & Salvage to stabilize it for the move, and they in turn subcontracted with Western Towboat to do the actual pulling to Lake Union Dry-Dock Company, where the boat will be taken apart. There’s been a lot of speculation in the old boat community about whether or not the boat is stuck in the mud (it’s not) or will break up during a tow, and a lot of blah blah blah from people who don’t know what they’re talking about (read the comments on these articles for a taste).

Anyway, after a lot of delays, the move was finally scheduled for 8 am on Wednesday. There was a press conference (with coffee) at 7:30 AM, where the Seaport’s press guy and president spoke for all the news cameras in Seattle. The Western tugs Wasp and Flyer showed up right at 8, stuck a hook-line right into the chain bobstay, and pulled the boat out, just like that. Ric, as usual, made the process look easy, and the Wawona went out into the waterway just like did hundreds of times before it became a museum boat.

I won’t say that I was unhappy to see the boat go, but I do want to defend myself from all the people pointing their fingers and saying that I wanted it to go to the scrapper because I hated it, and I just didn’t understand that they loved the boat.

Well, a boat that I did love went to the scrapper, and old tug in Kingston, New York called the K Whittlesey. It was powered by an old Rathbun-Jones diesel – the last in the country. I don’t know much about these engines except that they were later bought out by Ingersoll-Rand, but the K Whittlesey‘s was giant – way bigger than the Arthur Foss‘s Washingtion on the same size tug, with at least a 20-inch bore.

Just like the Wawona, the K Whittlesey became a local eyesore. A town eccentric raised it from the canal with the usual idea that “if you raise it, they will come,” and then got mad at the world for not following through with the second part of the plan – that is, when everyone gives him lots and lots of money for an old boat museum. There’s a news article on Zwire that talks more about the owners’ dream of a floating tugboat museum.

I was really sad to hear that the K Whittlesey was finally scrapped. I remind myself, though, that during its few years tied up in Kingston, a bunch of people got to see it. From the news conference, the Northwest Seaport seems to feel the same way about the Wawona: it’s sad that she’s gone, but wasn’t she great during those years that people got to see her?

CWB benefit auction

Saturday was this year’s auction benefiting the Center for Wooden Boats, and OTM Inc attended in style. It was a great party – they had the Armory all dressed up with spinnakers hung from the overhead, and a fair number of people dressed up in the Gilligan’s Island theme. We sat at the Northwest Seaport table and had a good time.

Center for Wooden Boats annual auction

What I love about the CWB auction is how many of the boat people donate items that only other boat people would love. Deputy director Jake donated his yearly Lake Union tugboat trips, when he uses the Mighty Isswat to pull floats around the lake for romantic dinner cruises and photography. Jensen Boatworks also donated a haul-out (painting and washing not included), and all the local big sailboats donated a cruise or two. There was also artwork and canoe vacations and wine-tasting – something for everyone. It was good to see the community come together like that, especially considering how nervous everyone is about money these days.

Drink like a sailor party

Later Saturday, we shanghaied a pile of sailors from the CWB auction and immediately put them to work drinking heavily at the “Drink Like a Sailor” party at Jenny and Kate’s. The party was a great time, and afterwards we oozed back to the boat like jellyfish stuck on the beach at low tide.

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2008 Week Seven in Review

This has been a busy week for Old Tacoma Marine Inc. In addition to our usual winter maintenance load, the museum program schedule is picking up and we’re getting a lot of interest in old diesels following our increased web presence.

First, a variety of engine and vessel news:

Maris Pearl Updates
Jay, Charlie, and I started the week by moving the Maris Pearl from Lake Union Dry Dock back to Shilshole Marina. It was a pretty uneventful trip.

OTM Inc checked in with Alaska Copper and Brass again about the cooler for the tug’s Enterprise diesel. Wayne reported no progress, so I threatened to go down there and roll the tubes myself. Next Monday, I think I’ll show up at their plant with my work boots and hard hat.

