When the 85’×20′ Fire Island Queen was delivered in early June, it was the first ferry that Gladding-Hearn Shipbuilding, Duclos Corp., had built for Fire Island Ferries, Bay Shore, N.Y.
The Fire Island Queen has a capacity of 387 passengers — 204 passengers inside and 183 passengers on the open upper deck — on the 20-minute run across Great South Bay from Bay Shore on Long Island to Fire Island.
This is a no frills, very utilitarian ferry run, and because its duration is so short, amenities such as a concession stand, bar and even heads aren’t needed. The ferries are essentially waterborne buses.
The Fire Island Queen’s design has proven itself with a number of boats that look very much alike. So in overall appearance, the Gladding-Hearn-built ferry had to stay within certain critical dimensions.
“It had to integrate with the rest of the fleet in terms of emergency procedures and docking. If you have a disabled ferry you can bring another one along side and bring passengers from one to the other, so all the gates and the doors needed to match up,” said Tim McAuliffe, of Somerset, Mass.-based Gladding-Hearn.
While the new ferry’s overall appearance had to be similar, Gladding-Hearn was able to modify some of the details.
The forward bulwarks were altered to make the building process easier and improve that part of the bow’s appearance.
In the machinery spaces, service points were changed for easier access. McAuliffe said the crew at Gladding-Hearn was “looking at what you need for access for any kind of maintenance or if you have to change out an engine.”
He called this type of attention to detail “a Gladding-Hearn signature.”
“We pay very close attention to this, especially in the machinery space,” McAuliffe said. Some of the things this affected were the placement of the engine, locations of hatches and strong points for lifts.
And additional insulation was installed to keep noise from the machinery spaces out of the passenger areas.
In the engine room, the propulsion system is similar to what’s on other vessels in the Fire Island Ferries fleet. There are three MTU Series 60 diesels, each putting out 600 hp at 2,100 rpm. They are matched up with ZF 550 marine gears with 2:1 reduction ratios that turn ZF 34″×31″, 4-bladed props. That gives the ferry a top speed of 21 knots when loaded.
With the Fire Island Queen delivered, Gladding-Hearn is busy working on two 111′ catamaran ferries. One is for Yankee Fleet out of Key West, Fla. The ferry will operate on a run from Key West to the Fort Jefferson Dry Tortugas National Park.
The second boat is for Rhode Island Fast Ferry out of Narragansett. Both ferries are due to be completed in 2012.