Tag Archives: tender david b

2009 Week 50 in Review

More work on the Maris Pearl

I overhauled the engine room bilge pump system for the Maris Pearl. The old system had little pumps to move oily bilge water to the slop tanks, and the oil and paint chips would clog the pumps all the time. I put in bilge drains instead that when opened, gravity-feed the bilge directly into the tank.

Heavy-duties on KUOW

Andy dropped me a line to say he’d heard one of OTM Inc’s sound clips on KUOW’s Weekday program again, for their “The Sound of Noise II: The Soundscape of your Life.”

It aired on the 11th, and you can listen to the segment following the links here; the engine sounds are at 20:35. My guess is it’s the David B.

A note from a Woodward fan

We received this in the old inbox this week:

Hi guys,

I was steered to your web site on Google. Your web site is very informative to history buffs like myself. I have spent a lot of time reading some of the vintage data you have.

I see you have a Woodward type IC diesel governor manual. That’s so cool because I have been collecting Woodward Governor Company history items for over 20 years and finally came across a vintage Woodward manual. Thanks for the cool information!

He’s got diesel engine governor data on his history web site – check it out.

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2009 Week 2 in Review

Work continues on the Catalyst

This week on the Catalyst, we finished up the main bearings. Last week I talked about fitting in bearings and strain testing them and how it takes a long time, but they’re finally done. Whew. Next up are the rod bearings, then the pistons.

An update on the David B

As some of you may know, the David B suffered some damage in last month’s big winter freeze. I’ve been on the phone with owner Jeffery a lot, since he’s trying to figure out how to best fix it.

One of the fixes that Jeffery already did was to replace a chunk that blew out of the cylinder head. The cylinder head is curved, so the replacement had to be on that same curve to be effective. He could have hammered a flat piece of steel to the right shape, but that would have taken forever to get it the right shape and curve. Instead, Jeffrey took a 16-inch pipe that had the same radius as the cracked head and cut a piece out of it that matched the hole in the cylinder head, and stitched it together with a bunch of screws.

He did a really good job – I hope that the rest of the repairs go as well, and that the David B is cruising again soon.

Old Tacoma Marine Art Show at Caprice Kitchen

At the end of the week, I spent an evening at Caprice Kitchen helping set up an old engine art show. We put up ten art-quality prints of some of our favorite engines, including the Catalyst, the Arthur Foss, and the David B.

Stop by and check it out!

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Filed under washington iron works, week in review

2008 Week 40 in review

A reader question about Enterprises

Reader Saúl emailed me for some Enterprise information:

Would you know where I can find an image of the logo placed by Enterprise Engines & Foundry on the armor parts they created during WWII? I am trying to update this list.

I won’t be taking an Enterprise apart until January, so if any of you know the answer, jump right in! Comment here, email Saúl, or contact me. It’s a great project, so I hope that a fellow reader can help Saúl out.

A Big Thank-you to Brian for helping the Arthur Foss program

This week, a reader responded to the wish list I posted for the class I’ll be leading on the Arthur Foss. Brian brought us an 18-to-1 torque multiplier on a long-term loan, and will bring by some lubricating oil soon. This is a huge help to me and to Northwest Seaport – plus, Brian signed up to take the Diesel Engine Theory class.

We still need participants and funding for the class, so please be like Brian and get involved and help where you can!

An update on the Duwamish

I’ve mostly finished re-assembling the air compressor, and now I just have some valve work left. I hope to wrap up this project soon — and maybe post some pictures next week.

An update from the David B

I met with Jeffrey and Christine of the David B (the last boat with a Washington-Estep diesel). I gave them a framed color copy of the “engine card” that Washington Iron Works kept records on for their engine:

David B's manufacturer card from Washington Iron Works

Every Washington engine produced has a card, so we can send you a copy of one that interests you for $25 each. We need the engine number or other identifying information and a few months to make the copy. Comment here or contact us to order your engine card today.

Back to Jeffrey and Christine and the David B. They, like many others, have lugging problems due to the wrong-sized propeller and parasitic load. They’re planning to flatten out their wheel this year, and also have me work on perfecting the power train to get the rated engine RPM and 600 degrees on the pyrometers. That is as fast as you can go (remember my discussion of optimizing running speed from a couple months ago?). I’ll also be helping them with some bearing issues this January.

