Versatile Northwest Yards are Building a Full Range of Fast Craft


August 1, 2019

Bay Welding, of Homer, Alaska built this 34-foot by 11-foot catamaran powered by twin Suzuki 350 hp duo-prop outboards, giving a top speed of more than 40 knots, and a cruise speed of 25 knots. Photo courtesy of Bay Welding

This year's survey has found a wide variety of high-performance aluminum craft under construction or delivered by yards from Homer, Alaska to Vallejo, California. They range from a 74-foot oil skimmer with an impressive top speed of 23 knots to a 76-foot whale watcher that cruises at 30 knots with 100 passengers. Orders for catamaran ferries in the 120- to 140-foot class continue to keep Washington yards busy, with Dakota Creek supplying the growing WETA fleet in San Francisco Bay with three 143-footers, while Mavrik completes a 125-footer for WETA with a capacity of 300-passengers. Naval architecture services come from two of the world's top designers in Australia who specialize in fast ferries for the international market.

Nichols Brothers is adding two 140-foot by 37-foot twin hull ferries to the small county fleet that will speed the connection between the Kitsap Peninsula and King County. They will carry 250 passengers and 26 bicycles and are designed in the UK. All these vessels are driven by powerful MTU 4000 engines fitted with large Tier 4 SCR systems and urea tanks are supplied by Pacific Power Group of Kent, Washington. Stylish streamlined exteriors are standardized to give a contemporary look that appeals to the public, but more time is expended on the underwater shape to reduce wake and fuel consumption using computer simulation, tank, and open-water test methods.

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While welded aluminum is still the top choice for hull construction, composites are finding their way into the superstructure in the form of pre-fabricated panels in bulkheads, walls and decks that reduce weight and improve insulation from vibration and sound to increase comfort.

Catamaran Versatility

All American Marine (AAM) of Bellingham, Washington is building a third 78-foot ultra low-wake ferry for Kitsap Transit, Lady Swift, with a lightweight composite salon for 118 passengers after the second, the Reliance, went into service in June of 2019. They are powered by four 803-hp Caterpillar C-18's and HamiltonJet waterjets. This design is the world leader in low-wake technology and is providing a fast reliable service to Seattle in less than 30 minutes, compared to a WSF car ferry's one hour. AAM is the exclusive builder in North America of Teknicraft Design of New Zealand, who have also provided them with designs for catamarans for patrol and research for commercial and government operators.

AAM recently won a contract with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for the construction of an aluminum long-range patrol vessel. Teknicraft engineered an 80-foot by 27-foot hydrofoil-supported Subchapter-T catamaran capable of operating in adverse sea and weather conditions in the Gulf of Mexico. Power is by twin Tier 3 Caterpillar C18 engines producing 803 bhp at 2,100 rpm turning HamiltonJet HM521 waterjets. Transit speed is estimated as 23.5 knots.

The new vessel will feature some innovative design features to assist modern law enforcement on the water, including Teknicraft's Rapid RHIB launching system, which increases safety and reduces both the time and effort required to deploy the vessel's rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB).

Alaska's Bay Welding

Bay Welding in Homer on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula stays busy as one of the few yards in the state that supplies workboats, commercial, and charter fishing boats like the Jak-Bighte. This is a 34-foot by 11-foot catamaran powered by twin Suzuki 350 hp duo-prop outboards, giving a top speed of more than 40 knots, and a cruise speed of 25 knots. The boat, built for the owner of the company, Allen Engebretsen, has a total fuel capacity of 400 gallons, for a range of 400 miles.

The Jak-Bighte is named after the first initials of all the grandchildren of the owner. It comes outfitted with an Optimus joystick control system that includes sea-station position keeping. The layout combines a v-berth/sleeping area forward with a bow ramp for landing on beaches. Other features include a fish cleaning table with a live-well (in the center of the aft deck), full direct-bond frit glass windows, davit with pot puller, hidden tv-lift with 30-inch flat screen, full Garmin electronics, radar and depth sounder.

Bay welding is now building its biggest project – a 75-foot by 25-foot 118-passenger crewboat to transport workers between Juneau and the Kensington goldmine for Goldbelt Transportation – an Alaska native corporation. It will be powered by four Scania 700-hp Tier 3 engines, driving four HamiltonJet 364 waterjets.

Armstrong Marine Fits Volvo Penta Z-Drives

Armstrong Marine of Port Angeles continues to be a leader in the production of aluminum boats in the 30- to 45-foot range, including a 42-foot research catamaran for the San Diego area. Pacific Power Group, working closely with Armstrong, fitted the new R/V Bob and Betty Beyster with a Volvo Penta IPS propulsion system. Although the propulsion package is found on more than 25,000 motor yachts, this is the first time PPG has mated the energy-saving IPS pod drive with a commercial boat. "We took a lot of time with the Scripps team to determine exactly what they needed from the functionality of the boat," said Doug Schwedland, PPG's vice president of the marine division. A Volvo Penta six-cylinder D11, 10.8-liter engine drives twin counter-rotating forward-facing propellers giving a cruising speed of 25 knots and a range of 500 miles.

