Gladding-Hearn Shipbuilding believes in building long-term relationships with customers and using the input from that relationship to improve its boats.
In 2002, the Somerset, Mass., shipyard initiated the Chesapeake-class pilot boat, which is an all-aluminum 52’6″ deep-V designed by C. Raymond Hunt & Associates, New Bedford, Mass., for the Association of Maryland Pilots. The boats, the Patapsco and Patuxent, have turned out to be particularly well suited to the sometimes severe conditions the pilots face at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay where they board ships bound for the Port of Baltimore.
The Virginia Pilots Association, which operates in the same waters guiding ships into the Hampton Roads terminals, ordered their own Chesapeake-class boat, the Old Dominion.
The Patapsco and Patuxent have worked out so well that the Maryland Pilots recently took delivery of the Potomac, another Chesapeake-class launch, and Virginia will take delivery of their newest in the class in a few months.
“The basis of our business is the continuous dialogue with the customer, listening and making improvements based on their particular needs,” said Tim McAuliffe, Gladding-Hearn’s engineering liaison. The new Chesapeake-class boats incorporate subtle upgrades.
The Potomac measures 52’6″×16’7″×4’8″ and is powered by twin MTU Series 60 engines, which are now painted white, brightening up the engine room considerably. The engines each deliver 600 hp at 2,100 rpm and are matched to Twin Disc MG-5114A gearboxes turning 5-bladed Bruton nibral propellers through 3″ shafts. The Potomac can run at 25 knots, its deep-V hull providing the pilots a smoother ride through the waves.
“Her seakeeping abilities allow us to board ships in all weather conditions with safety and reliability,” said Tim Leizear, a pilot and the association’s marine superintendent.
The forward-leaning windows in the midship wheelhouse offer excellent views of the pilot on the ship’s ladder. One of the changes is the boat has a blasted deck instead of one coated with non-skid paint. There is also an additional handrail along the wheelhouse. The Potomac, like its sisters, has heated decks and handrails to assist in deicing and provide safe footing.
Electronics on the Potomac were supplied by MacDougall’s Cape Cod Marine Service of Falmouth, Mass. Equipment includes a FLIR infrared camera and a Furuno dual-display 3D Navnet system with a DRS6A 6-kw radar, a BBW-GPS and PG500R heading sensor.
The launch crews practice man-overboard drills regularly in the waters off Cape Henry. The Chesapeake-class boats have a “Mate Saver” harness and a winch-operated, rotating davit retrieval system over a recessed platform in the stern adjacent to steering and throttle controls.
In January 2009, both the Patapsco and Old Dominion, the Virginia pilot boat, put their training to work when they assisted in the rescue of several fishermen after their boat capsized.
“We have added a third 52-footer to the Cape Henry Station so that in the event that one boat is down for scheduled or unexpected repairs, we will still have two heavy boats on station, boats that are the best designed to face the challenge of extreme weather often encountered at the mouth of the Bay,” said John Hamill, with the Maryland Pilots. The association also operates a fleet of 42′ launches in Baltimore harbor, the C & D Canal and a mid-Bay station in Solomons Island.