I also talked with Rick Hamborg, new owner of the Red Cloud, about the extra control head that I’d like to purchase for the Maris Pearl. I think we might be able to reach a deal soon.

Arthur Foss’s Bearing

OTM Inc picked up the throw-out bearing for the Washington diesel in the Arthur Foss:

tugboat ARTHUR FOSS's throw-out bearing, re-babbitted and ready for installation

Everett Engineering did a great job, although Dan Martin overrode my request for more fore-and-aft thrust clearance so that the tight fit will hold oil better. I’m afraid that it will be much harder to center the bearing every time the propeller shaft is engaged. The clutch on the Arthur Foss uses a set of links that flop over-center in a way that maintains pressure on the clutch without force from the throw-out bearing. When the throw-out bearing is backed off a little, there is no thrust pressure at all. The centering is sometimes hard, as the big wheel that moves the bearing is touchy. We’ll probably want to engineer a clamp or holder of some type to maintain the bearing position while underway. The collar and bearing were installed on Thursday, but the links need to be cleaned. They’ll be installed early next week.

David B Propeller Work
I talked with Jeffrey on the David B, which is hauled-out in preparation for propeller work. They also want to replace the stern bearing due to the 1/4 inch clearance recorded, but the rudder is in the way of the bearing housing. It looks like Jeffrey will need to remove the short intermediate shaft in order to remove the bearing housing, but the tail shaft will be even harder to remove. I’m wondering if they’ll replace the bearing without cleaning the shaft lining. Jeffrey’s frustration makes me think so.

Update on the Catalyst’s Cylinder Heads
The Catalyst’s owners have reached an agreement with Empire Motors to purchase the three new cylinder heads (previously mentioned here) as well as the patterns. I’m really looking forward to seeing them and I hope they work. I’m also really, really excited to see the patterns. I’ll post lots of pictures when they get here.

Fairbanks-Morse Parts
Steve from Striegel Supply is looking for some Fairbanks-Morse parts for a blower on a 16”-bore engine. I don’t know who would have these parts—does anyone reading this have any ideas? Leave a comment – or better yet, post on our discussion board!

A Fairbanks-Morse in Maryland
I talked with John in Maryland this week. He has a Fairbanks-Morse FM–A—6 engine, like the one on the John N Cobb. He’ll be sending us photographs and information soon. He’s also trying to locate spare parts just in case; I recommended Hatch and Kirk overhaul the injectors and pumps for him.

An Atlas-Imperial in Astoria
OTM Inc received an email from the Columbia River Maritime Museum in response to a letter we sent informing the museum of some small problems with their Atlas-Imperial on display. They don’t want to work on the engine right now (especially since it’s on display in the main lobby – though I think that working on it right there would be very interesting for visitors), but they do want a list of what to do and how to do it for future planning. I’ll come up with a detailed list and maybe make a copy of one of our manuals to hand-deliver in March.

An Enterprise in Astoria
I received an email from John Gillon of Portland, Oregon:

I am a volunteer with the amphibious forces memorial museum. Last October we sailed the Sakarissa from San Francisco to Portland Or. She is moored on the Columbia River next to our Landing Craft Infantry 713.

I was looking on your web site and we have a Enterprise engine on the Sakarissa and it is a beautiful engine. You can visit our web site and see more, or contact them for some good pictures of the engine.

I enjoyed your web site,


The Amphibious Forces Memorial Museum has hidden the pictures of its Enterprise too well for me to find, so I’ll have to see if I can visit the Sakarissa while I’m Astoria for the Columbia River Maritime Museum errand:

the SAKARISSA at dock

The Ballard Maritime Academy Engineer for a Day Program

Preparing for a course like this is a hectic process, as the boats always require some head-scratching and jury-rigging to get them running after a long idle period. The biggest puzzle we faced this time was getting enough air pressure to start the fireboat Duwamish’s diesel-electric system. The fireboat’s air compressors need a little work; one of them really doesn’t pump air at all, and the other one’s efficiency is suffering. It takes a long time for it to fill the tanks up to the minimum level needed to turn the main over, so for past Engineer for a Day programs we’ve run an air hose from the Arthur Foss to the fireboat to fill up the tanks.

