Gladding-Hearn delivers pilot boat to Tampa Bay

“It’s the first of a revision of the Chesapeake Bay class,” said Peter Duclos, Gladding-Hearn’s president. The initial Chesapeake Bay pilot boat, designed by C. Raymond Hunt Associates, New Bedford, Mass., was built in 2003. Fifteen have been built since then. They all are traditional propeller-driven boats. 

Several years ago Gladding-Hearn did a survey of pilot boat associations to find out what qualities were most important to them in a pilot boat. “The top three were saving fuel, going faster, and greater comfort,” said Duclos. “This boat addresses all three.”

That’s the Manatee and the biggest difference between it and earlier pilot boats is the dual Volvo Penta IPS 650MC propulsion pods.

This is nothing like dragging a traditional shaft, propeller and rudder through the water. The IPS pod system uses forward facing, counter rotating propellers. “It’s more efficient. It burns about 25 to 28 percent less fuel than conventional propeller drives,” said Duclos. 

The hull shape has slightly different lines to accommodate the pods. Visually the biggest difference would be in the placement of the wheelhouse. 

“Because of the IPS system, we were able to move the whole superstructure and where the pilots are seated further aft and still have a clear deck hatch over the machinery,” said Duclos. Now the pilots, sitting in any one of five Stidd seats, are slightly aft of the boat’s center of gravity, improving comfort. “This is where you want to be.”

Moving the superstructure aft also created a larger foredeck, which benefits pilots when boarding and leaving a ship. 

A Humphree Interceptor automatic trim tab optimization system also provides a comfort advantage for the pilots. “You want different trim tab settings at different speeds, and when going up wind and down wind,” said Duclos. The Humphree trim tabs automatically optimize the trim of a boat at a given speed, though the automatic feature can be overridden to manually control the trim tabs. 

Besides comfort, the fuel savings provided by the Humphree Interceptor system is a bonus. “You can pay for the system in a couple of years.” 

The pilots need for “going faster” was met by hooking each pod up to a pair of 503-hp Volvo Penta D11 diesels. In a loaded condition, the power package gives the Manatee a 27-knot top speed. 

Gladding-Hearn’s new generation of pilot boats has also been designed to accommodate a gyro-stabilization system. The Tampa Bay Pilots didn’t go that route, but the hull was designed to accommodate one. “There’s space for it,” said Duclos. “So we won’t have to totally redesign the boat again if someone wants to do that.”  

— Michael Crowley


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