Tag Archives: tugboat skillful

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 8 in Review

After dropping off the Catalyst On the way back from Friday Harbor, I took a sea plane back to Seattle. We stopped in Westsound to pick up more passengers, and I got to see the El Capitan:

the El Capitan in Westsound

Then, with finished up, OTM Inc took the opportunity to clean out the shop this week. We also caught up on some office business, and did a lot of work on Skillful:

replacing the engine in the Skillful

Parts from the Ked

On my way to the Skillful after leaving my truck in the yard, I walked by Stabberts, which just broke up the Ked. I saw what’s left of it: just a pile of Fairbanks engine parts, removed in a hurry with a gas axe (cutting torch). They blasted away the bolt heads and even cut the rods in half to get the engine out, but there’re still some big pieces left:

fairbanks-morse diesel engine pulled out of the Ked

The yard guys said that they thought it was just going to the recycle, but I knew from talking with my friend Nobby that they were headed for Brooklyn as as parts for the old oil tanker Mary Whelan. These folks have apparently been trying to get the Ked parts for a while. They have a blog entry from September (here that details how they found out about the Ked, and another one that leading up to getting the parts (here). It sounds like the Mary Whelan folks have been discovering for themselves what OTM Inc has been preaching – that old engines in old boats are a great way to hold interesting museum programming. I hope to get out to see the boat and the programs soon – and call me if you want help setting up a diesel engine restoration workshop.

Tugboat for sale

I heard about an old tug for sale up in Anacortes, Washington. It’s an 86-foot ex-army tug powered by a 650 horsepower Sulser main. The tug was “ST-893” during its working days, and you can purchase it for $190,000. There’s a listing here.

Patrol boat for sale

I took a visit to the Oceanid, a steam patrol boat that the Northwest Schooner Society is trying to sell. It’s a rad steamboat for sale with its reciprocating steam engine still intact:

patrol boat Oceanid, with original steam engine

It’s really awesome, but it needs a lot of work. If you’re interested, contact me, and I’ll pass it along.

OTM Inc joins Biznik

I signed up at Biznik this week. Take a look at my profile and add me to your network.

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2008 Week 53 in review

Important winter warning

Now that winter is here, Old Tacoma Marine Inc reminds you to winterize your engine room! Use anti-freeze in your cooling system, turn on a heater in the engine room, and make sure to run the engines occasionally, even if you don’t leave the dock. These are very important precautions to keep your boat and its old engine safe during the winter.

Just last week, one of our favorite boats severely cracked some large castings in the Pacific Northwest’s cold snap and blizzards. We are very sad to hear about the damage and feel that we need to get out the word that the brittle cast iron easily cracks if the coolant freezes. Drain and pickle if the engine will be left for long periods of time, but using antifreeze, a block heater, and occasionally running the engine is the most effective to prevent freezing and cracking.

Work continues on the Catalyst

This week, I’ve continued work on fitting the main bearings into the engine. During the initial fitting, I used bluing and scrapers to get them to about the right shape; now I’m using lapping compound, which is a very fine grit, to get the perfect. This shows me exactly where the bearings and the journals actually touch so that I can scrape down any places that aren’t quite right.

Part of this process is using a squisher tool to hold the bearing in place while I work. This is two pieces of aluminum that push the bottom half of the bearing down into the saddle:

bearing squisher tool on the MV Catalyst

Once the squisher tool is installed, I put the bearing in, put the lapping compound into the bearing, crank the engine around, take the bearing out, clean off the lapping compound, and look at the pattern of scratches that lapping compound left on the babbitt. If the scratches are in just a few areas, that shows me where to start scraping to get it to the right fit so that I can test it again. If there’s scratches all over the bearing, I know it’s getting good contact and is ready to go.

Once I know the bearing is getting good contact with the crankshaft, I need to test how high it is – how far up it’s pushing the crankshaft. If one bearing is holding the crankshaft up higher than the others, then the crankshaft will bend. This shows up when I do a strain test to determine how far apart the throws are. If the strain test shows that the bearing is too high, I roll it out, scrape it down, re-fit it with lapping compound to make sure that the contact is still good, and do the strain test again.