Gaskets for Big Swan

We sent two annealed copper head gaskets and a complete set of rubber grommets to the Big Swan Drainage in Winchester, Illinois. Engineer Kenny manages the drainage company, which uses two giant engines to pump the water out of corn fields and up in to a river that is higher than the fields. The Atlas-Imperial drives a big pump that moves up to 60,000 gallons of water per minute. The other engine, a Cat, can move about 70,000 gallons.

The Atlas, one of my favorite engines in the world, runs great, but there are some water leaks coming from the heads. A water leak is not a terrible thing, but, if left to leak, more problems develop. Changing the grommets is not too tough a job, so it’s a good idea to take things apart to clean and reseal often. This helps prevent small problems from becoming big problems, and removes some of the mystery that can build up if the engine is just left alone. So, as all the old-timers often remind me, “take it apart and fix it!” It sounds like Kenny is planning to do just that.

Boat for sale: Cape Scott

We found another neat boat for sale on the Internet: the Cape Scott, a WWII Navy transport built by Fulton Shipyard in California, which is now a fish packer in Vancouver BC. It’s powered by an Enterprise DMG-6 (like the Briana Marin) and all the gear for fish packing:

fish packer Cape Scott, powered by an Enterprise DMG-6 diesel engine, for sale in Vancouver, BC

I hope a business-minded person buys the boat, since a boat earning a living keeps an engine in good condition. While the operating budget may get cut down in response to economic pressures, engine maintenance rarely gets cut on a working boat, since the engine is the most important thing on it. If the Cape Scott becomes a pleasure boat, I worry that the engine won’t get as much attention as it would if it kept fishing (unless a heavy-duty enthusiast buys it).

The broker is asking $95,000 and has put some basic information on their website, but I have some questions that brokers usually don’t answer: how does it run? How is the hull? How much fish can it haul? What condition are the tanks in? How well does the RSW system operate? When was its last contract for fish packing? If anyone reading knows anything about the Cape Scott, comment here and let us know!

Heavy-duty “for sale” listings

Speaking of which, we’ve launched a new feature of the Old Tacoma Marine Inc website: a Boats for Sale listing. I have a lot of people interested in buying a boat powered by a heavy-duty diesel who call to ask which ones are for sale, so this will be a comprehensive list that will help us get the information out to help the boats change hands quicker. This will be a free service for now, because unwanted boats are bad for my business.

Up now are the Briana Marin (Enterprise DMG-6), the Cape Scott (Enterprise DMG-6), the Oswell Foss (Enterprise DMG-6), the Portola (Winton), the Quail (Atlas 6HM763), and the Ready (Atlas 6HM2124). If you know of other heavy-duty boats for sale, let me know and I’ll get it up.

Off-topic reminder

To all of Old Tacoma Marine Inc’s American readers, remember to vote this November 4th. This is a crucial time for America, and we need to choose the best team to lead our nation.

OTM Inc Weekly eBay Auction

This week’s prize from the OTM Inc shop is a set of two air-powered engine controls manufactured by Westinghouse:

 set of two air-powered engine controls manufactured by Westinghouse, for a direct-reversing diesel engine

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2008 Week 23 in Review

Searching for an Atlas-Imperial

We received an email from California last week about the possibility of finding an old heavy-duty for an old boat. Cary from Vallejo California recently bought a 1928 fishboat, “in pretty good original shape.” As a diesel mechanic and boat guy, Cary’s fixing her up for cruising and family fishing and wants to replace her modern Detroit with a period engine, maybe an Atlas-Imperial diesel. We’ve posted his full story on the Discussion Board here.

I think an Atlas-Imperial would be perfect, and recommend a 65 to 85 horsepower, three or four cylinder, maybe just like the Arro’s. Does anyone know of one out there that could re-power Cary’s boat? Comment here, or contact me.

A Spare Injector for the David B

Early this week, I threw together a spare injector for the David B. The boat doesn’t currently have any spare injectors, so we’d been planning to make several spares when we overhauled the three existing injectors this fall. Jeffrey just decided he wanted one onboard for the summer cruising season (good call).

I pulled out the spare injector parts for a Washington of that size, which were from an engine with the early pressure-balanced injectors, rather than the spring-balanced or Bosch injectors that later engines used (incidentally, the only remaining engine that I know of with pressure-balanced injectors is in the Kodiak Maritime Museum).

