Bob Martin Soon To Retire

Then Guemes Ferry Manager Dixon Elder hired Bob Martin for the position of On-Call Maintenance Mechanic on October 1, 1991. This proved the most valuable decision of Mr. Elder’s tenure for ensuring operational availability of the Guemes for many years to come. 

A recent example of his extensive knowledge of the Guemes and his invaluable experience in the field of marine mechanics occurred about three months ago.  After the 5:30pm-6:15pm break, the operator went to start both engines, but Number 2 would not even turn over.  Bob was called (again) from his home in the Alger. When he arrived, he quickly diagnosed that the starter on that engine was inoperable. The starter had been replaced with a new Cummins OEM starter at the most recent haul out which occurred in May, 2021. Fortunately for everyone trying to get home that evening, Bob had kept the old starter as back-up knowing that spares are critical in marine operations.  Within about 30 minutes after arrival, Bob had the new but defunct starter out and replaced with the old but operable unit. The engine fired up on the first try and the vessel was back in operation much to the relief of waiting islanders who thanked the mechanic with a round of applause.  

When I entered Bob’s “office” (the tool and machine shop on the south end of the Anacortes Terminal Building), he was working with the recently hired Ferry Assistant Operations Supervisor, Kent Dixon, and Bob’s replacement Kyle Trux, instructing them on the various grease needs of the ramp including the use of the high-pressure grease gun using 630-2 grease for the main pins on the bridge deck. A box of 63AA grease, he pointed out, is used only on the outdrives due to marine service at higher temperature for longer periods. This short lesson on the grease needs of the vessel and bridge deck exemplify Bob’s extensive knowledge of the operation and his careful maintenance practices invaluable in keeping the vessel and ramps at highest availability for service.

Bob was also working on another project involving the replacement of very small pumps used in a system retrofitted to the Guemes to reduce the amount of pollution coming from the vessel’s old Cummins diesels. 

In 2018, $112 million in Volkswagen settlement funds came to Washington State of which $40 million was set aside specifically for repowering ferries and tugboats.  Under this program, the County might have attained two new Tier 3 Cummings marine diesels at no cost.  Bob checked with Cummins and these new, cleaner diesels would exactly fit the existing foundations on the boat which were completely rebuilt in the 2017 haul-out. The County, however, had applied for a Federal Department of Transportation BUILD grant for a new all-electric vessel and made the determination that repowering the Guemes might somehow lessen their chance of obtaining the Federal funding.  The assumption that the County would qualify for funding an all-electric ferry during the anti-global warming, pro-big oil and coal Trump administration was questionable, but the decision was made not even to apply for the Volkswagen settlement engine replacement funding. The County did not get the BUILD grant.

Retention of the old equipment increased the pressure on Bob to find sources for spares available for the outdated engines and outdrives.  Later, when an outdrive part failed, Bob knew that a company in Portland, Oregon was running the same outdrives and drove there to pick up the spare outdrive part to keep the Guemes running.

When Bob walks out the door for the last time for his well-deserved retirement, (he turns 65 in August), you just might have to wait a bit longer for the Guemes to come back on-line the next time she suddenly develops an operational problem. This time for sure we will lose Bob.

- Steve Orsini

Ferry Tales: Wrenching Rumors
The smell on the Ferry that morning was different and Bob, our ferry mechanic, noticed. Something smelled ‘hot’ and, investigating, he discovered that the oil temperature for an outdrive was much too high. A shear pin on an oil pump did what shear pins are supposed to do under stress (shear).  He also realized the consequences if that shear pin wasn’t repaired quickly: As oil temperatures rise, viscosity and lubrication fall."