Reinventing Taking Temperatures


Note: The Waterpomptang family is fictitious and occasionally a Waterpomptang story appears on the M&O website. Some say their adventures resemble real events, but that is just a coincidence.

Froetjers had been on a long run home and to make cocktail hour at the Molly Pitcher she was running at full throttle in the Bay to make up time for the slower run up the river. Will was driving and just before entering the river and slowing down, Bolle opened the engine cover and took some engine temperatures with his Raytek remote reading thermometer.

Bolle closed the cover and as Will slowed down, Bolle stored the Raytek in a cubby at the wheel stand.

“Is everything all right?” Will asked.

“Perfect as far as I know. I like taking some temperatures at different parts of the engine when we run at full throttle.”

“Do you record them?”

“Not really on paper, I am just looking for a general impression. I always make a full throttle run like this at the beginning and the end of the season, and this was a nice chance to do a mid season check. I have learned that there are times when you really need to record stuff and then there are other times where you are actually looking for an anomaly and that becomes an issue of experience, which over time becomes a skill.”

Bolle nodded towards the wheel stand cubby, “Lovely piece of equipment those Rayteks. I loved them the moment they came out. In those days they were rather expensive. Now they cost less than a cheap case of beer.”


Bolle put on his pre-story expression; a focus somewhere in the distance with a half smile around his mouth: “Your great grandfather used to take the temperatures of his reciprocating steam engines by putting his hand on the bearing caps. You had to be careful about that with those connecting rods flying around on the exposed crankshaft.”

I did not really acquire that skill because I did not sail with reciprocating steam engines. I sailed steam turbines and diesel engines. For the early diesels we had a different system that also required some skill. As cadets or junior engineers we had to take exhaust gas temperatures twice per watch with skinny glass mercury thermometers that you had to slide into a narrow tube in the exhaust line of each cylinder. On a hot running engine that was no fun job and we broke many a thermometer. If we asked the first assistant engineer for a new thermometer, at best, we would give us an ass chewing and at worst he would kick your ass all across the floor plates.


Bolle went on: “So one day I was bemoaning my faith with one of the other junior engineers and we decided that we were damned if we did take exhaust gas temps, and we were damned if we didn’t take exhaust gas temps. And then we realized that there was a middle path.”

This was an 8 cylinder engine and we decided we would take the temperature on just a few of the cylinders and just add or subtract a few degrees for the other cylinders. That would save us time and trouble and result in fewer broken thermometers. As young engineers we realized that this system may not show a potential engine problem, but in our young minds we figured that as long as we cycled through taking the real temperature on each cylinder over the course of our watches and counted on the other juniors taking all the temperatures on their watches, we would be OK on long steady runs.

This seemed to work fine for a few weeks until we got called into the Chief Engineer’s office.

We walked into the office and he was behind his desk looking at the engine logbook. He looked up from the logbook and first stared at me and then at my buddy. “So”, he started, “You have decided that you don’t have to take the temperature on each cylinder.” We stammered, “What do you mean sir?”

He looked at us again and said: “Don’t bullshit me, I know what you have been doing for the last few weeks. You have been taking temperatures on only a few cylinders and just been adding or substracting a few degrees for the others. We said nothing, but there must have been awe, fear or disbelief in our eyes.

He did not react to our expressions and just said: “This is your warning, if I ever see you cutting corners again, you will be finished with this company. Now get out.”

We stammered: “Yes Sir”, we turned around and headed for the door. Just as I opened the door he called us and we turned around. He said: “You are probably wondering how I know.” Then a smile crept across his face: “I know, because I did the same thing you did when I was young.”

Bolle chuckled at the memory: “To this day I wonder how the Chief Engineer caught on to our scheme. I think he must have seen a pattern that was similar to the pattern that he had used in his days. But on the other hand, I also wonder if the first engineer may have looked at his stock of exhaust gas thermometers and walked into the Chief Engineer’s office and said: “Hey Chief, the juniors are at it again, I have not had the joy of kicking their asses for breaking thermometers in over two weeks.”

Froetjers was just passing Bahrs waterfront restaurant in Highlands, Bolle waved at the kids at the fuel dock and they waved back and called back with a: “Hey Mr. Waterpumptongue”. Despite the fact that the proper pronunciation of his last name still eluded them, they knew Bolle and Froetjers well, and Bolle was a good tipper.


He chuckled: “Look at those kids, I’ll bet you right now they are inches away from cooking up some scheme that looks great in their eyes and has failed on that dock for over 100 years. Good for them. How else are you going to learn?”


Wim (Willem Fokko) Waterpomptang, originally a blacksmith, but became a Chief Engineer in the Dutch Merchant Marine (this would be Hoofdscheepswerktuigkundige Waterpomptang) and mostly sailed to the Great Lakes and the Mediterranean. No fan of the English, but loved the Scots. Referred to as Oudopa by his descendents. Passed away in 1992.

Wim Waterpomptang, President Emeritus, Watt & Fulton, Ship Surveyors and EngineersStarted as a sailing engineer at Holland America Line and then started to work for an American Ship surveying company in Rotterdam.Transferred to the United States with his family just before the Bicentennial.

Joined Watt & Fulton in 1980 and bought the company with his son, Willem, in 1993.

Owns a 28 foot Olson Sea Skiff named “Froetjers” and drives a 1993 Dodge K car. Hates cars. Keeps his boat at the Molly Pitcher.

Nicknamed “Bolle” by his old friends (Means “round one”). Called Pa by his kids and Opa by his grandchildren.

Any stranger he meets he calls “My Friend”. Anytime somebody says something that makes no sense he says: Rotzooi! (A not too rude word for mess, mix-up or confusion)

Loves his wife Truus and bacon, hates to travel. Drinks Lairds and cold beer. Is distrustful of people that eat porridge and oatmeal for breakfast. Hates melted cheese.

Willem (Willem Fokko) Waterpomptang President Watt & Fulton, Wim’s son

Sails and iceboats. Aerospace and Ocean engineer and Professional Engineer. Is somewhat autistic and sometimes has trouble figuring out what people mean. Helped by his partners and office staff in maintaining human contact.  Nicknamed “Dutch Uncle” due to his inability to behave tactfully. Married to Anne Gardiner, fortunately of Scottish descent.

Marina (Marina Gretchen) Waterpomptang. Economist and Environmental Scientist with a Masters degree in System Engineering from Columbia.

Daughter of Willem. Works for the company as an independent consultant. Travels the world and does weird things, sometimes for W&F.

Will (Willem James) Waterpomptang

Son of Willem. Mysterious Character. Also an engineer but now works as a lawyer in mysterious acquisitions and deals. Married to Shruti a big data engineer from India.

Polara (Polara Ruth) Waterpomptang

Daughter of Willem, marine biologist, artist and environmental activist.

Watt & Fulton, an ancient ship surveying and engineering company, founded by descendants of James Watt and Robert Fulton and world renown for dealing with the thornier maritime issues.

The company used to be based in New York City, but moved to Red Bank, NJ after the Whitehall Club closed.

­­Today W&F is located across the railroad station above a packy store in the Mexican section of town.