The Story of Hathor (Continued)


In July, 2004, for a number of reasons, Bill Sills decided to leave the area and asked me if I would take care of HATHOR. I talked with my brother, Walter, and asked him if I could put HATHOR in one of his boathouses. He was willing to do that and became interested in the restoration project because of his earlier association with the boat. Bill Sills subsequently sold his boat house, where he had been living in one side and kept the boat in the other side, and departed for Idaho. He left the boat tied to my pier on an overcast mid-October weekend. I walked down to look at the boat, mindful of the old adage not to accept gifts that eat. Here was a gift that had a voracious appetite.

Wow! What have I gotten into? The first thing I would say is that restoration is not for the faint of heart. In my experience, an old boat will have problems that are not within the realm of human imagination, surprises that can only be discovered and properly remedied when every part is exposed to the light of day. And the only way to approach it is to take the boat completely apart. It is also expensive and time consuming. Time and money go in opposite directions. If you have more of one you can get by with less of the other.

Rebuilding cradle from 7-foot rail spacing to 6-foot spacing.
The first thing I had to do was remodel the cradle. The track spacing in the old McKee boathouse was 7 feet wide, and Walter's track (and the track in all the other remaining boathouses) was 6 feet. So my first effort was simply to narrow the existing cradle which was built in two sections, with each section having a wheel at each corner. What I found was that the existing design was flawed and as the cradle rolled along the tracks, if there was a high spot or a low spot in either of the tracks, one of the wheels would lift off the track and might not come back down on the track. So I knew I had to build a completely new cradle. I built a new steel cradle using 32-foot long steel beams (and a few pink ribbons) along each side and two-wheel trucks mounted on trunnion bearings at each corner. That seemed to work pretty well.

When the day came to haul the boat out of the water, it was late October and there was a chill in the air. I woke up before dawn with the adrenalin rush I'm sure all sailors experience when they are called to battle stations. The day started ominously with a heavy fog. I went down to the pier just as the sun was coming up optimistically expecting to start the engine. What a struggle. Starting fluid, extra batteries, long cranking, increasing smell of gasoline, finally it coughed, spit back at me, and rumbled to semblance of life on about three of the six cylinders. But amazingly, that was enough to drive the boat. My wife, Sue had been patiently waiting on the dock to see me off with increasing apprehension. At one point I recall her saying, "Can't we get someone who knows something?"

This button here starts the engine!
With the engine coughing and running fitfully, I put a life preserver on and moved the gear shift to reverse. As I backed out of the pier, I remember assuaging Sue's anxiety by telling her that everything was going to be OK. After I had gone a short distance, fog enveloped the boat completely and for a time I couldn't see either shore. Rarely have I felt so much alone as I pursued what I thought was a northerly course in the direction of Walter's boathouse on the north shore. Everything was shrouded in fog, the engine was barely alive, at once surging, then seeming to die, copious quantities of steam belching out of the exhaust, the hull slowly filling with water, and noxious oily exhaust smoke billowing up out of the engine hatches and ventilators. Later I found that both water and smoke came from a missing plug in the bottom of the muffler that sprayed exhaust and cooling water into the boat. The steam came because a number of cylinders had their water inlet plugged with zebra muscles, and the exhaust pipe was glowing almost red hot turning what cooling water that did manage to leak through into steam.

Departing in the early morning fog.
As I crossed the lake barely above idle speed, the engine seemed to stabilize in a consistent rumble and, if you could ignore the occasional volcano-like sputterings emanating from the engine room, it became relatively pleasant watching the sun rise and begin to burn the fog away. I was moved by the thought that it was the end of an era. Here I was the last captain of this once fine yacht, now needing attention everywhere the eye looked, rumbling along in the dawn's early light, taking it either to its end or to its reincarnation, I knew not which. I emerged from the fog about a half mile east of the boathouse in front of Mr. Otzen's place and, with a profound sense of relief and accomplishment, I turned west heading along the shore toward my brother's boathouse.

John attaching crane boom directly to the engine. The old Kohler electric generator is visible in the upper right of the picture.
Two of my sons, Andy and John, and a number of others were there waiting. The cradle was in the water ready to receive the boat, but first we had to remove the ballast. Everyone pitched in and in about 30 minutes we had carried ashore about 5 tons of broken railroad rail that had been placed in the bilge when the steam boiler was removed.

John guiding the engine up and out of the boat.

I had also arranged for John Reed of the Reed Pier Company to be there to remove the engine from HATHOR. I thought it would be difficult to take the engine out of the boat while the boat was in the boathouse, so I asked him to bring their crane barge that they used for pier work to lift it out. I quickly severed the electrical, water, fuel, exhaust lines, and unbolted the engine mounts and propeller shaft coupling. I think it took me less than half an hour to do that. In the meantime, the wind was picking up out of the south and we had large two-foot waves beginning to wash in.

The engine is out of the boat, and the front end of the barge is almost under water.

The engine was quite heavy, about 3,000 pounds, and it was almost more than the pier barge could lift, the front end of the barge going under water at one point and resting on the bottom of the lake. We did get the engine out with a lot of pushing and prying, and the crane set it on the beach.

Lathrop engine on the beach; is Walter getting interested?

With the engine out, we used a small motor boat to pull HATHOR out into the lake and attached long ropes to the various piers to pull and guide the boat into position over the submerged cradle. It was especially difficult because of the increasing wind and waves and we were unsure of just how the new cradle would work out. The tow truck we planned to use to pull the boat out had arrived and connected its cable to the cradle and began to pull the boat out of the water.

When the boat was about half way out, it unexpectedly slid back in the cradle about three feet. What I learned from this, and this was one of Mr. Sills' problems, was that the boat has some rocker (curve) to its keel which made it easy to slide in its cradle, and the boat needed to be securely held in place. In the future we need to use straps to hold the boat in its proper location on the cradle and prevent it from sliding backward when we launch or haul out.

Above: HATHOR being hauled from the water and entering Walter's boathouse.
Click on images for larger versions.
Friends arriving to help -- but how can they help with their hands in their pockets?
Striking the ensign -- how long will it be until it is hoisted again?