This past autumn, though, we moved the boats on the Historic Ships Wharf around so that the Arthur and the Duwamish are separated by a big old Lightship (number 83). If we use a long enough hose to stretch up and over the lightship and down into the fireboat, it doesn’t effectively fill up the tanks. Grant and I spend most of Thursday running the air compressor on auxiliary generator, wondering if we’d get enough pressure to turn on the main. We thought about renting an air compressor, but couldn’t find a large enough one on short-notice.

Finally, late in the day, the Duwamish’s own air compressor filled up the tanks to the needed psi and Grant was able to start up the number one main generator:

We ran it and the generator for a while after that to ensure that we had enough air built up to start the engine several times, since that’s a key part of the Engineer for a Day program.

While Grant was working on the Duwamish, cleaning and oiling and turning over the three big Bessemer generators, I was doing some work on the Arthur Foss. We’d removed the base doors during the autumn 2007 Diesel Engine Theory course (pictures at Northwest Seaport’s Flickr account), and I needed to re-seal them using my own patented “goo” method. Five of these doors are the original aluminum with “Washington Iron Works” cast into them, but one is a replacement made of plywood. Northwest Seaport’s museum specialist is hoping to replace this replacement door with a piece of thick plexiglass so that we can see into the engine while it’s running, but they weren’t able to get it purchased and cut in time for this class. They’re aiming to get it installed in time for the summer tour season, though. I doubt that they’ll be able to see much through all the oil that’ll get splashed against the door while the engine is operating, but it’s a neat idea and no harm in implementing it (at least until I have a new door cast in aluminum).

The Virginia V at least was ready to go — though this is only because we don’t start up her steam plant during the Engineer for a Day program (it would double the cost of the class). Her power plant is currently disassembled for winter maintenance, but that actually makes it even more interesting to observe.

After all that preparation, the Engineer for a Day program went great. John Foster, the instructor for the Ballard Maritime Academy, brought 16 kids down for one of the program’s annual field trips. He spends several classes before the field trip teaching the kids about marine engineering and engine theory so that they have a good understanding of it in their heads before they step aboard. When we have them actually start up an engine – either the Arthur’s Washington or the Duwamish’s Bessemers – they suddenly understand what the diagrams and explanations mean:

more photos of the Engineer for a Day program on Northwest Seaport's Flickr account

Despite this, I’m always a little nervous thinking about a big group of kids storming the boat. Once they arrive and we break them into three groups to cycle through the Arthur, the Duwamish, and the Virginia V, I usually calm down. They may be high schoolers, but they want to be there and are way smarter than I give them credit for — even if they play games and whisper and text message while they’re supposed to be listening. I had a great time leading them through the Arthur’s start-up and shut-down procedures, and both Grant and Gary say the same thing about their sections. I’m looking forward to doing as many of these as we can, and not just for Ballard Maritime Academy.

Inaugural Tugboat Night!
The week finally ended with OTM Inc helping run a new program with Northwest Seaport and the Center for Wooden Boats. Tugboat Night was designed to serve three different purposes: to provide a regular, low-cost program on the Arthur Foss, to exercise all of the tug’s equipment more often, and to get more people onboard and involved with the boat and the organizations.

