Sparks and e-mails have both been flying about at Northwind Marine, Seattle, as the company works on a 20-boat order for Iraq and simultaneously prepares to send a crew to Baghdad to help train the operators of the new boats.
All 20 are small aluminum fireboats. Sixteen of them are 19’ RIBs powered by inboard V-6 gasoline engines and waterjets and four are 30-footers with pairs of 225-hp Honda outboards and a gasoline V-8 pump engine. Both boats are also equipped with Northwind’s proprietary diverter system that splits water between waterjet propulsion and a fire manifold and monitor. For the 30-footer, the waterjet provides secondary propulsion.
Don Donart, Northwind’s special projects manager, said the diverter system has several advantages.
“Not only does our diverter system deliver a lot of water, but it gives you a prop-free method of propulsion,” said Donart. “From the safety standpoint this is fantastic for retrieving divers, working with victims or when you need to take the boat into very shallow water. With the outboards out of the water, just running the jet, the boat will do 14 knots. Compared to boats built with designated pumping engines, the diverter system drastically broadens the capabilities of the boat.”
The 30-footers are part of what Northwind calls the Argus class and the 19s are members of the Extreme class. The Argus class has recently been redesigned and features a full cabin with a casualty bench. With the 225-hp Hondas and a 2,000-lb. load during sea trials, the first boat for Iraq hit 36 knots.
The 20 small fireboats will provide a big boost to Iraq’s firefighting capabilities, which were reportedly decimated under Saddam Hussein. In addition to the equipment, the operators will be trained on the proper operation and maintenance of the boats. Northwind president Bruce Reagan, two Northwind employees and a retired Navy Seal were scheduled to spend 10 days in Iraq in October training the new operators.
“It actually may not take that long,” said Reagan, “but we’ve allowed an extra cushion on each end because things don’t happen quite like you think they’re going to happen. Everybody says that nothing happens on schedule, and it’s a lot harder than anywhere else, which is understandable.”
While in Baghdad, the Northwind team will be staying in the Green Zone for maximum security and protection. Training will be on the Tigris River, which runs through Baghdad and the Green Zone. — Bruce Buls