|Grand Old Girl|
Part 2: Dressed to the Nines
By Capt. Bill Pike — May 2002
A Seattle firebrand named Joe Gallegos signed on as "captain and overseer" of the refit. Gallegos had a solid reputation for marine ventures around town, as well as a personality that thrived on challenge. Washington and Gallegos talked in September 1992. The exterior work was to include the extension of the deckhouse, the addition of teak decks, and a rebuild of the engine room. Inside work was to entail a sumptuous master suite and VIP aft, a crew's quarters forward, and a saloon, study, and galley in between. Washington wanted the whole project completed in just nine months. He was hosting a sizeable party at his island lodge in British Columbia in June of the following year. He wanted the St. Eval there, dressed to the nines.
Gallegos went hunting a shipyard. Within a few days, no fewer than five area firms turned him down flat, saying that completing such an epic project in just nine months was impossible. Finally, Gallegos struck pay dirt with North Lake Shipyard in Seattle, a rough-and-tumble little place way more familiar with patching up Russian purse-seiners than creating elegant yachts. In the beginning, Gallegos figured he'd need two crews of 20 welders, pipefitters, and electricians working back-to-back 12-hour shifts, to finish on time. Toward the end of the project, he added an extra crew and an extra shift, decreed that work go on `round the clock, and to constantly supervise it, rented himself a sleeping room nearby, which he proceeded to spend as little time in as humanly possible.
Challenges came daily. Because the St. Eval's existing structure had an aged, rugged look, all new construction had to be modified to blend in. While this made sense in theory, in reality it called for such strange and unnatural practices that grizzled workers were disturbed. Some even questioned Gallegos's sanity.
"I'll never forget the first welder I told to do messy welds... splatter them up a bit...to match the original work," recalls Gallegos, "He looked at me like I oughta be consigned to a booby hatch someplace."
In addition to splattering and coarsening welds, workers were encouraged to adopt other blasphemous tactics to get the new steelwork to match the old. Prior to securing fresh plate to the extended deckhouse, for example, the stuff was violently attacked with sledgehammers and power grinders to impart an old-fashioned appearance. Replacement piping in the engine room was dealt with similarly. Flanges were dropped off buildings or beaten with wooden mallets to incorporate venerable dents and scars.
The engine rebuild turned into a Herculean task. Thinking the giant Cleveland locomotive diesel dwelling at the heart of the St. Eval's machinery spaces was basically sound based on sea trials, Gallegos went ahead with the work above decks, adding new weatherdeck plating, laying new teak planks over a thick substrata of marine ply and roofing tar, and filling out the structure of the extended deckhouse. Imagine his dismay upon discovering that the huge Cleveland engine he'd so carefully sealed up needed a new, 13-foot crankshaft!
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.