So, I bought an US Army 27’ Bridge and Barge Push Boat

Discussion in 'Metal Boat Building' started by TowerTopper, Dec 6, 2020.

  1. TowerTopper
    Joined: Dec 2020
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    Location: Chicago

    TowerTopper Junior Member

    So, I bought a twin 353 Detroit Diesel Vietnam/ Cold War era, US Army 27’ Push Boat!

    She’s a 1968 HPI 27-C (Highway Products Inc.)

    She was last refitted, upgraded, and reworked in 1980 for the Army by American Development Corporation.

    It’s keel cooled, and 200 HP with the twin 3 cylinder Detroit’s... has a pair of 3:1 Borg Warner Velvet Drives working a pair of 25x19 wheels.

    It came from the Iowa National Guard through the auction system, then it just sat for another 7 years off the banks of the Mississippi River... some what beat up from time and neglect, I was even told it was flipped and damaged in a tornado at one point too in her long life.

    My plan is to ship it overseas to West Africa and use with a ship chandler business in the next year or two when I semi retire there... I had lived there before, now I’m going to move back and take it easy for a few years.

    Over the last year I brought her back to life... I reworked the engines, some electrical issues resolved, a lot of small maintenance repairs, and I even leased it out on a couple of construction projects on the Great Lakes north of Chicago this past summer... she’s already making a buck or two!

    Now I’m just modifying it to a working harbor supply boat before surveying, registering, and foreign flagging her.

    I set it up on a 24’ tilt trailer with the original launching cradle that was meant to go on the back of a Army Deuce and a 1/2 truck, I can launch it anywhere along the waters edge without a ramp... and it works very well... sort of like unloading a roll off dumpster into the water?

    I’m now going to move forward on designing and installing a cab to the cockpit before final refinishing and paint.

    I’ll start posting the progress here as I move on as time allows.

    I work as a Chief Engineer for a Towing Company on the Great Lakes, so my time for boat mods is shared between the work schedule, my off time, and of course the weather.

    Here’s a few pics from over the past year... I hope you will enjoy the show!
    Chief Vince


    Army 27' Bridge and Barge Boat w/ Truck...

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    Army 27' Bridge and Barge Boat w/ Truck...

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    As found near the Quad Cities...

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    Loading her up to move...

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    At home in South Chicago - October 2019...

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    Last edited: Dec 6, 2020
  2. BlueBell
    Joined: May 2017
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    Location: Victoria BC Canada

    BlueBell "Whatever..."

    Wow !
    Quite the project there Chief !
    Do you have drawings or sketches of what you'd like to build?
    Are there others that have been modified the same? Pictures?
     
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  3. TowerTopper
    Joined: Dec 2020
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    Location: Chicago

    TowerTopper Junior Member

    I converted a tilting trailer to use the launching cradle...[​IMG]

    I used 30 wheel hubs for a Toyota Camry as rollers on steel tracks...
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    I made some mounts for the cradle launching winches...[​IMG]


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  4. TowerTopper
    Joined: Dec 2020
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    Location: Chicago

    TowerTopper Junior Member

    No hard plans...I'm just winging it as I go.
    I was going to have it ABS inspected, and registered, but decided to do the mods first due to actual lack of plans... as per the suggestion of my registry agent in Miami.

    Edit...
    I did find this concept sketch this afternoon that I drew last winter.

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    The top doodle on that sheet is me trying to figure out how I might make the rear cab open...

    There's a tow bit on the back of the cockpit, and I was figuring out how to put some doors on back, and still be able to use the bit.

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    This is the only other pic of one with a cab added that I've seen...
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    (Web Pic)

    When I was working on a ship off the West African seaboard for 6 years (Conakry, Guinea down through Durban, South Africa), I work with a ship electrician from the Netherlands.

    I went on vacation to his home with him, and his neighbor owned one of the US Army Bridge Boats and let us take it out, and after that I wanted one.

    They are popular over there to collect... where the US Army left them after the Cold War. They call them LegerBoots... they have a following on FaceBook of LegerBoot collectors.

    In the US, Marine Spill Response Corporation owned a bunch of them for awhile, and had them staged around the US for chemical spills, but have since moved on to 28' Munson's, and sold their inventory of them...

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    (Web Pic)
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2020
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  5. TowerTopper
    Joined: Dec 2020
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    Location: Chicago

    TowerTopper Junior Member

    Finished launch winches...

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    The forward winch slides the whole cradle into the water, the cradle has stops on the back of the trailer so you can't lose it off the end.

    The forward winch is hard mounted to the added framing of the tilt trailer deck, the second winch is mounted on the cradle and moves with it... hence the retractable power cable reel.

    Once the cradle is in the water, the bow is floating off it. The stern of the boat is resting on a dolly on the cradle still held in. The second winch rolls the dolly within the cradle and settles the boat the rest of the way into the water, at which point the boat is floating off the stern dolly.

    Taking it out of the water is the same in reverse.

    I have a control cord on the first winch on dry land, and a wireless controller on the second while on the boat launching. I can launch and work the whole thing alone from where it is setting off the wall of an old WWII dry dock slip... it needs no ramp.

    I back it to the wall, tilt it, and slide it into the water, then I jump on with the remote and lower myself the rest of the way in.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2020
  6. TowerTopper
    Joined: Dec 2020
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    Location: Chicago

    TowerTopper Junior Member

    Had a small exhaust leak, lol...

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  7. TowerTopper
    Joined: Dec 2020
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    Location: Chicago

    TowerTopper Junior Member

    High lake water levels, and ice played hell along the lake shore over the winter last year... tore it up along a lot of private shore line.

