Tag Archives: youth maritime training association

2009 Week 9 in Review

OTM Inc did a lot of work with the Northwest Seaport this week – both hammering and teaching. But first:

Control head for the Maris Pearl!

I did a little bit of getting ready for working on the Maris Pearl next week. Jay’s got a laundry list of little things that need to be checked up on in the engine room. He is super-organized and has it all in an online database.

I didn’t start hammering this week, but I did finally purchase the “new” control head for the main. As you may recall, Rick on the Red Cloud had a spare control head that’s perfect for the Maris Pearl. This week I picked it up and brought it to the shop, but I didn’t get a close look at it yet (just close enough to see that it’s missing some parts). I’ll take it apart and clean it and figure out what work it needs, but it isn’t going on the boat this year, anyway.

Reinstalling the Arthur Foss‘s throw-out bearing

I’ve started getting stuff together to reinstall the Arthur Foss‘s throw-out bearing. I would have gotten more done this week, except that I had to get ready for the Engineer for a Day program:

High School Engineer for a Day

Every February, I run a session of Engineer for a Day for the Ballard Maritime Academy. It’s a four-hour field trip that gives the kids a chance to start the Arthur Foss and the Duwamish, and learn about steam on the Virginia V. I wrote about it last year here and here. It’s a really neat class that I look forward to, even though getting ready for it is a lot of work.

I checked in with the instructors at the end of last week. Gary said that he was all ready for the Virginia V steam lecture, but Grant had a potential hot date on Friday and backed out of teaching on the Duwamish. Instead, he volunteered our friend Dave, who Grant and I went to diesel school with a bunch of years ago. Dave has spent decades on the water and has done a fair amount of teaching, but he was hard-pressed to learn the admittedly crusty systems on the Duwamish well enough to teach them to high-schoolers – plus, it was his vacation. He helped me get the boat ready for the class, including the first start-ups since last year’s air-compressor rebuild, but backed out of the actual teaching part.

After some negotiation, we got Grant back and the class went smoothly. We got all the preparation done just on time, with the latest version of the startup checklists finished minutes before the kids arrived. They all seemed like they had a good time and learned a lot.

When the class was over and the kids heading back to Ballard, we all met up with Dave at the Zoo to share a pitcher or two.

Grant writing with the Virginia V

While I was getting the boats ready for the Engineer for a Day class, Doug from the Virginia V saw the lights on and came over to talk. We don’t currently do engine demonstrations on the V-5, since getting up live steam would double the cost of the course, but both Doug and I want to change that. It happened that the V-5 was in the process of applying for a grant to get live steam up, and they asked for OTM Inc’s help. We met up with a couple of the board and staff members and talked about ways to make the grant work, and helped out with the writing. Now, it’s the usual waiting game to find out if they got the grant, but I think they’ve got a good chance.

A rant about safety

While working on the Duwamish with Dave, I found that old crusty boats don’t easily gain people’s confidence. Safety is always a factor, all around us, in everything we do, but one man’s safe is another’s hazard. Some people dismiss the old boats, saying “that’s old and unsafe; we should replace it,” while at the same time other people say “they don’t build them like they used too.” I think that both statements are flawed, since not many of the enforcers bother to understand the systems on old boats and therefore overlook things or crack down on something much lower on the list. Many inspectors have their pet issues, like writing up the hydraulic leak next to a pile of asbestos on the deck. Meanwhile, people don’t think about how they’re a bazillion times more likely to get maimed or die in a car accident than they are to get hurt in an old boat, but that’s another rant.

Where is the line between maintaining safety and preserving a boat more-or-less “as-is”? This is an issue that we must deal with every day on the old boats. It’s a judgment call that owners, insurance inspectors, and local agencies – not to mention the engineers – have a hard time making. Nothing is entirely safe, not even doing the best you can do with the resources you have is enough to ensure some old systems are relatively safe.

What is relatively safe, and who can make that call? Many organizations are out there to help with safety, including OSHA, WISHA, the USCG, Underwriters Laboratory, and your parents – but no one wants to invite them over because of the fines and nagging that accompany their recommendations.

