Spite House

Today Tina, the woman I’m staying with, and I went for a bike ride in Alameda.  We went to the Spite House.  A spite house is a building constructed to irritate neighbors because of land disputes.  They often serve as obstructions blocking light or access to other buildings. Charles Froling in the early 1900s inherited a piece of property in Alameda where he planned to build his dream home.  The city of Alameda took a large portion of his land to build a road.  To spite the city and an unsympathetic neighbor,  he built a house 10 feet deep, 54 feet long and 20 feet high on the small strip of land he had left.  The house is ridiculous to see in person.

Fab Shop/ Electricians/ Prop Shop

This week I again moved around to many different departments.  On Monday I was in the Fabrication shop.  First I worked with Mike who taught me how to use the CNC plasma machine.  This is used to cut pieces out of metal plates to construct 3D objects.  It was really awesome to get a chance to work with this machine.  When I arrived, Mike was in the middle of cutting ribs out for a new rudder.  I was surprised how fast the machine cut the pieces; it only took about 15 minutes.  I was also surprised that the pieces are almost instantly cool enough to touch because water is used around the tip for cooling.  Either Mike or one of the engineers writes the program  for the machine using g code.   Mike taught me the basic code and drew a picture for me to duplicate using that code.  It was a rectangle with two rounded corners.  I also wrote a program to make a brace for the other project going on in the shop.  This project is top secret, and all I can say is it’s for an energy company. After using the CNC plasma machine, I learned how to use the wire feeder and welded the braces for the top secret project.  In the afternoon, we took a break from the project and modified a rod to open and close manhole covers.  We heated the metal rod with an oxy propalene torch and then hit it with a hammer to bend the metal into place.

On Tuesday I worked with Juan, another Fab shop guy, for the day.  He showed me how to grind the inside circles of the ribs, which we cut out the day before for the rudder, so they fit on the shaft.  Mike then showed me how he was aligning the ribs on the shaft.  After Juan and I laid out marks an inch apart on strips of metal.  These are the points where we applied pressure using another machine to bend the metal.  We spent the afternoon bending these strips into semicircular shapes, which were also for the top secret project.

Wednesday I switched to working with the electricians.  We set up shore power for a ferry boat, which was moving further down pier 3.  It was crazy to see the dockmen move this ferry boat because it had to fit between the syncrolift and another boat anchored at the pier; there was very little room.  After we organized a bunch of wires for the electricians new shop.  In the afternoon, we disconnected batteries on a San Francisco Bay Ferry to get the boat ready for welding.

At the end of the week I worked in the propeller shop. The propeller shop is a division called Bay Propeller.  It not only does work for Bay Ship & Yacht, but also works on propellers for other shipyards in the area.  The surrounding shipyards rarely do propeller work by themselves; therefore, Todd and his crew are very proud of their work at Bay Propeller. Todd is the head of the department. He has been working in the prop shop for years. Todd and the other guys in the prop shop are awesome, and I learned a ton from them.  The prop shop turned out to be my favorite department in the shipyard.

Todd first taught me how to tell a right and left hand propeller apart.  He also showed me how to use the MRI machine to check the heights and pitches of the blades.  After we went out to the coastguard cutter for non destructive testing.  We checked two new welds – one on the hull and one on the deck.  First the weld is sprayed with a penetrant, which was a red color, and then a developer, which is chalk and alcohol. You let the products set and after you can see where the red has seeped into any cracks in the weld.  The purpose is to check to make sure the weld doesn’t have any imperfections. When we got back to the shop I worked with Andrew sanding and finishing propellers.  Working on the props was fun because it was like working on a sculpture. The guys take great pride in the stripes they put on the props with the sanders.  Some of it does affect the props performance,  like removing cavitation, but a lot of it is just for aesthetics so it looks pretty for the customer.  Todd also taught me what materials props are made of, and the problems with those materials.  He talked with me about electrolysis.  He showed me a propeller that turned red because of electrolysis.  He also said you can identify electrolysis by the sound the propeller makes when it is hit with a hammer.  The prop with electrolysis has a lower pitched sound than a prop without it.

