Newsletter Masthead - 34KB

[December 1998]


[February 1999]

Hello All!

The project is moving forward on several fronts now.  While the focus of attention was on the woodworkers before, now we have engine / bow ramp fit up / bilge systems / fuel / boat cradle / electrical and steering systems to worry over.  Our challenge is to proceed in a coordinated manner.  If we don't do so, one crew's work could prove to be another crew's stumbling block. To stay on track we planned a builder's meeting to discuss the coordination of systems installation.  Bruce Harris, Graham Haddock, Ed Daroca, Al Haydel, Joey Madere, George Benedetto, Earl Fredricks, Jimmy Dubuisson and myself met one evening at Bruce's house to hammer out the details.

Q. When to install the engine?                        A. Later, it makes the boat really small!

Q. When to install the bulkheads?                  A. NOW !

Q. When to install the bilge piping?                A. Now !

We worked through all of our issues and finalized a plan.  One of our challenges was the forward engine space bulkhead (wall).  Our problem was that further construction on the boat was dependent upon the bulkheads' installation.  If the bulkhead were in though, we wouldn't have the ability to hoist the engine in over the gunwales (sides) of the boat (about 7 ft high). You see, we do have an "A" frame on big casters which we WERE going to use to lift the engine in through the bow ramp opening (about 4 ft high).  THEN we were going to install the bulkhead after the engine was in.  The engine takes up so much space that we decided to hold off on installation for a while.  The bulkhead was installed and we will have to find another way to get that engine in.  Somewhere out there is a future Graham's sketch - 50KBfriend of the project who has a nice crane to make that over-the-gunwale lift.  By the way, our engine with marine gear (transmission) weighs about 3,500 lbs.  It is bigger than a bread box!  The "when to put the engine in" issue was interesting to me.  All of the "younger" guys (me included) wanted to put the engine in ASAP. None of us have ever been in an LCVP before.  Our only aspect of reference is from pictures and plans.  We wanted to SEE what it looked like!  The "seasoned" guys (Graham and Jimmy Dubuisson) were adamant that we would be screwing up really badly if we put the engine in before we finished up lots of other construction details.  Graham oversaw 14,000 of these boats, and Jimmy went to war in them AND ran shipyards for years.  These guys have "been there, done that".  The issue became a no brainer, we would wait.  Graham realized our enthusiam was born of inexperience with this craft, so he produced a sketch showing exactly how much space we would have to work in.  I have attached it to your newsletter.  It gets pretty tight for space, doesn't it?  I spent lots of time relating this to you for a reason.  We have worried over SO MANY issues like this for the duration of the project.  Our ability to overcome problems and confounding issues and resurrect forgotten techniques is a hallmark of the effort.

We are continuously reminded that the boat is deceptively simple.  It is amazing that so much detail and thought went into an "expendable" boat.  Mr. Higgins wanted our forces to have the best boat possible!  At our builders meeting we divided the various systems and assigned foremen to those systems.  Bruce retains oversight and coordination of construction, Joey is overseeing engine installation with Jimmy Dubuisson, Ed and Al are wrapping fabrication and installation of the forward and after engine space bulkheads, George and Joey installed the external chine plates for the steel lifting frames.  They were givan an able assist in this effort by Roy Asprion, Jim Weller and Jimmy Duckworth Senior.  Great job guys!  Joey and Bruce dealt with our engine alignment procedure, and fabricated/installed the engine foundations.  The foundations were critically fit to provide for the closest possible alignment tolerance.  We were probably too picky on this aspect of the construction, but what the heck...we're having FUN!  Joey will get us within + or - .001" I bet!

Fred Bordelon at PUMP DYNAMICS delivered our beautifully worked over HIGGINS TELESCOPIC STEERING SYSTEM and our hand bilge pump!  Fred had called me right after we started the project and said he had a machine shop and offered help if we needed it. When the telescopic steering system arrived from Virginia, it was an original but in BAD need of repair.  I called Fred and asked for the promised help and boy did he come through!  The best part of the story is that when Fred delivered the goods, Earl Fredricks was poring over the plans for the bilge and fuel systems (lotsa pipe).  Fred was curious and walked over to have a look.  Guess who is now helping us with pipes and fittings?  PUMP DYNAMICS and Fred Bordelon have become major friends of this project, and we are ever grateful.  Thanks for the help Fred!