Continually rolling the engine over by hand to test the bearings like this is a work out. I only have three main bearings to test, but it takes a long time to get them just right. At least as I go, the bearings start to fit better and barring the engine over gets easier.

More information on the Olympic

I forgot to mention back in Week 49 that the ferry Olympic‘s main air compressor was surplussed and sold on eBay a few months ago. Nick just sent me an email with the link to the expired eBay listing with information about it. Since eBay eventually deletes old listings, here’s a screencap rather than a link:

eBay listing for an air compressor from the ferry Olympic

It’d sure be nice to get it back for the boat.

Happy New Years!

We’ll be spending the night of the 31st on the Skillful to watch the fireworks on the Space Needle. I hope that everyone reading has similarly fun plans!

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2008 Week 47 in Review

Maritime networking at Brunch

I occasionally host brunch for 200 or so of my closest friends. Lots of maritime folks came to last Sunday’s brunch. Brian the shipwright, Grant the captain of the Thea Foss, Diana the maritime museum specialist, Kim of Jack Tar Magazine, Jake from the CWB, and many more showed up for hash browns, bloody marys, and the bonfire out back. It was a lot of work, but it was good to see so many folks having a good time.

Moving the Skillful

Later in the week, we moved the Skillful, the little tug that I bought back in Week 44. It’s been moored at Pacific Fishermen, but we don’t want to wear out our welcome anywhere so we’re going to move it around occasionally.

We took it for a cruise through the ship canal and into Lake Union. The throttle control in the wheelhouse is busted, so we cruised at idle the entire way (except when I manually throttled it up for some quick donuts in the canal), but it’s a great little boat:

tugboat Skillful, underway on Lake Union

We rafted it up to the Arthur Foss, in a short-term agreement with Northwest Seaport. I love it – it looks so tiny!

tugboat Skillful, moored between the museum ships ARTHUR FOSS and Lightship #83 at Lake Union Park in Seattle, Washington

Continuing work on the Catalyst

I wrote last week about how three of the main bearings are bad and need to be re-babbitted; one of them is ripple-y and two of them are all cracked up, including one of the small ones that sits beside the air compressor bay. I brought these up to Everett Engineering Inc last week, but they’re still too swamped to get them done when I need them! They were going to send them to Utah again, but I sent them to St. Louis Bearing in Wilmington, California. I’ve worked with them before and want to throw work their way whenever possible.

We’re asking St. Louis Bearing for an extra step in this work. Since all of the main bearings are worn down a bit, we are going to have the three newly-poured bearings machined down a little, to keep the crank sitting straight and in the same place. If we had the newly-poured bearings machined to the original specifications, the crankshaft would get lifted up at those places and bend slightly, since the bearings that haven’t been newly poured would be a little lower. The extra machining will get us close to the shape we need, and then we’ll fit them exactly with a little hand-scraping. This will hopefully save me the hours and hours of hand-scraping that I did back in Week 36. Stay tuned to see how well it works.

After getting the bearings sent out, I started cleaning pistons. It’s a dirty job: first, I put them into a custom cradle that I built at the shop, which supports it while I push out the wrist pin. One side of the wrist pin is bigger than the other, so I have to push it out just so with a lot of pressure. I want the piston really well-supported while I do this, since the pressure could crack it otherwise. Once the piston is all disassembled, I put all the parts into the hot tank for a few hours, then washed them in the sink. I removed the piston rings by prying the ends out slightly, wrapping the ends with rags, and pulling on the rags to open the ring just enough to slide it up and off the piston. I broke one ring that was stuck pretty bad, and noticed lots of wear on a few others, so I ordered 12 new rings from Safety Seal in Texas. I’ll replace the top two compression rings on each piston with a new ring, which should get here in about two weeks.