In the afternoon, I also learned how to TIG weld.  I started learning with steel and a flat plate, and then got good enough to weld on a customer’s aluminum prop. I was filling in a piece of prop that  had broken off. It was so much fun.  This was my favorite type of welding that I’ve done in the shipyard so far.  The other two types were stick welding where I struggled with starting the arc, and wire feeding which was pretty easy.  TIG welding was cool because you have a foot pedal to control the heat, a metal rod, and the electrical wire in the other hand.

Dinah and Chris didn’t include the prop shop on our initial schedule. However after working with the machinists and seeing the props, I wanted to visit the prop shop.  After having such a wonderful experience in the prop shop I am very happy I asked to go to this department, and suggest that Dinah and Chris include this department in the program for next years interns.

Weekend with Barr

This weekend Barr came down from Seattle to visit.  It was great seeing him!  We spent both days in San Francisco.  On Saturday Cody and I met up with Barr in Union Square.  We were planning on going to MOMA; however, it was closed for remodeling.  Instead we walked around the Yerba Buena Gardens across the street.  After we walked to the Fisherman’s Wharf, which you must see when visiting San Francisco.  I felt bad because it hasn’t rained at all, and the two days Barr was here it poured.  We made the best of it though, and managed to pack a lot into the weekend.  We ate lunch at the Fog Harbor seafood restaurant on pier 39.  We had scallops and clam chowder as an appetizer, and then I had a crab roll.  It was definitely the best seafood I’ve had since being in San Francisco.  Afterwards, we went to Ghirardelli Square and ate ice cream.  Then we walked around the Castro district.  In the evening we went back to Union Square and wandered around some shops.  When we got back to Alameda, we met up with Satchel and played indoor mini golf.  The place didn’t look like much from the outside, but it turned out to be a lot of fun.

On Sunday we had breakfast at Ole’s Waffle Shop, the hopping breakfast joint in Alameda.  We headed back into the city to the Golden Gate Park, which I hadn’t been to yet.  It was beautiful.  Since we couldn’t go to MOMA, we went to the De Young museum in the park.  It worked out perfectly.  The De Young Museum is a small art museum with an assortment of exhibits.  It was fun because as you walked into the different rooms you didn’t know what to expect.  One room was African art, and then the next would have a portrait of George Washington.  It was a cool museum, and Barr really enjoyed it.  Afterwards, we went to the Japanese tea garden, which is also in the park.  This was so cute.  We walked around for a half hour, and then sat and drank tea.  It was quiet and peaceful.  After we went out for dinner in Chinatown at another amazing restaurant. I had such a great time with Barr, and we are both getting excited to see everyone again.


Painters/Pipefitters/Welding School

This week I was moved between multiple departments.  Monday Laleña and I both worked with Clever in the paint kitchen.  The paint kitchen is where all the paints are mixed before they are taken to the boats to be used.  The paints have a part A and B, which are mixed before applied so that the paint will dry.  A palette from one of the boats in the yard was brought to the paint kitchen.  It had miscellaneous paints on it for disposal.  We tried to find the paints with both a part A and B.  These can be mixed and purposefully left out to dry, so they can get thrown away.  The other paints, which we couldn’t find both parts for, were emptied into the paint waste drum, which will be disposed of separately.  After I organized paints in the paint kitchen onto palettes and made signs for the different palettes with sharpies and highlighters – solvents, common top coats, common epoxy primers, and paint thinners.  In the afternoon, Laleña and I did inventory of all the paints in the cabinets outside the paint kitchen.  We had to count how many part A and part B we had of each paint and how many thinners.  It took awhile and wasn’t the most exciting work, but Clever was so appreciative afterwards that it was worth the time and effort.

