F/V Bagatell Conversion
In 2000, The Marine Sciences Research Center acquired for renovation and conversion the 80′ fishing vessel Bagatell, which became available as part of the NOAA’s Fishing Capacity Reduction Initiative (FCRI). Commonly known as “the buyout”, the FCRI was put in place to reduce the size of the fishing fleet to aid in the recovery of the Northeast Groundfish stocks. The Bagatell was one of New Bedford’s highliners and is a true sea boat, having proven herself through several winters on Georges’ Bank. Renamed the Seawolf, the vessel is now undergoing a complete renovation to into a state of the art multipurpose research vessel for MSRC.
Then-captain Steve Cluett oversaw the conversion of the vessel and documented the process.
One begins to really appreciate the scope of this project when looking at all that has been accomplished and just how fine a boat this is turning into. Despite winter acting like winter for a change, substantial progress continues. Externally, the heavy railing on the upper deck is complete. Unfortunately, this all now must be cut off and sent out to be galvanized. The heavily built gallus frames are complete and ready for installation. These are the towing posts for trawling and serve as a base for the A frame. The lab spaces are now complete, with all wiring and lighting installed. The hold area is also complete with all plumbing, wiring, and lighting installed. The main electrical panels are installed, and the new generator is tied into the panel, as is the new shore power connection. Most 32v systems (lighting, water pumps) have been converted to AC power and are up and running. The woodworking in the pilothouse extension is complete, with all new mahogany trim.
With the electrical system near completion, the next step will be the completion of the 6 ton A frame, and the installation of the moonpool. Revisions to the moonpool mounting system have been made and the components will now be fabricated by a local machine shop. The vessel haulout is being held off until all these items are ready for installation. The concept for the moonpool has been to have a universal mount which can be adapted to a wide variety of instruments including the multibeam sonar head.
The wheelhouse electronics have all arrived including a 2kW 28KHz transducer which gets mounted at haulout. This will give us bottom detection capabilites offshore to 7200 ft as well as being effective for fisheries work.
Cold weather has been making painting slower to accomplish, but every break in the weather sees more of the finish coats being applied. Much of the work has shifted to the interior of the vessel where many of the systems are being tied in and completed. Most if not all of the piping has been completed in a very satisfactory manor. Retrofitting new piping into an existing vessel can be daunting but is was done with clean runs without losing clearances and critical spaces. The new boiler is installed, and tied into the existing system and fuel lines. Because the heating system is also tied into the main engine cooling system, not only will the main engine heat the vessel when it is underway, but the engine will act as a 8,000 lb radiator to keep the engineroom warm and dry when docked in the winter. The engineroom bulkhead is back in place which will allow the hydraulics installation to be completed. Both labs are topcoated in white making for bright clean workspaces. A 4″ cabling raceway is in place allowing easy passage of cables from the moonpool to the labs. In addition another 2″ line will allow for further routing of cables, including networking and navigational feeds from the wheelhouse to the labs. Heaters are in place in the labs, as well as ventilation ducts to allow for a continuous air change. Most of the carpentry in the wheelhouse additions is complete, with mahogany trim to match the existing vessel. We are going to carry out additional work to install a new wheelhouse ceiling and repair any damaged formica or trim in the galley. All flooring and decking materials are on hand and ready to be installed near the job’s completion. The railings are being installed today but will be removed and sent to Boston to be hot dipped galvanized, along with several other items while the boat is hauled out. The final haulout will come after the shipyard’s Christmas holiday, and seatrials are expected in one month.
Progress continues on all fronts. The entire topside has been sandblasted, and given 3 coats of primer. The wheelhouse and mast have received the white topcoat to allow installation of doors and windows for closure against the elements. In the meantime, the 30kW generator has been removed and refurbished back at MSRC, while the new 85kW was placed in the engine room. The new exhaust line and muffler are in place. Also in place is the new boiler, sewer tanks, and discharge pump. All new watertight aluminum doors have been installed with double doors serving both lab areas. The hull paint (navy blue) has arrived. Plumbing for seawater lines, drains, sewer and grey water, etc. is going in place. The system will allow us to have zero discharge overboard when required. The hydraulics specialists have come in and laid all stainless steel lines to serve the 2 main winches, small oceanographic winch and the 4 winches which will control the vanged boom. Offsite the 27 foot boom is being modified to accept the vang configuration. The main winch beds are on site awaiting alignment. Provisions have been completed to add a forward anchor winch which will hold 900 ft. of cable and be fully operable from inside the wheelhouse. The wheelhouse extension which will serve as a steering and winch control station is being finished off inside by the ships carpenter.
