Tag Archives: tugboat island champion

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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2010 Week 3 in Review

More work on the Maris Pearl

I’m still working on the Maris Pearl‘s reversing mechanism, trying to track down parts for it. I’ve been working with suppliers and calling collectors and engine owners I know who have spares. The Westinghouse controls rarely need attention, so there’s not a lot of information available on these units. It’s taken some extra time to search it out.

Winter Work on the Thea Foss

The Thea Foss‘s twin Atlas-Imperials are getting some attention this winter. The boat’s engineer worked with Dan to remove all the valves, start valves, and injectors out of both engines, then I spent a lot of time this week disassembling and cleaning everything.

As you remember, this process involves disassembling them each, putting them in a solvent bath, flushing the water jackets, sand blasting and another solvent bath, flapper the guide, and wire-wheel the stems.

2010 M4 Party

The big annual art and music event that OTM helps sponsor now has a not-for-profit fiscal sponsor, so make your donations out to Shunpike, with M4 mentioned as the program.

This year’s show will be the 10th annual, on May 1st. The steering committee is planning furiously, and it’ll be even bigger and better than last year (always our goal).

Working on the bow thruster

We got the new parts and tools to fix my good customer’s bow thruster, but still got caught inadequately prepared. I had to run out in the middle of the job to get more parts.

I also had a problem with my dry suit: the neck seal was too tight. Apparently, this can cause Carotid Sinus Reflex, when your neck seal presses against the carotid artery and makes your brain think your blood pressure is too high and lower your pulse rate to compensate.

The symptoms can include nervousness and a shortness of breath, which at the time I attributed to being out of practice from not diving enough. While it is true I am a little out of practice, the nervousness and shortness of breath were actually due to the neck seal. I’ll replace this before next week, in time to dive next Saturday at the CWB.

Despite all this, we still got the bow thruster fixed right up.

Boats for sale

The Pacific Sunrise is for sale. It’s a sweet boat with an Atlas-Imperial 6HM1125 diesel, and is going for $75,000.

The Island Champion is also for sale. She’s a great boat with a Fairbanks-Morse 35F14 diesel.

Bonus! Mention this ad and get a free OTM Inc T-shirt with your purchase!

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2008 Week 46 in Review

We took the rest of the main bearings out of the Catalyst this week. Bill and I rolled them out two at a time to look at them, clean them really well, measure them, and take pictures:

lower shell of main bearing on the MV Catalyst's Washington Iron Works diesel engine

Then we’d roll them back in and roll out another two. We were careful to not roll out adjacent pairs, since it’s important that the crankshaft stay supported even with a couple of bearings out. Now that I’ve said that, I’ll say that there was one exception: we rolled out both six and seven at the same time, because one of them is a small bearing beside the air compressor bay, so it’s not quite as important.

We also found that number six and number seven are bad, which makes three bad main bearings to be re-babbitted. One of them is ripple-y, like it got hot (maybe it was changed out and not scraped in, which would have caused it to heat up) and two of them are cracked very badly:

lower shell of main bearing on the MV Catalyst's Washington Iron Works diesel engine

One of the cracked ones was definitely from badly-poured babbitt (which I described back in Week 44), so the other one was probably bad babbitt as well, since they were probably done at the same time. It’s hard to tell, though, and we don’t really know when the babbitt on the mains was poured. It could well be the original 1932 babbitt! Maybe I’ll look it up in the log book to pass some time while underway next summer.

By the end of the day, we’d rolled out all of the main bearings except for number one. This one carries the weight of the flywheel, which we didn’t want to deal with on this job. We’re going to assume that it’s okay for the time being, since the flywheel is a consistent load – it just goes around and around. The pounding of cylinders firing is the thing that’s really hard on the main bearings, so neither Dan nor I were that worried about number one. We’ll look at number one in the future, but this winter’s job is big enough already.

Later in the week, Bill and I took them up to Everett Engineering for estimates. We also stopped in by Striegel Supply to visit Steve and to pick up a piston ring from a DMM Enterprise. The DMM models have an 8″ bore, so we think that one of those rings might work for the 8″ Washington. It’s thinner, but we took it anyway and hopefully I’ll get it to work.

I introduced Bill to Steve, and we all chatted about how everyone owes us money. Striegel doesn’t really carry Washington stuff, but Steve’s a good guy to know – especially if you ever need Enterprise stuff.

An update on the Island Champion

While we were in Everett, I took Bill by the Island Champion. We went aboard to see some of the work that Hilbert’s been doing and he showed us the new floors he’s laid in the salon and galley, which look very nice. I would rather have seen the old floors refinished, since I’m old-school like that, but they do look good. Hilbert’s been doing a lot of other work on the boat and it’s looking great. He and Bill and I were joking about how it could work as a charter boat, but we weren’t really serious… or were we?

