Let’s start with a whole pile of catch up.
Sabino’s canopy went on back in June, so here’s a little walk down memory lane of all the work it took to get there.
Taking the canopy off back in 2014.
Some of the initial prep work was done outside while Sabino was in the main shop. Roger and others carefully took off the covering boards, metal strips that held the canvas, and the fragile half round trim. Everything was carefully labeled and stored for later use or replacement.
Many of the canopy posts were getting tired and developing areas of rot, so Trev and Sean set about replacing or repairing them.
Trev got our large lathe running to make up a number of replacement posts.
This is a beautiful old machine from the days when power was supplied through spinning overhead shafts. Shop tools would connect to these shafts via long leather belts. Our lathe has an electric motor powering the overhead shaft, but the lathe speed is still determined by setting the leather drive belt on graduated wooden wheels.
Early stages of turning.
Using sandpaper to smooth out the spinning post.
Cutting in the details.
With mortises cut to notch into the rail, and varnish on the upper sections.
Some of the posts were in good shape, but still needed refinishing.
Others had areas of rot at their bases. Rather than replace the entire post, Sean would scarf in a new lower section.
This included fashioning new tenons by hand. These tenons lock the base of the mast into holes in the deck.
Repaired post above, with damaged post ready for work below.
Once Sabino moved out of the shop, the canopy was moved in and work began on it in earnest. The canvas was stripped off of the top, revealing cypress boards in surprisingly good condition.
Just a few issues here and there.
The margins were another story. Lots of rot around the perimeter.
Removing the trim boards often exposed even deeper issues.
A number of curved stern trim needed to be replaced. Layers of thinner wood were laminated in a form to replace them.
Some deck beams had to be replaced, so they were removed and their old screw holes filled with hundreds of small wooden pegs.
The canvas on top of the canopy has brass strips that cover and hold down the seams. There is a small groove that is let into the cypress top to receive these strips. Trev routs out these grooves using a plywood guide tacked down on the canopy.
Here’s a strip next to the routed slot.
All the while that this work up top has been going on, Noah, Mark, and others have been prepping and varnishing the underside of the canopy. It looks amazing.
With all the repair and prep work done, it’s time to finalize the top surface and apply the canvas. The top is sanded smooth, vacuumed and rinsed off, and sanded again to make sure the surface is smooth and fair.
The canvas is laid out in sections and bedded in Phenoseal. The traditional way to bed canvas is in white lead paste, but we didn’t go that route for obvious reasons… The section on the left has just been completed.
Kraft paper is taped all along the edges to protect the sides from errant Phenoseal.
The edges are left long. They will be trimmed later after everything has set up.
As work progresses, the canopy camber is checked while the bedding is still damp. The canvas / bedding combination tends to lock in the shape of the canopy, so we want to make sure it the shape is correct throughout the whole process.
Walt observes as Trev and Noah smooth the canvas on top of the layer of Phenoseal.
Section by section
Final smoothing… and done.
The canvas has been painted and Noah and Trev now are installing the brass strips.
The trim around the smoke stack is copied and replaced with new wood.
The cradle for the lifeboat has been fixed up, and the riggers have installed new leather pads.
New covering boards go on over the top edge of the canvas.
Half round trim goes on along the top edge of the margin boards.
Special hollow clamping pads are made up to hold the trim in place for fastening.
And finally, on June 16th 2017, we carefully lifted the canopy up and out of the shop with a pair of forklifts.
(No photos of the crane lift as I was helping on this bit) and… voila!
The canopy was temporarily supported by scaffolding until the posts could all be fit into place.
Next up, we’ll zip through the the other milestones.
The new boiler was delivered back in March. While the interior was new, the external cladding was original. This had to be installed with new fire brick and heat proof gaskets.
The boiler was installed a week before the canopy (since the opening that provides access to the engine room is covered by the canopy).
But, before the boiler goes in, the water tank had be be installed through the same opening.
It slides up beneath the foredeck.
Now we can get to the boiler!
Next up, the pilot house.
And with the temporary cover over the soft patch (which in turn covers the engine room access from the upper deck), the engineers work on completing the engine work.
The engine was installed on the day that the canopy went in. Best to maximize the use of the crane whenever possible.
The engine seems quite small when taken out of context!
Next, the top of the boiler and the transition to the smoke stack.
And lastly, the soft patch and it’s supporting beams were installed above the engine room. These shouldn’t come out for a very long time.
Next comes the stack.
Throughout June and July it’s been a whirlwind of details.
The riggers tied Hundreds of lashings to install the netting.
The sweep of the forward railing and net were adjusted up ever so slightly to make a more pleasing and correct curve.
Lots of detail painting.
Her forward name board has been repainted. Jamie installed it today!
It’s a small thing with big effect.
Wit has been polishing brass.
Walt installed the forward flag halyard.
There are many many more things as well.
The engineers have been working like crazy to fit and install the miles of piping that make everything run safely
The charging and battery system has been upgraded.
All new wiring has been run throughout the vessel to bring her up to modern code.
New navigation and announcement electronics.
New safety sensors and alarm systems throughout the vessel.
The Coast Guard and a professional steam ship expert supervised as the boiler was fired up and all the pressure relief valves were tested. With this done, it was finally time to do a sea trial.
Loading coal for the boiler.
Starting the fire with newspaper and wood.
Once that gets going, the coal is added. We were all impressed at how clean she burns.
Ed vents some steam. Have I mentioned that this is happening during the hottest week of the year?? The temperatures in the engine room are brutal.
We affixed a number of work boats alongside Sabino to help move her to her normal dock (she’s been by the shipyard while we’ve been working on her), but the hope was that she’d be able to get there literally under her own steam.
Getting the engine going for the first time is an art. Ed and Jason worked carefully and steadily, opening and closing valves, moving the flywheel by hand, shifting the steam pressure carefully. It was not like watching a mechanic turn the ignition key until the engine finally cranks up. It was more like piano tuners carefully sneaking up on just the right balance of tension across a whole network of strings. Here are some of the early attempts.
And then, Ed got it just right.
Once she found her groove, she settled right in.
And with a push off from the work boats, Sabino at last steamed down the river entirely under her own power.
It was a beautiful day and a successful sea trial. There’s still more to be done before she’s ready to take passengers down river, but compared to everything that’s gone before, it all looks like fiddly work.
Looking forward to seeing you all on the river!!