Port side w/steering/winch station
Hydraulic piping in dry lab
The Bagatell has finally shed her old exterior. Unseasonably fair weather last week allowed the shipyard to completely sandblast the exterior of the vessel above the waterline, as well as the lazarette and shaft alley in the fish hold. Aside from some steel in the rudder post which needs repair, the hull cleaned up remarkably well and should look great when topcoated. One layer of zinc rich primer has been followed by two layers of high build epoxy undercoat, and a urethane finish will go one as topcoat.
The new door and window frames are now being installed. The forepeak emergency exit hatch is in, as is the wheelhouse door, and sound insulated engineroom door. Deck scuppers are now cut in after discussions with the designer regarding clearing capacities. The bulkhead between the fish hold and the engineroom is being cut open and the old generator will be pulled out, and the new one dropped in.
Starboard side, dry lab
With much of the major structure in place, the work on the Bagatell has now shifted to the details. Much of the time in the last couple of weeks has been spent in determining the layout of the lab spaces, ventilation, wiring runs, plumbing, railing,and numerous other features that have been specified. The engine room air supply and ventilation has been installed. All the doors, windows, and portlights are now on site and cutouts have been put in the bulkheads for their installation after painting takes place. Lab electrical outlets and lights have been sited and a stainless steel wiring track has been installed. This will not only carry the permanent wiring but give lab users the ability to run cables between labs and to the outer work deck. The removable platform over the stern ramp is fabricated. This item as well as the upper deck ladder and all the railing will now be sandblasted then sent to Boston to be hot dipped galvanized. A format for the railing which will carry around the bow as well as the lab roofs has been agreed on and installation has begun.
A site visit by the naval architect Maurice Napier took place this week. No major problems were revealed although he did request additional welding in certain critical areas as required in the specifications. All requests were dealt with immediately.
Sandblasting is scheduled to begin today after several minor delays. If all goes well by Tuesday the work deck, hold, lazarette, lab interiors, wheelhouse, foredeck and possibly part of the exterior hull will be blasted and primed. We met this week with the hydraulic system installer and installation will begin Tuesday, assuming sandblasting is complete. All the hydraulic piping will be laid, and all hangers, penetrations, and fittings will be welded in prior to the final painting, which will be a second and third coat of epoxy primer followed by the finish coat. Provisions are now being made for the installation of an anchor winch.
Stern Ramp Cover with removable stantions
Shelter area and pilothouse extension
Lab interior with cable tracks, handrail and vents.
The majority of large steel work in the conversion is complete. The new lab spaces, hold access, and pilot house extension are in place. The vessel will be moved this week to a location up in the harbor better suited for the sandblasting that will now take place. Because of the strict enforcement of environmental laws for sandblasting, 100% containment is required so most other work will stop aboard the vessel once the blasting commences. Offsite fabrication of the A-frames, etc. will continue.
Meanwhile much of our time is now spent in the details of the project, where careful consideration is given for the layout and installation of all the piping, wiring, lab space layout, lighting, heating and ventilation. All fuel tanks have had their final cleaning and are now sealed prior to the sandblasting.
The Bagatell’s transformation continues at a great pace. The wet and dry lab spaces are now framed in, as is the entrance to hold. The substantial framing to support the winches on the labs’ roof has been installed as specified. The yard is in the process of laying on the roof, then installing inserts of 3/4″ steel for the winch bases. We are quite pleased by the ample amount of space the design has allowed for the lab areas. The moonpool has been lowered through the deck into temporary position prior to the insertion of the final roof frames, so as to prevent having to cut into the framing which had been rolled and fitted for a cambered surface. A temporary stairway has been fitted into the hold so we could check the pitch and headroom clearance. Our intent is to insure a stairway pitch which will safe for those inexperienced at sea.
The wheelhouse has begun it’s facelift, with the previous coatings removed to reveal a heavy zinc rich coating. Framing for the wheelhouse extention is now beginning. This area will give the operator a winch control station and side steering station in the wheelhouse with an much improved view of the work deck.
We have successfully located a Northern Lights 85kW generator that will be on site next week. Three 325 gal sewer tanks and discharge pump have arrived for installation.
View from stern with removable stern bulwarks removed.
View aft from wet lab with moonpool in temporary position. Watertight double doors to the outer deck will be installed in this opening.
Side view showing side gantry opening, lab bulkheads.
Overhead view of dry lab (left), wet lab (right) and hold entrance, with longitudinal winch supports installed in roof framing.
Start of the Wheelhouse facelift.
Side Gantry Opening
The port and starboard walls of the lab space are in place. The side gantry opening is complete. Temporary stairs were lowered into the hold to confirm proper pitch and headroom, and a coaming installed around the opening. Framing of the hold bulkhead, aft and interior lab walls is now underway.
