Saturday, July 1, 2017

Outside: "That's pretty." (Inside: What the hell am I looking at?)

The former lobsterman in me still has a very soft spot for north Atlantic style North American lobster boats. I just love the design of them- they're near-perfect for what they are and what they do, which is a rare thing for boats, which are generally a series of compromises between what people think they want and what is likely to get them home in one piece given the nature of the boat and the ocean.

 A lobsterman with a new boat is rightfully more proud than a hen with a new egg. Even the most taciturn and dour men often unsmilingly but unbegrudgingly offer tours of their new boat when a new boat is to be had. Generally speaking, it's something that only happens a couple of times in a lifetime, and given the ruinous cost and effort involved, it's right to be proud.

 Today's lobstermen have a whole dinner menu of engines to choose from, and most often in New England, new boats are coming out with a whole hell of a lot of engine. In the Canadian maritimes, it's still common enough to see a new boat (and their boats are often larger, far beamier and massively built squat things) with a simple engine, small by todays' standards, perhaps 1/4 of the horsepower of a smaller, lighter Maine-built boat.

      Marine diesels often enough were distinguished mostly by their color. Cat yellow, Detroit green, Cummins off-white, Lehman red, sometimes. It's damn near a ritual to sit, stare down at the engine a few minutes, and comment on the placement, height relative to the deck, belt and pulleys, and of course, to take a minute and discuss the reduction gear. This is a time for quiet reflection, and while comments are often made, they are not required.

 Modern lobsterboats have all sorts of exotic diesel engines now, names that are unfamiliar and summon images of American Iron, orNorwegian fjords, maybe clouds of Asian engineers fussing over mass-produced perfection, or questions asked internally, like "who the hell makes that again? Mitsubishi or something? Why the hell don't they just use their regular name?"
  This is also the point when I realize how confusing new engines look compared to the old ones.

 2 weeks ago, aboard that awful floating torture chamber we were running while the HQ was in the shipyard, I was dealing with an overheating detroit diesel- a turbo'd 871, an engine that hasn't changed much since it was introduced in 1938. I knew what I was looking at. Overheating? Check the fluids, check the thermostat. Holy dogshit, it's running at 230 degrees, kick it out of gear and let it run at idle, cool off a bit. 10 minutes later, it's sitting pretty at 170 and can be shut down for service.
Engine, (1). Just add earmuffs. And oil. And some more oil. You'll die before the engine will.

 Compare and contrast this with the modern smaller, lighter engines we have in the pumps on board the HQ, vintage 2013. Same horsepower, but nowhere near the same torque, so there's no ass to speak of under a heavy load. More wires than a goddamned cable factory. Great, if we were running a ceiling fan and not trying to pump black oil with the viscosity of molasses. Overheating? Check the computer, check the sensors, check the thermostat, if you can frigging find it. The radiator hose gets routed back and forth like a plastic tube in a goddamn hamster cage. What's that smell? Dammit, did we melt the insulation off a wire again?  As for accessories and such, oh lord. There are... protuberances. What the hell am I looking at? Are those the injectors or sensors? Why the hell is the starter mounted right above the dipstick? Every time I check the oil, I worry about snapping off the goddamn dipstick as I try to get it into the hole while bending the shit out of it to get around the starter, the heater element plug, assorted wires running to...things... and a half-dozen other navigation hazards.

A modern engine about to be put into a lobsterboat. Note the black bonnet over the top of the engine. WHAT ARE THEY TRYING TO HIDE?

 Well, it's quieter, anyhow. Those Detroits are a touch noisy, and they fling oil about like an angry monkey armed with a thanksgiving dinner in his guts.  Our pump engines on the HQ do leak oil, like any diesel. After 5 years, there's a few drops come out over the course of the 350 hours between oil changes. Of course, they don't like to start when it's cold, even with a block heater running, and they cough and burp and fart for the first 5 minutes when they do start in the winter.

 Maybe I'm just getting to be an old fart.





Jess said...

I knew an old shrimper that loved his old Detroits. He said they wouldn't cavitate, even if they were rolling 45 degrees, but they had a tendency to "slobber". He finished the conversation with a caveat:

"When the stop slobbering, Son, you know you're about to have problems."

B. Henesey said...

If there is no oil under a Detroit, there is no oil in the Detroit!