The latest delivery is a 38-foot by 13-foot monohull dive compliance vessel for the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The Sentry-class design is powered by twin Cummins QSB6.7- 425 hp engines in a semi-tunnel straight shaft arrangement with Bennett Marine electric trim tabs. It achieves a 24-knot cruise and 30-knot pursuit speeds with two 180-gallon fuel tanks allowing for long hours on station.

"As the manager of 2.6 million acres of aquatic lands, the Department of Natural Resources plays a critical role in protecting our waters and preserving habitat from those who seek to damage it," said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz. "The Sentry will be DNR's first line of defense against derelict vessels, abandoned fishing gear, and plastics that pollute our waters." The Sentry is customized for efficient geoduck fishery management along with other marine law enforcement operations. A 4-foot dive platform, tank racks, aft deck shower, and custom dive ladder serve DNR divers monitoring geoduck stock and habitat.

Inside the heated cabin, six Bentley's Manufacturing Mariner seats with heavy duty suspension bases accommodate captain and crew. AJR Marine Windows overhead maximize visibility. Armstrong Marine USA managing director, Perry Knudson, commented, "These boats will be a striking presence in and around Puget Sound for years to come." This is just the first of multiple vessels for the DNR's Marine Law Enforcement program, he explained.

Vigor-Built Boats for LA Port Pilots

Vigor will be returning to the high-speed vessel sector in their new facility in Vancouver, Washington with an order for a pair of aluminum pilot boats for the LA Port Pilots. The 56-foot by 16.5-foot craft will follow a design from Camarc of the UK, the leading pilot boat designer who supplied the designs for the 72-foot boats used by the Columbia River Bar Pilots. This smaller boat is currently used throughout Europe, Australia and South America and is claimed to deliver the same consistent performance as the larger boats in the US. It has the significant advantage of requiring only 1,600 hp, which enables the use of twin CAT C18 ACERT's rated at 803 bhp @ 2,100 rpm--the maximum power output that is allowed in EPA Tier 3 engines without SCR systems.

Propulsion is a pair of five- blade propellers via ZF665A-1 reduction gears for a maximum speed of 27 knots and a cruise speed of 24 knots. The boat can seat two crew and eight pilots.

"The American mid-sized market has needed a world-class pilot boat at an acceptable acquisition and maintenance cost," said Art Parker, Vigor sales manager. "Camarc has optimized this design to incorporate the significant seakeeping and safety of the larger pilot boats."

The design accommodates multiple heavy fender systems facilitating safer pilot transfers in challenging weather. An articulated rescue davit provides man overboard recovery. The fender system is the integrated Popsafe large-diameter HDPE tubing.

Munson Delivers Fast Landing Craft

The William E. Munson Company of Burlington, Washington developed the high-speed landing craft in the early 1980s and now specializes in this type that combines the attributes of a "V" hull with the utility of a landing craft. The largest hull the company offers is 65 feet and two of these have now been delivered to a customer in Dubai, UAE to transport heavy equipment, fuel and crew to supply Palm Jebel Ali near Dubai, United Arab Emirates. This ambitious development is a huge artificial archipelago in the shape of a palm tree, constructed from sand dredged from the sea floor.

The 65-2 Utility model Humaid has a beam of 18 feet with a reinforced deck to transport heavy equipment and a 45,000-pound payload. It is powered by four Mercury 350 hp Verado outboards delivering a top speed of 34 knots and a cruise speed of 19 knots. The standard 500-gallon fuel tank is supplemented by four auxiliary tanks for up to 3,000 gallons of diesel fuel. Bow and stern thrusters are fitted for increased maneuverability. The genset is a Kohler 7.5kW to provide air conditioning in the elevated wheelhouse, which has seating for 8. There is additional bench seating for twelve under the bridge.

"Dubai is a global city and business hub of the Middle East and also a major global transport hub for passengers and cargo" notes Jesse Munson, vice president of Munson Boats.

Fast Launch for the Bay Area

While the west coast is well supplied with fast ferries, we aren't aware of a single high-speed boat above 65 feet in length operating in crew and cargo transport, although catamarans have shown their ability serving the oil patch, wind turbine maintenance, and marine research. Westar Marine Services provides water taxi service all over San Francisco Bay including San Pablo Bay and the Sacramento River Delta to ships at anchor and offshore. Its fleet of eight Coast Guard-inspected water taxis includes three 65-foot by 18-foot launches that can transport 49 passengers and 10,000 lbs. of cargo on deck at a speed of 16 knots.