Meanwhile in the engine room I have been overhauling the seawater/bilge system. Then seawater piping is all being replaced with new schedule 80 piping with socket welded fittings and flange assemblage for easy maintenance and replacement. One hydraulically driven pump has been rebuilt and the overboard discharge valved replaced with new. The redundant system uses 3 high volume pumps: one hydraulic driven seawater, one hydraulic driven bilge, and one electric seawater/bilge pump.
The only setback to report is that we were just informed by the generator manufacturer that the model we requested is no longer in production. We are reluctant to go with the lighter weight alternative and are currently exploring alternatives.
Changes are occurring daily as the more visual aspects of the job are being done now that much of the underlying structure is complete. The starboard side bulwarks from the stern to the cabin were completely removed. The new bulwarks and outside wall of the new dry lab are already in place. A very robust design for the new rail has molded stantions every 40″. The design allows for a clean enclosed surface with no hidden areas that would chronically be rusting later on. All the new steel being installed is sandblasted off site and then primed with a zinc rich coating (thus the green color).
After the steel is fitted, finish welding is done, much with a MIG welder which allows for speed and even, continuous beads. The result is a quality finish, as in this view of the removable stern bulwarks.
The lab framing is now going up and within the next couple of weeks the entire shelter deck area should be enclosed. Had my camera batteries not run out, I would have posted the images of the dry lab wall in place. Here is the initial framing:
The framing (heavy 4″ x 4″ x 1/2″ steel) will not only frame in the lab space but also support the winches to be mounted above.
The interior work progresses as well. The bath area is nearly complete with a new shower door installed and mahogany woodwork refinished. My work will now shift to the engine room. The new generator arrived from Boston but unfortunately the distributor sent the 4 cyl. version of the the 65kW generator instead of the 6 cyl. model specified. This would be analogous to pulling a large trailer with a compact pickup truck. The correct model is now on it’s way.
Much of the last week’s progress has been slowed by the continuous stretch of rain, making welding outside not the most prudent activity. The biggest change noted is the stern bulwarks are now cut away. Removable bulwarks are being fabricated to allow the vessel to have an open stern for general use, and one more enclosed when the stern ramp is being utilized. The base for the the removable bulkhead, consisting of 1″ x 8″ steel plate has been fitted and tacked in place. At the same time the worn cheeks of the stern ramp were replaced with new and heavier stock. Once the foundation for the bulwarks is in place, the new removable bulwarks will be fabricated on top to assure the best alignment and fit.
The internal framing in the stern has been completely welded. All stiffening plate for the A frame, gallows, and stern bulwarks are raised 1/2″ to be flush with the new tile deck surface.
Rather than try and fit the new shelter structure to the existing side bulwarks, the yard decided to remove the bulwark sections and go with new steel. Between replacing the bulwarks around the aft third of the vessel and along the new shelter, only a short section of the old worn side bulwarks was left.. The yard proposed at a very modest cost to replace the remaining old sections so that the entire work deck will be encompassed by new steel. Work deck bulwarks to be replaced entirely.
Off site fabrication continues. The gallows frame/A frame base is near completion. Many of the fittings to make up the A frame, mast boom, etc. have been flame cut and sandblasted. The new 65kW Northern Lights generator has arrived in Boston. Our order has been finalized for 6 weather tight doors, 3 hatches, 6 port lights and 5 windows, all to be of high grade marine aluminum fabrication.
Being personally on hand during the renovation has proved to be extremely beneficial to the shipyard and the University. Numerous items are resolved every day which is keeping the project flowing in a very positive manner. Otherwise I can usually be found deep in boat somewhere chipping and painting. The fore peak (a tool, parts and supply room off the engine room) is complete and the bath/shower area is nearly refinished.
Also removed are the net drum, scallop booms, and trawling frames. The entire stern bulwarks are cut away and will be lifted off shortly. All new steel will be used in it’s renewal. In the hold, the concrete and foam insulation has been removed as needed, the shaft alley opened up and descaled prior to sand blasting. Again no significant problems were encountered. Three of the four fuel tanks have been emptied and cleaned, and are like new on the inside.
In the lazarette all the framing to support the 6 ton A frame has been put in place,
and the 1″ thick steel plate which will insert into the deck as a base has been fitted.
Engine beds are being fabricated to move the existing generator to the lazarette from the engine room. The wall of the hold will be cut out to pass the old generator out and the new generator in. The new 65kW generator is due to arrive in about 3 weeks.
Sandblasting of the lazarette, fishhold and inboard deck areas will begin shortly. At the same time components such as the A frame will be being fabricated off site. Once the deck area is blasted and primed, framing in of the new lab spaces will begin.