Dock News

13 Jun


At coordinates 40.87754°N and 73.76577°W, you will find Columbia Island; a 150-square-foot-dollop of rock off of New Rochelle, NY in Long Island Sound that is situated between David’s Island and Pea Island. In fact, prior to 1940, it was known as Little Pea. That was when CBS purchased it, and in 1940 began construction of a concrete foundation to support a transmitter building with emergency housing for ten workers, topped by a 410 foot (125 m) antenna tower for WCBS-AM (then known by the call sign WABC). The transmitter remained in operation until the 1960s, when the station was moved to nearby High Island.

Fast forward to today with the romantic notion of living on one’s very own island added into the mix as filmmaker and actor Al Sutton has been preparing to do just that on Columbia Island.There was a hitch, though. The tiny island with its well-known history, had no power or water. That’s where Florida’s St. Petersburg-based Mastry Engine Center stepped in and helped make it possible for Sutton to live there completely off the grid.

Sutton is renovating the facility that housed the aforementioned Columbia Broadcasting’s 410′ radio tower for almost 20 years. Columbia Island is essentially a 75′ x 75′ concrete building protected by a 175′ x 175′ seawall. Employees once lived there, using a well that has since been breached with seawater, and electricity from an underwater power cable that’s now long gone. Sutton’s goal is to create an off-the-grid, green home in this facility.

The Mastry Engine Center was a key player in meeting this challenge, supplying two custom-built, synchronized, 45 kW MasPower generators as part of the home’s power system. The packages feature electronically controlled Yanmar diesel engines, powder-coated enclosures, stainless steel exhaust systems and 100-gallon stainless steel fuel tanks. A DeepSea electronic controller is instrumental in synchronizing the generators; no easy feat on smaller power systems.he house’s 100,000W power demand is fed primarily by a 1,200 sq. foot solar panel array linked to six large Xantrex inverter systems, with overflow sent to a bank of 48V batteries. When needed, the inverters signal the MasPower generators to start, which then simultaneously supply house power while recharging the battery bank. As power levels stabilize, one generator shuts down, leaving one to finish charging the batteries.

Total Electric, a Charleston, South Carolina, alternative power specialist, coordinated the electrical system. To connect the MasPower generators, “All I did was plug and play,” said Total Electric’s Tom Stoudenmier. “Mastry was great, they did all the synchronizing and fine tuning of the circuitry that makes the generators talk to each other.”

The house itself presents its own obstacles. More a bunker than an island estate, its basement is consumed by four half-million-pound concrete pads that once secured the radio tower. To install the generators, Mastry completely disassembled them to fit through a hole cut in the floor, then reassembled and installed them within the sparse basement area.

Project manager Harry Hunt of Marine-Solutions, a Glen Cove, New York-based marine repair and restoration company, said renovation work at Columbia Island, “Is like working on a boat that doesn’t move.  This is a very small, unprotected island. Everything must be watertight to stand up to the elements.  It demands the use of the best available products.”

Water comes from a 1,200 gpd Village Marine reverse osmosis seawater desalinator. Waterproof marine bulkhead doors, hurricane-proof windows, roll-down exterior shutters and two 10,000 gph sump pumps help protect the house from the elements. Sutton is currently creating a documentary about the resurrection of Columbia Island and incorporating its unique history as well.

Mastry Engine Center, celebrating its 50th anniversary, specializes in marine and industrial engines for OEM and repower, use MasPower diesel generators and industrial equipment.

Contact Mastry Engine Center, 2801 Anvil St., N. St. Petersburg, FL  33710.  727-522-9471.
Fax: 727-527-7013.

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Posted by on June 13, 2012 in Dock News


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