Tag Archives: northwest seaport

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 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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2009 Week 48 in Review

A lot more work on the Maris Pearl

We spent a bunch of time this week cleaning and painting cleaning and painting on the Maris Pearl.

Some work on the Skillful

I also pulled the engine out of the little tugboat for repair.

New Portolan from Northwest Seaport

The Northwest Seaport put out a new issue of its newsletter, the Portolan, that has a little teaser article on the Diesel Engine Theory workshop last July. You can read an online copy of it here.

Turkey-Hunting in Ballard

We found some:

Happy Thanksgiving from Old Tacoma Marine Inc

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2009 Week 39 in review

We spent this week puttering in the shop, reviewing Lightship notes, and gossiping under the roll-up door – an important process for transferring important information – and playing the antique player pianos coming into the shop these days.  Here’s Dan playing one of the many lined up by the office:

An update from Indian Grave Pumphouse

I got from the Indian Grave Pumphouse, saying if they leave engine #3 shut down for a few days, then they have to go and bleed all the fuel lines to make it go again. From here, it seems like the things that could be causing it are: leaky injectors, leaky pumps, or leaky fuel lines. More on that when we hear more from Illinois.

A visit to Forks

On Friday, Brian the shipwright and Shannon the VP of Northwest Seaport and I drove out to Forks to inspect the lumber cut for the Lightship #83’s new deck. We arrived at McClanahan Lumber just before noon and checked out the two beautiful piles of milled fir cut to order for the Seaport:

The ends were waxed to keep them from drying too fast and cracking, the few knots are on the lower side so the caulking won’t touch it, and the planks were cut to leave minimum sap wood – the outside few inches of the tree that gets included on a few planks; it looks lighter when viewed on the end:

We got some good news, too: the sawyer said that there’s no need to rotate the planks as they’re drying. Shipwrights, stay tuned for more about the Lightship deck project in the coming months. Finally, thanks to the McClanahans for lunch and amazing blackberry pie.

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2009 Week 28 in Review

Early Sunday morning, I picked up all the remaining tools from the Arthur Foss, put the yacht back in the driveway, cleaned up my desk, and got back on a plane to Quincy, Illinois.

Back to Quincy

I went back to the Indian Grave Pumpouse despite the bad news that only two sets of piston rings had arrived, so I spent the week setting up the remaining rod bearings as close as I could without the pistons. I used a spare rod dangled from above to allow me to tighten the rod bearing bolts and get a more accurate bearing running clearance. Then, I used an old technique Dan told me from a while back: how to set bearing clearances without using dials.

I adjust the shims until they’re really close, then continue to adjust them one thousandth by one thousandth until the bearing just starts to drag on the journal when I move it side to side. When it starts to drag, that means it’s basically at 0, so I add shims one by one until I get about .004 worth of clearance.

I really needed this method because without the piston to center the bearing, it was too squirrelly to bump without a dial. Once the pistons are installed all the clearances will be set precisely, but I did this initial setup to make the final bump faster.

I also made some special tools to fit in place of rod bearing shims, allowing the piston height to be easily set, since I accidentally destroyed some valuable shims using a big stack of them to set piston height earlier. I only got to use the tool two times this trip, but I also got to show it off to the Fabius River Drainage District commissioners and the operator.

custom-built tool for setting the piston height

All the roustabouts and pump guys have been working four ten-hour days, so they all get Friday off. I chose this day to invite the Fabius guys to the Indian Graves Pumphouse to discuss maintaining their Fairbanks-Morse (6)32E14s. The meeting went great! I had all the tools and Nathan’s help to show how easy it is to repair and maintain big heavy-duties like Fairbanks. As a demonstration, we pulled a rod bearing, looked at it, and then put it back and checked the piston height. All of them were impressed and Nathan and I felt like we may have saved two amazing engines from the scrapper.