Anyway, I got out all the spare parts we had and put together the best injector I could without machine work. I can put two more together with some machining, but that will have to wait until fall. Here’s an in-progress shot of injector parts on my workbench:


After I got it together, I set up the injector to barely hold at 4,000 psi, then made two full compressing turns on the spring adjusting screw per the Washington Iron Works instruction manual. By now, I have set up all the injectors for three of the four boats that use the spring-balanced injectors (the Arthur Foss and Catalyst are the two others; I haven’t yet seen the San Juan) and can set spring tension in my sleep. I shipped the injector up to Juneau and went back to work on the fireboat’s air compressors (they’re coming along; more next week).

Update on the Lightship #83

We finished up a draft lumber bid request for Northwest Seaport and its lightship, and now we’re just waiting for comments.

It’s exciting to see how much thought and effort is going into laying the lightship’s deck right. I’m looking forward to walking around on it in a few years.

Enterprise in the Basement?

We recently got a call about someone pulling an Enterprise that used to power a gen set out of a building. We’re definitely wondering how they’re going to get it out – and what they’re going to do with it next.

If anyone knows more about this, contact us.

Songhee Sale?

We’ve heard that the Songhee (powered by an Atlas-Imperial) was sold to a new owner — but then the deal fell through. What happened? Comment here if you can add to the story.

Minor Catastrophe on the Union Jack

The charter boat Union Jack experienced a calamity this week: one of their pistons seized while the boat was underway, forcing them to a screeching halt. The cause is unknown, and they don’t have a lot of time to figure it out since every moment they spend at the dock is eating away at their charter time. They need to get it fixed ASAP, and many folks are recommending that they pull the liner to have it honed.

This is such a huge job that we at The Shop think that they should attempt to do some of that honing in place. Unlike most heavy-duties, Union engines have overhead cams, which make pulling the liners really, really messy (which is a messy job even without the overhead cam).

We hope that they manage to fix it soon, and that we hear about how they fixed it.

Major Catastrophe on the John Cobb

We heard this week that the NOAA research boat John N Cobb suffered a catastrophic engine failure.

According to the crew, they were cruising along doing their research when the boat suddenly started jumping up and down and making a lot of noise and losing RPM, the way it does when a gillnet or a line gets wrapped around the propeller. We’ve heard that the engineer then ran down to the engine room and realized that most of the noise was coming from the engine. He shut it down, the noises stopped, and they were towed into port.

Inspection later revealed this:

a broken crankshaft

Non-engine folks, see that ragged gray crack on the lower left side? That is a clean break through the crankshaft under number one cylinder, and that is about the worst thing that could happen to an engine.

Without knowing more than what we’ve heard through the old engine grapevine, this is probably it for the John Cobb’s Fairbanks. If we were still in the middle of World War II, the folks over at NOAA could just call up the factory, order a new crank, get a guaranteed install, and call it as good as new. It’s about sixty years too late for that, though, and even if you could get a perfect new crank it’d be foolish to install it in the engine without knowing what caused the break in the first place.

Why did it happen? We at Old Tacoma Marine Inc can’t even begin to tell without seeing the engine for ourselves and doing a lot of detailed inspection. We do know that both NOAA and the Cobb’s contracted mechanics have taken good care of the boat throughout its lifetime, as shown by engine logs and service records.

Until we hear more from NOAA and other folks in the know, all we can do is speculate. We’ve set up a thread on our discussion board for you all to share your theories here.

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Filed under atlas-imperial, fairbanks-morse, lightship 83, week in review

2008 Week 17 in review

We started Week 17 with a whirlwind tour of Northwest Washington heavy-duty diesels. San Juan Island has at least one engine from each of the major manufacturers that I work on: Washington Iron Works, Atlas-Imperial, Enterprise, and Fairbanks-Morse — and that’s not even counting the boats in nearby Bellingham and Anacortes.

Cannery Tender David B

First up was the David B, one of OTM Inc’s regular clients. Following the party, we hung out with owners Jeffrey and Christine to recuperate in the sun:

hanging out on the David B with Jeffrey and Christine

We also took some pictures of the engine, a 1929 Washington-Estep:


We used to think that the David B’s engine was the oldest remaining Washington, but since then we’ve “discovered” two older engines (the Kodiak Maritime Museum’s and the Waimea Sugar Mill Camp Museum’s). That doesn’t make it any less awesome, though, since it’s still the oldest Washington installed in a vessel.

