By John Palmer
Modern recreational boats like the many you see on Lake Minnetonka are usually made of fiberglass or some other long-lasting plastic that requires very little maintenance to stay looking fresh. Modern engines and hardware are made of non-corroding, long-wearing materials and can go for years without much worry. But now take a look at some of those beautiful old “wood boats” that you also often see out on the lake, sedately cruising by. To stay looking pristine, they need a lot of work, often requiring a complete new finish every few years and extensive care to prevent corrosion and wear. Minnehaha is one in that class – in spades! She looks fresh and new every summer when you take your annual ride, but it takes a long Minnesota winter of work to keep her in that condition. Few except those hardy souls who spend Saturdays repairing, adjusting, sanding and painting can appreciate the work it takes to keep her “ship shape.”
So what really happened between October 9 when Minnehaha was towed from Niccum’s Landing to the “Barn” and May 7, when she made the return journey to begin her 2011 sailing season? Well, so much was done in those seven months that it isn’t even possible to describe it all. However, a few of the most important items included a complete inspection and overhaul of the boiler and all its associated parts (a task which is done every two years). Also in this year’s investment was a complete re-coating of the refractory lining, replacement of many gaskets, studs and bolts, plus replacement of the burner nozzles and a full tune up. The engine itself, although it ran well all summer, was completely torn down and carefully inspected. Bearings were adjusted, packings were replaced, and everything was adjusted for smooth operation.
Another major effort was a complete sanding and refinishing of the hull. This included a most challenging effort to repaint the black “waterline” which runs the entire length of the vessel. How can you make a perfectly straight line on a very curved hull while inside a narrow barn? Well, our engineers figured out a way – just take a good look on your next trip!
Finally, one of the most significant repairs was required right after the spring launch when the compressed natural gas (CNG) compressor failed. This device boosts the CNG pressure at the dockside supply to the 3000 PSI needed to operate the gas ignition system for the boiler. A new one would have cost $5,500 (which was beyond our budget), so the decision was made to convert the burners to direct spark ignition. This resulted in greatly improved reliability.
And that’s not all – an incomplete summary of tasks included:
- Refinished and polished the new water barrel
- Repaired steam pipe insulation
- Repaired the broken life jacket storage bin lid
- Installed a new external alarm system
- Built a new wooden trash bin
- Flushed and cleaned the hull interior
- Polished and coated all brass fittings
- Repaired steam whistle leaks
- Upgraded the motor overload protection system
- Upgraded the “Fyreboy” fire suppression system
- Inspected and repaired all bilge pumps
- Rebuilt the original spotlight on the top deck
- Recharged and tested the hydraulic steering system
Who are the people that get all of this done? They are a large group of dedicated volunteers who work as a team, donating their time and skills every Saturday morning in the winter. The only cost to the MLM is that of materials, and even some of those are donated. It wouldn’t be fair to try and list the names as someone would surely be left out. However, the next time you marvel at the condition of Minnehaha, remember that she remains beautiful only through the labor of love provided by many selfless volunteers.