What started out to be a rather uneventful steaming season for the CAPTAIN BELL changed on the first of August, 2005

I was getting the boat ready to trailer it to the steam meet in Port Angeles, Washington . We had everything ready; brass polished, boat cleaned and the only thing that remained was to pop it in the water for a sea trial - just to make sure it still floated and would actually run after nearly a year on the trailer. I needed to refuel, and rather than doing that 5-gallons at a time, I decided to trailer the boat three miles over to the diesel pump and fill her up. The road out to the highway is rather steep as it passes our house. As soon as I leave the driveway, I'm headed downhill. We're not exactly certain about what happened, but evidently while traveling downhill, the boat slid forward on the trailer just enough to disengage the winch hook. I came to the bottom of the street, pulled out onto the highway and accelerated. With nothing to hold the boat on the trailer, (I hadn't bothered to fasten the safety chain - after all, it was only a three mile trip) the boat just slid off the rear of the trailer and landed heavily in the middle of Highway 101. boat off trailer There is nothing - and I mean NOTHING - quite like the feeling of despair when you hear a crash, look in the rear-view mirror and see an empty trailer - and behind it - your boat sitting atilt in the middle of the road! I circled the accident scene in utter denial - "NO - THIS REALLY DIDN'T HAPPEN!! - before I accepted reality and reluctantly called for a tow truck. After two hours of frustration, (for tow truck operators, miles of trapped tourists on 101 and an obviously distressed skipper) the boat was back on the trailer and had been safely returned to the boat barn.

Now, we're looking at extensive repairs. Until we get her into the boat yard and do a thorough examination, we won't know how significant the damage is. But it's certain the keel was damaged to the point of replacement. As the keel laid over, it took the rudder with it and although that is severely displaced, it looks to be repairable. The propeller shaft (which runs through the keel) is understandably reluctant to turn and we have yet to see if the engine was affected by the impact to the shaft.

Sometime around the end of September or the first of October, we'll tow her to Everett, Washington and leave her in the capable hands of Dan Martin at Everett Engineering. Between his shop and the boatyard next door, they'll evaluate and repair as necessary (and as funds allow!) I'll try to keep this page updated with progress on her repair.  


October 25

On September 30th, we took the boat to Everett and left it with Tom Young at Everett Shipyard. The facility is located right next door to Everett Engineering (or it was when this was written. Everett Engineering has since relocated to a larger facility), so all of the repairs are being done at one stop. I haven't seen the boat since we left her up there, but I've had progress reports. The boiler and engine have been removed to allow access to the keel fastenings. The keel was lagged through the keelson from the inside and the boiler and engine had to come out to allow access to the keel fasteners. A new keel is being fashioned and installed, and should last at least another 44 years (if I don't park it in the middle of the highway again). The hull is being repaired at the many positions where the skin pulled away from the ribs and I'm looking forward to no leaks when I first launch each spring! The boiler and engine are next door at Dan's shop. As long as they are out of the boat, we'll spring for a thorough tune-up and check-up for both of them as well. They were both overdue for such an inspection anyway, so this is the perfect time.

I hope to get up to Everett to check things out on the first of November. I'll update after that.  


November 4

hull minus keel We drove up to Everett to check on the status of the boat repairs this week. Not a whole lot has been happening. Dan has been off on vacation, and the rest of his shop has been busy on other projects, so nothing has happened with the boiler. They say they will get to it soon and will do a thorough evaluation of the entire boiler. We have three options: 1 - To just put it back in the boat the way it is; 2 - to make necessary repairs (re-tubing, etc); and 3 - to completely replace the boiler with one off the shelf at Everett Engineering. My wife is campaigning for the third option, mainly because she'd like the extra room on board that the new (smaller and more effecient) boiler would give us. I'm hoping for option two, because that could be only half as much money as a replacement. As far as I'm concerned, option one is NOT jan and brad an option.
No one really knew where the engine was. We asked, but it has sort of disappeared. I'm guessing that Andrew Van Luenen has taken it up to his shop at Arlington to look at it. He told me he would do that if he had time, and the fact that no one can find the thing now leads me to think (hope) that's where it is. I know - I could call and check, but I'm not too concerned about it.
Both the rudder and the prop shaft are also at Everett Engineering to be repaired. Again, I'm not too concerned about the progress on those projects - they'll be done in time to be re-installed.
After getting the report at Everett Engineering, we walked next door to interior Everett Shipyard to check on the hull. They have it up on stands ready for repairs, but they were waiting until the insurance company gave them the word that the job would be covered. They were genuinely surprised when we told them that not only had the insurance company okayed the project - but that we had already received the check! Everything was fine - except that no one had told them! NOW I think they'll get serious about starting the work! As I said, the boiler and engine are out of the hull and the keel has been removed. A new piece of African Iroko has been ordered and will become the new keel. The biggest job is going to be getting the skin re-attached to the frame. As you can see from the photos, the drop from the trailer opened the hull at the seams. The stains on the hull below the waterline are spots where we believe things have come undone. There was evidently some oily water in the bilge at the time of the accident, and those stains are where the water on the inside leaked out and stained the hull. And of course, if the water on the inside can come out...then it stands to reason that water on the outside will have no problem getting in! So all of those seams have to be re-sealed.
I'm hoping to get back up there in another month to check on her again. Another update will be posted after that.  