We would have stayed longer with Christine and Jeffery on the David B, but we had a ferry to catch to San Juan Island.

Tugboat Quail

Before hopping on the ferry, we stopped by the tugboat Quail in Anacortes, just to see how she looks these days (she’s been for sale for a long time) and take a few pictures. We hadn’t called ahead for an appointment, so we had to look through the portholes to see the engine.

While I was taking pictures, an older gentleman strolled up and also started taking pictures – several from the same spots I shot from. I said “It’s a good looking boat huh?”

He looked up at me from the view finder. “Until it sinks,” he said, and went back to taking pictures.

I hope a prospective owner who wants to cruise often finds out what a great boat the Quail is.

Valve problems on the Catalyst

After a long ferry ride, we arrived in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. Bill from the Catalyst has been having problems with his air compressor and asked me to come up and take a look before they start their summer season.

The Catalyst’s main engine-driven air compressor hasn’t been pumping air. While the boat (like any other air-controlled boat) carries an auxiliary compressor, it’s much nicer to use the engine-driven compressor while underway, as it’s quieter and uses energy already produced.

I inspected the air compressor and found the problem in the outlet valve. I took the head off and lapped the valve a lot, but couldn’t get the pattern I wanted. There was a spot near the outlet pipe that was not contacting at all. I started to think that corrosion or something like that cut into the seat. It took me a while of messing with the valve before I noticed that one of the flutes that guides the valve and blows air by was rubbing on a little bump in the bore that it rides in. I ground down the bump and touched up the flutes. I got good contact on the seat with just a little more lapping. I pressure-tested the compressor but then had to leave before turning on the engine and really testing it, but Bill later called and said the compressor has never pumped so much air for him.

Valve problems on the Oswell Foss

Our next stop was the retired tugboat Oswell Foss, also moored in Friday Harbor. The Oswell is powered by a “G” Enterprise engine, like the Briana Marin and the J. S. Polhemus:


Captain Jim and his wife Sue use the boat to cruise around Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands. Lately, its main start valve has been leaking, so they asked me to come by and take a look.

I thought the valve probably just needed some adjusting, but I needed to lap it a bit, too. The pilot valve will need to be replaced soon, but fortunately the owner has lots of new spares – an important commodity if you’re going to keep an old engine going.

The fishboat Vivian

Next up was the Vivian, also in Friday Harbor, a seine boat that’s been for sale for a while. Last week we got great news while tracking down the current owner to get a tour: the boat just sold to Max from Portland. This is great news for the heavy-duty diesel engine world, since Max intends to cruise in the boat (more on that subject later).

The Vivian is powered by an Atlas Imperial 4HM1125 with a 10 ½ inch bore:

the 1943 fishboat Vivian

The advertisement we saw circulated called it a “P 155” engine. I asked Dan what “P 155” meant, since I’ve never seen that kind of number associated with an Atlas before. Dan said “Any fool knows what a P 155” is. Ha ha, Dan. I waited and eventually he told me that whoever wrote the ad must have taken the information from the manufacturer’s plate. The “H” in the abbreviation for “horsepower” must have been worn off or obscured, making the plate read “P 155” rather than “HP 155.” At least this confirmed that the engine is a 4HM1125, since that model does indeed produce 155 horsepower. Dan also said that its serial number of 12479 dates its manufacture to around 1943.

As a fishboat, the Vivian is a very bare bones vessel. As with most workboats, there isn’t much else aboard other than the equipment needed to do its job: a hull that doesn’t leak (much), an engine that runs, and the rig for fishing. There’s very little else on board, but that’s part of her charm:

the 1943 fishboat Vivian

New owner Max plans on to haul her out for inspection and maintenance, then bring her home to Portland for more work in preparation for a South Seas expedition. We hope to hear more from you, Max, and maybe some pictures of a great old Atlas cruising the Pacific.

Roche Harbor Generators

After finishing up with the Oswell Foss, we headed up to Roche Harbor on the northern end of San Juan Island. The Roche Harbor Resort used to be a company town for the Tacoma & Roche Harbor Lime Company, which produced lime for cement and other applications. Parts of the lime production used to be powered by stationary Y-model Fairbanks-Morse diesel generators. These are still on the site, though they’re showing the age and the weather:


The generators, a two-cylinder and a three-cylinder, haven’t been worked on in years. I’ve contacted the resort’s manager in the past to ask about restoration or programming plans, but he’s been non-committal. I think it might be time to bring that up again, though.

