Tuesday, May 31, 2016

An Engine Project

By Bicki Howell, Nellie D. 37VT63

The rather dirty engine

Last summer we left Nellie D. on the hard in Port Charlotte, Florida.  We returned in late November and splashed her after completing a few projects.  Friends highly recommended visiting the St Petersburg municipal marina as it is smack dab in the heart of town.  Museums, theaters, and excellent restaurants are all within easy walking distance.  With that glowing recommendation, we headed north.  

We soon discovered St Pete also afforded access to many marine services.  This presented us with the opportunity to take on a project we'd long dreaded--the engine room.  Before we purchased Nellie D.  ten years ago, we had an engine survey conducted.  The surveyor found the engine to be in good working order but stated, 'It's not the way I'd keep an engine."  In other words, it was dirty and rusty.   Over the years we dutifully maintained the engine, but the grease, grime and rust just continued to worsen.  

The engine room overhaul project started innocently enough in January when Dave discovered a pinhole leak in the wet muffler.  With the muffler and its hoses removed, it looked like the perfect chance to degrease and paint a portion of the engine.  The access was too limited and cleaning, little alone painting was impossible.  We removed the heat exchanger to obtain better access and still it wasn't enough.  Before we knew it, parts were flying off and everything but the head, block and transmission were on the saloon floor.

The saloon was transformed into a degreasing area and paint shop.  Tarps and cardboard protected the floor and the settee cushions were wrapped in plastic to protect them.  Each part was scrapped, degreased, acid etched, primed (2-3 coats) and then painted (3-4 coats).  Wearing rubber gloves and respirators throughout the ordeal was a must. 

While I worked on parts in the saloon, Dave was doing the same in the engine room.  POR 15's primer and acid etcher, which came highly recommended, were used throughout.  Etching was a simple process after the parts and engine were clean.  We first tried spraying on the etching solution, but found that a paint brush gave better control and coverage.  We were warned that once the primer dried, it was impossible to remove.  For that reason, we put the primer in pint sized plastic containers.  They made pouring the desired amount a breeze and resealing the container after each use was simple.  The primer was fast drying, easy to use and two coats usually did the trick.  One quart was enough for the entire engine and all the parts.

We purchased Cummins' white engine paint to spray on the parts and engine, but it wasn't ideal.  Spraying paint onto parts in the saloon seemed like a bad idea and getting an even coverage was problematic.  It also proved difficult to get the spray can into many of the tight spaces around the engine block.  We regrouped, choosing instead to go with a Rustoleum brush on white gloss enamel paint.  It provided great coverage and with a shortened brush handle we could get into those tight areas on the block.  The enamel paint also worked well in the bilge and was significantly cheaper than Interlux Bilgekote. 

As we took things apart we learned a lot about the engine and even found a few unexpected things.  One discovery was that a bolt head on the rear, port-side engine mount had sheared off in the transmission.  It was certainly a relief when Dave was able to drill it out.  You can see from the photo it was no easy task.  Surprisingly many of the hose clamps broke when they were reused.  For that reason we replaced every one of them.  In addition, all the hoses were replaced; some were quite expensive at over $16/foot.  To clean the heat exchanger we soaked it in a five gallon bucket filled with "Etch and Prep" phosphoric acid from Home Depot.  We replaced the transmission oil cooler after finding several small pin holes around its hose fitting.  The injectors were bench tested and proved serviceable.  At a quarter the price of the OEM engine starter motor, we opted for an after market motor.  It has worked well.  All parts received new gaskets before being reinstalled.  Worn bolts and crush washers were replaced and all bolts were torqued to Cummins' specifications.  We also replaced the lift pump, coolant overflow bottle, thermostat, belt, filters, impeller and Cummins water pump.    

Like any boat project, ours expanded beyond the scope of merely painting the engine.  Many of the hoses were rerouted, the entire engine room was re-wired, the boat's bonding system was replaced,  new sound insulation along the bulkheads was installed,  the floor grates were cleaned and refinished, and the steering cables were replaced.  We were careful to label every part and are happy to report there were no "extra" parts at the end of the job.  After 400 hours, the engine is just purring.  A big advantage is that now we can easily spot any oil or coolant drip against the new paint.  Usually the repair is the simple tightening of a hose clamp.  We wipe the engine and bilge down routinely in an effort to keep it clean.  

The entire project took us six plus weeks, working an average of 8 hours a day, or roughly 670 man hours [ 2 people x (8 hours x 42 days)].  Would we do it again?  Yes, even though at times it was overwhelming and exhausting.  The bottom line is we're thrilled with the results and doing the work ourselves saved a bundle.