November 15

I spoke to Dan Martin on the phone today, and things are coming along nicely. He was actually working on the boiler when I called, so he was able to give me an "up-to-the-minute" report. The good news is that the boiler is basically sound. The only problem is in the tubes (a bit thin in spots) and he thinks we can re-tube it and gain some efficiency. The old tubes look to be about a 10-gauge, and he'll replace them with something slightly thinner, probably a 12. That should last as long as I need it to, and will allow a better heat transfer in the fire-tube boiler. Other than that, there's nothing really that needs to be done.
Dan has looked at the dynamics of the craft and feels that it would be better served by a prop with more pitch. This prop has 28" of pitch, and we may look at going to something like 32". It should result in more power in the water and faster hull speed through the water. I do have a spare propeller, so I may take it in to the prop shop in Portland and see what can be done.
Dan still doesn't know where the engine is, but has promised to track it down. He also thought it might be at Andrew's, so with both of us thinking that, I'm reasonably confident that it's there!
He also reported that the boat shop next door is working on the hull, and making good progress on that repair.
I still hope to get back up to Everett in a couple of weeks to check on the project.

December 19th

I still haven't been able to get back up to Everett to check on the status of the repairs. We've either had holidays, work conflicts or bad weather to interrupt our plans. good lookin' engine But we did get some good news. We know where the engine is. Andrew Van Luenen did actually have it at his place and look what a great job he did with it! Actually, most of what you see here is cosmetic, but is indicative of the kind of work he does. He told me he took the whole engine apart and machined or replaced everything that wasn't up to standard. He found enough worn parts to more than account for the "mystery knock" that the engine has had for years. I say, "mystery knock" because, in the past, all of our attempts to find and cure it have failed. This repair should take care of that problem. I haven't seen anything other than the photos, but I know the quality of work done by AVL and I'm really excited to see the finished product.
I haven't talked with Everett Engineering or Everett Shipyard to check on the status of the boiler and the hull lately. I missed my window to get up there to check on those things when we were hit with an ice storm over the weekend. Now, with the holidays coming up, it will probably be after the New Year before I make the trip up there. More then.

January 9th

We were finally able to get away and check out the repairs last weekend. Our first stop was at Andrew Van Luenen's shop at Arlington, Washington. As reported above, he has finished the engine and it's ready to go back in the boat. It was great to see the actual engine, and not just a photo.
When we left AVL, we headed back to Everett and stopped in to take a look at the boiler at Everett Engineering. It's still in pieces...the new tubes have been formed, and are ready to be rolled in, but nothing has happened on it for a while. Jerry has been overseeing the job, and assures me they'll be working on it again this week. While we were there, TV star Robert Dessert ("Monster Garage" steamboat project on the Discovery Channel in October) took us next door to see the hull. After the fall onto the highway, the hull was the one thing I was really concerned about, and as it turns out, the one thing I didn't need to worry about at all! They had just completed the restoration work and it looks like a brand new boat! The keel IS brand new, the rudder and the prop shafts have been straightened and replaced, and of course in repairing the damage to the hull itself, many layers of ancient bottom paint have been stripped away and a new coat has been applied. The hull is as smooth as the proverbial baby's bottom and even if we were making no other changes, just the lack of friction through the water will add a knot or two to her speed!
A quick note here about the propeller. As I said before, I'm now running an 18 x 28. Dan would like to see that pitch go to 32". I spoke to a couple of prop shops in the Portland area and none were anxious to re-form an existing prop to that configuration. They were afraid of breaking it and - frankly - didn't see the advantage of having that much pitch. On the other hand, all of those I have talked with that know steamboats have no problem with that much pitch at all! So, they're going to work with a metalsmith near their shop and see if he can rework the 28 up to 32 without snapping a prop blade. (Follow-up: NO ONE is willing to try to take a 28 up to 32 inches. So unless I can locate an appropriately-sized prop, nothing will change in that department).
So, we're two down and one more to go. The engine and hull are ready, and the boiler has only a couple of weeks work remaining (if they were able to work straight through on it, which they aren't). Then comes putting everything back together and running sea trials up there before it comes back here. I told them I'd like to have it by April, and I think they'll make it.
I don't know if there's any reason to go back up there before she's ready to come home, unless I can do something to help with re-plumbing or sea trials. I imagine the next chapter in this saga will be about the last.