Being aboard reinforced the fact that we need to tie the boat up to a strong pier and run the engine for a few days, since it hasn’t been run since the last year’s swamping (I told that sad story back in Week 22). A few days after it was brought up, we flushed the engine really well, flushed the oil lines, and bailed out the crank pit. Then we changed the oil a couple of times, rotated the engine by hand, took all the reed valves apart, cleaned them, and put them back together. We also drained the Manzells and flushed them, then cranked tons of oil through them. With all that, the engine should be fine, but hasn’t been run since so can’t sign off on it yet—plus the engine should be run as often as possible, anyway. Hopefully, we’ll manage that over the winter, once my other jobs are done.

Speaking for Old Engines

I gave a talk for the Society of Port Engineers of Puget Sound, on Veterans Day. They have a speaker at their monthly meetings, and they were interested in hearing about the big old diesels. I don’t think of myself as much of a speaker, but this is the second time I’ve been asked.

Last year, I gave a talk for the Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society, and while I think that the guests might have learned something about the antique diesel engines, I wasn’t very animated. I ended up reading a lot of my talk from a script that I wrote beforehand, but other people say it was fine, so maybe I’m just oversensitive.

This year’s talk for the Port Engineers went a lot better. I started by telling some of my funny engineer stories, and then just talking about engines. Instead of preparing a Presentation, I put up pictures of engines and boats that I wanted to talk about and just talked about them. I got some good questions, and a bunch of people were nodding as I talked, so I think it went pretty well.

I want to thank the Society for the invite – I met a lot of interesting maritime folks. I look forward to visiting again.

A buyer for the Lake Superior?

Bob from the American Victory Mariners Memorial and Museum Ship called me the other day; he and his people are interested in maybe buying the Lake Superior. He wanted to know if there were parts and technical support available for maintaining a Q Enterprise. They apparently want to use it occasionally to move things around, but mostly as a museum ship. I told him that there were plenty of resources out there in the community and to keep me in the loop – and to call me for the cruise from Duluth to Tampa.

Later, I did some research on the internet and found an article at the Great Lakes & Seaway Shipping News Archives about the Lake Superior. Apparently, the Army Corps of Engineers gave it to the City of Duluth when they retired it in 1995, and the City tried to make a museum out of it by their convention center. I guess folks weren’t that interested in an old Army tug at the dock, since so few people took the tour that they actually cut a hole into the side of the hole to make an ice cream parlor. That didn’t work either, and they sold the tug to a private company last year.

I think it’s good that the city was able to move on and sell the tug when they saw that it wasn’t working as a museum boat, rather than getting completely stuck trying to convince the world that another old rust bucket was interesting. I’m all for preserving the old boats (they help keep the old engines dry), but museums and cities have to be realistic when they’re trying to operate a workboat as a museum. Sometimes it’s just not doable because people aren’t that interested. I think it’s better to sell the boat and move on than resort to gimmicks. I mean, an ice cream parlor? Are you kidding?

It looks like the folks in Tampa might be able to make a go of it – it sounds like they have lots of activity and know how to keep big old boats (like their flagship, American Victory) interesting and working.

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2008 Week 22 in Review

Back to Business

I started this week with a lot of catching up in the office and at the shop. This meant billing, several trips each to the bank, Kinkos, and the post office.

I also spent several hours on the phone, including straightening out the mess I got into with AT&T for using my new phone in Canada. I can tell you all cell phone companies are jerks, but if you really hold them down you might get someone on the line who is really helpful. It can be entertaining.

I stalled the person who first took my call with all sorts of inane questions. He would tell me there wasn’t anything he could do and then ask “is there anything I help with, sir?” and I’d ask another question to keep him on the line. I also insisted that I want the same top-quality service that Tom Cruise gets (though this guy said they treat all their customers with the same respect) and I guess they wrote it down in my file. After stalling for another half-hour, they handed me off to someone who finally straightened it all out (and told me that all their customers receive the same great service).

The trouble all started because after ten years of abuse I just switched from Sprint to AT&T (to use my new iPhone). New customers are treated like untrustworthy criminals for 90 days, but I got around that by hanging on and had about $700 in “roaming charges” knocked off my statement.

Lightship Lumber Planning

I finally started the real work on writing the bid request for the Lightship #83 deck lumber. Brian Johnson of Ocean Bay Marine Inc and I took measurements and discussed quality requirements for the deck lumber. We also took some samples:


We need over 10,000 board feet of planking, plus nib planking, coverboards, marginboards, carlins, and winch pads.

We should have a draft to Northwest Seaport for review by next Wednesday.

Work on the fireboat Duwamish

Also this week, I disassembled the aft air compressor in the fireboat Duwamish. From looking at the make, I think that the aft air compressor was installed with the Cooper-Bessemers and the forward one was replaced more recently. After inspecting it, I don’t think that the replacement is able to produce the 600 psi required for the Duwamish’s high-pressure system. I’m going look in to repairing the damaged one, which has been stored on deck under a rain cover, but it looks like it’ll be a lot of work.

An interesting thing about the original air compressors is that they’re mostly brass, and may have been the same make of air compressor used to start the stainless steel Clevelands in minesweepers. These engines use the same high-pressure settings that the Cooper-Bessemers in the fireboat use, so it’d make sense that they have the same kind of compressors.