Road Trippin’

Right after the meeting, I wrapped everything at Indian Graves up to go back to the airport, so that I could get to Seattle and immediately turn around and fly to Alaska to ship out on Catalyst.

Well, things just got ridiculous. I got a flat tire on the rented Prius. Damn. Oh, well. I put on the spare tire, then made one more trip down to the levy to drop off an engine manual, and then I’ll be damned – I got another flat and picked up a nail in a different tire.

With the flight leaving in 3 ½ hours, I was able to look up the closest tire repair shop on my phone. “Ron’s Tire Shop” sent a truck right away. I reported the incident to the rental company over the phone, and arranged to have someone drop me off immediately once I got to the rental office in the off chance that I got there in time. Then, I arranged new flights in case I missed this one, and reserved a hotel room across the highway from the airport, and began re-scheduling the flight to Alaska (currently set for 10:30 AM pacific time).

While on the phone, the tire repair guy was carrying on with the mechanic. He had to drive back to the shop and get two new tires. I’ll take the time to file a claim later. Finally, the tires were installed and the one with the nail patched, then I hit the road. The drive from Quincy to St. Louis (which I’m getting really familiar with) usually takes two hours; this time, I made it in one and a half and made the flight with seconds to spare. Wow! Once I got my boarding pass and went through the security check-in, I heard the elevator music movie scene from the Blues Brothers where they are in the elevator after the best car chase ever.

The Ready hauled-out

We heard that the tug Ready was hauled out and looks great. Sounds like the new owners are making progress – I hope they get the engine running again soon!

A new Portolan is out!

I just got a newsletter from Nortwest Seaport with all the non-engine news from the organization. They included a feature article on the YMTA Engineer for a Day field trip that I ran for them last February. They’ve put up a .pdf version on their website if you haven’t gotten yours by mail, so go check it out.

It looks like they’re doing really good things these days. I might even renew my membership.

Hand-fitting versus precision parts

Whenever I’m scraping bearings in, I get a lot of grief from spectators who see all my fuss over each engine part and how I seem “overly concerned” about fit and how the method is slow. Fitting bearings does take a long time, but it’s not a process that you can take shortcuts on. I rarely use power tools on parts that must fit precisely, because the margin for error is just too great. Scraping in a bearing is a time-consuming process that requires patience and seems to be seen as a dying art.

New engines use all precision parts that you can just bolt on and go. This is desirable because labor rates are higher than the cost of parts and parts can now be machined with fairly close tolerances. The same holds true for a lot of things these days: engines, furniture, trains, buildings, jewelry, or martinis. Houses can be assembled without using a saw, trains are delivered in a box, and I even drank a mixed drink from a can while I was on the airplane. However, I know I’m not alone in my belief that finding a mechanic who can hand-fit bearings is like finding a bartender who can make that perfect cocktail the old-fashioned way: it may take longer and it may be more expensive, but it’s totally worth it at the end of the day.

I do regret that the fitting take so much time and believe me when I say there is progress – though it may be hard to see behind the ever-mounding pile of emery bits. Most of all, be patient!

Off to Alaska

On Saturday, OTM Inc’s lead mechanic took off to Alaska again to work on the Catalyst until September 1.

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2009 Week 27 in Review

This week, we put the Arthur Foss all back together. All the parts are cleaned and many painted, the head is down, the piston is in, and the rod bearing is in, and I tightened everything down and painted the cylinder and deck plates just in time for class on Saturday.  But first:

More Enterprises

Doug reminded us via email to include the Alaska Ferries Malaspina and Columbia to the list of Enterprise-powered boats. Will do, Doug – does anyone know what model they are? The Golden Bear is powered by two big R5-V16 diesels – do the ferries have that same model?

New owners for the Kaluah Maru?

I’ve heard a rumor that the Kaluah Maru, a boat in Hawaii with two Superiors, has new owners. Anyone hear anything concrete? OTM Inc is investigating.

The Dunlin moves to Seattle

I got an email from Keith in which he said that the Dunlin has moved to Seattle. I can’t wait to meet the new owner and see the boat!