For now, they’re an interesting feature in the middle of a fancy fancy resort and spa:


The Roche Harbor Fairbanks-Morses were the last stop on our heavy-duty tour of Northwest Washington. After that, it was back to work.

An Update on the Maris Pearl

Back in Seattle, I replaced the Maris Pearl‘s block heater element and the oil cooler’s sight gauge. I also drained the oil cooler to tighten the oil line, and picked up the fuel pumps and injectors that I had machined. The project is starting to wrap up — we’re set to leave for Alaska on May 14th. I’ve got lots to do before then, so I’ll wrap this blog entry up and get back to work.

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Filed under atlas-imperial, enterprise, fairbanks-morse, tugboats, washington iron works, week in review

2008 Week 16 in Review

An Update on the Maris Pearl

I finally finished pipe fitting for the Maris Pearl‘s oil cooler and flushed all the lines in preparation for sea trials! On Wednesday, Jay, Dan, and I cruised the boat around Puget Sound to test systems. Everything went just fine. There are still some small issues to be worked out, but the oil did heat up like we’d hoped. Now I just need to get everything else finished before Jay takes the boat up to Alaska for the summer.

The Nokomis’s engine (and others like it)

I had a nice phone chat with John from Pasidina Maryland about his retired ice breaker Nokomis. The Nokomis is powered by a model (6) 31A6 1/4 (model list here) Farebanks-Morse, a neat engine with a big flapper on the front for a blower. This two-cycle engine runs with a growling sound at about 720 rpm when cranked up to full speed.

The boat was built in 1951 and is 70 feet with a 20 foot beam. John has put in a lot of work to clean it up and fires up many of the systems as often as he can. He reports finding two fuel pumps frozen from rust, which he’s sending out to be overhauled along with a spare. When they get back, he’ll be following the instruction manual closely to re-time them.

John is also looking for other engines like the Nokomis‘s to hear others’ experiences with the A model — plus where any potential spare parts may be obtained from.

Here in Seattle, we have the John N Cobb, a research boat still used by NOAA to conduct fisheries studies in Alaska every summer. The Cobb has a model (8) 31A10 engine – an eight-cylinder model similar to the Nokomis‘s six-cylinder. The other differences include the Cobb‘s larger bore (10 versus 6 1/4), the reed valve plates for each cylinder in addition to the ones at the blower, and a slower running speed. If anyone reading knows of another similar Fairbanks-Morse engine out there, leave a comment or join the discussion.

For extra experience, John also volunteers on the Chesapeake Lightship at the Baltimore Maritime Museum regularly. Good luck with the Nokomis, John — we are all looking forward to hearing a sound clip of her engine running, and hopefully a YouTube video or two.

Cooper-Bessemer for Sale

This week we got an email from Dave Thorson alerting us to the Cooper-Bessemer for sale very cheap in Cle Elum, Washington. It’s another neat old engine that no one I know wants to move. I hope someone eventually takes it on and fixes it up into a runner. Mike Wallaston has the same engine in the Northwest Marine Propulsion Museum, but has not yet turned it into a display. If anyone reading wants this engine, contact me and I’ll forward you to the owners.

Another One Bites the Dust

We heard a rumor that the Oregon’s Enterprise is out and on the beach for sale very cheap. It is so sad to hear that another heavy-duty diesel bites the dust. Once out of a boat, a classic engine like that rarely escapes the scrap yard.

I wish I could report that a fancy new yacht (like the Discovery) intends to install it for the smooth propulsion, great low rumbling sound, the interesting history, the beautiful shape, the fuel economy, and the reliability of an old diesel—not to mention how fun they are.

If anyone does want the engine installed, you can contact me and I’ll forward the message along to the owners.

Life on the Arthur Foss

In brighter news, we ended the week at Northwest Seaport for a work party and the second session of Tugboat Night aboard the Arthur Foss. During the work party, I led a crew that moved all the main engine’s spare parts from the boat and outbuildings at Lake Union Park to Northwest Schooner Society’s warehouse on Northlake Way.