April 23, 2006

Well, I was hoping this was going to be the final chapter in this story, but I guess we're not quite ready to wrap it up yet.
When I talked to Dan Martin last week, he told me the boat was back together and ready to go. Since we were already planning a trip to Andrew Van Luenen's place, we decided we'd come up a day early and help with a "hot test" of the boat. We spent all day Friday at Everett Engineering tightening the last of the connections and getting a head of steam on the boiler. But as we built more and more steam pressure, more and more steam began escaping from more and more fittings on the boiler. Too many loose connections - some of which will require tightening after the rig cools down. We went ahead and took her up to working pressure and ran the engine - steam leaks and all. It seems to run real sweet! Hard to say with as little as we ran it, but it may be running better than it has in years! We decided to sling the boat into the river and run it in the water. After that test, it was apparent that it wasn't ready to come home just yet and we came up with the following "punch list".
1 - Too many steam leaks. Things just need to be tightened up a little more.
2 - There's a problem with the fuel flow. We had 20 gallons of fuel in the bow tank, but the day tank will barely show fuel in the sight glass. The sight glass should show full. Something's blocking fuel flow somewhere.
3 - No vacuum. The vacuum pump seems to be working, but there's no vacuum in the system and the engine is laboring while trying to run against that.
4 - The mechanical feed water pump isn't working. We tried everything we could think of, and the Hypro pump still wouldn't work.
5 - The new hand feedwater pump didn't get installed. If they don't install it up there, I can do it after we get the boat home, but if it had been installed, we would have been able to use it to replenish the boiler while we were testing things.
6 - The injector wasn't working - so we couldn't use that for feedwater either. I don't think there's a problem with the injector, but there may be a faulty check valve in that system.

Although I'm disappointed that we weren't able to bring her home, I'm very pleased with the progress so far. In reality, we needed to get her under steam to test her out and considering the extent of the work that has been done, a few more days to wrap things up isn't unrealistic.
I can't say enough about the work that has been done by Everett Engineering, Everett Shipyard and AVL. They've all done a first-class job and - as I said - I'm very pleased.
I'm still hoping to have her back in Wheeler in May and in the water by June.

June 1, 2006

Well, I made it on schedule! I went to Everett on the 30th, and came back to Wheeler with the boat on the 31st! It was eight months getting repaired, but it was worth every minute as it's going to be as good as new. They went through the checklist, tightened and sealed the connections, cleaned up a dirty fuel system, repaired a leak in the vacuum pump and installed the new hand feedwater pump. This is a busy month, but I'll find time to get it cleaned up and re-mount the canopy. Then, she'll go back in the water. I'll finish this page with a report on the "new" boat and a picture.

Epilogue: canopy With help from some very good friends, the canopy was lowered back on the boat and she was ready to go back in the water for the first time in nearly two years. While we were getting her ready for the July 4th parade, we steamed her up on the trailer and I was impressed with how quickly we had pressure. After the parade, we trailered her down to the river (with safety chains fore and aft!) and launched. A quick run to check her out satisfied me that she was indeed running better than she had in years. Later in the season, I was able to confirm that observation and since that time, she has been steaming with no more than the usual little idiosyncrasies that a steamer will develop. My thanks again to Dan Martin, Andrew Van Luenen, Bob Dessert and the entire crew in Everett for the fantastic job they did to get CAPTAIN BELL back to normal!  


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