That often leaves it up to the engineers, who do what they can. I can’t help but think that there must be a better way, so I’ve come up with a few recommendations. I can’t guarantee these as ensuring safety on the old boats but it’s a start:

  • keep the boat clean
  • keep as many systems operational as possible, and exercise all functioning systems regularly
  • retain engineers who have many years of experience on that particular boat
  • constantly work to keep communication open between owners, captains, and engineers

If all that is working, then I recommend carefully inviting regulatory agencies to the boat to help find ways to up the safety, but without ending programs or breaking the bank. Then make a timeline to accomplish these tasks, get them done, and invite the agencies back to make more recommendations. I know it’s scary for those on the line, but another set of eyes can really help increase safety on these old boats

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2008 Week 28 in review

I’m still working on the air compressor for the fireboat, mostly searching for parts and slowly making new parts. I did find a company that still supplies parts for Worthington air compressors, who may have the parts we need.

The Sea Lion as an example of a really comfortable boat

The Sea Lion IV, (recently sold at auction) is a great old tug with an Enterprise diesel that was converted to a nice cruising yacht a few years ago:

The other pictures in the set show beautiful cabins, decks, and living spaces, with great attention to the fine details. I think that with its medium-sized DMG-8 engine, it must be a very comfortable boat.

Those looking for a great cruising yacht should seriously consider an old tug like this. I think a lot of people labor under the misconception that new fiberglass yachts are much more comfortable than the old wooden or steel workboats converted to private cruisers. Comfort, however, is measured in many different ways.

I believe that it is the engineer’s job to look at comfort as an evolving formula and constantly tweak the boat to optimize it. Many people think that comfort stops at appearance and how squishy your throw pillows are, but there are a lot of other properties. Here are just a few of the things that the engineer thinks about when engineering the comfort of a vessel:

  • vibration from the engines
  • noise from the engines
  • smells from the fuel tanks, black water tanks, and diesel exhaust
  • brightness and tone of the lighting
  • feel of the deck beneath your feet (there’s a big difference between a springy steel deck and a thick planked wooden deck)
  • smoothness of the door latches and other hardware
  • echoes in the head
  • a loud cook in the galley
  • perceived safety (which ranges from the integrity of the systems to the training of the crew)
  • taste of the water
  • appearance of the vessel – up close and from afar
  • power surges, outages, and brown outs

All these factors are very connected, which makes engineering the comfort of a vessel challenging. Here’s an example:

  • A motor with no frequency drive starts and causes:
  • a brown-out (the lights dim)
  • higher vibrations and noise while the generator is overloaded
  • unsightly black smoke from the stack for a minute
  • more exhaust smell
  • a decrease in the level of perceived safety (“they can’t keep the generator running well”)

Here’s an example of monitoring and adjusting the comfort level:
Energy-efficiency adds to the vessel’s comfort by reducing generator noise, exhaust, and the need to start a second generator (even more noise and exhaust). To reduce the lighting load on a charter boat, I changed out many incandescent light bulbs to compact florescent ones, including the lights in the crew mess. The light bulbs I used were a “cooler” color (towards the blue spectrum) than the old incandescents, and they were the curly bulbs. I patted myself on the back for making the boat more energy-efficient, which reduced the load on the generators and decreased the exhaust and vibrations.

Well. The crew hated how the lights looked and revolted against me. The captain demanded the “regular” bulbs be re-installed. I quickly replaced the new bulbs with different florescent lights, which were a “warmer” orange color. The bulbs were also completely enclosed to look more like a “regular” bulb. Everyone thanked me and never knew the “regular” lights were also florescent lights with just a different color and a more normal look.

When it comes to comfort, both diagnosing the complaints and engineering the solution can be difficult, but it’s worth the work. There is nothing more worth striving for than “normality,” since it makes people feel at home, and that’s what comfort is all about. I don’t think it’s possible to get the mix right before commissioning a vessel, which is part of my preference for older boats. I think that my subscription to Showboats International may be canceled for saying this, but the new yachts just can’t compare with the comfort of an old boat that’s had all that time to engineer the issues out of it. I think that 50 years with many long-term crew members maintaining the boat and tweaking it is worth way more than “all that’s new, all that’s best in the world of mega yachts” – and, of course, they just don’t build them like they used to.

An update from the Catalyst

Speaking of comfort, we got a call from one of the most comfortable boats out there, the Catalyst. They report that everything is fine up in Southeast Alaska. Bill said that he just saw the John N Cobb being towed through Wrangell Narrows, and he flew the flag at half mast.

