Spirit of Ethan Allen boat to upgrade from WWII-era diesel engines

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BURLINGTON, Vt. – The Spirit of Ethan Allen, Vermont’s largest cruise ship, will soon upgrade from its World War II era diesel engines to new ones that meet modern emissions standards.

The engines are projected to cut roughly 457 tons of diesel emissions and 437 tons of carbon dioxide – the equivalent of 17 tractor trailers.

The project was made possible by the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation’s Diesel Emissions Reduction Program. They awarded over a quarter million dollars for the effort. It’s the largest grant they’ve ever awarded.

Mike Shea, owner of the Spirit of Ethan Allen, detailed the history of the boat’s outgoing engines.

“These were originally in P.T. (patrol torpedo) boats,” Shea said. “Years ago, we had a gentleman come on board who knew them because he was on a P.T. boat and slept next to them for a year in the Pacific.”

The boat’s engineering crew, lead by head engineer Wilson Tucker, had to cut holes in the floor to get the old engines out of the engine room and into the main entrance area.

That’s nothing compared to the work that will go into getting them off the boat when their replacements arrive in February.

“It’s going to be an all-day adventure,” Tucker said. “We’re bringing in a several-thousand ton crane. Our main generators are going to weigh about 5700 pounds.”

The old engines were manufactured by Detroit Diesel and have no environmental regulations. As part of the grant, they have to be put out of commission by drilling a hole in the engine block.

For Tucker, it’s a bittersweet send-off.

“I’ve worked on ’em all night, sometimes three days straight so we don’t miss trips,” Tucker said. “They’re my girls!”

His crew has even given the engines names: Daisy, Thelma, Louise and LuLu.

“I named them all because they all have their own personality.”

The project is expected to improve air quality around the Burlington waterfront and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.

“It’s good to see them go,” Shea said. “I’m sure our engineering staff will have new names for the girls, and life will be better for everybody that surrounds the Spirit of Ethan Allen.”

The new engines are slated to be in place by the beginning of 2020 operations on May 1.

The Vermont Diesel Emissions Reduction Program has provided over $3.2 million in grant money since 2008.

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