If anyone has any information about air compressors like those used in minesweepers, contact me, or write about it on the discussion board.

Old Tugboats Changing Hands

Craig stopped by for a tour of South Lake Union last week. He’s got some neat stories of large-bore Sulzers and crossing oceans on container ships. He is still looking for his dream steel tugboat with a heavy-duty to cruise the Sound with. Comment here with your recommendations.

I also learned that Skip bought another old tug: a Miki tug named the Galene down in Portland, powered by a 1,200 horsepower Superior. This sounds like a gigantic project and I hope he can handle it.

A Visit from Captain Jake

Captain Jake, currently of the San Diego Maritime Museum’s Californian, stopped by for a tour of South Lake Union. I sailed with him back in ‘96 on the Lady Washington. He’s still driving tall ships and has recently taken over the steam yacht Medea for the San Diego Maritime Museum. I showed him around the Arthur Foss and the fireboat Duwamish, and he rattled off a bunch of heavy-duty powered boats in southern California (with gossip). I’ll have to follow that information up now that I’m done with the Pearl.

New York Planning

I made some plans for the New York trip later this month. We’ll be visiting three fireboats (including the two powered by Enterprises that posted about here), South Street Seaport, and hopefully Staten Island and some of the cool boats over there.

July work on the Sobre las Olas

I’ve re-scheduled a trip to LA this July for some more work on the Sobre Las Olas, the Atlas-powered fantail yacht. The Sobre’s mechanic John got most of the snifters and all of the blow-down valves off of the two engines, and he’s going to send them up for me to overhaul in my shop. I’ll bring them down with me to reinstall. I’m looking forward to seeing the guys and the boat this summer.

International Retired Tugboat Association Party

On Saturday night, we attended the International Retired Tugboat Association party in Everett. Most of the party was onboard the Olmstead, a 95-foot retired Navy tug of the same class as the Maris Pearl and the Red Cloud. I took a picture of the hold, which I uploaded here.

Lia and I arrived just in time to take a ride on a 60-foot tug (I can’t remember its name) for a cruise on the Snohomish River, followed by drinks, snacks, and tugboat stories. We passed by many neat old tugs, one of which I know very well: the Island Champion.

tugboat Island Champion, powered by a Fairbanks-Morse diesel engine, in Everett

The Island Champion is a classic 100-foot wooden tug from 1944 with a (6)33f14 Fairbanks-Morse main. Hilbert and Jeanne, the proud owners, have had lots of work done in the last few years on the engine, the deck, and the hull, but unfortunately the boat spent one tide exchange under the Snohomish Slough.

Here’s the sad story:

Last spring, I was helping Hilbert move the boat back to her very inconvenient moorage, where she regularly sits in the mud (the Snohomish River has lots of space for old tugs to tie up, but it’s a tidal estuary and I wouldn’t call the moorage great). When arriving at the dock a little late on the tide, we decided to turn the boat around and quickly learned that we couldn’t rely on the prop-walk when we’re in such shallow water (the wheel is too close to the bottom). This made turning around very difficult and after using up all the air and failing to pivot the boat with the bow in the bank, we thought we’d better get back to the dock even if we were pointed the wrong way. While backing up to the dock, the boat got hung up on something – maybe a root ball. Even with the Fairbanks wound up at 350 rmp (50 over max rated) we couldn’t get the boat loose. A bystander took a video of our fruitless efforts from the riverbank that’s on YouTube here.

We put all ashore except for Hilbert and I. I called Global Dive and Salvage, who I worked for back in ‘98 and ‘99. Hilbert and I prepared the boat for listing over and hoped that she’d float again on the next tide.

Then the Global guys arrived with trucks and boats and big pumps. We got the pumps off the trucks and into the small boats and got to the Island Champion just as the tide came up over her decks. Before we could get the pumps installed, the water started flooding in through the salon doors and galley doors and completely filled the engine room. By the time we had the pumps set up, it was too late to make any progress against the tide and we shifted our efforts to containing the fuel and oil. We anchored an oil containment boom and plugged the fuel tank vents, trying to keep petroleum out of the river:

the tugboat ISLAND CHAMPION, aground in the mud in Everett Slough

Later that night, we saw fuel begin to appear in the containment boom and found that the base of the fuel tank vent was completely rusted away. The Global Dive crew and I worked through the night to soak up the fuel with pads. I don’t know how many piles of soaked pads we bagged up, taped closed, and hauled up the dock.

the ISLAND CHAMPION, while aground in Everett Slough

Around 7 AM, divers showed up to seal the tug up and pump out all the tanks and the engine room. That’s when I left, totally exhausted. The Island Champion was raised on the next tide and delivered to the Everett Shipyard to be cleaned out.

Since then, Hilbert and Jeanne have been working very hard to put the boat back together and have had lots of good work done. I wouldn’t say that the incident helped the vessel, but in a way it’s boosted the progress: they’ve had to work a lot faster to keep up with repairs and maintenance on the Island Champion. I look forward to seeing her cruise again soon.

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