The Motor Yacht Sarah Elizabeth Banks

8 10 2008

MY Sarah Elizabeth Banks

MY Sarah Elizabeth Banks

Malcolm Harker’s 60′ Motor Yacht (MY) Sarah Elizabeth Banks, named for his wife Sarah, began life in 1906 as a steam powered, fire-fighting “river-watch” boat in Sunderland, England.
First named the Steam Ship (SS) Fire King, the riveted hull vessel was assigned to combined fire watch and police duty.

The SS Fire King

The SS Fire King

Malcolm’s Grandfather, FT Harker founded  the family business in 1878 in England, and began designing and producing steam engines. He and later his three sons continued building their steam engines up until 1950, and in later years built heavy machinery under contract.
However, in the early 1900’s steam engine builders specified the hulls into which their steam engines went. This resulted in the  company commissioning the building of the Fire King to fill the contract for the fire watch boat and then powering of the boat with a pair of their own steam engines.
The vessel originally carried 8 tons of water and 2 tons of coal. Rough estimates show this amount of coal was “topped-off” regularly to keep the boat able to maneuver and pump water for a forty-eight hour period, should a large fire occur.

It is interesting to note that historical records show the price of coal that year in Seattle was was $5-6 per ton. The same records show the average miner (in an open pit setting) could mine and load 2.67 tons of coal per day!

Original Style Harker Steam Engine With Faux Boiler

Original Style Harker Steam Engine With Faux Boiler

The original pair of Harker steam engines turned  twin 4′  bronze propellers and probably pushed the boat at between 5-7 knots. Malcolm estimates that each of the original steam engines could have produced 35-40 horsepower.
Today it is hard to imagine spinning four-foot diameter propellers with so little horsepower-and yet, this example illustrates one tremendous advantage of steam power: That is, the maximum torque produce by a steam engine occurs at stall, or zero RPM, and rapidly falls off as the speed increases.
The S.S. Fire King and its sister vessel the S.S. Fire Queen remained in service for over fifty years, after which the Queen was scrapped. The King however, was left derelict for over twenty years before being purchased and converted to a live-aboard with a large sailing rig. Even later it was fitted with twin WWII vintage 6-71 Detroit Diesel Gray Marine engines.
In due time Malcolm discovered the boat, and decided to refurbish and re-power the boat as a sea worthy live-aboard. Later, to his surprise he discovered the original drawings his Grandfather had done when designing the vessel!
He began by removing all old equipment and spent many hours cleaning the boat. The two new John Deere 4045 Marine Diesels were supplied by MER Equipment and the installation along with other extensive upgrades were done by Townsend Bay Marine.
Malcolm found a similar, and slightly smaller Harker steam engine for historical display purposes and bolted it down in the forward part of the boat on the lower level.
Looking from the front of the steam engine, there appears to be a beautiful stainless steel boiler behind the engine. It’s surprising though, as you walk back through the boats lower level, to turn around and find the boiler is really a cleverly disguised  “head”, complete with a shower!
In the stern, on the lower level you pass through a seeming time warp, cleverly disguised as hatch door: Stepping through the hatch takes you through a hundred years of time and into a modern, gleaming white  engine room, complete with the two new John Deere Powertech 4045 diesel engines.

The Vessel's Modern Engine Room

The Engine Room

And how do the new John Deere Diesels look compared to the original Harker Steam Engines?

In just a few words: Cool, clean, quiet and convenient!

Calculation assuming the S.S. Fire King used medium quality coal with a BTU rating (British Thermal Units of heat content) of 6000 BTU per pound:
2000 pounds X 6000 BTU per pound = 12,000,000 BTU of heat energy on the vessel with a full load of coal.

Depending on the BTU of the coal used, it appears that 2000 pounds of coal has less energy than 90 gallons of No.2 diesel fuel!


The M.V. Troll

16 09 2008

“Indy 500 Pit Crew”

That that is how C.A. “Cappy” Putz referred to the MER service department when he pulled his boat into our park lot.  Two MER technicians climbed aboard, tools in hand to get Cappy’s Yanmar 4LH DTE back into running order. Cappy had called three weeks earlier and said a friend had removed the valve cover and found a broken push rod.  He made an appointment, and then towed the M/V Troll from Molt Montana to Seattle for repairs.