Earl Fredricks is overseeing the layout and installation of the bilge systems (the boat has two systems. One is engine driven, one is hand pump) and the fuel system (two 90 gallon tanks).  Earl has his hands full with this responsibiliity!

Joey is about to pressure test the two fuel tanks prior to their installation.  If we have a leak, we have to know about it prior to installation.  The tanks will be installed very soon, probably before the next newsletter.  The wooden tank foundations are being built now.  To remind you, AVONDALE INDUSTRIES built the fuel tanks for us.  Thanks again!  

We had to have the cleats for the boat cast at a custom fabrication shop on the East coast.  The exact cleats are simply not to be found.  We scavenged the best cleat we could from the Irish Bayou wreck and sent it up to the good folks at Highwater Bronze.  They reconstructed our wreck cleat with modeling clay, and they have produced a good casting pattern.  The cleats will be cast iron, just like the originals and STRONG!

The Orleans Levee District loaned us their forklifts again so we could lift the boat and insert some rubber padding between the boat and the cradle.  Things went well, and now our hull is protected from damage.  Thank you again Al Spellman!

Harold Buchler Jr. and I met with Liz Williams from the UNO Foundation and Gordon Grant and Pat Brown of the Montgomery, Barnett Brown and Read law firm.  The topics to be discussed were boat ownership issues, establishment of a boat oversight committee, insurance and USCG documentation procedures (we will document the boat for coastwise service).  The sum and substance of it was that we had a great meeting.  The UNO Foundation will retain ownership of the PA33-21 and will host a "Higgins Boat Committee" which will be tasked with seeing to the long term best interests of the boat.  You can be sure that we will load our committee with the best and brightest folks we can muster.  Our committee will work hand in hand with the National D-Day Museum through the years to maintain the PA33-21.

Gordon Grant has had some very fruitful conversations with J&H Marsh & McLennan Insurance Brokers over our insurance needs.  I will be speaking with this firm about our coverage needs.  We are trying to figure out what "replacement cost" on the vessel is.  I'd like to know what a boat yard would charge for this, if they could even do it.  I have a figure in mind, but I'm waiting for input from some of the construction crew.  I'll let you know what we come up with!

Chris Labure of United Marine Surveying has volunteered to provide our Marine Survey needs.  Thanks Chris!  These services will come in handy as we near completion.  Herbert S. Hiller & Co. has agreed to provide our fire extinguisher needs.  Thanks Hiller and company!  They have promised us four CO2 portable fire extinguishers.  As you can imagine, we are VERY interested in fire protection.

Here is a list of some of our boat outfit needs.  If anyone has something they would like to loan or donate to the project, let me know!















Our plan is to construct a removable deck box to contain all of these items.  We've got to have this gear for the sea trial period (Summer 99), but none of it will be in the boat when it goes to the museum.

I am beginning to work on crewing issues for the boat.  Much more on this in a later edition, but I can assure you that the boat will be operated at all times with a qualified boat crew (including licensed captain).  With YEARS of effort invested and the safety of our volunteers and passengers FOREMOST in mind, our crews that operate this boat will be extremely professional and thoroughly trained.

I am ready to put out the call now for volunteers to get their CPR cards.  I think it is a good idea to have someone on the boat certified in CPR and / or first aid.  So, go get those cards!  Higgins boat aside, having a CPR card is a GOOD thing to have!

We were visited in early January by Major General Joe Ernst, USAR.  Major General Ernst is the commanding officer of the Army's 377th TAACOM unit stationed in New Orleans.  The General toured our plant and met lots of our volunteers.  The crew was honored that he came by, and they all shook his hand...but nobody stopped working!  In fact, Harold Buchler Jr. almost ran over the General with an engine foundation.  I this he'll be back soon, as he thought the boat and our CREW was great (watch it Harold Jr...)!

Karen Reisch reports a well attended christening committee meeting this month.  We welcome the able assistance of Trudy Heier on this committee.  Trudy is a civilian employee of the Coast Guard and works in the Force Optimization and Training branch at USCG ISC New Orleans.

Please join me in wishing Spencer McIlvaine a speedy recovery from his recent fall.  Mac hurt his hip, but he is on the mend now and promises that he will be back in our number ASAP.  He better hurry up, because we will be in need of his particular expertise very soon...machinery and electrical installation.  GET WELL MAC!!!

[December 1998]

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