a 1919 Navy Gasoline Motor launch ...the adventure begins here

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  Mojo Landing - click here for a time lapse video clip- dock & cruise-by at Bethel Island    
Mojo chuggin'  B&W Meet 2008 - San Joaquin River QuickTime Video
Mojo chuggin'  B&W Meet 2008 - San Joaquin River Windows Media Player
Mojo on Sandmound Slough

Mojo has a Hicks marine engine- a modified 1919 Navy Gasoline Motor Launch Hicks marine engine - 6.5 x 7.5 B&S = 248 cid or 4 liter My capable crew - Joseph Butterman at East Brother Light Station on momentarily calmer waters.

Cast bronze armor trim around transom a similar original Navy Steam Launch about 1910 Adventure #1 Sausalito to Bethel Island 70 miles - 3 gals gas used!
~ Click images to enlarge ~

This is a  1919  26' Navy Gasoline Motor launch. Originally a Navy cabin yard launch suited for foul weather service in Bremerton Naval Yards, from an open boat design with a capacity of transporting 25 sailors. The cabin and extended hardtop may have been added 60+ years ago, but it looks mostly original . We are not sure about the engine being original or not. I am told these 1st Motor launches were equipped with a one or two cylinder gasoline engine for only a few years before being replaced with 4 cylinder Buda diesel engines. This engine is cir. 1912 Hicks one cylinder gas marine engine built in San Francisco. 6.5 x 7.5 B x S = 248 cu. in. It starts very easily, and runs very slow and friendly like.  It idles all day at 80 rpm, and cruises 5 kts at about 200 rpm

The Hicks engine has make and break [ignitor] ignition. It is started by rolling the flywheel over by foot. This is very easy to do because of the compression release lobe on the camshaft. If the engine is running and warm, and the ignition current is switched off with spark, throttle and compression release set in a certain combination, it will usually roll to a stop in position where it can auto-start. Within 30+ minutes or so later, a simple flip of the ignitor - the mixture will fire and expand with enough force to complete the next cycle with compression still released, and like magic, it is running again,  ...and thus the name *Mojo* -like magic.

A US Coast Guard Documented vessel, it has been insured for carrying passengers, and in continuous service as a water taxi and excursion launch in San Francisco and Richardson Bay. She carried passengers to dinner on Forbes Island for years and was recently used by H2O Tour Co. for private excursions and tours of the Floating Home Communities of Sausalito.

I had this boat hauled and surveyed May 25, 2005 in Sausalito, Ca., ...and I bought her that day.

We did the delivery, Navigator/Pilot Butterman and I,  from quaint but over-crowded Saw-saw-liter to far-away Bethel Island, 75 miles, on Saturday.  It took 11 hours,.... 9.5 hrs under power. We drifted powerless for almost an hour in the wind and weather of SF Bay from Angel Island almost to Richmond, cuz  I had to shut down the engine and engineer a way to drain and refill the Manzel lubricator.  I could see only water drops in the dripper sight glass, and white goo was starting to ooze from the bearings. Waste oil and water in an oil container had just been added to the Manzel by mistake w/o careful observation of the pour. So I elected to fix this while we had plenty of room in the Bay to drift.

The Manzel has no drain plug, and the oil level sight glass was stuck, not removable. After searching for strategy, luckily at last I discovered an abandoned automotive electric fuel pump attached to a bulkhead. It had been used for a small backup fuel tank [which had been removed]. There was enough hose still attached to reach the lubricator, and I found some scrap wires to  provide 12v from the battery. We ran the pump and  got the water out of the oil reservoir. Luckily I had brought a quart of Castrol - whew!   This McGuyver fix took about an hour leaving plenty of time before reaching the rocky shoreline to restart the engine, regain control of the vessel and find our heading once again.

A 4+ foot following sea kept us in a slow wallowing corkscrew motion for the first 3 hours of the trip. The ride mellowed out as we plowed up the Carquinez Straights and into the calm protected waters of the Delta. Up the Sacramento River to The San Joaquin, Dutch Slough, then Sandmound Slough, Bethel Island and home dock along Stone Road.