The crew of two dived into the small engine room and in record time had the head sitting on a bench in our shop.  It was determined the number one exhaust valve had stuck in the guide.  No other damage was found.  The head was repaired, reinstalled with a successful sea trial.

Cappy travels the water ways from Florida to Alaska selling hand made bowls from the M/V Troll.  Cappy has been making wooden bowls from wet wood and burl mainly from Wyoming and Montana, for the past 20 years.  He says “if you can find a job you really love, you never have to work again.  Lucky me!”  The license plate on his silver truck is “BOWLMAN”.   Each piece is a handmade, signed branded and very usable original art form.  He begins with wet wood and burls.  The bowl is rough turned and let dry for 6 months to a year.  “During this time the wood relaxes into the shape of a bowl, then the wood wants to be a bowl” says Cappy.  The bowls are 100% guaranteed.  They are made for usin’, wash em, don’t soak um, wax or oil em once in a while and you bowl will live for generations.

It was MER’s pleasure to help get Cappy back on the open seas.  It gives a great feeling when you can see a customer who loves his life style on his boat sail away with wave and a smile. If you see the green hulled “Troll” cruising down the water way, wave him over.  Cappy will give you his big western smile and gladly show you his bowls.  You won’t be disappointed. If you want to contact Cappy, he can be reached at:

C.A. “Cappy” Putz, 13330 Canyon Creek Road, Molt, Montana, 59057. 406-628-2181,

Cappy…Thank you for your business and an interesting time. Happy motoring.
MER Service Manager-Herb Knight

Cappy Putz

Cappy Putz

Old Iron

28 08 2008

Today we’ll cover some of the realities of older engines that will help you decide the best route to take as your engine comes up for rebuild or replacement.

One of the most challenging aspects of using older diesel engines in a marine operation is managing part-load operation to avoid “wet stacking” and “fuel dilution” that can occur.

First though, let’s cover the terminology: “Wet stacking” is incompletely burned fuel, that has left the the cylinder through the exhaust valves. This fuel “paints” the inside of your exhaust manifold with a thick, black ooze. This fuel will soon will find any leaks in your exhaust system, and on the outside of the engine this fuel looks a lot more like lubricating oil, than diesel fuel. This appearance has even been the trigger for un-needed engine repair jobs. “Fuel-dilution” on the other hand is unburned fuel that goes down past the cylinder’s piston rings, diluting the lubricating oil with fuel,and reducing the viscosity of the oil.

Diesel engine ratings determine not only what an engine is capable of, but also the way it must be used. For example, an engine rated for generator use must carry a load that is no less than eighty percent of its maximum rating, eighty percent of the time, for best results.
Following this eighty percent rule, for example, a 100 kW marine generator set would not be allowed to produce less than 80 kW.
Conditions come up when there just isn’t enough load to put on an engine. One example of this would be a main propulsion engine that is rated at 400 horsepower (hp) at 2100 rpm, and the engine is periodically used to power hydraulics at only 700 rpm. A few minutes of this isn’t so bad, but  hours of producing only 20 hp, or five percent of its rating, will harm the engine.
Another example is a generator set engine that is rated at 60kW to power a vessel’s heavier electrical loads, but only produces 12 kW at night when the crew is using the electric range and doing laundry.
Plainly, some engines can tolerate part load operation better than others. There is a qualifier for this statement though; many, if not most diesel engine powered boat engines are ten to fifteen years behind the “State of the Art” in fuel efficiency. This list focuses on the older engines that are in the 20-500 horsepower range.
A list of general rules follows:
-Newer (technology) engines are better at part-load, than older ones. One good reason for this is the ongoing advances in engine design and materials. Another reason is that the ever more stringent emission standards are helping to insure that all engines do a better job of burning their fuel in the cylinder, and not in the exhaust manifold, even during light loading conditions.

-4-stroke engines handle part load better than 2-stroke engines, and one good reason for this is that there is more time for the fuel to burn before the exhaust segment of the combustion process.

-4-stroke engines with 3-ring pistons will do better than 2-ring pistons.

-Direct fuel injected engines, do better than pre-combustion chamber engines because the injection pressure is much greater and the fuel is more finely atomized.

-Air-cooled engines, sometimes do better than water-cooled engines at part load operation because the cylinder temperature of an air cooled engine tends to be 10-15 percent hotter.

