Gladding-Hearn delivers cat ferry to Rhode Island

The Ava Pearl, a 150-passenger ferry, is now operating on the 52-mile, two-and-a-half-hour run between Quonset Point, R.I., and Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. 

The 110’×30’6″×7′ catamaran was designed by Australia’s Incat Crowther and built at Gladding-Hearn Shipbuilding, Duclos Corp. in Somerset, Mass., for Rhode Island Fast Ferry Co., North Kingstown, R.I.

The Ava Pearl replaced the 400-passenger ferry Millennium that was built by Gladding-Hearn in 1998. “The concept for the Ava Pearl was to build a more efficient, more optimized boat for the run,” said Gladding-Hearn’s Peter Duclos. 

The Millennium is faster and bigger than the AvaPearl. “However, it was not optimized for offshore running,” Duclos said. “She was really optimized for commuter service in Boston Harbor and fair weather whale watching.” 

The Millennium’s owner could get by without 400 seats. What he wanted instead “was better seakeeping and a more comfortable boat in the weather,” said Duclos.

That appears to be what Rhode Island Fast Ferry got. Duclos said the boat should save about 40 percent on fuel, and “it has been able to operate in some pretty nasty conditions and never slowed down.”

The Ava Pearl’s ability to run in snotty weather is aided by an active trim-tab ride control system from Naiad Dynamics. On each transom is a “large, powerful trim tab. They move on their own to compensate for the movement of the vessel. They will cut the motion by half,” said Duclos.

The trim tabs make life easier for the Ava Pearl’s passengers, but so too does the ferry’s interior layout. There are more than 254 seats, so people have a choice of where they can sit. And each seat provides generous legroom. 

“The owner really worked hard to keep the interior pleasant for the riders. He didn’t want it to be a cattle car feel,” said Duclos.

Down below, in each of its engine rooms, the Ava Pearl has a continuously rated 1,851-hp MTU 12V4000 M53 matched up with 5055 ZF marine gears that turn ZF props to produce a top speed of 50 knots in moderate weather. 

After the Ava Pearl was delivered, Gladding-Hearn was nearing completion on another Incat Crowther-designed ferry, the Yankee Freedom III

The 109’11″×29’10” passenger ferry is being built for the Yankee Fleet with offices in Key West, Fla., and Gloucester, Mass. The ferry will carry up to 254 people between Key West and Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas National Park under a 10-year contract with the National Park Service

The Yankee Freedom III will replace Yankee Freedom II, also designed by Incat Crowther and built by Gladding-Hearn in 1999.

Two hundred of the 254 seats are inside, which is probably a good idea as the run to Fort Jefferson and back is 90 miles each way. Two Caterpillar 3512C diesels capable of delivering 1,649 hp each should give the Yankee Freedom III a service speed of 28 knots.

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