On Tuesday I worked with Mike the pipefitter. He and I worked on cleaning and inspecting heat exchangers for a Coastguard Cutter. I saw the two huge heat exchangers that are for the engines, but I first started by cleaning and assembling one of the smaller heat exchangers.  We put the larger ones back together later in the day.  It was cool because I saw the inside of a heat exchanger. It is made up of a bundle of narrow tubes which the sea water runs through.  The bundle is surrounded by a tube, and the coolant sits between the tube and the outside of the bundle.  Also, we discussed keel coolers, which are another type of heat exchanger.  This is where the piping runs along the outside of the hull on the bottom of the boat.  The coolant runs through the piping and the sea water running along the bottom of the hull cools the coolant.  Mike is very knowledgeable and was great to work with.

Thursday morning I was with the painters again on the Coastguard Cutter.  The ceiling was removed from over the engines, and it was raining.  Therefore, tarps were being used to protect the machinery.  We used buckets to remove the water collecting in puddles on the tarp.  Thankfully, it didn’t rain very long. The painters were sanding down some areas in the engine room where the layer of paint primer was too thick.  I worked with Alex who went around the engine room testing the paint thickness with the PosiTector 6000, which is a gauge that determines the paint thickness using magnets.  He also explained the ultrasound machine that workers were using on the side of the Coastguard Cutter to test for corrosion.  A report is then given to the shipyard to determine what plates need to be replaced.  I asked him how they use the machine on large ships, since it tests the plates in inch by inch areas.  He said they walk around with a hammer and hit the hull.  A trained ear can hear where there might be corrosion.  These are the areas that are then tested with the ultrasound machine.  He said the pitch is lower in those spots because the corrosion absorbs some of the sound.

In the afternoon, I got a chance to go to the welding school.  I was very excited about this. I’ve wanted to go since I was with the welders the first week.  We set up the welding machines to stick welding and the amperage to 120.  Jesse, one of the welding school teachers, showed me how to attach the metal rod, which is melting.  It is clipped perpendicular to the end of the wire.  Jesse showed me how to hold the rod at a 60 degree angle from the table.  He explained how the weld should look – a nice oval shape; no “v” shape in the puddle.  The “v” shape means you are going too fast.  Speed is very important.  This welding was different than the stick welding we did at Webb this past semester.  With the rods we used at Webb you had to move back and forth to make the puddle.  With these rods you just had to move the stick in a straight line.  Going in a straight line was tricky though.  While you are welding, everything goes dark since you have to wear a hood.  Instead of where you are going, all you can really see is the puddle.  Another difficult part is starting the arc.  You have to strike the end like a match and then quickly move it to the spot you want to start the weld. If done wrong, the rod gets stuck to the plate.  Though by the end of the afternoon, my welds were turning out pretty good.  It’s like frosting a cake!

On Friday I was with the painters again on the 300 foot sailing yacht.  We covered all the zincs with painters tape.  Then we used scotch brite to clean off parts of the hull, which the pressure washer didn’t completely get.

Dry Docking a 300 Foot Sailing Yacht

Today was a 12 hour work day.  Laleña and I were out on the HMB-1 for the dry docking of a 300 foot sailing yacht.  It is an absolutely stunning vessel. It has 3 masts each 200 feet tall.  It is the largest sail boat I’ve ever seen. Tug boats first moved the new dry dock next to the old dry dock.  This way it was further out where the water is deeper and so it could use the old dry dock’s shore power.  I helped open and close the valves for the ballast tanks to lower and raise the dry dock.  Unlike the old dry dock, the HMB-1 has all of its controls on the top deck.  Therefore, we rotated a 70 foot shaft, which is connected to the valve in the ballast tank below.  Kaloney also taught me how to read the draft marks, which we radioed to Joey so he could make sure the west and east sides of the dry dock were lowering evenly.  There are numbers up to 38 along the inside wall of the dry dock.  Each number is 6 inches high and they are 6 inches apart.  We used this to determine the height of the water.  We also lowered wedges and cedar shims to the divers who were making sure the yacht was properly aligned on the dock blocks.  They used these pieces to make sure there weren’t gaps between the hull and the dock blocks. When the water lowered, I was absolutely amazed by the size of the rudder and center board.  Once we were pier side again Laleña and I took apart the piping, which was set up along the entrance to the dry dock.  The piping releases bubbles along the entrance so that fish can’t swim inside the dry dock when it is lowered and raised.  Participating in the dry docking was a great experience for Laleña and I.


