It’s usually a gradual process, but as a boat becomes old and tired, it eventually needs to be replaced.

That was the case with Maine Marine Patrol’s 35' Dirigo, a fiberglass boat built in 1997. (The name means, “I lead” and is the state’s motto.) The Dirigo was one of the oldest boats in the Marine Patrol’s fleet and had been used for boarding fishing boats and inspecting fishing gear. 

An electrical fire in the radar wiring ignited while the boat was offshore, said the boat’s captain, specialist Colin MacDonald. In fact, all the electrical wiring needed to be changed. “It was recommended that we rewire the boat. The sheathing was degrading on the wire and in places we couldn’t get at.” 

Instead of rewiring and fixing up the old Dirigo, the Maine Department of Marine Resources took delivery of the 38'9"×15' Dirigo II in January. Calvin Beal Jr. designed the new patrol boat, which was built at SW Boatworks in Lamoine, Maine.

“She’s an excellent boat. It’s everything I expected and more,” said MacDonald, about a week after the Dirigo II went in the water. “I was out all day yesterday doing scallop patrols and boarding scallop boats.”

One thing MacDonald likes about the new fiberglass boat is the improvement in speed. The Dirigo II hit 25 knots after launching, which is about 10 knots faster than the old boat. 

MacDonald figures they can get a couple more knots by putting more cup in the single propeller. “At 25 knots it’s only 83 percent engine load, so there’s some room,” he said. 

For power the Dirigo II has a 700-hp Caterpillar C12 bolted to a ZF 325A marine gear with a 2.41:1 ratio that spins a 34"×36", 4-bladed prop on a 2 ½" stainless steel shaft. 

Dirigo II also has a more robust hydraulic system with a 14" hauler. MacDonald said the 14" hauler enables them to lift lobster trawls they had difficulty bringing in with the Dirigo’s 12" hauler. 

A rope locker catches the buoy line and trawl as it is brought aboard. The old boat didn’t have that and with line all over the deck there was the possibility of it going overboard and taking someone with it. 

Dirigo II also has a split wheelhouse, with a steering station inside the house and one outside near the hauler. “The difference is like night and day,” said MacDonald. “Before there was a winter back, and you had to take the doors off to haul the gear.”

 Down below is a small galley and head that will meet the needs of the crew when the Dirigo II is out on overnight patrols or a search mission. 

Homeport for Dirigo II is Mount Desert Island’s Northeast Harbor. The boat will patrol from the Penobscot River to Frenchmen’s Bay and out to Mount Desert Rock.