Later in the week, I measured the ring gap of each ring by pushing them into a cylinder one at a time. I jammed feeler gauges, pieces of metal that are a determined thickness, into the ring gap. If it was loose in the gap, I went the next size up, until I got a light drag when I jammed it in. Then, I read the thickness of that gauge, marked it in the book, and marked it onto the ring:

measuring the ring gap on the MV Catalyst's Washington Iron Works diesel engine

The ring gap tells me two things: how big the gap is, since too much can give you blow-by and make the engine run inefficiently, and how worn the ring is. As a ring wears down, it expands against the cylinder wall and the gap gets bigger. I can compare the ring gap of the used ring to that of a new ring and determine how much the used ring has worn.

Then, I started checking the sizes of the cylinders relative to each other by putting one ring into each one and measuring its ring gap. I found that there’s a seventeen-thousandths variation between the cylinders. This is sort of medium for variance between cylinders; I’ll have to pick the biggest rings for the biggest cylinder and so on, but it’s not that big a deal.

The last spare pressure-balanced Washington injector?

We’ve got a pressure-balanced injector for a Washington Iron Works engine here in the shop:

pressure-balanced fuel injector for a Washington Iron Works diesel engine, at the shop

Ed Ehler (local maritime guy with a finger in every pot) found it while going through his junk pile and gave it to Dan. Washington stopped manufacturing the pressure-balanced injector type around 1928, after they started making the far-superior spring-balanced injectors, and the only engine that we know of that still has the pressure-balanced type is at the Kodiak Maritime Museum.

Dan’s talking about how he’s going to strip it for parts, but I’m trying to convince him to keep it intact because it’s the only spare pressure-balanced injector left that we know of. It’ll probably end up cannibalized to make a spare injector for the David B or the San Juan, since many of the parts used in the pressure-balanced injectors are the same as in the spring-balanced ones. The David B already has two spare injectors and we haven’t heard from the San Juan for a while, so maybe I can still convince Dan to keep the pressure-balanced one. We’ll see.

Pacific Marine Expo and Winners of the OTM Inc Sticker Contest!

I went to the Pacific Marine Expo on Friday to check in with the greater maritime industry. I saw some folks who I don’t see anywhere else, handed out cards for Jack Tar Magazine’s Sexy Women of Maritime Calendar (coming this December; ordering details on the website soon), and decided that I need a booth there next year.

After the show, we headed to the Central Saloon to judge entries in the 2008 Old Tacoma Marine Inc Sticker Contest:

judging the Old Tacoma Marine Inc 2008 Sticker Contest at the Central Saloon in Seattle

The competition was stiff, the pictures were great, and the nachos were many, but we finally selected our winners.

Thanks to all those who contributed! The winners have been notified – congratulations to those who won! Stay tuned for details about the 2009 OTM Inc Sticker Contest!

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2008 Week 44 in review

I had a long day on Sunday, since the Catalyst was scheduled to come in at the beginning of the week – and we took two days off to sail the schooner Zodiac from Bellingham to Seattle.

Sailing on the Zodiac

I first sailed on the Zodiac in 1997, after helping during a winter yard work period. I still remember shackling blocks to the mast while hanging from the spreaders by my knees, looking down at the Fremontians waiting for the bridge to close. Since then, I’ve gone aboard often to visit but not to sail – until this week. The folks who run the Zodiac put out an all-hands call to maritime heritage people in the Seattle area to help bring the boat from Bellingham (her summer port) to Seattle (her winter port). With diesel prices so high, they try to sail as much of that trip as possible, and to sail they need a lot of extra hands, since the Zodiac is the largest working sailboat on the West Coast, with the largest single sail on the West Coast, which is raised by hand:

schooner Zodiac, during an October 2008 cruise from Bellingham to Seattle

Our trip this week was much less work than when I sailed in 1997, since we were guests. It’s been a while since I’ve gone boating without responsibilities, and it was very nice. Lia and I stood mini watches at the helm and bow, then just hung around on deck or in the salon. When it was time to hoist a sail or something, a crew member would give us direction and we’d pitch in with the other passengers. The crew has been chartering all summer so they treat us freeloaders with the same velvet gloves as the summer’s paying guests, but with a relaxed end-of-the-season style.

