The old adage ‘where there’s smoke, there’s fire’ was both true and appropriate today at Mystic Seaport, when the first fire was lit in the steamboat Sabino’s new boiler.
A crowd of Mystic Seaport administrators, shipwrights and other interested parties gathered as a wood fire was built and then lit. Others stood on the dock in the Museum’s shipyard or on the Sabino’s bow to watch the smokestack for the first sign of smoke. There was a cheer when the first puff appeared.
Jason Cabral, Sabino’s lead engineer, said the fire was the first step in making the boiler fully operational. Chemicals that are added to the boiler tubes to fight corrosion and scaling needed to be heated in the water to set. It is a similar process to “seasoning” a new cast iron skillet. The Friday fire was to condition the boiler tubes with the chemicals.
“It took off beautifully and everything is doing what it’s supposed to do,” Cabral said of the first firing of the boiler. “We can already hear water circulating through it. It’s a big day, a big day for me at least, because I’ve been waiting two-and-a-half years for this. I’m really excited about getting her running.”
Sabino has been in the Museum’s Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard since late 2014 for an extensive restoration. Museum shipwrights addressed a number of issues around the vessel, including reframing much of the stern, replacing the keel bolts, installing new planking and decking, and restoring portions of the superstructure. In addition, numerous mechanical and systems upgrades were carried out. On June 14, a new boiler and water tank were installed. The engine and canopy were installed on June 16, followed by the installation of the stack.
Next week, Cabral said, a coal fire will be lit and there will be two important tests conducted. The first – a hydro test – requires the boiler to be filled to the top with water and “we use a pump to pressurize it and make sure all the fittings are correct and don’t leak.” The second test is of the boiler’s safety valves. “In that test we bring the boiler up to full pressure, to where the safety valves let off, and the Coast Guard makes sure they are operational,” Cabral said.
Sabino will return to regular operation beginning August 2, with one 30-minute cruise to start each day followed by two downriver cruises.
“It’s like the heartbeat of Mystic Seaport is returning,” said Dave Childs, Sabino captain.