The dockmen were very fun to work with this week.  It was interesting to see how they work together, since their cooperation is the key to the success of the dockings.  Joey, the dock master, has a very difficult, high stress job, but he handles it well.  I spent a lot of time with Kurt, who was a great teacher throughout the week, and Kaloney who is a character.  He sang and dance sporadically throughout the day, and loved talking with me about food, and his son.

On Monday, another ferry boat, part of the Red and White fleet, came out of the water on the syncrolift.  The syncrolift is a platform that raises and lowers boats out of and into the water.  The platform is attached to cables, which are attached to rotating drums that the cables unwind and rewind around.  Before the docking, Kurt, Matt, and Kaloney taught me how to throw a heaving line.  These are the smaller lines that are attached to the thick dock lines, which are not easily thrown.  As a boat comes in, the dockmen throw the heaving lines to people on the deck.  These lines are pulled until the thicker line is on the deck, and is wrapped around a cleat.  Four lines are standard for docking a vessel: a line to the bow, and the stern; these are called breast lines, and two spring lines, which cross in the middle. However, depending on size, more lines can be added. Capstans are then used to tighten or loosen the lines to align the boat over the dock blocks.  A diver swims around the boat and checks the position.  They tell the dockmen how the boat needs to be adjusted.  They also use shims and wedges to fill any spaces between the hull and dock blocks and to tighten the fit.  It was crazy, sometimes the diver would come up and tell the dockmen the boat needed to be moved a few inches starboard or port.  It seemed impossible to make such subtle adjustments with such a large vessel.

After the ferry came up, we had to grease the cradles.  At Bay Ship & Yacht, the syncrolift is connected to a network of tracks around the yard, which the boats are constantly getting moved around on.  Therefore, the dockblocks are built on top of cradles, which have wheels to roll along the tracks.  The wheels of the cradle must be greased frequently because they are manually turned when the boats change from going forward or back to sideways on the tracks. Jacks are used to lift the cradle off the track, so the wheel is no longer touching.  Then, the wheels are spun by hand.  They rotate easily if properly greased.  After greasing the wheels, we greased the drum and cable of the syncrolift, which gets done about once a month.  The grease is a bright blue color, which I was surprised by.  Apparently manufacturers use colorants to help identify different greases, and make them more appealing than just brown or black.

On Tuesday, we started the build for a 300 ft sailing yacht that is coming into the yard next week.  It will be dry-docked in the HMB-1.  One of the engineers is in charge of creating all the dock block arrangements.  The plans are then given to the dockmen. A few dockmen lay out the spacing for the dock blocks on the deck of the dry dock using chalk.   I worked with the others who were constructing the blocks.  The base of the block is cement, but then the top is an arrangement of wooden blocks and wedges.  The wooden blocks and wedges are reused for the different projects; therefore, they are arranged and then metal straps and nails are used to attach them together.  I became quite competent at using a hammer by the end of the week.  Today, Bill Elliot even complimented me.  The dock blocks are then arranged using a forklift.  After seeing how the layouts are completed, I find it impressive that they are all done by hand so accurately every time.

Yesterday, we finished the dock blocks and put together the cradles for the $45 million, 200 ft yacht that came in the yard today.  After I had to wash down the dock blocks and cradles to remove any particles that could have gotten on them from being in the yard.  Every year the depth underneath the snycrolift is checked to make sure harmful particles aren’t building up in the bay.  It was awesome seeing the yacht come up on the syncrolift today – it just barely fit.  There was only a foot of space on each side.