Wanted: Engineers for heavy-duties

This is a call for applicants for engineer positions on yachts, charter-, fish-, or research boats powered by heavy-duty diesel engines. Please send résumés to Old Tacoma Marine Inc.

We get a lot of calls for crew and we would like to provide a heavy-duty crew pool as a service to vessel owners. All applicants must have experience working with Atlas-Imperial, Washington, Fairbanks-Morse, Enterprise, or other heavy-duty engines.

The next generation

There was a great article in the July 2008 issue of WorkBoat magazine about the next generation of mariners. The article raves about all the maritime high school programs around the country and mentions the Youth Maritime Training Association, a customer of OTM Inc. We coordinate the Engineer for a Day class held at South Lake Union for High schoolers. We’ve described it previously in this blog, but to recap for new readers, this program introduces students to the engine room by allowing them to run machinery and monitor its performance. The course takes place in three very different engine rooms: direct-reversing diesel (on the tugboat Arthur Foss), diesel-electric (on the fireboat Duwamish, and reciprocating steam (on the excursion steamer Virginia V).

Among other things, we demonstrate how the engineers’ duties are very similar on each different system. Our teaching platforms – the vessels – are some of the best I can imagine and many of the participants in the classes we offer go on to fill a much-needed position in the maritime field.

Memberships!?

We at Old Tacoma Marine Inc. will soon be embarking on a new online endeavor. To provide even more services for owners and enthusiasts of heavy-duty diesel engines, OTM Inc will be adding a “Members’ Only” section to its website. Benefits of membership will include a framed photo of the fascinating and unique V-8 Washington Iron Works diesel (last seen in an Alaska logging camp), quarterly newsletters, an events calendar, a directory of other HD diesel owners and services, quarterly gifts and other benefits.

What else would persuade you to pay a membership and fill out an online survey? Help us develop this new feature!

OTM Inc Weekly eBay Auction

This week’s prize from the OTM Inc shop is this Manufacturer’s Plate from our local Washington Iron Works foundry:

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2008 Week Seven in Review

This has been a busy week for Old Tacoma Marine Inc. In addition to our usual winter maintenance load, the museum program schedule is picking up and we’re getting a lot of interest in old diesels following our increased web presence.

First, a variety of engine and vessel news:

Maris Pearl Updates
Jay, Charlie, and I started the week by moving the Maris Pearl from Lake Union Dry Dock back to Shilshole Marina. It was a pretty uneventful trip.

OTM Inc checked in with Alaska Copper and Brass again about the cooler for the tug’s Enterprise diesel. Wayne reported no progress, so I threatened to go down there and roll the tubes myself. Next Monday, I think I’ll show up at their plant with my work boots and hard hat.

I also talked with Rick Hamborg, new owner of the Red Cloud, about the extra control head that I’d like to purchase for the Maris Pearl. I think we might be able to reach a deal soon.

Arthur Foss’s Bearing

OTM Inc picked up the throw-out bearing for the Washington diesel in the Arthur Foss:

tugboat ARTHUR FOSS's throw-out bearing, re-babbitted and ready for installation

Everett Engineering did a great job, although Dan Martin overrode my request for more fore-and-aft thrust clearance so that the tight fit will hold oil better. I’m afraid that it will be much harder to center the bearing every time the propeller shaft is engaged. The clutch on the Arthur Foss uses a set of links that flop over-center in a way that maintains pressure on the clutch without force from the throw-out bearing. When the throw-out bearing is backed off a little, there is no thrust pressure at all. The centering is sometimes hard, as the big wheel that moves the bearing is touchy. We’ll probably want to engineer a clamp or holder of some type to maintain the bearing position while underway. The collar and bearing were installed on Thursday, but the links need to be cleaned. They’ll be installed early next week.

David B Propeller Work
I talked with Jeffrey on the David B, which is hauled-out in preparation for propeller work. They also want to replace the stern bearing due to the 1/4 inch clearance recorded, but the rudder is in the way of the bearing housing. It looks like Jeffrey will need to remove the short intermediate shaft in order to remove the bearing housing, but the tail shaft will be even harder to remove. I’m wondering if they’ll replace the bearing without cleaning the shaft lining. Jeffrey’s frustration makes me think so.