In addition to getting all the parts together in a secure on-land location, this was a great chance to get a full inventory of all the spares. During our last two Diesel Engine Theory programs (this year’s class at Northwest Seaport’s program page), we rebuilt the valve cages and the fuel injectors from spare parts. I knew that there were more components for more injectors in the spare parts collection, but now I (and NWS) know just how many of each there are. Once they compile the list, we’ll try to post a copy here.

Following the work party, I helped run Tugboat Night. Last time (at the end of Week Seven in Review) we ran the generator (just a jimmy) and the main. This time, we turned a lot more things on. Before the class started, we ran the generator to make air, then turned on everything in the Arthur that we could: the interior lights (including all the reading lights over individual bunks), the navigation lights, the radar, and the radios (though something’s busted and I couldn’t get them to stay on). When the participants showed up, we had them light the stove and then we cranked up the main several times.

Then we did something new: we split the participants into two groups. One group stayed in the engine room with me to practice bell drills and starting the main, the other group went up to the wheelhouse with Diana to “steer” the boat. The Arthur Foss has two steering systems: the manual steering that uses the big wooden wheel and the armpower of whoever’s in the bridge, and the power steering that uses a small bronze wheel and a hydraulic-over-pneumatic system. Since the Arthur’s rudder is about 14 feet high and six feet wide, the power steering can really make a difference when handling the boat.

Since the tug’s steering gear really hasn’t been exercised much since she stopped cruising in 2001, and since the goal of Tugboat Night is to turn everything on that we can, we powered up the steering gear and let participants turn the rudder back and forth at the dock. The difference between the two systems is pretty interesting to feel: the manual steering is really stiff but you can yank on the wheel as hard as you want, while the power steering is smoother and needs a light touch to not sheer a delicate pin in the system.

Everyone had a great time at this Tugboat Night, like the last. We didn’t have any repeat participants, but a couple people were out of town or already booked for the evening and swore they’d come next time. The next session is Saturday, June 21. Everyone should come. No excuses.

We didn’t get to linger much after Tugboat Night, though; Diana had to drive out to Port Angeles to help friends move, while Lia and I jumped in the truck and drove to Bellingham for Jeffrey’s (of the David B) birthday party.

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Filed under fairbanks-morse, museums, programs, tugboats, week in review

2008 Week Eleven in Review

An update from the Maris Pearl

This week we pushed to get the Maris Pearl running again to move it back to Shilshole Marina. Once it was good to go, we took the time to change the oil in the main engine: all 250 gallons of it. We also changed out the oil filters and watched two painters begin work (they also helped take the boat back through the locks). It was another uneventful trip.

An update from the David B

We got call from Jeffrey on the David B, following their shipyard work. They replaced the stern bearing and had some pitch taken out of the prop, bringing the RPM up to 288 with pyrometers at 625 degrees with a speed of 7.9 knots (a 1 knot increase). I still want to see 325 at 600 degrees, but its better than it was. Good work, David B crew!

An update from the Velero IV

Irv from the Velero IV visited the shop the other day. He wanted my opinion on how he’s going to replace the steering mechanism. Currently, it has a worm drive and bull gear, but he wants to use hydraulic rams since they’re more reliable. I think that sounds great and I’m looking forward to hearing about the replacement process.

An update from Waimea

Research on the Sugar Mill Camp Museum’s Washington Iron Works engine in Waimea, Hawaii is progressing slowly but surely. Dan let us borrow the photographs that his wife Carol took when she visited in 1998 or so:

Washington-Estep diesel engine at the Waimea Sugar Mill Camp Museum in Hawaii

In addition to being great photographs of an old Washington Iron Works diesel engine (an Estep, even!), this gave us the serial number (it looks like 7182 but is really 7162). The serial number let us look up the original Washington Iron Works manufacturer card, which showed that it was purchased by the Kauai Fruit & Land Company in 1928 through the Perine Machinery Company of Seattle, then sold to the Waimea Garage & Electric Company in 1932. The company later bought two other Washington diesels (numbers 7410 and 7587; they must have liked them a lot.

This finally gave us an excuse to email Chris in Waimea again. She works at the Kauai Museum by day and with the fledgling Sugar Mill Camp Museum when she can. She told us that the engine had been sold by the Electric Company when they upgraded their equipment. We haven’t nailed down a date for this; they bought their last Washington diesel in 1945, so maybe this one replaced number 7162, or maybe they upgraded in the 1960s or 1970s to high speeds and got rid of all three Washingtons at once. I don’t know, but we’ll try to find out.