Monday started as a perfect day for sailing, with clear skies and a cold, stiff breeze. We sailed for about 8 hours until the wind died, and I must admit that the quiet sounds of the boat creaking under sail sounds nicer than even the rumble of an Atlas-Imperial. We anchored at port Townsend for the night and a few of us passengers went ashore to get a spectacular view of the schooner as the sun set:

Schooner Zodiac at anchor off Port Townsend, as seen from Sirens' deck

Tuesday, in contrast, was foggy, cold, and windless. We got underway at about 9am, but since there was no wind and the current was against us, and we wanted to make it through Seattle’s drawbridges before they closed at 4 pm, we motoring the rest of the way. The tireless crew took the opportunity to start un-bending the sails and folding them up for the winter. We got to Seattle and made it through the locks in time to fuel up at Ballard Oil before the bridges closed. Spencer, who is owner Warren’s grandson, was working the dock. Spencer took the Engineer for a Day class that the Ballard Maritime Academy kids attended last year, so it was good to see him and ask how it was going. After we fueled up, we went the last stretch through the ship canal and Fremont to the Metro docks right next to Northlake Shipyard, where the boat stays for the winter.

The Zodiac was built in 1924 for the Johnson family (of the Johnson & Johnson Company fame) as a heavy-duty sailing yacht. She originally had a six-cylinder Atlas-Imperial with a 10 ½ inch bore, and competed in some of the grand trans-Atlantic sailing races of the 1920s. After the Depression, the boat was sold to the San Francisco Bay Bar Pilots, who used her to pick up and drop off pilots until the early 1970s (she was actually the last schooner working as a pilot boat, since she was very fast and maneuverable and stable). After a few years at the dock, Karl Mehrer, captain of another former-bar-pilot-schooner, the Adventuress, acquired the boat and brought her up to Seattle. She’s been cruising the San Juans as a charter boat and a platform for educational programs since the early 1990s, while being continually “restored” during winter maintenance seasons.

Like many of the boats I enjoy cruising on, the thing that comes to mind when I step aboard the Zodiac is the comfort, which comes from an amazing attention to detail on the part of the crew. I wrote about this back in Week 28, and then later in Week 31 how it’s impossible to create that kind of comfort without running the boat a lot. The Zodiac has decades of people working her, all tinkering and making adjustments and repairs. Sure, this means that there are some scratches in the sole and the doorways have some dings in them, but when I need to look behind the rudder quadrant there’s a working flashlight hanging up next to the hatch, the key to the ship’s clock is hanging next to it, the frying pan is over the stove, the silverware is next to the fridge, and the light switch next to the door. The Zodiac is full of these kind of efficiencies that can only be developed over time, but are what make a boat run smoothly and feel like home. Even thought her original engine (an Atlas-Imperial) was removed long ago, I still think she’s one of the most comfortable boats around. I encourage everyone to take a trip on board next summer.

Work begins on the Catalyst

I stepped off the Zodiac and went straight to the Catalyst, which arrived in Seattle Monday night for some major winter engine work. I got to the boat and removed all the jewelry (the push rods and rocker arms and things that stick out of the cylinder), and loosened the nuts for the exhaust manifold:

The Catalyst's Washington diesel engine, with jewelry, valves, and injectors removed

Then I took off the heavy exhaust manifold (which almost squashed me), the cylinder heads, the pistons, and the rod bearings:

The Catalyst's Washington diesel engine, with cylinder heads removed

During this process, I noticed that all the rod bearings were cracked up and will need to be re-poured. This isn’t really a surprise, since we already knew that number six bearing was pretty cracked up (remember back in Week 36, when I took apart number six rod bearing and found that it was just intact enough to get us home?). I also suspected that number two would be bad, since I got inconsistent readings when I bumped it back in September (also Week 36), and it’s not uncommon for several bearings to be bad if one is.