-Electronically controlled engines, perform part load operation better than mechanically governed engines because electronically controlled engines usually inject fuel at higher pressures.  The electronic engine’s control system also, much more quickly, cuts back the amount of fuel injected as the load tapers off.

-Square-cut piston compression rings often work better for lightly loaded engines than the tapered Keystone-style rings. The reason for this is that square cut rings are not as dependent on cylinder pressure to force the rings against the cylinder wall during light loads.

-Naturally aspirated engines sometimes work better for light loads than turbocharged engines because their cylinder compression ratios are usually higher.

-Small bore engines, that is, the smallest bore engine that is sufficient for your application, work better than large bore engines because it is easier to control leakage in a small cylinder.Can we say then that the ideal marine diesel engine would be a technologically advanced, air-cooled, electronically controlled, 4-stroke, direct injected, naturally aspirated, with three-ring pistons and square cut compression rings?

Unfortunately there is no such marine engine in production. However, we can say that as engines are reconditioned or replaced we can keep the above attributes in mind, as part of a strategy to deal with part loading problems.
Finding the minimum “loaded” RPM for your model and series of your engine is important. Begin by getting the engine manufacturer’s guidelines. Every engine company that is involved with marine diesel engines also publishes an Installation or Application Manual. Next, pound the dock a little and check with those that use similar equipment under conditions like yours.
For main engines, eliminate all idling under 1200 RPM. For those hydraulic systems that run off of the main, changing the sizes of pulleys can let your main idle a little faster while your pump turns a little slower.
There are two ways to size generators for a fishing vessel. The first is to buy a gen set that will handle more load than you have. This works great for tired crews, because it doesn’t matter what order the loads are applied to the generator. It also works well if there is a smaller “hotel” gen set for cooking, lights and laundry. However, having just one large gen set can easily lead to light loads.
The second way is to do a very careful power survey and then install a smaller capacity gen set that will require sequential loading. The way this works is that the largest loads are put on the generator first and then the next largest and so on. This enables the use of a smaller set that can help to more easily manage the loading.

Vital Hand Tools For Your Boat

19 08 2008

Every boat needs a good set of hand tools, and a box to carry them. What are the minimum tools you will need on the boat? If you have room for a more extensive tool collection, what should you include?

Hand Tools For Your Boat

Hand Tools For Your Boat

We will answer these questions after discussing the Physics involved with hand tools on boats.

When we studied Physics in High School, Gravitational Force was well covered. Then our instructor broke his leg and we got a substitute teacher named Fred.

Fred was a recovering commercial fisherman and had later gone into teaching. He explained that on board boats there is one additional force at work that occurs nowhere else in the Universe: He called it the Bilge Force. He explained that on boats the behavior of Matter, the Laws of Physics, and even Time itself appears to behave differently than on land.

He warmed to the subject, “While gravity attracts everything, pulling it toward the center of the earth, the Bilge Force is selective and attracts only the things you need most, and pulls these items to the lowest, furthest, deepest, and darkest part of the bilge.” Fred also explained, “On land things fall straight down, but on a boat things fall diagonally, always toward the deepest part of the bilge water, and under the engine, just beyond arm’s reach.”

The Bilge Force is always the strongest between 10:00 P.M. and 2:00 A.M. local time, when marine mechanics happen to be the weakest.” And, “Yes, the Bilge Force always works in local time.”

So, first on your list of boat tools is a strong magnet!

Must Haves

To get an idea of the basic tools you need, consider what you will find if you look inside your local marine mechanic’s toolbox, the one he or she packs up and down the dock:

-A strong extendable magnet!!

-Straight screwdriver

-Phillips screwdriver

-An 8” or 10” adjustable wrench

-Slip-joint pliers

-Water-pump pliers (also known as Channel-lock pliers)

-Feeler gauges up to .035”

-6” dial caliper with inside, outside, and depth measurement capabilities

-⅜” drive socket set with both metric and standard sockets

-½” drive socket set with both metric and standard sockets

-Straight tin snips

-Electrical terminal crimping pliers

-Side-cutter pliers, also known as diagonal cutters

-Needle-nose pliers

-Battery terminal cleaner

-24-ounce ball peen hammer

-Standard combination wrenches from ¼” inch to 1⅛”

-Metric combination wrenches from 8mm to 19mm

-Standard Allen wrench set

-Metric Allen wrench set

-Universal filter removal wrench

-Center punch

-Cold chisel

-Gasket scraper

-Vise-grip locking pliers

-Multi meter with volt, amp and ohm capability

-Thread-locking compound, known as Loc-tite

-Never-seize compound

-Electrical tape

-Pipe thread sealant

-Penetrating oil

All of this in a fairly weather-proof box that is shaped more like a tray, to help you quickly spot what you need.

