This week was sort of boring compared to last week’s whirlwind tour of Northwest Washington’s heavy-duties.
An Update on the Maris Pearl
On Tuesday afternoon, we moved the Maris Pearl to pick up the new cover for the aft end of the boat deck. I call it the “wing.” I’ll try to post pictures later. Then we moved to Charlie’s tug, the Sea Devil, to pick up some fuel. We ended up spending all day there because they miscalculated the delivery rate. After griping a bit, Charlie and I called up some friends to come hang out on the tugs while we waited, so we had a nice night anyway.
This week, I also tried to seal some persistent water and oil leaks in the engine with little success. It’s a low priority for now, but hopefully next winter I can take the time to make sure the connections are all tight.
Business as Usual
This week was quarterly tax time. Ouch.
I also visited Striegel Supply again, where Steve is doing all kinds of interesting things (like having bearings made) and making deals with owners of awesome engines. I finally traded some of the Maris Pearl’s unuseable spare parts for a store credit. I hope he finds a customer for all those R model parts.
We got the word that the big party that OTM Inc co-hosts has been bumped back a week. It was very difficult to get the word out and we lost some of our performers. We worked day and night to find new performers and get the word out to the partners and guests, so hopefully the party will be a success anyway.
Helping out the neighbors
South Lake Union had its grand opening celebration this week. Several of the big historic boats in Seattle are moored there, including the Arthur Foss with the big old Washington. Northwest Seaport, the group that owns the Arthur, was invited to blow the tug’s horn (which is very, very loud) for the opening ceremony.
Usually, when Northwest Seaport wants the horn blown or the engine run or whatever, they ask me to come down and set things up. Since this usually coincides with the classes and demonstrations that I run on the Arthur, it’s usually not a big deal. This time I was just too busy to help out, so I talked Diana the Museum Specialist through starting up the AC generator (a modern Jimmy, not very interesting) to run the air compressors and fill up the tanks. She’s watched me start the generator plenty of times before but is really nervous about breaking parts of “the artifact.” I say that the worst thing that a museum can do with its ships is treat them like glass and that it’s actually better for the boat and its systems to just turn things on, but I guess I’d rather have the museums ask how to do it right than just think that they can treat it like an old photograph or a set of tools.
Anyway, since I couldn’t come down to Arthur, I had to describe the process over the phone. This was challenging, because the DC generator is located between the aft fuel tanks, which block cell phone reception. Diana had already gone through the first part of the generator’s pre-start checklist I wrote for Northwest Seaport (check water level in the main expansion tank, check oil level, check fuel level, open fuel valves), but called when it came time to push buttons. She would confirm what the next step was, put her phone down, go back and fuss with the generator, then come back and go through the next step. She was doing great on her own until we realized that the battery was dead (another reason that the generator should be run more often). Luckily, the Vice President of Northwest Seaport’s board had his truck right there on the dock, so they pulled its battery out, brought it down to the engine room, jumped the generator, and made it all work beautifully. Diana sounded like she was going to pass out from the stress (museum people are weird), but I told her that the next step after starting the generator was to go get a cup of coffee while it warmed up for a few minutes.
Compared to starting the generator, turning on the air compressors was uneventful (though apparently she turned on the big tow winch instead of the compressor for a few seconds) and the tanks didn’t need that much air anyway. When it came time to blow the horn for the big celebration (the Virginia V had steam up for her whistles and everything), though, the valve stuck after just one short honk. Lame. Diana called me back to ask how to fix it, but when I got to “climb up on top of the wheelhouse with a pair of needlenose pliers,” she decided to save that for a different day and welcome visitors aboard instead.
What I thought was neat about this process is that Diana said she was able to figure out some parts of the DC generator by comparing them to Arthur‘s Washington, which she’s very familiar with:
The checklist just says “hold governor in while cranking.” At first, I just went “shoot, don’t know anything about modern diesels,” but then I started looking and thinking about how the main is put together, and figured out that the knob sticking out of the horizontal bar must be the governor, since the main’s governor is the lever sticking out of the horizontal bar. I know, I know: obvious to mechanics, but this was the first time that I really understood how the parts connect in a modern engine.
This really reinforces my point that working on the big old heavy-duties is a great way to learn about diesel engines in general, because you can see everything that’s hidden or tiny on a modern engine. I can’t think of any diagram or lecture that would explain how pushrods work half as effectively than coming down to the Arthur or any of the other boats or stationary engines and just looking at how they sit on the camshaft and connect to the rockers. If folks actually start the engine, they learn that much more from the heavy-duties by watching how the parts interact.
I’m also glad that Northwest Seaport has people interested in learning how to run Arthur‘s engine again. We need more heavy-duty engineers if we want to keep these engines running.