    I fell into a deal to push a deck barge with construction materials into shallow water for the first time, then remove it loaded with trash from the job site.

    We towed it 4 hours along the side of the tug Kimberly Selvick out of South Chicago with a deck barge up to north of Chicago near Glencoe.

    The tug unfaced from the barge 1/2 mile off shore... I faced up to the barge and drove it ashore... what a fun day!

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    Last edited: Dec 6, 2020
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  8. bajansailor
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    Location: Barbados

    bajansailor Marine Surveyor

    Welcome to the Forum Chief - and thank you for sharing this wonderful project with us.
    Your push boat looks very fine and is already proving her worth after her renovation.
    Do you have any video of her underway?
    And have you assessed what her bollard pull is? I am guessing around 3 tonnes?

    I can see that in her new life in West Africa she will be a useful asset for a ship chandler - I presume that she will be used for delivering supplies to ships anchored out in the roadstead?
     
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  9. TowerTopper
    Joined: Dec 2020
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    Location: Chicago

    TowerTopper Junior Member

    No, no videos of it yet.

    I was guessing about the same on the bollard pull... but, maybe (hoping) a little bit more... it surprised me for it’s size.

    When I pulled that barge off the wall after I ran it aground for them, and they loaded it again, it seemed to pull it back off fairly effortlessly. Only problem was my two left hand engines, left hand gear boxes, and left hand wheels... but nothing a big circle couldn’t fix!

    I going to figure out how to determine the pull next summer after I rework a couple of things.

    I found a right hand drive that I might buy (but still looking for cheaper to rebuild myself), and I’m going to send both wheels to Kahlenberg Propellers to rework for me... clean one up, and weld and rebore for a tapered shaft on the second one so that I can just flip it over for the new right hand gear box.

    The plan for it is just as you stated... roadstead deliveries after clearing customs, and ferrying mariners to my bar when they are laid up at anchorage for days on end waiting on the stevedores.

    Moving to Freetown, Sierra Leone... Queen Elizabeth II Quay

    Sierra Leone is rated at #5 of friendliest countries to relocate to... USA is #8... plus they speak English... +1 for me.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2020
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  10. TowerTopper
    Joined: Dec 2020
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    Location: Chicago

    TowerTopper Junior Member

    Thanksgiving Day I towed her home for the winter.

    Last winter I had left her in South Chicago to work on her at our dock in South Chicago where I had access to free Detroit parts, and big tools.

    This year, bringing her home saves me a two hour round trip, and tolls. Plus it was damn cold working on her off that point on the Calumet River a 1/4 mile off Lake Michigan.


    I had to move the carport back for the Winter...

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    Boat and trailer weights more than I was figuring...
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    I spent yesterday fixing some popped rivets on one of my push knees...
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    That pretty much brings me up to date.

    I had been lurking around on other boat sites trying to figure out where I could share my story... I think this will work?

    But, I may need to figure out how to shrink my photos more.

    My image hosting is by cubeupload.. free, and easy to use!
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2020
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  11. BlueBell
    Joined: May 2017
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    Location: Victoria BC Canada

    BlueBell "Whatever..."

    What's the trailer and launcher alone weigh?
     
  12. TowerTopper
    Joined: Dec 2020
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    Location: Chicago

    TowerTopper Junior Member

    I’m not sure... I didn’t weigh it when I had the boat in the water this summer. Silly me not to do so, especially since I have a scale right at the dock where I work at.

    I bet it is creeping up to the weight of the boat... so almost 1/2... just under... guessing?

    I added more steel to the inside of the C-channels on the center under side of the deck, and added C-channels to the top side outer rails with 3/4” all-thread trussed in it to pre-tension the tilt deck.

    When I was first putting it together, the trailer deck wanted to bow. It wasn’t designed to have the dove tail off the ground with all the weight suspended off the end of it.

    And I sure everything that I added for the winches adds up too.

    You know what they say about money... “Watch your pennies, and your dollars will take care of themselves”

    I’m sure weight works the same way, but with opposite, negative effects.... lol

    I never imagined that it was starting to weigh that much, or I would have scaled it earlier.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2020
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  13. BlueBell
    Joined: May 2017
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    Location: Victoria BC Canada

    BlueBell "Whatever..."

    Interesting about the Munson boats.
    I never see them around here.
    What do you think of the ones in your hood?
     
  14. TowerTopper
    Joined: Dec 2020
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    Location: Chicago

    TowerTopper Junior Member

    Ya, they invested in Munson 28” push boats, and Munson 32” survey boats for spill operations awhile back, plus they have a lot of miscellaneous equipment around... Jon boats, skiff’s, barges, and they even had a few larger vessels here and there.

    I never see their boats around the refineries here in NW Indiana ether. I do know that they have some equipment stashed around here somewhere, but that may be just a trailer with some oil boom in it for all I know. I haven’t looked at their website (MSRC.org .. if I recall) in awhile, but they use to post their locations, and the equipment provided at each.

    I have a diver/welder friend that we use from time to time. He bought a 28” Munson for his work... nice boats.
     
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  15. BlueBell
    Joined: May 2017
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    Location: Victoria BC Canada

    BlueBell "Whatever..."

    I look forward to seeing what you come up with for your Pusher's wheelhouse.

    Great pics, by the way.
    I love the huge format!
    What's the fuel hose looking gizmo in the last photo all about?
    EDIT: Ah, hydraulic for the launcher?
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2020
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