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2009 Week 40 in Review

Field Trip to Friday Harbor and Lopez Island

This week, I drove and ferried up to Friday Harbor to pull the valves and injectors from the Catalyst to bring back to The Shop for servicing. Bill and I pulled them all in about three hours, and the next morning I headed for home – with a few stops.

Ferrying between islands is free, so I stopped off at Lopez Island to visit Keith and Stewart, who are busy rebuilding steam engines. They have an impressive foundry setup, and are working on some neat projects for boss Alex in Louisiana.

They’ve got a Type-G used in a 33-foot Navy boat, a Type E-2 from 1901 with a new crankshaft, and a Type-N that replaced the E-2 in 1907. It makes 48hp at 320 rpm.

The most amazing project, though, was the Ward three-cylinder radial engine:

I really like the interesting, compact design, the neat shifting mechanism, and the floating bronze shims in the thrust bearing. West Virginia University has lots of Ward Stuff, including many boiler designs and the first water tube boiler design.

Arcturus didn’t make it

The Atlas yacht Arcturus made it only 15 miles before the fuel filters plugged and their trip to San Francisco Bay was canceled. Instead, the crew was treated to a ride back to Eureka via Coast Guard tow.

Discovery for sale

The most beautifully modernized yacht out there, the Discovery is for sale. While the owners love the boat, they have another one and since they can’t ride on both at the same time, one must go.

Newt stuck!

Our friends on the tug Newt spent a scary tide exchange on the bottom of the Duwamish River. Everything turned out okay, but it was very scary at the time. See, it’s easy to get caught by the tide — be careful!

Looking for a G Enterprise head

Our friend Sean is looking for a cylinder head for the G Enterprise on the tug Mighty. Drop me a line if you have one, and I’ll forward it along to Sean.

Another Washington!

We found out the Timber Heritage Association in Eureka, California has a Washington-Estep!! Stay tuned for some pictures, and we hope to visit soon.

Another two bite the dust

The guys at the Fabius River Drainage Pumphouse are breaking up their two great 32E14 Fairbanks-Morse engines that we saw back in May:

Fairbanks-Morse diesel engines, formerly at the Fabius River Drainage Pumphouse

They got a government grant that was intended to reduce global warming, but instead of overhauling the old fuel-efficient heavy-duties, they’re pulling them out and replacing them with big gas-guzzling Caterpillars.

If you need spare Fairbanks parts, contact B & W Truck & Auto Specialists in West Quincy, Missouri. Their phone number is 1-800-338-9797; ask for AJ.

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2009 Week One in Review

Work continues on the Catalyst

The New Year finds me still working on the Catalyst‘s big winter maintenance project. I spent most of my time this week continuing to fit in the main bearings. I started to describe this process last week, but here’s a picture of the strain test:

measuring the flex of the MV CATALYST's crankshaft with a strain gauge

That’s the strain gauge stuck between the throws of the crankshaft, which shows how much the crankshaft is flexing, which in turn tells me how high the main bearings are and which are holding up the crankshaft. One at a time, I rolled each main bearing out, did a strain gauge on the bearings to either side of it, then rolled it back in and went on to the next. I was looking for changes made by its absence, like whether it had been lifting the crankshaft more than the other bearings.

I found some sticking up a little far, which is to be expected when some of them have been re-babbitted, so I scraped them down or used Timesaver Lapping Compound, which is made especially for bearings:

Timesaver Lapping Compound

Newman Tools has a good description of the stuff on their website:

“Timesaver first acts as an abrasive, then the particles diminish to a polish, and finally to inert material. It is unconditionally guaranteed not to imbed into any metal surface. Prepared in powder form, to be mixed with oil as used. Timesaver Lapping Compound does not contain emery, aluminum oxide, silicon-carbide or similar charging abrasives.”

Lapping really doesn’t take much material off, since barring the engine over is so slow, so I did some scraping, too. They took a while to do, since I had to do so much barring, but I eventually got them to the specs outlined within the Washington manual.

The Westward‘s thrust bearing

I heard recently that the cooling system for the Westward‘s thrust bearing has been disabled. I understand the reasoning: thrust bearings typically have a water jacket to cool them, but it’s a small casting that’s easy to damage. I’ve seen them cracked up from rusting, freezing, and for no reason that I could see. My guess is that the Westward‘s thrust bearing started leaking and the owners got concerned and decided not to run coolant through it any more.

I hear that they’re monitoring it’s temperature closely while cruising to make sure that it doesn’t overheat, so it’s probably fine. Heck, it just made it around the ocean that way, so it’s definitely fine. Just don’t try this at home: the Westward folks are experts and know their boat really well. Unless you are that good, don’t disable your thrust bearing’s cooling system!

Information about a little Atlas-Imperial?