Today we visited San Francisco again.  Cody and I first wandered around the Ferry building which has a farmers market outside and numerous gourmet food stores inside. This is where the numbering for the piers starts.

After we walked North to Pier 33, which is where the Alcatraz ferries are docked.  I actually thought the island was going to be creepier.  I was shocked at how beautiful it is.  It had a lot of tropical looking vegetation and absolutely beautiful views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco.  We listened to a park ranger give a talk about three escapes from Alcatraz.  She was a great storyteller and described the most successful escape to us.  At Alcatraz if you behaved you were allowed to have a job and therefore got an opportunity to leave your cell.  Two men worked stocking food in the pantry, which had a barred window.  During the day for over half a year they worked to cut through the bars.  One night they finally got the opportunity to run.  They climbed out the window and down a pipe on the side of the building.  They used medical gloves they had stolen from the medical wing for flotation.  They blew air into them and stuffed them into their sleeves and pants.  One of the two drowned crossing the bay, but the other made it to the shore by the Golden Gate Bridge – a 3 mile swim from Alcatraz in 46 degree water.  He says he remembers laying in the sand with the waves crashing over him, but he went unconscious.  When he woke up again he was back at Alcatraz in the medical wing.  Doctors said he had a heart attack at some point during his swim.  Out of all the escapes this one was the most successful.  This man actually made it to freedom. However, not all of the bodies of the people who escaped from Alcatraz have been found.  There are rumors that some of the escapees made it to South America.  After the talk, Cody and I walked the perimeter of the Island.  There is a nice nature walk, and we saw all the outbuildings including the Warden’s house (only a fireplace remains inside).  Then we went on the famous Alcatraz audio tour through the main building.  It was interesting but I preferred the escape talk given by the park ranger before hand.  She was very entertaining.

Since we missed lunch, Cody and I met up with Satchel in North Beach, which is San Francisco’s Little Italy, for an early dinner.  We ate at the very popular Stinking Rose.  It is called a garlic restaurant.  For an appetizer we had the first thing on the menu, Bagna Calda garlic soaking in a hot tub.  It is oven roasted garlic cloves served in an iron skillet.  They are cooked down so they are almost spreadable and no longer taste like traditional pungent garlic.  It was much milder, and unlike anything I’ve ever tasted.  I also ordered the Neon Ravioli, which was filled with potato with a cheese, garlic, basil alfredo sauce. It was amazing.

Next we walked back to the Ferry Building where we went out on the pier and watched the lights show, which is every night on the new bay bridge. It is covered in led lights. My friend had also told me about an amazing ice cream place that I had to go to – Swensen’s.  We ended up walking another mile and up another crazy hill, but we finally made it.  It was totally worth it though, the ice cream was fantastic and well deserved.

Production Support

This week I was with production support.  Production support is in charge of setting up the equipment needed to perform a job.  I mainly spent the week on the New Horizon, a research vessel.  The main focus at the shipyard is safety; therefore, a lot of what production support does is trying to figure out the safest way to set up a workspace.  That includes hanging electrical chords and hoses off the ground because they are tripping hazards, and running air socks for ventilation in a way that least impedes the workers.  Production support requires a lot of organization. At the end of the day, Thomas would always make an effort to ask the leads on the boat what they needed for the following day.  This is so he can set up as much as possible the night before, which leads to less commotion and more productive work the following day.  I learned how to set up air and water lines with Chicago hoses, how to set up welding machines, how to replace gas tanks for the welding machines, and how to run air socks.

At one point in the week I was working on the Oscar Dyson with Mike, another production support guy.  We were laying Chicago hoses when we heard over the radio that someone had fallen in the water.  We walked over to the edge of the vessel, which was pier side at the time near the syncrolift, and sure enough didn’t we see Laleña in the diver’s boat drenched and still smiling.  Thankfully she wasn’t injured, but she became quite a legend in the yard.  I found out later she was on her first attempt at throwing a heaving line and was standing too close to the edge of the syncrolift.

