Craigslist find!

So, I’m back from Minehead, UK after a grueling week at the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival there. I saw very little music over the 5 days here, other than the band I was tour managing, My Bloody Valentine. Such is the glory of working in the “music industry”.

I was wrapping up the accounts at home and doing a bit of goofing off by trolling on ebay. I have a list of special bookmarks for searches that I like to repeat – looking for specific things that I like to track and find. “Volvo P1800″, “Fiat 850″ (both cars I’ve owned in the past), “Enerpac SP-35″ (a hydraulic hole puncher I have my eye on), “New York Central” (for all the various train memorabilia) and “Keel Cooler”. One of the big mechanical pieces of my tugboat puzzle is a keel cooler for a future generator. A keel cooler is a radiator that sits on the outside of the hull that uses the colder temperature of the seawater to cool the warmer water from the generator.

I had bought the header and ends to a Walter’s 4 tube keel cooler on Ebay awhile back and I thought I had made a fantastic find. Walter Machinery is located in nearby Jersey City, NJ, so I thought it would be simple to bring my parts in to show them what I had and pick up 4 new tubes to create a working unit. Well it turns out that althought the header and the turn around end I had bought looked brand new and looked like they had never been installed, these parts were very, very old. So old that when I showed the guy at Walter’s what I had, he was stumped. Turns out that this was a first generation unit with fluted rubber seals that did not work very well and easily leaked, he told me. Walters did a redesign and went to a O-ring system that they use to this day. They had no fluted end tubes to sell me – I now had a $60 marine bronze sculpture of a keel cooler header. Like an idiot, I had even been so eager as to drill the 3 inch hole in the box I built to install this unit already! So that hole has been calling to me to be filled ever since – I can look down and see the ground below all the time I am working on my tool bench inside the boat.

Nothing has been turning up in my eBay searches in regards to a keel cooler for a year. So I decided to get aggressive and start searching harder. I started doing google searches for “craigslist keel cooler” and there were a few more promising leads but not many. But I struck gold on Tuesday when I found this – “Fernstrum Gridcooler – Heavy duty keel cooler for ship hull – $425 (Petersburg, KY (1 mile off of I-275))” on Craigslist. The ad mentioned it was 84 inches long, 7 inches wide and 2 1/2 inches deep. An absolutely perfect size. Unfortunately, the cooler was in Petersberg, Kentucky! After agreeing on a price, the seller, Jeff Hartline, mentioned that he had another one exactly the same, and he asked if I would like to buy both.

I looked into getting an LTL carrier to do the shipping, but one of the coolers had lost its original shipping box. And it seemed best to do a cash transaction and to see them and measure them exactly in person before the sale. Since I was going to have to rent a vehicle, buy gas, and drive 10 hours each way to collect this, I decided to purchase both. My recessed box can only fit one, but maybe at some point I will add another recessed box on the starboard side of the hull and use this other cooler as a heat exchanger for refrigeration or air conditioning for the boat. Hmmmm….

So here is a shot of the installed 1/2″ thick plate box I recessed into the hull. These two larger coolers are for each of the two GM 6-110 diesel propulsion motors. This generator cooler will fit in nicely in between these other two. The tabs with the holes are for a guard that will be bolted on that will protect the coolers a bit.


So with the help of an unlimited mileage Avis rental hybrid SUV (29.5 miles per gallon), I drove 1498.4 miles in the last 48 hours. I used some of my Hyatt rewards points to get a comped hotel room in Columbus, OH and catch some sleep and a shower along the way. They wouldn’t fit in the rear compartment of the Escape, even with the rear seats down and on a diagonal. So I propped them up on the center console and strapped them together and to the interior of the car with ratchet straps so if I had a quick stop, they wouldn’t fly through the windshield.

Here is the unboxing of what I bought!:



Ta Dah!


Speaking with the seller, Jeff, he told me how he acquired these. He was the high bidder on a lot through the website,, which is a site I look at quite alot, but I have never bought anything from. Jeff restores and collects military trucks and he was looking for some parts for one of his vehicles. Sometimes with this site, you might win an auction of an entire lot of thousands of various parts and items, all in one bid. The items are all listed by government requisition number with very few photos, so you never really know what you might get when you unbox everything! Well, luckily for me, Jeff decided to sell these on Craiglist rather than take them to the scrap metal dealer and I happened to see his ad!

Santa has come early to Tottenville!

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  1. Tim
    Posted December 14, 2009 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Hi Eric,

    Great find…grid coolers!!


  2. Posted December 20, 2009 at 4:44 am | Permalink

    We have keel coolers aboard the Saint Joseph. My son an ex-Coast Guard Electronics Technician thinks that if we were to remove the coolers that we might be able to achieve another knot or more.

    I on the other hand feel the damage from the sea water is worse than the extra speed.

    How do you feel about this?

    559-799-3116 Cell

    • Posted December 20, 2009 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      Hi David,
      My recommendation would be to stick with the keel coolers. I recessed mine into a steel box in the hull mainly for protection of the units, but it does provide a lower drag coefficient as a side benefit. If you go to a sea water pump system, you have a host of new challenges. You now have a sinking point if you should ever have a seawater inlet piping issue. When I first pulled the tug out of the water, there were the stubs of two keel coolers left that had been mounted flush on the hull. They had been ripped off at some point earlier in my boats life. There is also the maintenance of the raw water strainer (zebra mussels?) and pump. I find the closed loop, antifreeze filled, keel cooler system to be the best possible solution. It is pretty much fail safe which outweighs any possible slight increase in mpg’s in my thinking. I am also leaving tee’s in the circulating loops to add a modine radiator heater or other possible hydronic heating to use some of these “free” BTU’s in the winter. Do you have your coolers protected somehow with a guard in case you were to run aground?



  3. Bob De Jonge
    Posted August 21, 2010 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    just came across your blog via a Google Image search, looking for photos of keel-mounted grid coolers. I was at RW Fernstrum last week Wednesday, talking about design projects they’re sponsoring here at Michigan Tech. Amazing company. Anyway, although I can’t speak for them, the guys there, Paul, Sean, and Todd Fernstrum, are great guys. I’m not sure if you need anything relative to your cooler [spares, parts, service, etc.] but they may be helpful in your restoration project there. Contact me, too, if you need help relative to the grid cooler. I’m not sure if I can help, but you never know. It looks like you’ve bitten off quite a project!

One Trackback

  1. By Final keel cooler installation and beginning piping on January 3, 2010 at 11:59 am

    [...] I got the third keel cooler for the future generator (see my previous post on finding this on Craigslist) in the recessed box in the hull! I had to wait to get the 3M 101 [...]

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>