Diesel Engine Theory Session Five!

With all the parts ready and all the tools laid out, the class attacked the engine early Saturday morning. We wanted to get a good start on the work left – bumping the bearings, timing the valves and injectors, and getting it ready to run –since Saturday also started the 34th Annual Lake Union Wooden Boat Festival! Since 2005, OTM Inc has been a part of the show by running the Arthur‘s engine throughout the festival as a demonstration. The public loves it, and this year the students were going to help us keep it going.

the final session of the 2009 diesel engine theory workshop in the Arthur Foss

While the engineers were in the engine room, chef Kim was in the smoking hot galley. She baked bread all morning, turning the galley into a roasting pit of despair, but the bread was very tasty. Here’s the instructions and recipe, tailored for baking on the Arthur Foss:

At 7 or 8 am, turn on the stove; first, remove the firebox cover and vacuum or scrape the bits of carbon out of the firebox and the diesel cup. Next, open the valve from the day tank, open the valve to the meter, open the valve on the meter, and turn the meter up to full. Look down into the firebox; when you see a little diesel trickle out of the hole, light it with the blow torch that’s kept in the galley drawer. You’ll probably have to fire it for a while with the torch to get it alight.

Once it’s on, let it get hot and smoky and fiery, then turn on the fan. Open the fan damper until it doesn’t smoke any more – but not too much, or the fire will start to flicker like a strobe. Adjust it until you find the happy medium between strobe and smoke, and continue to check it for the next several hours.

Have some coffee, run the generator, clean the counter, have some more coffee. At 10 or 11, when stove is nearing 300°, dissolve 2tsp yeast in 2 cups warm water, then add:

5 ½ cups flour
¼ cup sugar
1 to 2 tsp salt

Mix, not knead, all this together and fold dough into a rounded lump. Cover lightly with cloth and put in a warm, not hot, place. The dish rack over the sink is perfect, and keeps it out of the way. Let rise to double its size.

Divide dough in half, form into two lumps, and place in the big glass pan. Cover lightly and let rise to double its size and the oven is between 350° and 400°.

Place in center of oven and bake 10-15 min, or until top is VERY golden brown. Remove the bread from the oven, wait no more and no less than five minutes before removing from pan. Eat it hot with butter.

bread baked in the Arthur Foss's diesel oven

The original recipe is featured in Lin Pardey’s awesome seacook’s book: The Care and Feeding of the Offshore Crew. Kim sliced most of this loaf and left it out on the counter with butter, and it was gone within an hour.

Back to the engine. We had everything buttoned up by one and we all held our breaths as we blew down the engine, then started it up. It started right up – but the new head gasket didn’t fully seat and a little air hissed out between the head and the cylinder on every compression stroke. We shut it down quick because it was making sounds like a dying goose.

After we cleaned up, the students had the next two hours to check out the Wooden Boat Festival and all the great old boats at South Lake Union for the weekend. Sadly, no other boats with heavy-duty diesels came, but it was still a great show. Meanwhile, tons of kids mobbed the boat for Pirate Story Hour:

pirate story hour on the arthur foss

At four, we all headed over to Buca di Beppo for a very tasty celebration dinner.

At six, the show closed and the class ended. Everyone filled out course evaluations at the restaurant, and they gave us rave reviews. Here’s a sample:

I think the program was coo. I really liked it and learned a lot. It would be better if we had a couple of days in the week instead of one. MoB MoB MoB L*fe L*fe L*fe.”

We think that’s a complement.

I know that I had a good time this session. It’s too bad that the head gasket didn’t fully seat, but it wasn’t anyone’s fault; the engine is old and sometimes these things happen. Despite not running the engine all afternoon Saturday, I would still say that this was one of the best classes and we addressed many issues with the engine, so the class was definitely a success.

dirty hands on the arthur foss

Next year, we’ll do Cylinder One.

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