Tag Archives: maritime heritage community

2009 Week 26 in Review

20Work continues on the Arthur Foss

This week, I continued to work on the Arthur Foss‘s Washington, working with OTM’s mechanic Crystal. We started the week with two big challenges to work on 1) make a tool to drive out the very stuck air-start valve, and 2) put the very heavy cylinder head back onto the engine.

I had to make a tool to get the air-start valve out. Back in 2005, during the very first session of Diesel Engine Theory, we pulled all the intake and exhaust valve cages out of the Arthur‘s engine. I wanted to pull all the air start valves in the head at that time, too, but they were really, really stuck. I decided that it would be best to take them out when we had the heads off, but I’ve been really antsy to start getting them out.

The day to get them out came on Thursday of this week, when I got to South Lake Union with the tool I’d made. It’s basically a cylindrical steel punch that I put up against the air start valve on the underside of the cylinder, and then wailed on with a ten-pound sledge hammer. It didn’t budge for a while – long enough that I thought “crap, I’m going to have to cut this [censored] out in pieces,” which I had to do with one of the exhaust valves back in 2005. But then I hit it some more and it finally came loose and popped out of the head, and I brought it back to the shop to clean it up. Whew.

hole for the air start valve in the Arthur Foss's number four cylinder head

Later in the week, we used a borrowed three-ton come-along to winch the piston back up into the cylinder, then set the head back on the cylinder. The come-along was a really great tool – I want one. I’ll have to put it on the Arthur Foss‘s wish-list, too.

I picked up a bunch more supplies, including water grommet material in two thicknesses. Then, I had to make a lot of calls and fuss over the head gasket because the manufacturer didn’t have the right material, but I finally got it.

There was also a lot of cleaning and painting all the individual parts. We painted the rockers and valve parts the usual Arthur white and painted the exhaust manifold with high-temperature paint. The TAP guys helped out a bunch this week with the painting – thanks, guys!

With all that accomplished, we were all ready for the next class on Saturday! But first…

South Lake Union party

The Friday Lake Union Park Working Group is still doing great things. On Thursday, they had a big party to “roll out” a new planning document that they all worked on. Lots of people showed up to see representatives from every group (like 20!) speak and everyone was really excited. I’m excited too – ten years ago, none of the different boat factions would even have been in the same room together, and now applauding for each other and finding ways to work together. Way to go, everyone!

Atlas-Imperials are not dead

The Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society just published an article in their quarterly rag the Sea Chest titled “The Atlas Imperial Diesel Engine, an Innovative Engine Built in the 1920s”. While this article gives the Atlas-Imperial diesels credit for being innovating and durable machines, the overarching theme suggests that the engines are gone for good.

I disagree.

Old Tacoma Marine Inc is here to show the next generation that heavy-duty diesels like the Atlas-Imperials are alive and well and still working as they were designed to do almost a century ago. The 500 or so heavy-duties from the four manufactures that I like the most are near-evenly grouped into four active categories by use: commercial, pleasure with a purpose, museums, and collectors. In all categories, the engines must function to fulfill specific duties, and these keep a small but diligent group of mechanics, engineers, operators, parts suppliers, curators, grant writers, museum program managers, and grey-haired guys who know everything all gainfully employed year-round. We’re a tight bunch who meet often and share stories and get their own tables at the tugboat parties or tractor shows.

This network of support and the great need for the engines to run is the reason this article is premature in writing of the death of these innovative engines, built to last from the 1920s and far into the future.

Underwater Surveys surveys the Lightship #83

A diver from Underwater Surveys did an underwater video survey of the Lightship #83 this week. He found that the hull is in about the condition we expected, with lots of aquatic growth – so much that it looks like a coral reef. I can’t wait to haul it out and clean all that off.

If anyone needs an underwater survey of their boat, let us through and we’ll patch you through to Underwater Surveys.

Indian Grave #3 running!

This week, I also got word that the Indian Grave Drainage District’s engine #3 successfully ran for about five minutes. I can’t wait to see them all working!

Diesel Engine Theory Session Four

Saturday morning, we all met on the Arthur for part four of the Diesel Engine Theory class. The first task was to move all the parts from my truck back onto the boat. We brought them all to the back deck to sort them out:

parts from the Arthur Foss's Washington Iron Works diesel engine

We did some more painting and cleaning and sanding, and cut grommets for the exhaust manifold:

cutting gaskets for the exhaust manifold

We also did some old Diesel Engine Theory standbys, such as the Washington Valve Dance (putting spring retainers on the valve stem), the Kerplunk Test (fitting the valve cages into the cylinder head; a “kerplunk!” sound is good, a “squish…” sound means more sanding), and annealing copper gaskets with heat and then cold water:

annealing a head gasket for the Arthur foss's Washington Iron Works diesel engine.

