Cangarda - A Classic Steam Yacht Page 2


Part 2: “It’s like being inside a giant sewing machine...”

By Ben Ellison — February 2003


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Hopefully everyone's timing is on the mark, because if the walk-in freezer-size boiler reaches the maximum 250 pounds of pressure before you need it, you'll have to dump some of the coal fire through the grates (and clean it out later) or noisily and inelegantly blast steam out the stack (heavens, no!). Similarly, once underway, you best be darn careful about what's in front of you. Cobb estimates a full 20 seconds to get the five-foot-diameter prop to shift from 175 rpm full ahead to full astern, much longer for Cangarda to actually stop.

Not that Cobb is in any way distrustful of the big 300-hp Sullivan Triple Expansion Yacht Engine and the various matching Davidson auxiliaries that push air and water through the system and handle the anchors. Actually, it sounds as if he'd just as soon spend his watches minding them as on the bridge. He points out that there is no internal combustion going on in Cangarda's engine room. In fact, there's not much internal anything, as pushrods, camshafts, oiling systems, etc., are all out in the open. "At full speed ahead, you should be able to hold a normal conversation down there," he says. "It's like being inside a giant sewing machine...what you hear and see is the wonderfully complex linear and rotational motions of all those parts." Apparently you feel them, too, as the various hefty shafts, pistons, and so forth generate gentle but discordant centrifugal forces.

Under Cobb's tutelage, I also learn what "triple expansion" is all about. The steam runs through three cylinders, one after another, each larger than the previous in order to salvage power from the diminishing energy. Cangarda's high-pressure piston is nine inches in diameter, her low pressure one is a whopping two feet. While the design was meant to increase fuel efficiency, the yacht's range with her 15-ton coal bunkers full is estimated to be about 300 miles! There's some stoking going on down there, though Cobb claims it's much more artful work than portrayed in movies like Titanic. Combined with tending to all those moving parts, "You don't just push a button and drive away," he explains. "Steam is organic; you become a major part of the engine."

Not that Cobb wouldn't also be quite content on deck, perhaps checking that the steward has properly laid out the yacht's wardrobe of dinnerware and crystal for 20 in the Cuban mahogany forward house. Or perhaps he'd be aft in the drawing room, entertaining guests with tales from Cangarda's past, of which there are many. For starters, her name is derived from those of original owner Charles Canfield, the Michigan lumber mogul, and his wife Belle Gardner, of the New York Gardners. It was not an auspicious beginning, as on the very first cruise, Mr. Canfield engaged in some "indiscretion" with a young female guest, causing "shocked indignation" amongst others onboard and eventually America's most expensive divorce (to date). Bottom line: Canfield only got in that one cruise before selling his lovely yacht to the colorful Canadian Senator George T. Fulford.

Next page > Cangarda, Part 3 > Page 1, 2, 3, 4

This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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