The underwater scenes of Buster Keaton trying to repair the ship in full diving gear were originally intended to be filmed in the local municipal swimming pool. However, the pool was not deep enough, so higher retaining walls were built around the edges, to hold more water. Unfortunately, the weight of the additional water broke the bottom of the pool, and Keaton had to pay for the repair. The production was moved to Lake Tahoe, where the water was very clear, but so cold that Keaton could only stay under for ten minutes at a time. The camera crew was sent down in a watertight box, with ice packed around the camera to keep the lens from fogging over.
Technical director Fred Gabourie promised Buster after the difficulties filming the launch sequence in The Boat (1921), that he would someday find a boat suitable to be the main location in a two-reeler. He found Ocean Liner Buford while it was on loan to director Frank Lloyd who was filming The Sea Hawk (1924). The Buford proved so intriguing as a film prop that a story was written to make use of it.
The ship in the movie was actually the USAT Buford, named after prominent Union Civil War cavalry officer and hero of Gettysburg Gen. John T. Buford. The ship had begun life as the S.S. Mississippi for the Atlantic Transport Line in 1890. It was later purchased and renamed by the US government in 1898 and became an army troop transport in the Spanish American War and in WW I. Its most notorious incarnation was as the "Soviet Ark" (or "Red Ark") when the ship was used to deport 249 political radicals and other "undesirable" aliens, among them the fiery anarchists Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman, to the Russian SFSR in December, 1919, during the Palmer Raids of the first "Red Scare" period in the US.
Donald Crisp was hired to direct the more dramatic scenes in the movie, but soon became interested only in working on the comedy scenes with Buster. Keaton was unhappy with Crisp's work, feeling the scenes were overacted, and re-shot many of the dramatic scenes after Crisp left the production.
An elaborate scene was cut from the underwater sequence because audiences didn't respond to it. Buster attached a starfish to his chest and proceeded to direct fish traffic, made up of several hundred rubber fish built by the prop department. Keaton loved the scene and regretted having to cut it, but did use it in the 'Coming Attractions' trailer.