Update on the Catalyst’s Cylinder Heads
The Catalyst’s owners have reached an agreement with Empire Motors to purchase the three new cylinder heads (previously mentioned here) as well as the patterns. I’m really looking forward to seeing them and I hope they work. I’m also really, really excited to see the patterns. I’ll post lots of pictures when they get here.

Fairbanks-Morse Parts
Steve from Striegel Supply is looking for some Fairbanks-Morse parts for a blower on a 16”-bore engine. I don’t know who would have these parts—does anyone reading this have any ideas? Leave a comment – or better yet, post on our discussion board!

A Fairbanks-Morse in Maryland
I talked with John in Maryland this week. He has a Fairbanks-Morse FM–A—6 engine, like the one on the John N Cobb. He’ll be sending us photographs and information soon. He’s also trying to locate spare parts just in case; I recommended Hatch and Kirk overhaul the injectors and pumps for him.

An Atlas-Imperial in Astoria
OTM Inc received an email from the Columbia River Maritime Museum in response to a letter we sent informing the museum of some small problems with their Atlas-Imperial on display. They don’t want to work on the engine right now (especially since it’s on display in the main lobby – though I think that working on it right there would be very interesting for visitors), but they do want a list of what to do and how to do it for future planning. I’ll come up with a detailed list and maybe make a copy of one of our manuals to hand-deliver in March.

An Enterprise in Astoria
I received an email from John Gillon of Portland, Oregon:

I am a volunteer with the amphibious forces memorial museum. Last October we sailed the Sakarissa from San Francisco to Portland Or. She is moored on the Columbia River next to our Landing Craft Infantry 713.

I was looking on your web site and we have a Enterprise engine on the Sakarissa and it is a beautiful engine. You can visit our web site and see more, or contact them for some good pictures of the engine.

I enjoyed your web site,

John

The Amphibious Forces Memorial Museum has hidden the pictures of its Enterprise too well for me to find, so I’ll have to see if I can visit the Sakarissa while I’m Astoria for the Columbia River Maritime Museum errand:

the SAKARISSA at dock

The Ballard Maritime Academy Engineer for a Day Program

Preparing for a course like this is a hectic process, as the boats always require some head-scratching and jury-rigging to get them running after a long idle period. The biggest puzzle we faced this time was getting enough air pressure to start the fireboat Duwamish’s diesel-electric system. The fireboat’s air compressors need a little work; one of them really doesn’t pump air at all, and the other one’s efficiency is suffering. It takes a long time for it to fill the tanks up to the minimum level needed to turn the main over, so for past Engineer for a Day programs we’ve run an air hose from the Arthur Foss to the fireboat to fill up the tanks.

This past autumn, though, we moved the boats on the Historic Ships Wharf around so that the Arthur and the Duwamish are separated by a big old Lightship (number 83). If we use a long enough hose to stretch up and over the lightship and down into the fireboat, it doesn’t effectively fill up the tanks. Grant and I spend most of Thursday running the air compressor on auxiliary generator, wondering if we’d get enough pressure to turn on the main. We thought about renting an air compressor, but couldn’t find a large enough one on short-notice.

Finally, late in the day, the Duwamish’s own air compressor filled up the tanks to the needed psi and Grant was able to start up the number one main generator:

We ran it and the generator for a while after that to ensure that we had enough air built up to start the engine several times, since that’s a key part of the Engineer for a Day program.

While Grant was working on the Duwamish, cleaning and oiling and turning over the three big Bessemer generators, I was doing some work on the Arthur Foss. We’d removed the base doors during the autumn 2007 Diesel Engine Theory course (pictures at Northwest Seaport’s Flickr account), and I needed to re-seal them using my own patented “goo” method. Five of these doors are the original aluminum with “Washington Iron Works” cast into them, but one is a replacement made of plywood. Northwest Seaport’s museum specialist is hoping to replace this replacement door with a piece of thick plexiglass so that we can see into the engine while it’s running, but they weren’t able to get it purchased and cut in time for this class. They’re aiming to get it installed in time for the summer tour season, though. I doubt that they’ll be able to see much through all the oil that’ll get splashed against the door while the engine is operating, but it’s a neat idea and no harm in implementing it (at least until I have a new door cast in aluminum).

The Virginia V at least was ready to go — though this is only because we don’t start up her steam plant during the Engineer for a Day program (it would double the cost of the class). Her power plant is currently disassembled for winter maintenance, but that actually makes it even more interesting to observe.