By the end of the week I had received radio and bike privileges.  Popz, the head of the production support department, has a low riding black and hot pink bike that he let me ride around.  Thomas works fast and was all over the yard on his forklift, so it proved to be very handy.  But also, I just looked really fly.  I enjoyed my time with production support. All the people in the department were fun to work with.  Thomas especially has so much enthusiasm and cares so much about his job; it was inspiring to work with him.

Laleña worked with the dockmen this week, so in the afternoon on Thursday I came along with her and the dockmen to get a tour of the old dry dock.  It was used in WWII out in the ocean as a repair shop; therefore, it still has the remnants of an old bathroom and dining hall.  We climbed down into one of the spaces where the ballast tanks for the dry dock are controlled.  On the new dry dock the HMB-1, all the controls are on the top deck; however, in the old dry dock you have to climb down inside it.  We saw the pumps and the inside of the tank.

Today, Laleña and I spent the day in the engineering office with Joel and the two other engineers.  We learned how to use Draftsight, a free drafting program similar to Autocad. We spent the morning watching tutorial videos and then in the afternoon made simple orthographic drawings.  Learning how to use some of this drafting program will probably prove useful when we start learning Autocad.  The engineers also took us out for lunch at one of their frequented Friday lunch spots, Otaez, a Mexican restaurant.  They had delicious chips and salsa, and my enchiladas were also awesome.  It was cool getting an opportunity to talk and spend time with them. I thank them for lunch and for taking some time out of their busy schedules to help us.

Hiking near Muir Woods

Today Cody and I went for a hike with Dinah and her roommate.  We went hiking near Muir woods, which is well known for its Redwood forests.  The landscape looked like it was from a movie.  It was magical.  We saw some decent sized Redwood trees and a variety of other foreign looking vegetation.  After our hike we drove to Stinson Beach.  As we were driving I noticed the similarity between these crazy, curvy roads and highway 1.  Sure enough we were back on it again. We ate our packed lunches and then walked around the beach barefoot.  The water was absolutely freezing though, and I only made it ankle deep.  However, I felt pathetic because a little kid was jumping and playing in the water completely drenched and not minding one bit. After we drove down to the official Muir woods location where there is a trail that you pay to walk on.  We couldn’t find a parking spot and it was late in the afternoon so we decided not to stop.  I would like to come back to Muir woods one weekend, early in the morning so we can get parking, and walk the official trail to see some really gigantic Redwood trees.

Cody and I had Dinah drop us off at the Cookie Bar, an ice cream shop in Alameda right down the street from Cody’s house.  Cody had been raving to me about this place for days, and I desperately wanted to try it.  The way the cookie bar works is you get to build your own ice cream sandwich.  You choose two cookies from their selection including chocolate chip, midnight chocolate, lemon, peanut butter.. and then an ice cream flavor from their wide selection.  I chose one mint chip chocolate cookie, one cookies and cream cookie, and mint chocolate chip ice cream.  You can also get the cookies warmed, which I definitely opted for.  The ice cream sandwich was a dream; it was definitely as good as Cody made it out to be.

Sailing San Francisco Bay

Today Webb Juniors Satchel and Cody, Webb Senior Conor and I went sailing with Spencer Schilling, the president of Herbert Engineering in Alameda.  Herbert Engineering is where Conor is interning this winter.  Spencer rented the Solas, a Beneteau 37 sail boat, for the day and also bought us lunch.   I am so appreciative that he took us on this trip. He is very easy going, and I enjoyed talking and spending the day with him. The water is a great way to see San Francisco and take photos, and it was a beautiful, sunny day. We sailed out from a marina on the south shore of Alameda, under the New Bay Bridge, past Treasure Island, around Angel Island, past Tiburon and Sausalito, under the Golden Gate Bridge, past Alacatraz, past the piers, and back under the New Bay Bridge to complete one giant loop.  The wind was not very strong, so we ended up motoring a lot of it, but it was still a lot of fun.  The day was unforgettable.  Thank you Spencer!

Winter Work 2014