Anyway, Chris said that after the Electric Company sold number 7162, it went to the Kekaha Sugar Mill and powered the pumps used in the sugarcane irrigation ditches. It turns out that Kauai’s sugar cane industry relied on these irrigation ditches, which makes me wonder if Hawaii is full of old heavy-duties rusting away in the fields. Anyway, her cousin Mike rescued this engine after the Kekaha mill went under, and brought it to the Sugar Mill Camp Museum, which is located on the former Waimea Sugar Mill site. Chris says that she’ll send us a CD of photos, and it sounds like Mike might be interested in doing a little ground research for us.

This is especially exciting news for two reasons. First, the serial number confirms that this engine is the second-oldest remaining Washington Iron Works diesel engine (the oldest being the Kodiak Maritime Historical Society engine that Guy alerted us to). Second, from the pictures, it seems to be unusually complete. I don’t see anything missing, which is uncommon considering how engineers can behave like scavengers when it comes to old engines.

Stay tuned for future updates. This is a neat story that’s unfolding.

Atlas-Imperial 668 pistons available

John in Oakland, who works on the Lightship WLV-605 Relief, called with a neat discovery. He said that volunteers with the United States Lighthouse Society, which owns the vessel, are moving some of the spare parts around and found that they have more pistons than they will ever need. They’d like to sell some of the extras to free up storage space and maybe make a little cash for buying other needed parts. If anyone reading this has an Atlas-Imperial 668 and would like some spare pistons, comment here so we can forward the request, or just contact John on the Oakland lightship at (510) 272-0544.

Lightship WLV-605 Relief's Atlas-Imperial 626 model diesel engine, on Rudy & Alice's Lighthouse Page

Read the manual!

One of my on-again off-again customer is calling me regularly for free engine trouble advice. While I don’t mind talking shop, anyone working on the heavy-duties should read the engine’s manual over and over again so that you understand how it’s supposed to work. Also, keep the engine clean – really clean – so that leaks can be found and fixed quickly. Good gages and monitoring equipment are also worth the price to install them, since they let you know what’s going on inside (though remember that gauges are not always accurate).

Sometimes, an owner will want to throw money at the engine blind-folded. If they ask me to get involved, I will ask for gauge readings and symptoms before I do any work on the engine. Throwing money blindly into the engine isn’t criminal, but I want to see measurable results and this usually requires patience.

Living the tugboat dream

As I mentioned previously, OTM Inc is getting a lot of calls from people interested in old tugboats for sale in Seattle. I feel like I’m acting as a broker for boats powered by heavy-duty diesels, but I don’t mind because I like seeing these old boats go to good homes.

What I do mind is how many people don’t really realize what they’re getting into by buying an old tug to live on, fix up, and cruise around Puget Sound in. Boats are expensive. They require a lot of maintenance that is in addition to the repairs and overhauls and other fixes. Even boats in great condition need a lot of work. One of the best examples of this is the tugboat Newt. She is a beautiful home for Eric, Laura, and their two kids and is in great shape to the rest of us, all clean and cared for with lots of bright wood and a great Atlas-Imperial diesel. When Eric (who is a very talented guy) gets talking about the boat, though, he says that he feels that about half the work is “done.” I like hearing that, because it shows that he and Laura are responsible tugboat live-aboards who realize that an old boat will always need work.

Back to Old Tacoma Brokerage. I’ve been talking with two “clients” who worry me a little bit because I don’t think they realize what they’re getting into. First, a guy and his wife called me about buying an old tug to live aboard and be their ticket to joining the tugboat enthusiast club. We showed them the Briana Marin, a great tugboat powered by an Enterprise DMG-6 engine (and took pictures of the engine room while we were there):

Enterprise DMG-6 diesel engine in the tugboat Briana Marin

It’s about 65 feet long, very comfortable inside, and easy to maneuver with both a reverse gear (installed after a previous owner had some problems learning about direct-reverse) and a bow thruster. It was built as a tugboat-yacht, later used hard by a San Francisco lightering company, and then used as a yacht again by a doctor, then a scoundrel, then a local tugboat guy. A few years ago, the main coupling crapped out and the current owner put it up for sale rather than pay the very hefty repair sum.