However, there are probably some additional hand tools you need on the boat that differ from those of the marine mechanic.

Would Haves

We’ll mention a few important additions to our basic list:

Left Handed Twist Drills. Boat maintenance often includes removing broken bolts that still have part of the bolt stuck in a threaded hole. When drilling-out broken bolts with regular right-handed drills, the drill will often “catch” in the piece being drilled and turn the broken piece even deeper into the threaded hole in which it resides. To get around this problem, it helps to drill out broken bolts with left-handed bits. Then when the bit “catches” it will spin the broken piece out of its threads. Remember to spray the piece you are drilling with penetrating oil to improve the odds on removing the broken piece.

Mechanical Fingers. When reaching deep into the bilge of a steel boat with a strong magnet, it seems that the magnet will stick to everything but the piece you are trying to pick up! Hand-operated mechanical fingers can be helpful at a time like this, and are readily available in most marine oriented hardware stores. The durable fingers of the tool are made of spring steel that can be straightened if accidentally bent.

Internal Pipe Wrenches. When removing sections of threaded pipe it often happens that the pipe wrench jaws squeeze the end of the pipe out-of-round. To avoid crushing the pipe, you can insert any round object that happens to fit snugly into the opening of the pipe before using the external pipe wrench, or you can buy an internal pipe wrench. An internal pipe wrench grips the inside of the pipe and tries to expand the pipe rather than crushing it as you tighten or loosen the section of pipe.

Crow-Foot Wrenches. For removing or replacing nuts that have a fuel or hydraulic line coming through the center of the nut, nothing works better than a crow-foot wrench. It can also be attached to a torque wrench for doing fine work.

Infra-Red Thermometer. The ability to quickly measure the temperature of engine and machinery is very important at times, such as when an engine is overheating.

An infrared thermometer senses temperature over distance and provides a gauge on the rear of the gun for a temperature read-out. The tool even has a gun sight or a laser for aiming the gun at what you want to check.

32-Volt Test Light. Testing a D.C. electrical system for voltage is often an important task and can be done quickly with a test light instead of a multi meter. This tool is handy because you can carry it in a shirt pocket and it will let you check for the presence of any voltage up to 32 volts with the same bulb. To get one, buy a 12 volt test light and then replace the bulb with a 32 volt bulb.

(Some of this material excerpted from “PRACTICAL BOAT MECHANICS”, by Ben L. Evridge, to be published this fall.)

Send your suggestions and we’ll add them to the list!

The First Ten Seconds

29 07 2008

F.V. Atlantico

F.V. Atlantico

If we could look inside a marine engine and watch what’s happening during the first ten seconds of a cold start, we might be surprised!

Over the life of an engine, eighty percent of the wear to engine bearings will take place as the engine begins to turn without lubrication, during cold starting.

When an engine is turned off, the lubricating oil slowly leaks from between the components that depend on the oil film and its wedge-effect. The oil wedge-effect is present when engine components are separated by lubricating oil, and there is sliding or rotational movement. However, when oil pressure ceases and the engine sits still for a little while, large pockets of air enter the lubrication system. This air must be eliminated by oil pressure once the engine starts. As the engine begins to turn, the oil pump quickly lifts a column of oil from the oil pan and goes about forcing all the air from the lubrication system.

When a 12-volt starter motor begins cranking a cold diesel engine-in the 300 horsepower range, voltage at the starter can drop from 13.8 volts to only 11. Amperage can go from zero to well over 1000 amps in an instant. The affects of the sudden electro-magnetic field around the starter cables may make them jump or seem to “crawl”.