Cracked up rod bearings are usually caused by one or a combination of three things:

Badly poured bearing, in which the babbitt alloy didn’t adhere to the bearing shell (typically cast iron, or sometimes forged steel). A badly-poured bearing might look good, but if you put any kind of load on it the babbitt move around and crack up quickly, since it’s not actually attached to the shell. Since bearings are easy to pour correctly using improved modern techniques, it’s pretty unlikely that this is what happened.

Overloading and lugging, in which the engine is operated too hard at a lower RPM. This creates higher firing pressures and puts much more stress on the rod bearings than normal.

Out-of-round journal, in which the journal (the shiny part of the crankshaft that the bearing grabs onto) gets worn down and oval or egg-shaped. The journal is supposed to be perfectly round with a fillet (a “concave easing of an interior corner of a part used to reduce stress concentration”) on either side, so that the rod bearing moves smoothly around it. If the journal is old and has been hammered on for a long time, it can flatten out on top and develop uneven wear. If you put a newly-poured bearing onto a worn-down journal, they don’t fit together smoothly and the friction can break the oil film between them. Once the oil film is broken, the babbitt gets damaged really quickly.

This is what happened with the Westward several years ago. She was cracking bearings every year, and someone finally realized that the crankshaft was worn down and egg-shaped. When the owner decided to fix it, he hired Dan, who worked with Wilson Machine Works to machine the crankshaft in place. Wilson developed a fancy tool that is bolted onto the rod foot while the piston rides in the cylinder with no rings, which aligns everything in the right place relative to the cylinder. The engine is then barred forward so that the journal moves through the cutting surface, taking a thin shaving off with each rotation. Dan actually saved some of the shavings:

shavings from the Westward's journals, courtesy Dan Grinstead

They would get the tool set up and in place, bar the engine forward to take a bit off, then measure the shape of the journal, then take another bit off, then measure it, and so on, until each journal was round again. Since they had to bar the engine over so much, they hooked up a five-horse air motor onto the same belt-drive system that the alternator and the hydraulic pump use. This moved the crankshaft around without having to crank on it with a lever every time they needed it to move. Even then, Dan says that it took a full week of work (although half of that was spent cleaning up barely-measurable tapers with emery cloth). The hardest part of the whole process was making each journal the same size, so that the rod bearings are interchangeable, but they managed it and the Westward has stopped cracking up bearings.

There’s one other factor that affects older diesels like Washingtons and Atlases: the babbitt is poured thicker. According to Dan, this is a holdover from the steam days. Babbitt is a very soft alloy, and a thick layer of it will move around a bit under a big shock load. A steam engine doesn’t create a big shock load, so when they started building diesel engines they didn’t really think about the difference. The shock load on a diesel is much higher, though, and the force moves thick babbitt around enough that it cracks easier. Incidentally, bearings on “modern” diesels use a very, very thin layer of babbitt on a much harder shell (usually steel or brass) to prevent the cracking.

With the Catalyst, the bearings are probably cracked up mostly due to the overloading, with maybe some out-of-round journals (the old-style thick babbitt just means that they’re more prone to cracking up than modern bearings, rather than being a single cause).

Whatever the cause, fixing the bearings is pretty straightforward. I brought them all up to Everett Engineering Inc, the shop that did the Arthur Foss‘s throw-out bearing way back in Week Seven.

An owner?!?

I know that I am one of the worst critics of boat owners and am very cynical in my recommendations for how owners should take care of their boats. Now, I need to brace myself for the same abuse – most likely from more than my conscience. That’s right – I bought a tugboat and have become an Owner! I’m trying to do so in a responsible way and within my means. This means that: a) the boat is small, b) I have two other partners in on it, and c) we plan to work the boat to pay for its expenses. Hopefully, we’ll make it work out.

It’s a neat little wooden tug, except that it has a 671 Jimmy. I hate Jimmies, but I will try to make the best of this one (until we start producing new Washingtons, at least…). I’m going to paint the engine white just out of spite and add more sound-proofing as a start.

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