On Saturday night, twelve people showed up for the program, all really excited. Several had never been onboard before, though they’d seen the tug at the dock. My original plan for the evening had been to lead all the participants through the boat starting in the engine room, turning on everything and then turning off everything. After running the auxiliary generator and the AC generator, though, we ended up getting distracted by the main engine and not going on to the steering equipment and other systems. Everyone loves watching the Washington Iron Works diesels, since they have so many exposed moving parts and ways to see into the engine. We played with the controls, trying to get the engine to idle as slow as possible before stalling, and I answered a lot of questions from both beginners and the professional electrical engineer who had run hydroelectric generators in Montana:

Tugboat Night at Northwest Seaport

This, however, is the great thing about Tugboat Night. Next time, we’ll do it differently; we could have other instructors up in the fo’c’sle or the wheelhouse while I stay in the engine room and let participants choose where they go, or we could spend less time on the pre-start checklists and just turn things on and off. We could have a “plumbing night” or a “wiring night” or a “steering and telegraph night,” as well as a “deck department” or an “engine department” night.

I’m really excited by the turn-out of this first session, since it shows that people are interested in learning about the gritty details of old boats. I think that it’s a great way to start building a volunteer engine crew for the Arthur, both to help keep up with maintenance and repair, and for in the future when the tug starts cruising again (though that’s barely on the horizon). I hope that see all the same people at the next Tugboat Night, plus more who hear about it from them.

NWS and the CWB have scheduled four more sessions of Tugboat Night, on April 19, June 21, August 16, and December 20. Depending on the popularity of the class, they may hold more this year, and they’re planning to hold one every month of 2009. Call the CWB at (206) 382-2628 to register now.

Finally, Tape versus No Tape: A Viewer Poll

Kirtland (a boat guy living aboard the Arthur Foss these days in a work-exchange arrangement with Northwest Seaport) and I had a “discussion” the other day about paint on boats. It went sort of like the Bud Light “great tastes” versus “less filling” commercials.

It is my philosophy that paint is an impermeable barrier that protects the ship from rot, rust, and other elemental damage. It is Kirtland’s philosophy that paint is a cosmetic that keeps the boat looking sharp and shipshape. Of course, what we actually said was something like “Next time, use tape, [censored]!” “You want tape? Beat me to it, [censored]!” and back and forth several times.

Now, I’m a big proponent of keeping the boats looking sharp so that the maritime groups have good “dock presence,” but before worrying about making them look good we should worry about keeping them protected from the rain and other agents of deterioration. If Kirtland wants to spend a lot of time fussing over masking and detailing and what should be painted green versus white, then that’s fine – as long as the boat is already protected.

Readers, what do you think? Paint as protective barrier or paint as a cosmetic detail? Please comment with your opinion.


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2008 Week Six in Review

In Defense of Shipyard Workers

This week OTM checked on the Maris Pearl several times to be sure that the shipyard work is being completed to the owner’s expectations. She’s in Lake Union Dry Dock, which is typically a little more expensive than other local shipyards, but better at maintaining a schedule and getting the work done quickly. The work on Maris Pearl was done just fine — the tug was cleaned and painted, the zincs changed, and the bearings checked – but the owner was concerned by the pace the workers appeared to be moving at. Since the conventional equation is that time equals money, he started getting a little annoyed. Seeing this, I decided that I should try to explain why shipyard workers may appear slow.

First, a shipyard workers usually starts work early and often with a mild hangover. They work outside all day every day, and many are a little overweight. They frequently work through the weekend for that sweet overtime money, since most also have families whose expenses increase faster than the raises. On top of that, they spend at least eight hours every day being told what to do and what not to do by the manager, the foreman, the safety guy, the union guy, the owner, the owner representative, and the guy who started a week before them. This all wears on a shipyard worker – not to mention that almost every task involves dragging heavy things around. To keep from being utterly worn out or promoted, most workers will move at a slower pace than a “normal” walk.

There is also an optical illusion created by the worker seen in front of big machinery and equipment, plus boats out of the water appear three times as large as they are in the water. An owner is often used to seeing only the top third of the boat and while in dry-dock it looks huge and a worker walking around the boat looks very slow from a distance. This optical illusion exaggerates the slower pace enough to make owners angry at the seemingly lazy shipyard worker.

