Saturday, August 17, 2013

The FrankenFerry

Ok. I'll get back to the title of this episode. But I should point out that, actually, there are three "Fs" in my description of this vessel. You can guess the first "F."

Last week, Sean Woods and I flew to Providence, Rhode Island to deliver a 50' x 20' high speed passenger ferry to an island golf resort just north of Savannah, Georgia.

The Providence airport exhibits full sized antique boats of a by-gone era. Rhode Island is rich in shipbuilding history. World famous Newport is about an hour drive from the airport.

We arrived two days in advance of departure for systems and vessel orientation with the seller as well as outfitting for the trip. With no accommodations onboard (more on this later), the buyer has us checked into an airport hotel. Nice enough rooms - the social activity was alive with THREE false fire alarms. Half of the hotel guests were Chinese students and I have to wonder if they knew what it was when "someone" yelled GODZILLA!! as we bound our way down the fire escapes to the parking lot below. The last alarm went off at 0100 in the morning and after the pissed off fire department once again cleared the building and we returned to bed, there was no sleep to be had. Sure, the eyes are shut and the room is dark. But the mind "sleeps with one eye open" in anticipation of yet another WUHAAAAAAAAAAAHH!!!!!!

The vessel is a planing catamaran with intrigal watertight cavities in the hull bottoms that are kept filled with pressurized air from fans. Frictional resistance under the air cushion is substantially less than for conventional hull vessels and wetted side hull surface is reduced by the lifting effect of the cushions.The effects combine to intiate planing at lower speed and power. Reduced power required and superior planing deliver enhanced fuel economy, range and speed.

Walking up to the vessel one cannot help but notice the big grill work in the forward third of the hull. The first impression is that the engines are a long way from the propellers. What this freaky boat has are a pair of 900 h.p. Yanmar 8SY-STP diesels in the rear torquing two Arneson ASD12 surface piercing drives. Up front, behind the grills, port and starboard, are a pair of 100 h.p. Yanmar 4JH3-THE providing power to the 3.5' fans which provide the cushion effect.

This being the fourth Arneson drive vessel which I have captained, I am knowledgeable in the challenges of close quarters maneuvoring, much like with jet drives. However, one interesting aspect of this boat is that power can be applied to one fan, or the other and walk the boat sideways as if it were pod drive or had bow thrusters.

With sufficient power application, it is possible to wash the bird poop from the dock and  most likely the unsuspecting marina dockhand. In either case, it sounds like the Space Shuttle lifting off. As no one has seen the likes of this before many heads turn as if to say,"what the.....?"

To configure the boat for speed, we first advance the fan engines to 3300 rpm. This lifts to front of the boat up as air pushes the water out of the hull chambers. Next, we engage the main propulsion engines and advance the throttles to the stops. With drives trimmed down and air flowing down  the hull, the boat quickly is on step at 7-9 knots! As the main engine passes quickly thru 1500 rpm, we retard the throttles to 1400 rpm and with a quick look at the GPS, we are doing 25 knots in as little time as it was to read this pararaph! Full power trials clocked this boat at 47 knots S.O.G.


The vessel carries 780 gallons total. With an overall average fuel burn of 33 g.p.h. @ 25 knots, the ferry has a no reserve range of 590 nautical miles. This includes the consumption of the fan engines.

          (Sean changing RACOR fuel filters; located of course in an inconvenient location)

The displacement draught of the vessel hull down is 5 feet. While on cushion and at speed, that draught is reduced to 2 feet and throws nary a wake. What is impressive is the telltale 12-15 foot rooster tail of the Arneson drives; a sign that you have trimmed the boat well.

Not having an autopilot, the vessel is very hands on. More times than not, after reaching for a bottle of water or answering a text from the owner and the boat is quickly 30 degrees of course. To fihtthe fatigue of hand steering, Sean and I switch wheel watch every hour. 

As mentioned previously, the vessel had no accommodations onboard. That includes the head. So, the morning standing order was to eat a hardy breakfast. As we were bivouaced in local hotels at night the walk or cab ride back to the boat allowed sufficient time to perform bodily functions prior to getting underway. However, as Sean(in backround) found out on day three, the only method to "go number 2" was by that hallowed evolution of "bucket and chuck it."

After 5 days of 180db roaring of four engines, pounding along in 3-4 foot seas, ear plugs, deli sandwichs and 5 Hour Energy, we arrive at Defauskie Island and hand "The Beast" over to the the new owner (L) and his two captains.

Fuel prices at three stops where:
Liberty Landing in Jersey City, NJ                          $4.35
Coinjock Marina in Coinjock                                    $3.54
Southport Marina in Southport, NC                         $3.95

Another delivery completed. Another owner satisfied. And, Sean has an extra $1400 to take to his first year at CU Boulder. I am once again avialable for the next mission.  John Wampler