After all that preparation, the Engineer for a Day program went great. John Foster, the instructor for the Ballard Maritime Academy, brought 16 kids down for one of the program’s annual field trips. He spends several classes before the field trip teaching the kids about marine engineering and engine theory so that they have a good understanding of it in their heads before they step aboard. When we have them actually start up an engine – either the Arthur’s Washington or the Duwamish’s Bessemers – they suddenly understand what the diagrams and explanations mean:

more photos of the Engineer for a Day program on Northwest Seaport's Flickr account

Despite this, I’m always a little nervous thinking about a big group of kids storming the boat. Once they arrive and we break them into three groups to cycle through the Arthur, the Duwamish, and the Virginia V, I usually calm down. They may be high schoolers, but they want to be there and are way smarter than I give them credit for — even if they play games and whisper and text message while they’re supposed to be listening. I had a great time leading them through the Arthur’s start-up and shut-down procedures, and both Grant and Gary say the same thing about their sections. I’m looking forward to doing as many of these as we can, and not just for Ballard Maritime Academy.

Inaugural Tugboat Night!
The week finally ended with OTM Inc helping run a new program with Northwest Seaport and the Center for Wooden Boats. Tugboat Night was designed to serve three different purposes: to provide a regular, low-cost program on the Arthur Foss, to exercise all of the tug’s equipment more often, and to get more people onboard and involved with the boat and the organizations.

On Saturday night, twelve people showed up for the program, all really excited. Several had never been onboard before, though they’d seen the tug at the dock. My original plan for the evening had been to lead all the participants through the boat starting in the engine room, turning on everything and then turning off everything. After running the auxiliary generator and the AC generator, though, we ended up getting distracted by the main engine and not going on to the steering equipment and other systems. Everyone loves watching the Washington Iron Works diesels, since they have so many exposed moving parts and ways to see into the engine. We played with the controls, trying to get the engine to idle as slow as possible before stalling, and I answered a lot of questions from both beginners and the professional electrical engineer who had run hydroelectric generators in Montana:

Tugboat Night at Northwest Seaport

This, however, is the great thing about Tugboat Night. Next time, we’ll do it differently; we could have other instructors up in the fo’c’sle or the wheelhouse while I stay in the engine room and let participants choose where they go, or we could spend less time on the pre-start checklists and just turn things on and off. We could have a “plumbing night” or a “wiring night” or a “steering and telegraph night,” as well as a “deck department” or an “engine department” night.

I’m really excited by the turn-out of this first session, since it shows that people are interested in learning about the gritty details of old boats. I think that it’s a great way to start building a volunteer engine crew for the Arthur, both to help keep up with maintenance and repair, and for in the future when the tug starts cruising again (though that’s barely on the horizon). I hope that see all the same people at the next Tugboat Night, plus more who hear about it from them.

NWS and the CWB have scheduled four more sessions of Tugboat Night, on April 19, June 21, August 16, and December 20. Depending on the popularity of the class, they may hold more this year, and they’re planning to hold one every month of 2009. Call the CWB at (206) 382-2628 to register now.

Finally, Tape versus No Tape: A Viewer Poll

Kirtland (a boat guy living aboard the Arthur Foss these days in a work-exchange arrangement with Northwest Seaport) and I had a “discussion” the other day about paint on boats. It went sort of like the Bud Light “great tastes” versus “less filling” commercials.

It is my philosophy that paint is an impermeable barrier that protects the ship from rot, rust, and other elemental damage. It is Kirtland’s philosophy that paint is a cosmetic that keeps the boat looking sharp and shipshape. Of course, what we actually said was something like “Next time, use tape, [censored]!” “You want tape? Beat me to it, [censored]!” and back and forth several times.

Now, I’m a big proponent of keeping the boats looking sharp so that the maritime groups have good “dock presence,” but before worrying about making them look good we should worry about keeping them protected from the rain and other agents of deterioration. If Kirtland wants to spend a lot of time fussing over masking and detailing and what should be painted green versus white, then that’s fine – as long as the boat is already protected.

Readers, what do you think? Paint as protective barrier or paint as a cosmetic detail? Please comment with your opinion.

