The past summer I had the opportunity to cruise from Petersburg, AK to Port Townsend aboard the M/V WESTWARD. Built in 1924 for Alaska adventure cruising, she still is powered by her original 1923 motor. She idles at 110 RPM and revs up to all of 275 rpm at around 7.2 knots average. A that speed the motor sounds like a heart beat and the world goes by at an altogether pleasing speed. It was a lovely, rare and probably never to be repeated experience.
It did leave me with the sense that our experience on the water is as related to the vessel as to the mode of power. The most interesting boats have a very special character, and that character affects what we experience as we travel on them.
Very true. The faster the engine spins in a boat, the less enjoyable the ride.
Just out of curiosity, how much does that 275 RPM engine weigh? I'm guessing it's in the tons.
I have no idea how much the engine weighs but the Atlas is immense is size and mass.
It's a 1923 Atlas Imperial. The boat was launched in �24 but as you can see, they kind of had to build the boat around it, says present day engineer John Williams.
Keeping the Atlas going is a little different than operating a modern diesel. There are 118 spots on the engine that have to be hand oiled every 2 hours, for example, but Williams is comfortable relying on the old engine even in the Alaska bush.
It's been doing it for 80 years, I figure it's got a couple left in it. It's lasted better than I have. It's at idle now, it idles at 125 and winds out at a screaming 285 but it's good enough to push this boat at 8 knots and only burns about 4 gallons per hour doing it so it's real efficient.
Here's a link to a recently produced video on the history of the WESTWARD.