Block with primer 

The painted  parts in the salon

The finished job

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Tug Spotting - Lucy

From Lindsay Caleo, "We are going to splash Lucy 49VT03 this coming Friday, Memorial Day.  She needs to go back to the yard for 3 weeks, but she is sea worthy enough to come out and play for Memorial Day weekend! The gold leafing and new teak steps on the swim ladder were both completed this weekend.  We also ended up hiring a captain for the first few months, in order to be insured we each need 60 hours of training on the actually vessel.  It worked out that we found a great captain who is as excited as we are.  We're definitely coming to Maine around the third week of July."

Our History

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Welcome Aboard - new owners of 37VT66

We wish to welcome aboard the new owners of Knock Off 37VT66, Bob Ewing & Jeanne Koenig.  We understand they will be taking the boat north to NJ with plans to attend the NE rendezvous in Plymouth, Massachusetts this July.  Congratulations Bob and Jeanne!

Tug Spotting - Teddy Bear

This just in from owners Peter & Loren Reich--Teddy Bear 37VT15 as see from the air.

Tug Spotting - Saltwater Joys

just in from the crew of Saltwater Joys 37VT12 as they cruise her to her new home port in Canada:
"Smooth sailing thus far!"

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Replacing a Section of the Bulkhead on LADY

Macy Galbreath and Bill Rothert, Lady 37VT08 

Just after the Northwest Rendezvous this year [2015],  we came back and had a local shipwright replace a spongy section of the outboard bulkhead right above the stove.  Earlier we had re-bedded most of our windows and tried to take care of any other place we might have leaks.  After removing the section, we were surprised to find the wall was ¼ inch plywood with no laminate finish.  In the photos you can see the structural wood with a little water damage that was taken care of by using some penetrating epoxy, and no insulation or balsa.  The section was easily replaced, blended in, and repainted.  

New Fuel Tanks

Lou Steplock, Pet Tug 37VT60

When we removed the tanks it took 2.5 guys (I was the 0.5) about 12 man hours to get them out. We removed the glassed-in supports for the mid shaft bearing, and after that, the last tank came out easily.  Then we trucked the tanks up to Bellingham to Coastline Equipment, who duplicated the four fuel and one holding tank.  The tanks were made of aluminum for fuel, stainless for the holding.  They were  prepped with S76 and painted with TuffStuff.   I'm planning on keeping all the fuel copper lines and fittings.  The holding tank lives under the forward part of the bunk and all the vent and waste hoses will be replaced. 

Changing of the Guard!

Macy Glabreath, Lady 37VT08

Bill Rother and Macy Galbreath about Lady

Bill and I bought Lady in late 2000 and have been working on her and cruising her ever since.  Almost immediately we met Tom Blackwood, Thistle Dew 37VT46 and started getting involved with the fledgling Association.  With Tom Blackwod and Kim Shann, Tug E. Bear 37VT62, we organized the first Seattle Rendezvous in 2003.  One thing led to another and I became Tuggers Editor in 2004 until 2010, organized with lots of help the International Rendezvous in 2006, and have worked on other events.  Somewhere along the way as the Association became more organized, my title became Vice President.  It has been a great run.  The best part of these various positions has been interacting with members via email – I felt like I had pen pals all over the country!  When traveling, we have had a chance to meet them too.  Just a month ago, I decided the time had come for me to step aside and let someone else take over my last job - the Vice Presidency.  We still have Lady and plan to keep cruising, but Bill and I want to do more traveling and have less responsibility!  Bill resigned as Treasurer last year. 

I am delighted to introduce the Association’s new vice President Barb Lawrence.  Barb and her husband Mike own Raven 37VT04 and live in Tulalip, WA.   Many of the Northwest rendezvous participants met them in Bremerton in 2009 when they were just looking at Victory Tugs and stopped by the rendezvous.  We got so excited that we showed them all the boats, invited them to dinner and Tug Talk the next day, and watched them walk down the dock that first night thinking perhaps we had overdone it and would never see them again.  Fortunately they came the next day and emailed that they had finalized the purchase of Raven the following week. They have been active and attending rendezvous and winter parties ever since, plus doing amazing upgrades to Raven.  Barb recently retired early from a demanding job – and we figured she had some creative energy to put to work.  We are all so happy she said yes to the VP position and look forward to hearing from her in the coming months.  Please welcome Barb Lawrence.

Cruising Florida's Big Bend

Bicki Howell, Nellie D. 37VT63

Dave and I were not looking forward to the 170nm Gulf of Mexico crossing from Tarpon Springs, Florida to the protected waters at Apalachicola, Florida.  Even though we don't particularly like overnight voyages, we've done several in the past.  Overnighters have served to get us to specific destinations or avoid pending weather.  In this case however, we knew winds on the Gulf often piped up after sunset, making the waters quite rough.  Many cruisers leaving with a good weather window talked about how they'd experienced a rough passage.  Add to that that crab pots are found as far out as 40nm, and it just didn't sound like a fun trip to us.

