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Shearwater

Shearwater appeared in my life in June of 2003.  The launch found me via EBay one evening.  We shall call it fate.  I purchased her in October of that year from a gentleman in California.  He was pleased, I was elated.

After about eight months of learning, fixing, tweaking, investigating, licensing, insuring, and testing, the first on-the-water sea trial occurred on Sept 18, 2004. Talk about one nervous owner!  All went well, mostly.  Twelve years later the learning curve still exists.

SHEARWATER

Shearwater is a steam-powered 16-ft launch.  We estimated she was built about 1900. The builder was The Phoenix Boat Company of Southampton, England.  She was built for salt-water service, a commercial harbor launch.  The construction suggests she was a small harbor tender with perimeter seating for the transport of seamen and probably the delivery of ship's provisions and supplies.  It has also been suggested that she may have served as a harbor pilot boat. She was designed for one operator who sits on the port side adjacent to the boiler and engine.  The wheel is also positioned on the port gunwale near the operator. The wheel and rudder are connected through a system of cables and pulleys.

 

 The lapstrake planks are fastened with copper boat nails and roves.  Ribs are spaced about 4-inches apart and are fastened to the planks with clenching nails.  A limited number of bronze screws secure the structural support members of the boiler and engine to the hull.  Because the craft was built for salt water duty, all fittings are either brass or bronze. The decking, seats, and the thwart are mahogany.  The stem and keel are oak.

SHEARWATER

The boiler is positioned amid ship with the engine close behind.  The boiler is a water-tube design and is heated by a single-nozzle burner.  Shearwater burns kerosene (today's jet fuel).  During operation the raw fuel passes through a coil of steel tubing which is heated by the burning fuel.  The kerosene is heated to a hot vapor for clean burning.  We try for a soot-free operation. The burner (for steam folks) is known as a Lune Valley design, English of course. During normal operation the boiler is held to a pressure range between 80 and 100 PSI.  At 80 PSI steam temperature is approximately 324°F.

SHEARWATER

The engine has two cylinders which act together of the same piston shaft, one over the other. Steam passes from one cylinder to the other in series before exiting the engine.  As with most steam engines, the design allows the steam to act on the pistons both downwards and upwards so that there are no wasted power strokes. In steam talk this feature is called double-acting.  So we have a double-acting, double expansion compound engine.  The valves for each cylinder are connected to the same valve rod.  The valve rod action is governed by a linkage assembly common to many engines called a Stevenson link, a reference to the inventor. The engine generates about 3 HP with 80 PSI steam.

SHEARWATER

Top speed of Shearwater is in the range of 4 to 5 knots.  Wave boarders need not apply.
The engine drives a 14-inch diameter screw.  Shaft rotation is in the range of 100 to 300 RPMs. The engine and prop shaft are directly connected through belts.  There is no clutch.  The engine and screw are reversed by manually changing the valve timing through the Stevenson link position.

Waste steam from the engine is condensed and recycled to a collecting box (hotwell). This feature is essential for salt water operation in order to conserve fresh water for the boiler. During operation the boiler feed-water pump draws water from the box.  The steam-water system is a closed system and required only a moderate amount of make-up water.

SHEARWATER

My knowledge of the boat's history goes back to the 1970s. According to previous owners, the craft was used in certain scenes in the 8-yr maritime TV saga The Onedin Line, a production of the BBC Television Network. I was told that some of the filming was conducted on Lake Luzerne in Switzerland. Shearwater was discovered in 1980 by the owner previous in Bern.  He bought it and imported Shearwater to the west coast.  

The craft has provided many enjoyable hours of care and operation.  It is mine to love and preserve for future generations. I wish Shearwater could tell stories.

SHEARWATER