Then we had another amazing lunch cooked in the Arthur‘s frying hot galley with the fabulous Chef Kim, who made cheese sandwiches, tomato soup, and cayenne brownies. She also baked lots more of the amazing bread she made last week, and we all had tons of it.

Fresh-baked bread on the Arthur Foss!

After lunch, we did some more cleaning, then got the rod bearing back in. This was an excruciating job because the rod bearing is two big heavy pieces of metal that fit around the crankshaft. It’s tricky because you have to suspend the lower half while you get the upper half in place and the bolts through. I rigged up some braces to keep the pieces in place, then got into the crankpit while all the students maneuvered the pieces into place.

re-installing the rod bearing on the Arthur Foss's Washington Iron Works diesel engine.

It was hard work (especially since the boat was hot and the crankpit full of solvent), but we got it done just a little after five. Next week is the last week of Diesel Engine Theory 2009; let’s hope we get it all back together in time!

Seattle Power Tool Races

The power-tool races were Saturday evening. I wish I could have attended. Hopefully next year.

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2009 Week 22 in Review

Still scraping bearings

This week in the Indian Grave Drainage District pumphouse, I measured the bearings for Engine One, then bounced from engine to engine lapping, scraping, lapping, scraping, lapping, scraping, and cleaning.

Lia flew out to visit and we had a real Quincy lunch with one of the pumphouse operators – a snapping turtle pulled straight out of the drainage ditch.

OTM Inc goes to Erie

Diana the Museologist went to a conference this week in Erie, Pennsylvania. The Council of American Maritime Museums is a professional group that’s been meeting for years to talk about how they’re trying to save old boats and stuff that came off of boats. This year, the themes were “Collaboration” and more importantly “How to weather the recession.”

She gave two presentations during the conference. The first was about the Lake Union Park Working Group that’s been meeting for a few years now to coordinate heritage programming at South Lake Union. Apparently, everyone in the country is really pumped up about collaboration and working together, but us Seattle folks are some of the first to really get a good idea of how to work together on a week-to-week basis. Diana said that the other people at the conference were really excited to hear about the work that we’ve been doing around here, especially the kind of teamwork that went into the Holiday Spirit event last December (back in 2008 Week 50).

Diana’s second presentation was on hauling out the Arthur Foss:

Diana the museologist giving a presentation on hauling out the ARTHUR FOSS at the 2009 Council of American Maritime Museums conference

Sadly, we did that amazing project before OTM started blogging, but we’ll tell the full story soon. As a museologist, Diana wrote two huge long final reports for the haul-out (posted on Northwest Seaport’s website here, but had only twenty minutes to share it at the conference. The coordinators apparently were really interested in hearing about the “non-profit/for-profit partnership model” used during the haul-out. That basically means that Northwest Seaport, who own the Arthur, hired OTM Inc to manage the haul-out, rather than having their own volunteers and staff do it. This worked well for everyone, since NWS had experienced professional boat repair people working on the project, and OTM and the other boat repair people had a good contract on a great boat. The folks at the conference were apparently really impressed that the haul-out came out on time and under-budget – unheard of when the museum tries to negotiate with a shipyard. The “estimators” at a shipyard can smell inexperience in a project manager like sharks can smell blood in the water.

After the talks, the conference people also got to go sailing, in both smallcraft and aboard the museum’s replica brig, the Niagra. Here’s Diana and other museologists in a “dipping lugger”:

Cutter I, a dipping lugger carried by the brig Niagra

And here’s the crowd on the Niagra, a great replica of a 1913 naval brig:


One of these days, we need to send the entire OTM Inc crew to one of these conferences to show how we do it.

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2008 Week 50 in review

Work continues on the Catalyst

This was the third week that I spend filing and sanding the Catalyst‘s crank journals. It takes me about a day to get each journal cleaned up enough that I like them, so I’ve been spending a lot of time down in the crank pit.

We got the main bearings back from St. Louis Bearing, and they look good. We’ll install them next week. The new piston rings I ordered from Safety Seal also arrived, but I haven’t had time to inspect them yet.

