-- Seventeen Years on Skaneateles Lake
underway on Skaneateles Lake in the mid sixties. That's
Steve Wikstrom "up for air" in the engine room. From
the collection of Stephen & Ellen Wikstrom.
who owned a successful heavy construction company,
bought Phoebe for $1,750., moved it to Skaneateles
Lake, and in the early '60s, restored it to sound
original condition. Because he was a purist, he repeatedly
rejected suggestions to modify the boat in ways that
would make its operation easier, like converting to
an oil-fired boiler or wiring the boat for electricity.
lived about 2 ½ miles down the west side of Skaneateles
Lake where he kept Phoebe in a boathouse during the
summer months. (The boat's stack and mast were hinged
and folded down to clear the boathouse overhead.)
Each fall, it was removed from the lake with a construction
crane and placed on a specially constructed steel
cradle for winter.
son, Steven (who with his wife, Ellen, have been FLC
members since 1985), had an interest in things nautical,
and soon took over Phoebe. Steve's interest was in
operating the steam engine and related equipment,
leaving the helm and other boat handling details to
his high school friends.
For them, Phoebe
served as a floating clubhouse and according to Steve,
"A floating 'babe mobile'! Girls loved to go out on
the boat, which gave us additional motivation to fire
up the boiler and take a cruise." Steve has a wonderful
audio tape of sounds recorded onboard the launch during
one such cruise, and along with many engine room sounds
and a wonderful report from the steam whistle, the
background noise includes the voices of guys and girls
having a great time.
the boys would sleep overnight on the boat with light
provided by gimbaled kerosene lanterns in the wheelhouse
and after cabin. Because glass chimneys on those lanterns
were frequent victims of accidents, replacements were
purchased a dozen at a time. The boys loved Phoebe
and didn't mind polishing brass fittings and bright-work
while "hanging out" through halcyon days of summer.
was one of Steve's boyhood friends who wrote later
about the power-plant's performance during Phoebe's
years on Skaneateles Lake:
"If steam pressure
was much below 175-180 psi, or if water level in the
boiler was too high, the engine would "knock" as vapor
condensed in the low pressure cylinder. If this happened,
the engine would have to be stopped and the cylinder
drained using valves put there for that purpose.
had a forced draft system that blew exhaust steam
from the boiler up the stack, increasing the flow
of air into the firebox and creating a hotter fire.
Sometimes it also had the effect of causing wet soot
to rain down on passengers seated in the wicker chairs
on the stern deck.
shaft grease caps were filled before each cruise and
were religiously tightened down at regular intervals
to provide lubrication to the main bearings. A gravity
drip-oiler provided 30-weight oil to secondary bearings
and other moving parts.
way, bells were used to communicate between the helm
and the engineer. Although a shout would have worked
as well, the jingle of bells provided a nautical correctness.
The steam whistle was used to answer the frequent
requests of passing boats although it was very easy
to lose steam pressure that way.
"Fuel came in
the form of slabs of hardwood (usually maple or white
oak) from a local water-powered sawmill. It was transported
from a pile on shore to the boat in a "Georgia buggy"
-- an industrial-grade version of a wheel barrow.
Onboard, wood was stacked in a bunker on the port
side next to the boiler, but for longer trips, it
was also stacked in the aft cabin. Wood was always
the factor that limited the length of each cruise.
"At the beginning
of one trip during the weekend of July 4, 1963, the
wood was damp and would not ignite. One of the boys
carefully poured some gasoline over the wood in the
firebox and struck a match. The result was a near
disaster; gasoline vapors ignited and burned his arms
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