Mar 5, 2011

Pursuit of Persistent Rumors, Part 2...

The Nadji participates in an ocean race in 1930
Photo courtesy of the Mystic Seaport's Rosenfeld Photographic Collection
I spent most of the 1970's on the Mississippi Gulf coast, while working at the Litton shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi.  I joined the local car clubs and was active in the Lincoln Zephyr Owners Club as well.  From the time I arrived on the gulf coast, whenever the car conversation turned to my 1948 Lincoln Continental, I heard rumors of a Lincoln V-12 engine powering a sailboat "somewhere on the coast."  I followed up one day by going along the waterfront in Pascagoula asking the shrimp boat crews if they knew of such a boat.  I actually found one crewman who directed me to some bayou on the Pascagoula River in the Moss Point/Escatawpa area.  I pursued this lead to no avail.  I found a pier but no boat.

Not long after this adventure, I saw an ad in the local paper - "1941 Lincoln V-12 Marine Conversion Engine, extra V-12 parts, extra V-12 engine.  Make offer."  I figured it had to be the same engine I had been pursuing.  I called the number listed in the ad and was given directions to the same bayou I had already visited!

A Seawanhaka Schooner's hull receives its coats of paint
in the boatyard of the Bath Iron Works in the 1920's

Tied up at the pier was a very large vessel.  It turned out to be the
Nadji, a 60-foot staysail schooner of the Cox & Stevens designed Seawanhaka class.  There had been 16 of these boats built in the mid-1920's at the Bath Iron Works in Maine (although they were wooden vessels).  Remarkably, I was told by the owner, 12 were still afloat some 50 years later!

The Nadji had been provided with a Kermath Sea-Zephyr propulsion system in 1941.  This was a marine conversion of the Lincoln-Zephyr V-12 automobile engine.  The conversions were done by the Kermath Marine Engine company of Detroit.  The owner was in the process of converting this vessel from the Kermath powerplant to a more modest (and vastly more efficient) Volvo diesel system.  I made a modest offer and had to assist the owner in removing some remaining parts of the original installation, but I got the engines and parts.  I apparently was the only respondent to his ad.

Today, the only surviving Seawanhaka class vessel,
renamed the Seawanhaka, is circumnavigating the globe
The engine was coupled to an enormous "Upton Reverse and Reduction Gear, Model VUD" hydraulic transmission.  The whole rig weighed over 1,200 pounds!  The owner advised me that the engine had burned fuel at a rate of 1-1/2 gallons per mile when propelling this 60,000 lb. vessel.  He also said it performed flawlessly to the end.
An early Kermath advertiseent
As I understood his story, he had crewed on this ship as a youngster while it belonged to someone at the Southern Yacht Club in New Orleans.  It went to the bottom alongside the pier during hurricane Betsy in 1965.  The New Orleans owner had then contacted the man I met and told him that the boat was his for the taking if he chose to salvage it.  The latter owner had refloated the boat and moved it to the Pascagoula area where he had been restoring it for many years.

I later heard that the Nadji had left for South America to be used as a Christian missionary vessel.  I had intended to convert the engine back to an automotive use, but decided it was too rare an item to use in that way.  I sold the engine and transmission to a marine engine collector in Canada.  I still have some of the many V-12 parts that came as part of the deal!

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