George Harmon - Dickie Tug Conversion

I purchased a Nirvana II sailboat to keep myself entertained on the weekends while I am working in Ohio. The last time I took it out, the batteries went dead for the receiver and there it sat, in the middle of the pond, slowly drifting toward the opposite shore where all the property is privately owned. After waiting about an hour, it finally grounded in a back yard on the other side of the pond. After knocking on the door and getting permission to retrieve my boat I gave some thought about a rescue boat. Then winter set in and now the sailboat sits high and dry waiting for spring.
For my birthday in late January, my kids bought me a Dickie Tug off of eBay. As a lark, I looked for references on the web and came across Model Boat Mayhem and to my surprise I found several write-ups about improving it. Since itís mid winter and thereís not a heck of a lot to do around here I decided to give it a try. I am working in an apartment in Stow, Ohio (about 40 miles south of Cleveland) and donít have a lot of space or tools here.

I found that my tug is slightly different from the one you have completed, no deck hands and different colours, but outside of that, this version is quite similar in all other respects.

Here is what I got out of the box.

It arrived in pretty good condition with the exception of a broken handrail on the starboard side.

I began the tear down right out of the box. I wonít repeat what you have already written about except for what I did (will do?) differently. My tug didnít have the water proof tub for the electronics. It had a surface mount motherboard that is smothered in wax to water proof it. Oh well, itís gone nowÖ

After taking the deck off, I removed everything in the hull.

Next I cut open the water box with my handy dandy Dremel tool.

I wanted to seal the hull to provide more stable ballast without the water sloshing around. I put masking tape on the bottom of the hull and used JB Weld Kwik to seal the interior. I will use lead shot to get the ballast I want then epoxy it in place when I have a good sea trial.

I also read on several sites that the stock dog bone shaft connector is loud and sloppy so I looked for a replacement. The prop, dog bone and shaft are pretty cheesy so I decided to replace them all. I removed the Kort nozzle, drive motor and tried to pull off the prop. It is a press fit over a spline shaft. I used a small crescent wrench and a small hammer to tap off the prop. Then I couldnít remove the shaft. I used the wrench on the dog bone and tried to tap it off and ended up removing the stuffing tube. (Darn!)

Well since it started to come out, I pulled it completely out. I made up a new tube using thin wall 3/16Ē ID brass tube and made a new 3/16Ē prop shaft. I looked around for a a replacement coupling and found the Raboesch model 160 couplings. Short, strong and they have a huge selection of sizes that you assemble. (The motor has a 2.3mm shaft if anyone needs to knowÖ)

The clamp that held the stuffing tube would no longer fit so I used a short piece of brass tube that fit over the 3/16Ē ID tube as a guide and glued it in place using more of the JB Kwik. Now I donít have to move the motor mount. The alignment is excellent on this boat.

Now that the stuffing tube is done I used the original mount from the rudder servo, cut it out to mount the servo. You need to turn it upside down and space up the front end of the bracket, but it fits perfectly.

Thatís pretty much where I am for the hull right now as I am waiting for my prop to arrive. I will finish cutting the stuffing tube and the shaft to length, then replace the kort tube and make the steering linkage.

Some other modifications I have been working on.

I hated those cheap tie wraps used to hang the tires off the side so I used some household string to make rope hangers.

You can see the missing handrail above. I used to Tig Welder fill rod (free from a friend) to make a new handrail from some stainless steel rod.

I glued it in and;


I also didnít like the string on the crane for the hook, so, back to my friend the welder. I got a piece of fill rod for aluminium and made a ďcableĒ for the crane. I like it better.


I am using a Traxxas 3 channel receiver and transmitter for the radio, have a waterproof Proboat ESC for the motor and have ordered 2, 9.6V 3300mAh batteries to drive the beast. I ordered a 50mm 4 bladed prop from Raboesch to drive it. I should have this complete and ready to test in a couple of weeks.
Thatís where I am at this time.

Costs to date:
Dickie (Hen Long) Tug / Work Boat (Free as a birthday present) or ~$50.00 off ebay.
Traxxas 3 channel transmitter, receiver and battery box $30.00 on ebay
Servo $0.99 from ebay
Proboat waterproof ESC from Horizon Hobby $40.00
50mm Brass Prop and coupling from Ships and Things $60.00
2 - 3300 mAh Batteries and charger from $49.99

I guess I could have bought an Atlantic Tug for $250.00 but where is the fun in that?

Thanks for looking,


 Part 2 (and last) 

My prop has arrived. I ordered a 50mm 4 blade prop from Ships and things. I have cut the shaft to length and mated it to the u-joint and the prop. A light application of white lithium grease and it is a perfect fit.

I was able to use the stock motor and mount in itís original location.

You can see from the picture of the servo above that it took me a couple of tries to drill the correct location of the steering linkage. I now have 100% travel of the ďKortĒ nozzle.

The 50mm prop is a good fit.

I installed the electronics under the pilot house on the main deck.

The hull is done. I hooked up the speed control and battery and ran the motor for about 30 min. An overnight float test showed that it was watertight. The battery sits in the old water well. A small piece of Velcro holds it in place. You canít see it in the pic, but there is an inline 5 amp fuse between the battery and the motor.

Another float test in the tub showed me that it was a bit light in the stern. I velcroíd some weight there to achieve level and to make sure the prop was under water. I reinstalled the main deck and checked all the connections. Itís a good thing my girlfriend hasnít moved in with me yet. I really like not getting a ribbing for floating a toy boat in the bathÖ

I cut the front bumper down a bit to reduce drag, finished installing the pilot house and now itís ready for spring.

Since I am working in an apartment, and itís a bit cold this time of year, I donít have a place to paint, so my Dickie will have itís launch in itís natural colours. Maybe when it warms up a bit, I can find a friends garage to repaint it in. Below is my work area (and the sailboat is the reason I wanted the tug).

It has been a while since I did any modelling and this was kind of fun as well as re-teaching me a few tricks. (Not to mention it kept me off the streets and out of trouble for 4 or 5 weekends) Since I still have several weeks to go before spring, I ordered a Dumas Bluefish Submarine as my next project. If anyone has any hints on building or modifying the Dumas subs, I would appreciate an email.

Thanks for looking and thanks to Model Boat Mayhem for a great website and inspiration.

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