Friday, April 3, 2009

A New Bottom For Becky Thatcher

Derecktor Shipyard workers fitting up new hull bottom.
EST&R photo by Wayne Hebert
Those of us who work our locomotives and cars as they come in and out of the Engine House seldom think of the other major piece of equipment the Company operates: m/v "Becky Thatcher" our 69 foot long, 237 person capacity riverboat which usually lives at our dock at Deep River.
Built in 1961 at Ft. Lauderdale, FL, by Captain Albert Starts; the boat was originally named "Southern Belle". It came north in the 1970s' and has handled the service out of Deep River ever since. When our former sister company, Deep River Navigation, ceased operation after the 2003 season, we acquired the "Becky" along with a highly competent crew (a good thing as we knew nothing about boats).
Since "Becky" operates in fresh water, the Coast Guard regulations call for it to be hauled out of the water for inspection every 5 years. This time around, we chose Dereckor Shipyard at Bridgeport, CT to do the work. A rather modern yard, they use a huge carry lift machine to pick vessels out of the water and move them around their yard rather than the traditional "drydock" or "marine railway".
A typical Coast Guard inspection includes "UT" (ultra sonic) testing to determine the thickness of the hull. After testing we found that it was going to cost nearly the same amount to patch sections of the hull as to replace the entire bottom of the boat. So, we chose the later, even though the work would take longer and possibly wouldn't be done until after our opening day.
What to do! Well, a couple of things. Our opening weekend is usually "Neighbor Appreciation Days" (free tickets for residents of towns along our line). This year we'll operate three trips per day (May 2nd and 3rd) with steam power from Essex all the way to Haddam (some of this trackage seldom sees steam) making all station stops along the way. The balance of the month (or until "Becky" is finished) our riverboat service will use m/v"Martha Washington" which we have leased from Boston Harbor Cruises.
Meanwhile, Paul Horgan and Wayne Hebert have been assisting EST&R Port Engineer Charlie Pike with removing wiring and piping to facilitate the installation of the new 5/16" steel bottom. They also have removed sections of the drive shaft for Bill Wolf to repair here at the Engine House.