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Filed under atlas-imperial, enterprise, museums, programs, washington iron works, week in review

2008 Week Six in Review

In Defense of Shipyard Workers

This week OTM checked on the Maris Pearl several times to be sure that the shipyard work is being completed to the owner’s expectations. She’s in Lake Union Dry Dock, which is typically a little more expensive than other local shipyards, but better at maintaining a schedule and getting the work done quickly. The work on Maris Pearl was done just fine — the tug was cleaned and painted, the zincs changed, and the bearings checked – but the owner was concerned by the pace the workers appeared to be moving at. Since the conventional equation is that time equals money, he started getting a little annoyed. Seeing this, I decided that I should try to explain why shipyard workers may appear slow.

First, a shipyard workers usually starts work early and often with a mild hangover. They work outside all day every day, and many are a little overweight. They frequently work through the weekend for that sweet overtime money, since most also have families whose expenses increase faster than the raises. On top of that, they spend at least eight hours every day being told what to do and what not to do by the manager, the foreman, the safety guy, the union guy, the owner, the owner representative, and the guy who started a week before them. This all wears on a shipyard worker – not to mention that almost every task involves dragging heavy things around. To keep from being utterly worn out or promoted, most workers will move at a slower pace than a “normal” walk.

There is also an optical illusion created by the worker seen in front of big machinery and equipment, plus boats out of the water appear three times as large as they are in the water. An owner is often used to seeing only the top third of the boat and while in dry-dock it looks huge and a worker walking around the boat looks very slow from a distance. This optical illusion exaggerates the slower pace enough to make owners angry at the seemingly lazy shipyard worker.

In defense of the shipyard worker, doing the same tasks over and over leads to learning how to do them most efficiently. Fewer wasted movements can add to the illusion of slowness, but they add up to get the job done much faster. They know how to work together and under a boss, who in turn knows how to direct them efficiently. They are all familiar with the facility – its layout, where the tools are, where the hose bibs and outlets are – and don’t waste time trying to figure out how to catch the crane operator’s attention to deliver a man-lift. This all leads to a very productive use of time, even if from the owner’s perspective the workers may seem to be moving very slowly.

However, some owners don’t see this and may try to do it themselves the next year to save that money they feel was wasted by the time it took. A do-it-your-selfer at the Northlake Shipyard (a local yard that allows owners to rent the facility and provide their own labor) might be able to learn some of the efficiencies that make the job faster, but usually only after a few very expensive haul-outs. I have seen do-it-your-selfers pay for extra lay days to keep from keeling over with a paint roller in their hand, which can add up to far more money than they saved doing it themselves.

Upcoming Engineer for a Day Program

OTM Inc also spend some time this week preparing for the Engineer for a Day Program for the Ballard Maritime Academy (we previously discussed the program here). We hired Grant MacDonald, the captain of the Thea Foss to teach the Diesel-Electric portion of the program on the fireboat Duwamish. In addition to being an experienced skipper and licensed as a 4,000 horsepower Designated Duty Engineer, Grant just completed a stint as an instructor for the Sea Education Association. He spent September to January teaching college students about boating and science on the Corwith Cramer, a purpose-built steel brigantine in the Caribbean. We think he’s well-suited as an instructor for the Engineer for a Day program.

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2008 Week Two in Review

Engineer for a Day Program for High Schoolers

Early this week, OTM Inc received a call requesting another Engineer for a Day session for Ballard High School. We put one on in February of last year, which was both successful and mentioned in a Seattle PI article here. John Foster, a teacher in the Maritime Academy program at Ballard High school, asked if OTM and Seattle’s maritime heritage community can host the program on February 15. Coincidentally, this is the day before a big work party and the first session of Tugboat Night on the Arthur Foss. This timing is excellent, as it maximizes the time and money spent preparing for the programs.

The Engineer for a Day programs involve the steamer Virginia V, the fireboat Duwamishand the tugboat Arthur Foss. I’m already signed up to show participants how to start up the Arthur‘s diesel, so next I called Gary Frankel at the Virginia V to get him onboard for his famous steam lecture. Gary is always happy to talk about steam, especially since he’s convinced that this diesel thing is just a passing fad. Then I called Justin Blair, an engineer for the Washington State Ferry system who has helped teach the Engineer for a Day program before. He didn’t answer, which makes me worry since his schedule is hard to change and he is the only person I know who can teach students how to run the Duwamish’s generators.