Now the company has decided to add a number of 75-foot by 24-foot aluminum catamarans to its fleet to meet the growing demand for crew transfers and stores deliveries. Incat Crowther in Lafayette, Louisiana is providing naval architecture services to ensure the vessels will be capable of carrying 28 passengers and 20,000 lbs. of cargo at a service speed of 24 knots, and comply with USCG Subchapter-T. The builder is Moose Boats of Vallejo who are well-known for their successful range of rugged catamarans in the 34- to 44-foot range.

This new class will be powered by twin Volvo Penta D13-700-hp Tier 3 engines, driving Volvo Penta IPS3 Z drives. This complete propulsion system will provide exceptional fuel efficiency and exceptional close quarters maneuverability with steering and joystick controls in the raised pilothouse and the upper level aft steering station. The generator will be a Northern Lights 20kW and a 600-gallon fuel tank will be fitted in each hull. The cabin will be able to carry a crew of three and up to 28 passengers and lightship displacement will be 90,000 lbs. The 20-foot by 20-foot rear cargo deck has a 4,000-lb. hydraulic boom crane. Delivery of the first vessel will be in 2020.

74-Foot High Speed Skimmer Built in Washington for BC

Oil skimming is a very slow operation, typically conducted at walking speed, but an oil spill emergency demands that a skimmer must be able to reach the scene as quickly as possible. Rozema Boat Works of Mt. Vernon, Washington has become one of the leading builders of skimmers, with a steady stream of boats delivered across the border to Western Canada Marine Response Corporation (WCMRC) based in Burnaby, BC. The latest order was for two 74-foot (22m) Skimming Vessels, the largest and most capable of their type designed and built by Rozema with a top speed (light ship) of 23 knots. They will become the flagships in WCMRC's growing fleet to cover the increasing traffic in Vancouver Harbor, and the Canadian government's mandate to improve oil spill response and readiness.

Power for propulsion comes from 2 x CAT C32 each producing 1,600 hp via Twin Disc MGX 6620 RV gears. Two 40kW Northern Lights Generators provide power, and the vessel has a recovered oil capacity of 277 US barrels.

Catamaran Crew Boat for Prince Rupert

west coast Launch of Prince Rupert, British Columbia has been running a 72-foot Crowther designed 100-passenger catamaran as a tour boat since 2004. Since 2010, the company has also been running construction crews year round between Prince Rupert and Kitimat-Kemano BC for the Rio Tinto power plant expansion using a 58-foot monohull in the summer and the catamaran during the winter when the conditions require a larger vessel.

Company owner Doug Davis has now taken delivery of a new Crowther 85-foot by 26-foot design that combines seating for 100 passengers with a cargo capacity of 32,000 lbs. on the aft deck. Cargo is moved by a Palfinger PK 4501M hydraulic crane with a 1,900-lb. load limit. The Aurora was built by Canadian Maritime Engineering of Port Alberni on the west side of Vancouver Island and is also powered by twin Volvo Penta D 16MH R2 engines, each producing 750 hp at 1,900 rpm. They turn straight shafts via ZF reduction gears for a loaded service speed of 23 knots at about 80 percent throttle.

Prince of Whales Adds a Catamaran

Canadian adventure-tour operator Prince of Whales has taken delivery of its second $3 million, 96-passenger catamaran, the Salish Sea Eclipse. It was built of aluminum by ABD Boats in North Vancouver, BC to the same design as the 76-foot by 26.5-foot Salish Sea Dream delivered in 2016 by Armstrong Marine of Port Angeles, Washington, designed by Gregory C. Marshall of Victoria. Propulsion is by four Volvo Penta D13-700's for a combined total of 2,800 hp. Cruising speed is 30 knots, with a top speed of 34 knots at 2,300 rpm.

Alan McGillivray, the president of Prince of Whales, started his company in 1993 as a water taxi business in Sidney and now operates 14 tour boats. His aim with the new design is to provide the lowest environmental impact and deliver a superior experience to the passengers. The older boats were fitted with Arneson surface-piercing propellers that could injure or kill a marine mammal in a collision, so they are being replaced with waterjets. "Moving to jet propulsion is a big safety feature for us. Since we've moved to jets and twin hulls, we maintain high efficiency and add redundancy," explained Ian Kyle, captain of Salish Sea Dream. "The catamaran hull has much superior stability; you can load all the passengers on one side and the vessel will stay the same level," he added.

For the Salish Sea Eclipse, Thrustmaster waterjets were specified because of the impeller's very low cavitation level. This reduces acoustic noise and improves the quality of the underwater whale sounds that the boats' hydrophones pick up, Kyle explained. Lightship displacement is 91,000 lbs., and the reduction gear is a ZF Marine 325-1. There are no gensets, as electrical generation is supplied by the main engines. ABD is already at work on a second 76-foot catamaran for Prince of Whales, to Transport Canada and Lloyds Special Service Craft rules.

The Research Vessel Bob and Betty Beyster, recently delivered to Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, is a purpose-built coastal research vessel designed for operations offshore of Southern California and throughout the Channel Islands. Photo courtesy of Scripps Institution of Oceanography.


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