Ah, the Delta and quiet backwater sloughs at last.   In Dutch Slough, east of Big Break,  just as it got full dark, mile 3 from home, the engine stopped. Thinking it was a run-down battery, I switched wires to the house battery, but still no chuff-chuff.  We were at the west end of Bethel Island in Dutch Slough running west to east. Fortunately the wind and current carried us [sideways] on our course easterly, slowly along the quiet slough, glancing off the shoreline of tules from time to time, while I searched out the source of trouble and made'er well. Carbon had formed in the ignitor shaft and movement of the contact points was restricted. I had been over-oiling the cylinder through the priming cup every 20 minutes or so to assure cylinder lubrication until the water had been completely purged from the lubricator feed lines. Without removing any parts I dripped oil on the ignitor shaft and worked the stuck parts by hand for 15 minutes to get the motion free again. When I finally rolled the flywheel over, the Hicks took off chuff-click, .... chuff-click,  happy as ever to turn a propeller.  We finally regained control of the vessel and passed safely underneath Bethel Island bridge - *bow first* I might add!  [Whew!]

Putt-cha, ......putt-cha, .......putt-cha, ........putt-cha -    

By now totally dark, the narrow, twisting course of our final mile followed the familiar local shore lights of Sandmound Slough to home dock.

A full day of sea trials with  a bounty of  wind, weather and exercise in mild pandemonium to make this a very nice adventure run.

I'd do that again!

JW - Admin

June 19,2005
One afternoon tied up at the Rusty Porthole Restaurant dock, Bethel Island, looking out on 3500 acre Franks Tract lake.

138 ft diesel yacht Starford, originally built for Al Capone in 1930.

Mojo at home dock, ready to go East side of Bethel Island at the Rusty Porthole, 138ft yacht Starford Pirate at The Rusty Porthole, Bethel Island


July 3, 2005

Steam whistle on the ex SanteFe tug  John T. Engle  

Wednesday, a barge operator came to my place on Bethel Island to bid the job of driving a new piling for my boat dock. He showed interest in my old boat, so I started the Hicks up for him, and his eyes got real bright, and he told me about the steam tug then. He said a friend was keeping a steam tug at his dock on a near by island, that it was for sale, and that I could look it over. The tug is listing in the mud at his island property about 9 miles away - accessible only by water.  He does salvage and construction work, so the place does look industrial.

Naturally, I called a couple of friends, and on Sunday we had us a Hicks powered steam hunting adventure. Upon first approaching and seeing the 'Respect' we were disappointed, because this looked like an old tired modern diesel tug. We got in close and floated a bit, then Steve yelled "steam whistle", spotting the whistle at the stack, and so we tied up at the tugs huge anchor chain to plan further investigation. The port railing was about 20 ft above Mojo's hardtop and the only way to board was to toss my anchor up over the rail and climb the chain. Steve was first up on deck and soon we heard him yell "steam winch"   ....we had arrived!

It is a 150 ft. SanteFe RR tug  'John T. Engle', renamed 'Respect' .

I am sure the Skinner is still in good shape, just the rest of the equipment needs a $million  maintenance/refit, so it will likely get scrapped .  Jim Crank said he has been aboard years ago and recognized the tug photos right away.  He said he has a Skinner catalog with a color photo showing the 'John T. Engle'

 U.S. Coast Guard Documented Vessel
Mojo - July, '05


Mojo - Navy Motor Launch at home dock - Bethel Island     Mojo - Navy Motor Launch at home dock - Bethel Island   Mojo - Navy Motor Launch at home dock - Bethel Island


Mojo's Dock Repair - August '05

Tug boat and spud barge repairing dock pilings at Bethel Island  Tug boat and spud barge repairing dock pilings at Bethel Island    Tug boat and spud barge after repairing dock pilings at Bethel Island

Much needed dock repair got underway this week when Skarry Bros Diving and Marine Construction tug and barge arrived with the new piling.

Mike and Frank got the piling in place and bolted up the new 3x12 timbers I had waiting. Now I will not worry about the gangway collapsing under load.

Mojo is now back in place and the rig is off to another job.

September '05 & '07
The Delta Meet at B&W Resort, Isleton on the Mokelumne

~~ click images to enlarge ~~



    I added a Schebler throttle plate Swallows nested in the intake air chamber of the exhaust stack

  Mojo Navy Motor Launch on the Sacramento River Delta  Hicks marine engine - ex Navy Motor Launch - Mojo  Steam Launches on the Delta - taken from Mojo - Navy Motor Launch        








December '05

lighted boat parade - Mojo at Bethel Island

   A Very Merry Christmas to All!  



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