One night, over dinner, we mentioned our apprehension of the crossing to Joe and Arvilla Glinski, Our Villa 37VT56.  A few years ago, they had had the same dilemma when they transited this area heading south on the "Great Loop."  They recommended doing what they had done, going the "Big Bend" route along Florida's Nature Coast.  It was the Glinski's advice that started us reading several "Big Bend" cruising guides.

On the down side, the "Bend" route more than doubles, if not triples, the distance to transit the area.  These are long days, an average of 45nm and some over 60nm.  It is not a protected route, so weather is still a big factor in planning.  Access to the various ports is often via long, narrow channels, some as long as 10nm.  But on the other hand, the "Bend" offers some interesting benefits.  Being in a safe harbor each night is a very attractive option over a long, bumpy night at sea.  Should the weather get bad, these places offer a safe place to wait it out.  Also, if not now, when we were we going to investigate this unique area?  We decided transiting Florida's panhandle via the "Big Bend" was how we'd go.  

The protected waters disappear after Tarpon Springs.  We learned on our arrival there that our marina neighbors had been weathered in for eight days.  We were in luck, the weather predictions for next few days were good.  

We decided to press on the following day.  Our biggest hassle was two full days of operating in pea soup fog--a bit exhausting, but with our chart plotters and radar overlay, we managed just fine.  The only disappointment was that the Suwannee River, for which Florida's state song was written (by Stephen C. Foster in 1851), was too shallow for us to enter.  We had hoped to spend some time cruising the river, but it was not to be.  

In order to get to protected waters before the winds started blowing again, we skipped a few ports along the way.  We stopped in Cedar Key, Steinhatchee, St Marks, Carrabelle and finally arrived in Apalachicola on our fifth day.  Each stop provided us with a glimpse of friendly, quaint local communities.   My favorite place was actually the last stop, Apalachicola.  Maybe it was because it marked our re-entry into protected waters.  Or, perhaps it was because it was a larger town than the others.  Tourism was alive and well here where a small Main Street was filled with shops and crafts from local artists.  I suspect though, it was my favorite stop because that night, while the winds blew over 30mph, we were tied to a dock and sleeping soundly after a fabulous dinner of fried oysters.   

The "Big Bend" reminded us why we enjoy cruising.  It made us slow our pace and experience places and people we would never have seen otherwise.  [See more of our trip on our blog: 

Tug Spotting - Saltwater Joys

Saltwater Joys
37VT12 was purchased last year by Roger and  Deborah Brown.  Since then, they have worked hard to get her ready to cruise.  They are happy to report she is splashed and heading to  her new home in Canada.  About their upcoming maiden voyage, Tom says:  "Our route will depend when we get underway, hopefully Portland, Bar Harbour area, and then saint John.  At 7 knots, looks like about 33 hours. Will avoid night crossings if I can with all the debris in the water as well as the lobster pots."  

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Tug spotting - Nellie D.

 Nellie D. 37VT63 was spotted at the Vol Navy dock near Neyland Stadium in downtown Knoxville, Tennessee.  She will be pointing down Tennessee River from here, heading back towards Chattanooga and eventually up the Mississippi River.  The Howells plan to have the tug at the Midwest LNVT Rendezvous in Hudson, Wisconsin this September.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Floor board for the pilot house-to-forward cabin stairwell

From Heidi Maitland, Victorious 37VT26

We recently made a 5/8" lexan filler for the pilot house-to-forward cabin stairwell. It was made from some recycled material from a previous hatch.  It came out quite well, and can be easily stowed under the portside window in the pilot house.

We are about a quarter of the way through our to-do list, with a lot of BIG projects still to come. This week and the last few have been more stripping of the varnish from decking, replacing some type of hard material with proper teak bungs and re-caulking seams with SIS 440.

The new stairwell cover

Easy storage under the portside window 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Tug Spotting - Lil Toot 37VT75

Dave Howell, Nellie D. 37VT63
Last year Terry and Eleanor Keith bought Lil' Toot, the next to last Lord Nelson Victory Tug built.  We had only corresponded via email so it was nice to finally meet face to face.  Truth be known, it was the Keith's that got us interested in Chattanooga as a cruising destination.  Heck, before our conversations I didn't even know you could cruise to Chattanooga.  As if to underscore the point that it is possible, Terry's done the trip between Mobile and Chattanooga an incredible 60 times!  
Eleanor and Terry Keith

Terry walking to his boat house where Lil Toot is kept

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Tug Spotting - Lady

Lady 37VT08 cruising in the Pacific Northwest.  Picture taken by Craig Kurath, C'est Si Bon 37VT39, from the Deception Pass Bridge, Washington.