The fuel system quickly begins to build high pressure for injection into the cylinders. The injectors begin forcing fuel into each cylinder; one at a time, in the engine’s firing order. Smoothly carried forward by heavy flywheel that keeps the crankshaft rolling on to the next cylinder in the firing order, and the next and the next…

Many mechanical governors go into the full fuel mode when the engine is off. This happens so the injectors will have a real “kick” for starting the engine. These same engines, equipped with a mechanical variable timing unit will also keep the engine injection timing fully retarded to aid starting. When the engine starts turning, each injector will be putting in near their full volume capability until the engine speed gets up to the governor’s pre-set low idle speed. At which point, the governor will quickly feather back the fuel delivery to maintain a steady low idle speed.

When the oil pressure comes, the crankshaft and the flywheel quickly rise to the center of their bores in the cylinder block and flywheel housing, both lifted and supported by the oil wedge. The oil wedge acts between the crankshaft journals and the engine bearings. It would not be far-fetched to say the crankshaft is “surfing” on a film of oil, at this point.

If the crankshaft main bearings have five thousands (.005”) of an inch oil clearance, then the presence of lube oil lifts the crankshaft and related components nearly half this distance, or approximately .0025”of an inch, to the center of their bore. This weight can be the several hundred pounds of steel and cast iron that the crank and flywheel consist of. If the engine has a front mounted power-take-off clutch, the oil film must lift this additional weight as well. On larger engines this total weight can exceed a thousand pounds.

The cold and dense column of air in the exhaust system begins to move, slowly at first, like molasses, as the engine turns and starts. The 400 degree F gases that are clamoring to work their way out from below have a much easier time flowing in, around and through the exhaust system. As the exhaust gases warm they expand, losing density, becoming much easier to pump up the stack.

The oil pump for the marine gear turns any time the engine crankshaft turns. Therefore, as the engine begins to fire, it must overcome the increasing power demand from driving all the so-called parasitic loads.

Parasitic loads are those loads (or work) that must happen in order for the engine and marine gear to run properly.

Suddenly, there is a demand for fresh air in the engine room, and lots of it, as all cylinders begin to fire!

We’ll let it warm up, and then it’s time to go fishing…

(Some of this material excerpted from “PRACTICAL BOAT MECHANICS”, by Ben L. Evridge, to be published this fall.)

F.V. Ocean Bay

F.V. Ocean Bay

MERPOWER-Carry These On The Water!

13 06 2008

1. Conversion charts to switch measurement units for bolt-tightening torque and for any other application, such as temperature or pressure.

2. Ultra-gray silicone sealer is heat resistant and is especially useful because it sets up very firm. Good silicone sealants will replace many paper and fiber gaskets.

3. Rolls of gasket paper in various grades and thicknesses are essential for maintenance and repairs. In a pinch, just cut open a Cheerios box and cut the gasket’s shape from the paper, then put a light coat of silicone sealer on both sides and install.

4. In addition, any paper suitable for a gasket will also make a very good shim. Some shims must be made of metal, such as steel, stainless steel, aluminum, brass, or copper. Galvanized and stainless steel stove pipe and even soft drink cans are also commonly available and make good shims.

5. Marvel Mystery Oil is an “upper cylinder lube,” which means it is a good lubricant for valve guides and piston rings. It is available at most fuel docks and auto parts stores and can be added to both the engine lubricating oil and the fuel tank for use with either a gasoline or diesel engine.

6. It’s important to have both stainless steel and high-strength bolts and hardware on your boat.

7. If you don’t have mechanical gages installed on the engine, consider carrying pressure and temperature test kits. These kits are available from Snap-on Tools.

8. Carry high-quality black and red electrical tape for insulation purposes and for marking positive and negative electrical conductors.

9. Take assorted sizes of crimp-on electrical terminals and heat-shrink tubing. The latter is plastic tubing that shrinks around electrical wires when heated. Small electrical supply kits are available at auto parts stores, and offer a good assortment of terminals and heat-shrink tubing.

10. Aquarium-grade silicone sealant is handy to have for emergency repair of the boat’s drinking water plumbing. If it won’t harm fish, it won’t harm you either!

11. Thread locking compound (Loctite) keeps bolts and nuts from vibrating loose and is highly useful stuff to have around.

12. Spare engine-cooling system thermostats, and the gaskets for them, are important to have in case of overheating.

(Some of this material excerpted from “PRACTICAL BOAT MECHANICS”, by Ben L. Evridge, to be published this fall.)