We received an email from Gary asking for information about his 3.3hp single cylinder 1LN29 Atlas-Imperial engine:

Neat, but I don’t know anything about this kind of engine. Readers, can anyone provide information about the little ones like this?

Washington-Estep photos from Nick

Nick sent us some great photos of the Washington-Estep in Hawaii at the Waimea Sugar Mill Camp Museum:

Washington Iron Works diesel engine in Waimea, Hawaii, at the Sugar Mill Camp Museum

What a great old engine. I can’t wait to get out there to see it myself. Until then, I’ll just have to look through all the shots here.

Thanks, Nick!

Kahlenberg photos from Bob:

Bob sent us some neat photos of the Kahlenberg factory floor:

Kahlenberg diesel factory floor

They’re so beautiful – all clean and shiny and brand new. There’s several other views here.

Thanks, Bob!

Newest Old OTM Inc Employee

OTM Inc officially hired a new employee this week: Diana the museologist!

Diana the Museologist

Her services have been available by contract for the last year, but now she’s officially part of the Old Tacoma Marine Inc team. She’s taking on some of the curatorial components of Old Tacoma Marine Inc’s business.

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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 36 in Review

This week aboard Catalyst, we dropped off passengers at Wrangell and then took the boat to Ketchikan to start the 12-day Inside Passage trip. Summer is over here is Alaska, so it was time to bring the boat back to the San Juan Islands. Here’s the first week’s itinerary:

Wednesday, September 3 – Ketchikan to Foggy Bay: Stormy and rainy
Thursday, September 4 – Foggy Bay to Lawson Harbour: cross Dixon Entrance, customs in Prince Rupert, humpbacks (light rain)
Friday, September 5 – Lawson Harbour to Bishop Bay: more humpbacks, Dahl’s porpoises, some soak in hot springs (overcast and fog)
Saturday, September 6 – at Bishop Bay: meet Marvin and watch bears (but no white ones), some salmon in river, kayaking and soaking

Here’s the crew:

MV Catalyst Crew

And here’s the passengers:

MV Catalyst Passengers

We arrived in Ketchikan on Monday at about two. We spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning up the boat, then headed up to Annabelle’s for drinks. We weren’t scheduled to start cruising again until Wednesday, so I spent Tuesday looking at number six rod bearing, the one that I found babbitt flakes and leaking oil in last week.

Rod bearings, the connection between the crankshaft and the connecting rod, are made up of two cast-iron shells that fit around the crankshaft:

rod bearing on the MV Catalyst's Washington Iron Works diesel engine

Each half is lined with babbit, which is a lead and tin alloy that makes a very low-friction contact surface when it’s oiled. When I pulled out the number six rod bearing, I found that the babbitt was all cracked up:

rod bearing on the MV Catalyst's Washington Iron Works diesel engine

It’s not quite falling apart, but it’s getting close. Usually, cracked-up babbitt is due to the bearing being too loose or the journal being out-of-round. It might also be because of poor casting, poor machining, or overloading.

After I found that, I pulled out the spare rod bearings and started cleaning up the crankshaft. It had goop built up on it and a lot of scratches and scrapes on the journal, so it took me a good eight hours to clean up, then I spent another four fitting the lower half of the bearing. I thought this would be a fairly fast job, but I found that the machinist who had poured the babbitt into the bearing didn’t know that Washington crankshafts have a unique 45° flat bevel on the edges of the throw. Pretty much all engines except the Washingtons have a rounded edge on the throw, which was what the fitted the babbitt to. It turns out that when the Catalyst‘s spare bearings were sent out to be re-babbitted, a few years back, they went to the machine shop at the same time as the Westward‘s Atlas bearings. The machinist did all of them using the standard rounded bevel.

Anyway. I got the crankshaft cleaned up and started fitting the spare rod bearings in, but they didn’t fit correctly because they had the round bevel and the crankshaft had the 45° flat bevel. This meant that it was time to pull out the bearing scrapers:

rod bearing and bearing scraper on the MV Catalyst's Washington Iron Works diesel engine

The way you fit a rod bearing to the crankshaft is to get the crankshaft really clean, then smear it with “blue” – a special grease that’s bright blue. Then you put the rod bearing onto the crankshaft, push it around a bit, take it off, and look where the blue is smeared. Those are the highest places on the bearing, so you start scraping the babbitt off there. The goal is to get the bearing the exact same shape as the crankshaft, scraping off the blued areas until the entire bearing is entirely blue, which tells you that you have a good fit. I blued the crankshaft, put the bearing on, and just got a little bit of blue on the bearing at the peak of the round bevels. Then I started scraping:

rod bearing and bearing scraper on the MV Catalyst's Washington Iron Works diesel engine

I scraped and fitted and scraped and fitted the bottom half of number six rod bearing for about four hours. At 10 PM, I had the fit really close, but the other half still had to be fitted and we had a noon departure the next day. I decided that fitting the spare bearing wasn’t possible with the tools and the time available, so I re-installed the cracked bearing (which will still works, but needs to be replaced pretty soon), bumped it, and called it a night. The next morning, I cleaned up the big mess of babbitt shavings I’d made, ran the temperature check, and got the boat ready to go by noon. Number six rod bearing is still knocking, so I might take out another shim later in the trip.

