Setting sail on the Susitna

This seems to be the season for sea trials. At least it is for me.

On Sept. 1, I rode along during builder’s trials of a 90-foot Navy tug built by Martinac Shipbuilding in Tacoma, Wash. Look for photos and a story about the event in the October issue of WorkBoat. We’ll also post an expanded collection of photos here on the website.

And by the time you read this, I will have spent the weekend in Ketchikan, Alaska, participating in sea trials for the Susitna, the experimental vessel built by Alaska Ship & Drydock in the small Southeast Alaska city.

From all accounts, this is an extraordinary boat, and I’m anxious to check it out. It’s got twin SWATH hulls with a floating barge deck in between that can be raised and lowered. It can also — and will — be beached. This weekend. With me and my cameras on board.

The boat was financed by and built under the auspices of the Office of Naval Research, which wants to test the concepts incorporated into the design. If it works as they envision, the military may contract out the construction of more, but at twice the size of the prototype.

Later this year or next year, the Susitna will relocate to the Anchorage area where it will work as a ferry while it provides data to the engineers and analysts.

Look for a story about the unusual boat — and the remote shipyard that built it — in the November issue of WorkBoat magazine.

To see a photo of the Susitna in drydock during the christening ceremony, click here.

About the author

Bruce Buls

With a degree in English literature from the University of Washington (Go Dawgs!), journalism experience at the once-upon-a-time Seattle P-I, and at-sea experience as a commercial fisherman in Washington and Alaska, Bruce Buls has forged a career in commercial marine trade journalism, including stints at Alaska Fishermen’s Journal and National Fisherman, WorkBoat’s sister publications. Bruce spent 16 years as WorkBoat's technical editor before retiring in May 2015. He lives on Puget Sound’s Whidbey Island, about 20 miles north of Seattle (go 'Hawks!).

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