is a homemade hybrid diesel powered jet boat and ambient submarine. These
pages are a work in progress, it helps us stay organized and we hope
it also helps you with your own projects. Disclaimer: Build a
sub; live wild and die. Just don't blame us.
Part of me wants to keep working on this
submarine but five years ago a visitor stopped
by to talk welding and put this idea in my head
of building a sailboat that we could take down
the river system and out onto the ocean.
That dream of living fulltime on the water with
all of the dive gear and equipment needed for
underwater adventures replaced operating a
submarine. The irony of of the sailboat
replacing the submarine is that the submarine
taught me welding, metal casting, basic
machining, electronics, and a thousand lessons
about "how to" and just as important "how not
to" build something.
Where The Submarine Stands
There is a great deal of work to do.
Her surface speed is about 15 mph at best.
The engine has more power than that, but the
gear ratio in the speedup box is too high and
the engine is not reaching her peak torque rpm.
That would be a matter of removing the engine
and gear box and changing the arrangement of the
quick change gears.
Left undetermined is how quickly the jet pump
would extract the water from the inside of the
hull without outer doors than can close off the
normal intake port. She has also never left the
surface so there is undoubtedly work needed to
adjust her ballast and a big question about
controlling her depth adequately while using
variable ballast tanks for trim.
One problem left unresolved is the heat
buildup in the engine compartment. On an 83
degree day we got the compartment to 165 degrees
after the engine was shutdown. There is
not a problem while the engine is running as
fresh cool air is constantly drawn down the tail
fin. But once she is powered down the heat
climbs quickly and make the engine difficult to
impossible to start. I designed her engine
compartment so that it used a single "S" trap
for the air intake and therefore needed no valve
system. But at this point I think I'd add a
second trap or a valve with a blower fan that
could cool the compartment.
The thruster controls have been plagued with
problems, and while the current system of
relays and speed controllers works, it's just
too many parts. I think I would scrap
everything but the motors and go with a simple
forward/reverse relay on each thruster, and
control those with a small joystick on the
control box. There would be no variable
speed, but that's just a matter of bumping them
on and off.
People with no imagination, trolls, and
naysayers are a dime a dozen but they do proved
some motivation because it's always fun to point
out that their ass is on a couch. There are
lots of these types in the submarine forums,
quick to tell you what you're doing wrong, rarely
offering real advice, and extremely rarely
sharing their own failures. In fact those
go hidden from the public. So beware, and
don't be discouraged.
On the other there are some really good
people out there with good ideas and
suggestions. If you've helped me, you know
who you are, and thank you, amigos. I have
really appreciated the assistance!
Mini and Personal Submarine
Enthusiasts Home Base
Nov 16, 2010
After another year long break, Seeker is back on the front
burner. The target test date is March!
Seeker is on hold. Check Out
Argonaut Jr. that's what we are
working on currently.
David, Kay and I proudly displaying our low cost underwater
communication gear having successfully tested it to 600 feet! Read
Hydrophone and Underwater Voice Communications
Aug - October, 2009
* With lots of help from David Bartsch, we added the
beginnings of a new page:
Hydrophone and Underwater Voice Communications
* Rebuilt the relays for the ballast sled winch damaged by
* Redesigned the helm control box and built the guts.
* Added battery cutoff switches for the 12 and 36 volt systems.
* Rebuild the ballast sled winch mount with a better design.
* Sealed up three new linear actuators to replace the destroyed helm
* Made shade covers for the work area.
* Redid the seals for the landing gear actuators and replaced
* Replaced two 12 volt Optima gel-cells.
* Repaired a short in the navigation lights.
* Installed circuit breakers in the 12 and 36 volt systems.
Chinese Peasant's Oil Barrel "Death Trap"
Submarine Makes Expert PSub Builders Eat Crow.
When Tao's Submarine first appeared in the news is was touted by
many of the engineers and arm chair critics on psubs.org as a "death
trap". Let this be an lesson of how perseverance and
resourcefulness can triumph over high brow arrogance. See:
Tao Xiangli's Submarine
July, 2009 - We added a new "Work
Place Injury" and this time we got a new victim. See: "Hot
In other news, we have been taking a few weeks off after a wiring
disaster. While continuing work on the wiring harness I
managed to burn up one of the landing gear linear actuators before I
had installed the circuit breaker. Then I discovered I need to
switch the polarity inside the helm actuator box and forgot
(again) that I also needed to switch the locations of the limit
switches. I discovered my mistake when the rudder actuator
tore off both of its mounts and then striped its lead screw nut.
Unfortunately that actuator is not repairable and has been
discontinued. So now that I have to rebuild that section anyway I
decided on a better way to wire it up, but that means tearing out
the control box wiring. So we are delayed once again.
Oh, it's 105F out too.
May, 2009 - Been thinking about what could be done
to save the sub and crew in the event of the most likely emergency.
For example the engine compartment rapidly floods, the 12 volt
system shorts out, and we start heading for the bottom. That brought
us to add two items that will give us a really good chance of making
it to the surface without abandoning the boat. Read more here:
Apr/May 2009 - "What's next? Oh yea the wiring harness.
Well, that wont take long."
--Right! It all takes a long time, and always longer
than I image. But once the right wires and connected and the
right limit switches are in use then it is a real joy to see things
like the rudder, dive planes, and throttle move. Read more here:
2009 - Not exactly back to working on the submarine again, but
we did get a tow vehicle to replace the TopKick and it's despised
Caterpillar engine. It's a 89 Suburban with 9000lbs of towing
capacity and room enough to live in. And then we taught
ourselves how to paint a car. Read more here:
The New Tow Truck
Dec, 2008 - The engine is in and running great now but we
are taking a break from the sub. We've converted the plasma
room on the shop to a bedroom off the apartment for our grandson as
mom and boy will be with us while dad goes to Afghanistan. We
have also reorganized the shop and purchased a used CNC table and a
new welder, all of which need lots of work. And a School Bus that
will donate parts for our sailboat. So our web site is still getting
updated, just not here. Will complete the wiring when we get
back to the sub.
We installed the engine for a test a week ago and while it
started up just fine after waiting for over 2 years, it only took
about 60 seconds for it to blow part the oil cooler build into the
hull. What a mess! So we have build and installed an
pressure regulator, repaired the oil cooler. We also
festoon the power
cables and tested the air
divider that will feed ambient air to the forward or aft trim
tank. And installed lights on
Sept 7, 2008
Completed the ballast and battery sled insulation and made some
adjustments to get the 1 ton sled to track cleanly down the rails.
Read More: Sled
Installation and Testing
Aug 1, 2008
Finally back to work on the submarine. The center console will
house lots of toggle switches to control various systems along with
the air supply and meters that monitor the engine and batteries.
Read More: Wiring Harness
We purchased a 1995 GMC Topkick with a Caterpillar
3116 to tow the sub. It almost made it home before it died.
"It's Alive" -- And we did it without a single Caterpillar
special tool! Read More..
June 7, 2008
It's really nice to have neighbors with a huge crane. Paul
Nosack of "Nosack Tree Service" parked out in the street and his 11
year old son got to do his first lift, raising both of the gantries
without a hitch. Read More...