Now after all that, you might be wondering why Washingtons have that unique 45° flat bevel on the crankshaft, rather than using the rounded bevel like all the other engines. The answer is that Estep probably thought it was really special and just that much better than anyone else’s design.

Adrian Estep was an engineer and designer who worked for the Atlas-Imperial company in Oakland, California, right when they started their diesel line in 1915. He moved to Seattle in 1919 and opened a shop in Fishermen’s Terminal to repair gas engines. He must have still been really interested in diesel tech, though, because he sometimes converted gas engines to run on diesel, and he started building a prototype heavy-duty following the Atlas model but making some design improvements.

Apparently, the prototype was pretty impressive, because Mr. Frink, the president of the Washington Iron Works, saw it and wanted to buy it to power his own yacht. At the time, Washington Iron Works was a foundry that manufactured logging equipment and steam engines out of its South Seattle shop. I don’t know what happened to the prototype engine, but within a couple months, Frink made Estep an offer he could not refuse: a ten year contract to build diesel engines of his own design.

Estep worked for the foundry from 1921 to 1931 and full authority to guide the drafting room, pattern loft, foundry, and machine shop in developing one of the most efficient, ruggedly built, and most beautiful diesel engines ever. He patented a couple components of the Washington engines, and made a lot of little innovations like the flat-beveled crankshaft. The first engine to roll off the production line went into the Elmore (now, ironically, powered by an Atlas), and soon they were powering a lot of Seattle and Alaska workboats, logging camps, and power stations.

Every engine’s base doors read “Washington-Estep” until he left the company in 1931, which led to Washingtons also being called “Washington-Esteps” or just “Esteps.” Apparently, he went on to work for Kahlenberg in Wisconsin, but Washington Iron Works kept producing the engine for all sorts of different customers, including the US Navy and the Russian government. They made 651 engines before they shut down the engine line in 1951. I think it’s very unfortunate how few of them they made – and how few of them they are left – since they’re such great engines.

Incidentally, this week’s cruise on the Catalyst was pretty fun. We jumped into hot springs, saw an amazing sky full of stars, and saw more bears:

bears at the hot spring while cruising on the MV Catalyst

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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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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

2008 Week Five In Review

Finishing up the Maris Pearl

I finished resealing the No 1 oil tube and put the Maris Pearl’s Enterprise back together – kinda at the last minute (sorry Jay!). The hard part of repairing the oil tubes on the starboard side is that the cam followers are in the way. I had to remove the push-rods, then wire the cam followers in place, then unbolt and remove the block of three followers and guides removed. This exposes the oil tube for repair.

Unlike Atlas-Imperial or Washington Iron Works engines, Enterprises have many of their moving parts inside a casing. Removing the push rods means removing the cylinder head cover, then pulling the push-rods out from this case. Here’s the exposed cylinder head:

and here’s the push rods laying on top of the other cylinder heads (still covered):

I had the Maris Pearl all re-assembled by the time Jay needed my help running her out to Lake Union Dry Dock. More on that later.

A Washington-Estep in Kodiak

Guy formerly of Alaska emailed OTM Inc with information about two complete Washington Iron Works engines in Kodiak. One Washington is being restored by the Kodiak Maritime Museum in Guy’s own garage, while the other and an Atlas-Imperial are in the old Port Williams cannery on Shuyak Island.

Here’s Guy’s description of how he came to have a Washington-Estep in his garage:

Marty Owen, the Harbormaster of Kodiak got a hold of it somehow. He told me, but I can’t remember. It is from the Salmon Cannery at Uganik and was used to run a line belt for canning. He had it stored in a City of Kodiak warehouse for about five years when I found it hiding under a blue tarp. They were getting ready to remodel the building, and he had to get it out of there. I said he could keep it in my garage, and I would see if I could get it put on a trailer for a running display. The Kodiak Maritime Historical Society plans to get it mounted on the trailer I found and use it for a running display at the Kodiak King Crab Festival.

From the pictures that Guy sent, it looks like they are well on their way to running this engine soon:

Guy was able to provide us with this engine’s serial number, 7153. With this number, OTM Inc was able to look up the original manufacturer records of it and confirm Guy’s memory that it was shipped in March, 1928 to the San Juan Fish & Packing Company for use as a belt drive. The San Juan Fish & Packing Company ordered a four-cylinder marine engine on the same day for use in its boat Caroline. We’re posting the information we know about this engine as we discover it on the website; check out what we have so far here.


Filed under enterprise, Uncategorized, washington iron works, week in review