A Cruise Aboard the SS Jeremiah O'Brien
WW II Liberty Ship
May 21, 2000

by John Woodson

The 6 hr Sunday Jeremiah O'brien cruise was like,......... perfect!

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Jeremiah O'Brien Website

About 500 friendly people were aboard, good food and plenty of it, kegs of beer, and a live 40's Big Band.

We even got a private tour of the very large "unpublicized" machine shop hold. This is a very well equipped, on-board repair facility. Such a large array of steam powered equipment aboard often needs machine work, fabricating and refitting of parts.   Besides the 2500 hp triple compound main engine, there are 3 auxillary  DC generators, combustion blowers, pumps of all sorts, 8 or so cargo winches, anchor winches, and a large, verticle 2 cylinder steering engine that powers the rudder. All of this is steam powered. There are 2 Babcock & Wilcox watertube boilers, each fired from 5 or 6 steam atomizing oil burners.

In the Machine Shop hold are 3 primo lathes: a 14 inch LaBlonde, an 18 inch Pratt&Whitney gearhead and a Hardhinge chucker like Ed's; A large Gorton Mill, A Cincinnati radial drill, and horizontal mill round out the larger machine tools. Of course these are 3 phase machines and the ships generators are all DC, so the on-deck Cat diesel (very very quiet) power plant runs all the refridgeration/food service equipment and the shop tools - lights and everything else seems to run on the DC generated by the reciprocating steam auxiliaries in the engine room.

The ships galley was active with the coal fired cook stove fired up preparing a huge evening dinner meal for the crew.

All the ships facilities were open and in service, the various crew quarters were viewable and obviously in use.

The Radio Room had all the original type equipment plus a computer monitor displaying active GPS packet service, various transmitting stationary and marine stations reporting their locations at intervals.

The engine room was awesome.  I noticed a chalkboard with some data recording the previous days watch. An interesting note was the fuel usage from the previous days activities/cruise listed as 30 barrels of fuel. 

Still docked, the engine was operating in its ready state. A mechanism was slowly driving the Stephenson reversing link from one extreme to the other, much like a fairlead cycles to and fro. This was causing the crankshaft to make 3 very slow turns forward,.....stop,..... 3 very slow turns reverse, and repeating, without any control input from the engineer. This activity was thus keeping the engine and steam ways hot, the bearing surfaces slippery, and ready to go.

It suddenly became quite active upon departing, with the clanging of bells and the forward-reverse-forward commands necessary to maneuver away from the dock. One engineer was hopping about from one main bearing to the next, placing his hands on the massive rotating crankpins and bearings checking for excessive temperatures

The itinerary took us North under the Bay Bridge, around Alcatraz and out the Golden Gate to Point Bonita for a short memorial service. Then we were spun about by the large ocean tug, Keegan Foss (5000hp) for our return to the Bay, past Angel Island, and up to Richmond and the Carqeenez (sic) Straits for a foghorn duel with the lighthouse. Then it was back South by Alcatraz, under the Bay Bridge and past Alameda Naval Air Station and up the narrow estuary, where we were again spun about in our own length by our attending tug, Keegan Foss, and a slow return through the Bay, back to Pier 96 at Hunters Point (just North of Candlestick).

They still are recruiting volunteers for various duties which earn you free passage on the various cruises, and much quiet time throughout the year, with some new friends on this huge steam toy.

Some photos are attached.

Besssssssst regards,

John Woodson

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~ Click photos to enlarge ~

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