In The News . . .

PT658 Progress Update 2005 - February, 2006

There have been numerous accomplishments on the PT658 in the last year. The overall appearance of the boat has changed quite a bit since the last update. Focusing on the historic restoration of the PT boat and also trying to include modern safety systems has been the overall thrust of all members of the restoration crew.

First of all, there have been several changes made in the engine room. All three of the Holley 1685F carburetors were sent to a professional carb rebuilder in Texas and were rebuilt to spec. We also obtained an authentic carburetor technical manual to go along with our newly rebuilt and mounted carbs. We also have a spare carb that is being inspected and rebuilt as time permits.

Next comes the story of the exhaust pipes for the engines. All except for one of the original pipes from WW2 were missing when the boat was obtained. The original system used a bent copper 5 inch diameter pipe covered with a rubber hose with a water cooling path between the pipe and the hose. These specialized pipes were no longer available to us when we put the the 3 Packard engines into the boat. We installed each engine with a set of single wall 6 inch diameter stainless steel corrugated exhaust hose that was covered with 2 inch fiberglass padding. This arrangement worked for almost 6 months before we found a problem. As we ran the engines, the fiberglass got so hot it melted into solid glass crystals and stopped being an insulator. The hoses also vibrated and caused fiberglass particles to fill the engine room during operation. It was time for a change! Next we removed the fiberglass and replaced it with a thick layer of “quartz wool” insulation, and covered it with plastered lagging cloth. This material worked very well at insulating the corrugated steel hose, it also eliminated the airborne particle problem. However, the quartz wool worked so well that the steel hose itself now got so hot internally that the exhaust melted through the steel hose. We measured the temp with a pyrometer and it was over 600 degrees! Surely there must be something that will work for these engines. I saw a WW2 movie that shows Navy aircraft taking off at night from an aircraft carrier and you can see flames shooting out of their exhaust pipes. After several meetings and some free engineering courtesy of Bob Alton, we came up with a better solution. We would create replicas of the original water-cooled pipes, except instead of copper, they will be made from solid wall stainless steel. As of the writing of this, the engine room crew has already installed the two new exhaust pipes onto the Port engine. Each of these new pipes is a water-cooled 5 inch diameter stainless pipe contained within a 6 inch exhaust-grade rubber hose with a spiral water cooling path between the inside of the hose and the outside of the pipe. We tested the new exhaust pipes recently and the highest temperature we could read was a comfortable 85 degrees. Next week we will be installing new pipes on the Starboard engine, and then the center engine soon after that. Hopefully this will solve our exhaust problems once and for all.

Next down in the engine room, Tom Cates has installed a new 50 amp DC generator on the Center engine. A custom made spline shaft had to be manufactured before the new generator could be mounted to the engine. It was connected recently and seems to be working fine. Tom Cates also obtained a new solid state voltage regulator for the Port engine DC generator, so it should be up and working pretty soon. We can’t test the engine-mounted generators unless we are underway, so we will have to wait until then to see if these new improvements work. Tom also removed the starter motor from the Starboard engine and had it rebuilt at a local starter rebuild shop. We will test it as soon as the exhaust is repaired.

Also, the Port engine always seemed to emit black smoke whenever we increased RPMs underway. Further investigation showed a bad supercharger bearing that was also leaking oil into the intake manifold. Bob Alton, Dan Conway, Bob Herbst, Ken Nissen and Tom Cates were instrumental in replacing these bearings and replacing the high speed oil seal. Operational tests of the engine since have shown no smoke even at higher RPMs.

Tom Cates also installed more fire equipment throughout the boat. We now have a functional fire alarm with a smoke and heat detector system, as well as an automatic CO2 flooding system in both the engine room and the gas tank compartment. The fire alarm when activated, will automatically call our predetermined telephone number as well. Tom also installed manual fire pulls topside to augment our automatic system. Ron Moran also gave safety training to all crew members on how to operate these new systems. Soon we will be installing a new “High Water Level in the Bilges” alarm. Bob Alton already has it and will be installing it this week in the Officers Stateroom.

More restoration has been done in the chartroom, the crews quarters and topside in the last 12 months. We have obtained two 20mm Oerlikon cannons and have restored them and mounted them on the deck. Big thanks to Chuck Kellogg and his guys at Orbitz who helped repair and manufacture the guns and their gun mounts. Ron Moran also did a lot of work on the 40mm Bofors cannon, including repair of the elevating mechanism and making authentic gun sights from scratch. Ron manufactured these gun sights using only photographs of the real thing during the war. Wally Boerger manufactured a Torpedo aiming device (Is-Was) from wood in the same way, by looking at a drawing in a book. Ron Moran and Bob Alton have also done a lot of work on the 20mm cannons, rebuilding the magazines and getting all the little details correct. We obtained a really good 20mm technical manual that is worth its weight in gold since it shows us a lot of the details we need to see. Ron Moran also installed stanchions and lifelines on the bow, in order to prevent crew from falling over the side. They look really good, too.

Jerry Gilmartin and Ron Moran have continued to improve the authentic appearance of the Chart room. Jerry made and installed a Navigational Chart board, and Ron fixed the Raytheon SO3 Radar and Collins TCS Radio equipment, complete with authentic wiring details. Jerry also wired the Power Supply unit in the wardroom for the radar. Jerry also installed a working PA system complete with speakers, amplifier and music. During the summer we obtained a magnetic compass and had it calibrated by Ed Jepsen, (of Peter Tare) who came up from San Francisco Bay area in order to swing the boat and adjust our compass.

Wally Boerger, Ray Noble, Dale Billups, Tom, Ron, Jerry and others have worked on completing the restoration in the Officers Stateroom and the Crews Quarters. The CO’s bunk, desk and day couch has been manufactured from original drawings and reinstalled. The originals all had burned during the fire. New seat cushions for the Crews Quarters and Wardroom were made and installed by Tom. New blue bunk curtains were made and installed by Jerry. Original Navy mattresses and mattress covers were obtained and installed by Tom and Jerry. Wally, Ron, Jerry and Ray manufactured and installed new wooden slats in the CO’s and XO’s hanging closets, and in all of the crews lockers making them functional again. The maroon trim around all of the bunks and hatches was painted expertly by George Smolcic. George also polished all of the DC lighting fixtures glass globes to where they are clear again after 35 years of dirt and stains. Tom got the fresh water pump and storage tank to supply the Galley sink and the officers head installed and working. The galley stove and refrigerator were totally rebuilt to working order by Tom. Dale and Tom got the galley sink fixed so it does not leak anymore. Jerry got the crews electric fans working. Ray repainted the crews quarters deck to repair the wear that happened over the summer. Tom and Ray also repainted the main deck, and established a “standard paint colors” list for future reference when repainting the boat and its components.

Last but not least, we have just been informed that we will be able to obtain 3 new Mk 13 torpedoes as soon as mid-March, and will be working on restoring and repainting them and then installing them on the boat in the upcoming months. The PT658 originally had 4 torpedoes, and these will complete the set. We will need to have the 2 additional torpedo mounting/launching racks installed before placing the “new” torpedoes on the boat.

We also are currently working on building some sort of boathouse for the PT boat. More to come on that later as the work is approved and starts in earnest. We have already completed some housekeeping items such as clearing off the log floats of 10 years worth of debris and cast off wood and pipes. These logs may become useful to us in building a boathouse, so we needed to clear them off. Stay tuned to the website for future updates to the progress of PT658.

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