I got the wrist pin bushings back from Asco (which, you’ll remember back in Week 50, I had honed in preparation for flame spraying), so I took all six wrist pins and six of the cam followers out to be flame-sprayed at Flamespray Northwest, down in South Park. Flame-spraying is a process to build up a coating over a metal part and then grind it down to a precise size (Wikipedia has a pretty good article on it here). I have stuff flame-sprayed when it’s worn down and needs a little more material to fit right.

The wrist pins needed to be built up a little to fit the newly-honed bushings in the rods. The Washington book just says that the wrist pin clearance should be one-thousandth of an inch for every inch of diameter, since the book was written to cover many sizes of Washingtons. The Catalyst‘s pins are two-and-three-quarters of an inch, so I told Flamespray to grind them to between two-and-a half and three thousandths of an inch, and the followers to two thousandths.

The cam followers needed to be built up a bit, since both they and the guides they ride in are a little worn down. It’s really important the that the followers and the guides fit together tightly, since a bad fit can make them break. The lobe on the camshaft will kind of slap the follower every time it comes around, and the fit of the follower in the guide is important to transfer the energy quickly to up and down motion. Side-to side momentum can build up if there’s too much clearance in this set of parts, and this force can break the guide. We reamed out the guides to make them straight, then had the cam followers flame-sprayed and ground down for a tight fit.

I also honed the cylinders with a ball hone. This is quite a work out, plus we use brake cleaner so it’s pretty fume-y – and this was just to clean up the cylinder a bit, not to fix any tapers or deep scratches. First, we tie a bucket under the cylinder to catch all the grinding gunk:

Using a bucket to catch slop while cleaning up the CATALYST''s cylinders

Then, I stand up on the engine with a ball hone attached to a drill motor, while a helper (in this case, Captain Bill) sprays brake cleaner into the cylinder. The ball hone has lots of little grinding stones mounted on wires that spin around and cleans up the cylinder liner:

Ball hone used to clean up the CATALYST''s cylinders

The honing has two phases. First, I run the ball hone up and down pretty fast to clean up all the scratches in the liner, while the helper sprays solvent in to wash away cut material and grit. Then, I slow the drill motor down to make a 45-degree cross-hatch all over the liner surface. If the liner is just polished smooth, oil doesn’t really adhere to it and you don’t get enough lubrication between the piston rings and the liner. The cross-hatch pattern helps hold the oil against the liner walls so that the piston rings glide up and down without actually touching the liner. If everything is aligned perfectly, the engine can run for years without any friction between the rings and the liner, and the cross-hatches will be perfect when you inspect them.

We finished honing all the cylinders in just a few hours, then cleaned them really well with solvent and hot soapy water. We finished up by oiling all of them, so they’re all ready to be re-assembled when we get the other parts done.

New Years cards from OTM Inc

Old Tacoma Marine Inc’s annual 2008/2009 New Years cards are in the mail!

New Year's card from OTM Inc

If you don’t get one, send your address and we’ll put you on the mailing list.

Show your concern for the Bristol Red Salmon

Lia and I hosted a Red Gold gathering at the house, where twenty concerned citizens came to eat Bristol sockeye and watch the documentary Red Gold projected on the basement wall. We passed around Aquavit, generously provided by Pacific Fishermen’s Doug Dixon.

Red Gold is a good conversation starter, though it doesn’t tell the whole story (but what does?). I really hope that progress on the mine can be slowed and that more people get involved in the discussion. I wrote Alaska’s senators about it, and I hope some of you write those who can call for more investigation into the plan. Addresses for the Alaska senators are here on the United States Senate website.

It must be the holiday party season

Speaking of Pacific Fishermen, they invited us to the 56Th annual Fishermen’s Night, hosted by the Norwegian Commercial Club. I love this event, since it’s another great Ballard seafood feast. We ate almost our weight in king crab, oysters, pickled herring, fried cod, shrimp, and gin. The food was amazing and probably 80% of Ballard’s wealth attended.

A couple days later was Jensen Boat Works’ holiday party, which we attended with the folks from Catalyst and Newt. It very nice to see the community that Jensen’s Motor Boat has built. Anchor was there in spirit.

On Saturday, the folks down at Lake Union Park hosted “Holiday Spirit at Lake Union Park.” They had a lot of activities for kids and families on the old boats, like ornament making and kids choir recitals. The Arthur Foss the kids’ favorite because of the giant Washington… Okay, no, it was the gingerbread tugboats! Diana helped dozens of kids smear frosting and stick gumdrops on the cookies, the boat, and their parents. It sounds like a lot of fun, and everyone I’ve talked to says they had a blast. Next year, maybe OTM will set up a booth with engine-shaped fruitcake to give them some competition.

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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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