In defense of the shipyard worker, doing the same tasks over and over leads to learning how to do them most efficiently. Fewer wasted movements can add to the illusion of slowness, but they add up to get the job done much faster. They know how to work together and under a boss, who in turn knows how to direct them efficiently. They are all familiar with the facility – its layout, where the tools are, where the hose bibs and outlets are – and don’t waste time trying to figure out how to catch the crane operator’s attention to deliver a man-lift. This all leads to a very productive use of time, even if from the owner’s perspective the workers may seem to be moving very slowly.

However, some owners don’t see this and may try to do it themselves the next year to save that money they feel was wasted by the time it took. A do-it-your-selfer at the Northlake Shipyard (a local yard that allows owners to rent the facility and provide their own labor) might be able to learn some of the efficiencies that make the job faster, but usually only after a few very expensive haul-outs. I have seen do-it-your-selfers pay for extra lay days to keep from keeling over with a paint roller in their hand, which can add up to far more money than they saved doing it themselves.

Upcoming Engineer for a Day Program

OTM Inc also spend some time this week preparing for the Engineer for a Day Program for the Ballard Maritime Academy (we previously discussed the program here). We hired Grant MacDonald, the captain of the Thea Foss to teach the Diesel-Electric portion of the program on the fireboat Duwamish. In addition to being an experienced skipper and licensed as a 4,000 horsepower Designated Duty Engineer, Grant just completed a stint as an instructor for the Sea Education Association. He spent September to January teaching college students about boating and science on the Corwith Cramer, a purpose-built steel brigantine in the Caribbean. We think he’s well-suited as an instructor for the Engineer for a Day program.

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2008 Week Five In Review

Finishing up the Maris Pearl

I finished resealing the No 1 oil tube and put the Maris Pearl’s Enterprise back together – kinda at the last minute (sorry Jay!). The hard part of repairing the oil tubes on the starboard side is that the cam followers are in the way. I had to remove the push-rods, then wire the cam followers in place, then unbolt and remove the block of three followers and guides removed. This exposes the oil tube for repair.

Unlike Atlas-Imperial or Washington Iron Works engines, Enterprises have many of their moving parts inside a casing. Removing the push rods means removing the cylinder head cover, then pulling the push-rods out from this case. Here’s the exposed cylinder head:

and here’s the push rods laying on top of the other cylinder heads (still covered):

I had the Maris Pearl all re-assembled by the time Jay needed my help running her out to Lake Union Dry Dock. More on that later.

A Washington-Estep in Kodiak

Guy formerly of Alaska emailed OTM Inc with information about two complete Washington Iron Works engines in Kodiak. One Washington is being restored by the Kodiak Maritime Museum in Guy’s own garage, while the other and an Atlas-Imperial are in the old Port Williams cannery on Shuyak Island.

Here’s Guy’s description of how he came to have a Washington-Estep in his garage:

Marty Owen, the Harbormaster of Kodiak got a hold of it somehow. He told me, but I can’t remember. It is from the Salmon Cannery at Uganik and was used to run a line belt for canning. He had it stored in a City of Kodiak warehouse for about five years when I found it hiding under a blue tarp. They were getting ready to remodel the building, and he had to get it out of there. I said he could keep it in my garage, and I would see if I could get it put on a trailer for a running display. The Kodiak Maritime Historical Society plans to get it mounted on the trailer I found and use it for a running display at the Kodiak King Crab Festival.

From the pictures that Guy sent, it looks like they are well on their way to running this engine soon:

Guy was able to provide us with this engine’s serial number, 7153. With this number, OTM Inc was able to look up the original manufacturer records of it and confirm Guy’s memory that it was shipped in March, 1928 to the San Juan Fish & Packing Company for use as a belt drive. The San Juan Fish & Packing Company ordered a four-cylinder marine engine on the same day for use in its boat Caroline. We’re posting the information we know about this engine as we discover it on the website; check out what we have so far here.


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