Tug Spotting--an LNVT Lookalike

While bare boat chartering in the Bahamas (on 5 May 2016), John Howell Nellie D. 37VT63, spotted this boat.  Similar to our LNVT - meet Chug, from Man-O-War Cay, Bahamas 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Tug Spotting - Nellie D.

Nellie D. 37VT63 was recently spotted cruising on the Tombigbee and Tennessee Rivers.  This is new territory for owners Dave and Bicki Howell and they have found it to be quite different from the other areas they have cruised in the past.  Learning the new terminology and studying the NOAA River predictions has been a fun challenge.  For now, they plan to take a leisurely trip up the Tennessee River.  Nellie D. will likely be moored in Chattanooga, Tennessee while the crew attends the West Coast Victory Cruise to Canada and the rendezvous in Plymouth, Massachusetts this July.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

All in a Day's Cruising

From John Mackie, John William 37VT68

This morning was overcast with possible thunderstorms in the afternoon so we departed early for a long run. The thunderstorms caught us coming up to Lockwoods Folly Inlet with heavy rain and thunder. The crack of lightning that got us blew off the anchor light, came down the port stay and traveled the lifeline to the center stanchion and through the tv antenna that is mounted there. It went through the tv and into the power cord blowing the tv's power unit apart. In the pilot house all electronics except the computer and radar went dead. A flash came out of the blue tooth for the auto pilot remote and entered a battery operated clock. After turning around and heading to a dock the electronics came back one by one. We only lost the blue tooth, VHF radio, all the instruments and the refrigerator, solar panel controller, inverter remote, controller, alternator remote regulator and bilge pump switch. I have a fridge guy coming in the morning and I have isolated the problem to the control board, I had a spare alternator regulator and have that in place.  I have determined the solar controller is done for, the inverter charges and inverts and the remote works, but the indicator lights do not. The salon AC thermostat will turn the fan on but that's it.  Still lots to fix and will have a long list of items to bring back when we go home the end of the month for 2 weeks. 

Tug Spotting -- John William

Friends of Heidi and Ken Maitland Victorious 37VT26, who own a 56' Eastbay, shared this photo.  They were traveling north on the Intracoastal, April 28 near Charleston SC and had a "tug spotting".  These folks also docked next to John William 37VT68 in Fernandina Beach.  

Monday, May 2, 2016

Replacing the Packing Gland with a Dripless Bearing

  Here's what the proper installation of a PSS looks like.  The box of the old packing gland (the bronze member athwart the prop shaft) is left bolted in place.  The original raw water supply line is plugged.  The plug is clearly visible between the two bolt heads. The old gland's packing and locking nuts have been removed.  In their place is the PSS' bellows.  The bellows is slid over the old gland's threads and then hose clamped in place.  The raw water supply line had been connected to the PSS' barbed fitting.

Sally W 37VT42 Dripless Packing Gland

  Bottom line: leave the box of the old gland in place.  It severs as a pillow block, water whetted, journal bearing.  Remove it and the prop shaft will whip.

  Note: On Nellie D. raw water is supplied to both the old box and the PSS.  I don't know this is better only that it's different than the installation pictured above.

  Dave Howell, Nellie D. 37VT63

Sunday, May 1, 2016

2016 Rendezvous Schedule

Make plans & join in on the fun! 

Northwest -  July 9 - 17  there is tug cruise planned for  Puget Sound, Washington.  The tugs will be cruising together to places like Langley, Cornet Bay, Deer Harbor, Montague, Ganges,  and Sidney BC.   Can't bring your tug?  There are also some places to join via land. Contact Macy Galbreath, Lady 37VT08, at macyrothert@gmail.com

Northeast - July 22 - 24 in Plymouth, Massachusetts.  Hosted by Heidi and Ken Maitland, Victorious 37VT26.  This historic city offers a great backdrop for this venue.  Plans are in the works for a tour of the Mayflower, dinner at one of the dockside restaurants and a parade of the tugs through the harbor.  Contact Heidi at heidimait@yahoo.com

Midwest - September 16 - 18 in Hudson, Wisconsin.  This is a great event hosted by Trevor and Stephanie Croteau, Hjortie 37VT33.  It includes pot lucks,  a tug parade on the river and a dinner cruise on a river boat.  Contact Trevor at trevorcroteau@aol.com

Find all the details at LNVT.org

Tug Spotting - John William

John William 37VT68 is heading up the East Coast from their hailing port of Merritt Island, Florida.  Owners John and Sue Mackie plan to have the boat at the Plymouth, Massachusetts rendezvous in July.   John said the weather has been on the cool side, but great.  The local fresh shrimp seems to be a favorite on their dinner menu.  The boat has been performing well.  They are exploring many new anchorages and spending as little time as possible in marinas.   As usual, the lack of storage isn't the problem, it is the packer having problems finding what's where--even with her inventory list.