I’ve been helping run the Engineer for a Day program for three years now. The classes each start by dividing the participants into three groups, which each spend one hour following an engineer through the start-up procedure and then operating the engine. After the hour is up, they shut it down and then switch boats. After every group has been on every boat, we gather again to discuss the similarities and differences of each power plant. The class is very fast-paced and gets people excited about the engine rooms—not just the decks and the bridges. If we’re lucky, we turn out some engineers, too. Northwest Seaport has information about this year’s programs on its website here–including the dates for the open-to-all Engineer for a day program.

The Engineer for a Day program is really amazing for two reasons. First, the students are able to get up close to three very different power plants: a direct-reversing diesel, a diesel electric, and a reciprocating steam engine. I can’t think of anywhere else in the world that a member of the public can see all of these in one day—let alone one where high schoolers can be at the controls of each.

Second, it requires the corporation of many different organizations. A typical Engineer for a Day program involves Northwest Seaport, the Center for Wooden Boats, the Virginia V Foundation, the Puget Sound Fireboat Foundation, the Youth Maritime Training Association, and Old Tacoma Marine Inc—plus other supporters like the Seattle Parks Foundation that owns the Historic Ships Wharf at Lake Union Park where the program is held.

This is really encouraging, since the maritime heritage community that I worked in ten years ago almost never collaborated. Now, people are recognizing that collaboration is essential to preserving the historic ships in Seattle and in other ports. I think that preservation groups and museums need to follow some of the principles of for-profit corporations. Rather than treating some of the groups like a sick friend (high hopes, no demands on performance, and often no action), collaborative programs helps pull them together by holding each accountable and demanding that they pull their own weight. The program also gives the collaboration an attainable goal to drive the weak organizations forward, while the strong organizations receive a new set of resources and a broader audience. I really enjoy watching the Engineer for a Day programs and other collaborative efforts pull the different groups together.

Web Updates

OTM Inc’s new discussion board is awesome, but it doesn’t quite work yet. Early this week, the whole OTM Inc team was very excited by our launch into Web 2.0 with the new discussion board and a presence on many networking sites ( like Flickr and YouTube). We are now web interactive and want to see your posts with questions, answers, pictures, stories, and warnings from the whole heavy-duty diesel community… just as soon as we get the discussion board back online now that the trial session has run out. SO STAY TUNED…

OTM Inc is working very hard to broaden and deepen the heavy-duty diesel engine community and the web is our most important tool. We are committed to keeping these engines running, but unfortunately the world is losing the most valuable information available: that gained from experience. Now is the time for the next generation of heavy duty diesel engine mechanics to make recording the retiring work force’s stories as much a priority as repairing the engines. The web is the best meeting room available for this exchange and OTM Inc wants to be at the table.

And Now a Little “Real” Work

First, OTM Inc put in a call to Bob the foreman at Everest Engineering to check on progress of the throw-out bearing for the Washington Iron Works diesel engine in the Arthur Foss. The bearing failed due to operator error while cruising in 2001. When the clutch needed adjustment and slipped, the engineer on duty leaned on the clutch wheel, thinking this action would engage the propeller shaft. Instead, this maneuver just melted out one side of the babbitted throw-out bearing. While this damage is not necessarily debilitating, the owners want to keep the engine in good condition and sent the bearing to be re-babbitted.

Babbitt is a soft alloy of tin and other metals that serves as a low-friction contact surface when it’s kept properly lubricated and machined. It’s melted and poured into moulds around the bearings, then machined smooth down to the fractions of an inch required by the engine specifications. Here’s a picture of melted babbitt:

and another picture of a mold just after melted babbitt was poured in:

Everett Engineering replied to my call that “we are making progress on it.”

OTM Inc also put in a call to Wayne Dutton at Alaska Copper & Brass to check on progress of the heat exchanger tubing bundle for the Enterprise diesel in the Maris Pearl. Here’s a diagram of heat exchanger tubing like that in the tug:

The company positioned the brass end plates of the tube bundle in the original configuration, slid in about 400 new copper-nickel tubes (a pricey option), and then installed a clamp around the end plates to hold its shape while all the tubes are rolled in using a little tapered mandrill with three rollers. This expands the tube to seal it against the brass end-piece. Here’s a picture of the tube bundle on the factory floor:

Alaska Copper & Brass also replied to my call that “progress is being made.”

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