During the tour and in later phone calls, I tried to scare impart to him the responsibilities of tugboat ownership, as I do all potential buyers. I described all the work that I think needs to be done on the Briana Marin, including replacing the main coupling which is priced at $25,000 plus installation fees. I was trying show that old boats need constant maintenance and repairs, and to get him to think long and hard about the responsibilities of boat ownership.

Apparently, he got the wrong message; he called on Friday asking what I think of a 108-foot steel tug with a Fairbanks-Morse opposed piston diesel. Holy crap, that’s almost twice as much boat as the Briana Marin! He reported that it’s in perfect condition, but I say that even a boat in perfect condition is a lot of work to maintain, since it still needs yearly dry-docking, painting, engine tune-ups, moorage, registration fees… I recommended that he buy a smaller boat and practice before moving up to that 108 foot tug. The Briana Marin, despite the work needed, would be a good tug to learn from, since she’s so maneuverable and not too big for two people to handle. Plus, she’s a pretty little boat:

Tugboat Briana Marin at the Ballard Mill Marina

Second, an upstate New York couple just moved to Seattle and are looking to buy an old boat to move into, fix up, and eventually cruise in. I call this plan “Living the Tugboat Dream.” They got my number from John Callahan in Kingston, New York, who’s the lead guy on the tugboat Chancellor. I like John a lot; he’s the organizer of the Waterford Tugboat Roundup in Waterford that is one of the best parties I’ve ever been to. Anyway, these two used to live in Kingston and hang out with the tugboat guys there, and mentioned to John that they were moving to Seattle and looking to buy a tug. Naturally, John passed on my number.

I met them at Hattie’s Hat in Ballard, then we went down to the Briana Marin as well. They liked the boat, but they’d already toured the J S Polhemus that’s currently at Ewing Street Mooring. The Polhemus is a neat old work tug that I don’t know much about except that it’s also got a nice Enterprise DMG-6 and is for sale by owner (an artist guy who decided that he didn’t want to be a tugboat guy). I don’t think that it’s a good choice for a first tugboat, though, since it needs a lot of work (unlike the Briana Marin, which other than the coupling doesn’t need very much right now work).

I gave these two the the same spiel that I’d given the earlier guy and his wife: boats need a lot of time and money to keep afloat, regardless of the purchase price. They said they knew, but that they are determined to make it work. This frankly worries me, since good intentions without money to back them up have sunk more than a few old boats. See, they’re sort of thirty-something Bohemian types from how they present themselves. She’s a leatherworker, he works with computers. I’m really afraid that they’re looking to buy and old tug and live aboard because they think it’s cheaper than buying a house in Seattle. While it is getting expensive to buy a house, it’s just as expensive to buy a boat. Rather than a mortgage, you’re paying moorage and dry-dock costs and mechanic fees – not to mention paint and oil and fuel, plus major restoration projects like repairing damage.

I know that I’m starting to sound like a broken record and like I’m trying to poop on the party, but people just don’t realize how much work it takes to keep a boat going until it’s gone and they’re deciding between hiring a salvage company so that they can claim the insurance payout, or just walking away.

Another problem I see is that boats don’t act like houses, and most people know more about houses than boats. If you leave a house alone for a few years while you’re living in it and saving the money for a remodel, chances are it’ll be fine. If you leave a boat alone for a few years while you’re living in it and saving the money to dry-dock it and repair the slow leak in the forward bilge compartment, chances are it’ll sink dockside. This illustrates what I call the “Work/Money Curve.” If you don’t keep up with maintenance and repairs and make progress, then the boat starts to fall behind and you need more and more work and money to bring it back. If the boat falls far enough behind, no amount of work or money will fix it and it’ll slip off the surface of the earth – or rather under the surface of the water – without anyone noticing:

An abandoned tugboat on the edge of Barnard Harbour.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m being harsh and these folks really do have the means and the drive to make it work. I have seen some success stories, like the Newt and other tugs that their owners keep looking great through hard work rather than huge bank accounts. I’ve just seen a lot more that end up getting behind that curve and getting ruined. Does anyone reading have an old tugboat success story that they can share? Comment here, or better yet, post to the Tugboat Dream thread at Old Tacoma Marine Inc’s discussion board.

Anyway. I haven’t heard from anyone about either the Briana Marin or the Polhemus for a few days. I was hoping that they’d call me back so that I could show them some other tugs in the area, but they haven’t yet. The ball’s in their court.


Filed under atlas-imperial, enterprise, tugboats, week in review