|Grand Old Girl|
Part 3: “The most nerve-wracking four days of my life.”
By Capt. Bill Pike — May 2002
Creativity of the highest order was called for. A crew of mechanics unbolted the top and bottom halves of the diesel and jacked up the top half using eight hydraulic jacks of the sort found in hardware stores. Then, by pulling, rotating, and blocking the shaft for a period of almost 14 hours, they delicately extracted the thing with chainfalls, first from the engine and then the boat, through a hatch not much larger than a basement window. Once it was remachined, the "new" shaft went back into the engine the same way it had come out.
"We're talkin' the most nerve-wracking four days of my life," says Gallegos. Throughout that time, the top half of the Cleveland, which weighed 20 tons, was precariously balanced on the house jacks. Although the St. Eval was tethered as tightly to her dock as possible and other vessels were uniformly told to stay away, any sort of errant wake or other disturbance could have toppled the immense chunk of steel and sent it plummeting catastrophically through the bottom of the boat.
As fundamentals were attended to by welders, electricians, engineers, and mechanics, four highly-skilled English carpenters addressed the interior. Since it was illegal to import raw Brazilian teak into the United States to match the existing woodwork, Washington contracted with Christopher Dyer Interiors to prefabricate the inside furnishings in kit form in England based on super-accurate measurements and computerized 3D imagery. Then he had the kits shipped to America along with the four carpenters to install them.
"Believe it or not," says Gallegos, "they did the whole thing in just two weeks, and only one piece of trim was measured wrong."
Good fortune bolstered the finishing touches. The Italian manufacturer of the St. Eval's original bronze portlights resurrected molds from the 1920s and made additional castings to match. Manufacturers of exterior lights and other period fitments were equally responsive--and lucky. The anchor windlass was taken apart, found to be in amazingly good shape, and then refurbished to like-new condition. The snubbing winch astern underwent an equally successful rehab. And finally, to commemorate the most dramatic exploits of the heroic old tug, Washington commissioned marine artist Patrick Haskett to paint a succession of oils to be hung throughout the accommodation spaces. Like virtually everybody else who's ever been aboard her, Haskett fell in love with the St. Eval too.
"I've seen many a yacht over the years," says Haskett. "But this one's by far the grandest. There is quite simply nothing else like her anywhere in the world today. "
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.