Earlier this year, Nordlund Boat Co., Tacoma, Wash., launched the 63'6"x19'3" pilot boat Orion for Jacobsen Pilot Service serving Long Beach Harbor, Calif. The boat's design, with a draft of 3'1", is based on the successful series of pilot boats built previously by Nordlund for the Puget Sound Pilots.

The Orion was designed by Tim Nolan Marine Design and built by at Nordlund’s Tacoma yard.

“The Orion was built to last 40-plus years with reduced maintenance costs and high efficiency. Nordlund  and Tim Nolan were chosen for their reputation for quality boats that are safe and efficient, and for their proven designs,” Capt. Tom Jacobsen, president of Jacobsen Pilot Service, said. “Our boat operators were involved with every detail of this boat from start to finish. She will deliver pilots to ships safely, in all weather conditions, for many years.”

The new pilot boat is all composite construction with fiberglass (GRP) hull and carbon fiber house and mast. It is powered by HamiltonJet HM 522 waterjets and twin Caterpillar C-18s, producing a total of 1,600 hp. The average service speed is 25 knots. Fuel capacity is 1,400 gals. and the Orion carries 100 gals. fresh water. A Northern Lights 12-kw generator provides electrical power.

The waterjets act in concert with an appendage-free hull to provide increased maneuverability for pilot transfers alongside ships. Orion has the ability to “crab” or transfer sideways while approaching or leaving a ship. It can also “crash stop” at full power, bringing the boat from full speed to a complete stop in a little more than one boat length. In addition the waterjets, by virtue of having an internally housed impeller protected by an intake grate, eliminate the risk of injuring a swimmer or victim during rescue operations. At the same time it protects the running gear from potential damage from debris such as rope and netting.

The command station has three forward-angled windows to reduce glare and keep visibility optimum when rain and wind blown spray are present. Visibility for the helmsman and passengers is 360°, and all windows are heated to reduce fogging. The helm console is a wraparound style, giving the captain full view of all systems, including navigation, speed, engine room video, equipment temperatures and oil pressures. Grab rails give added security for helm control during stormy conditions. Besides the main helm station, there are full controls on port and starboard bridge wings, plus sliding windows to give the helmsman verbal contact with the pilot during transfers. There are also port and starboard quarter controls for docking stations, and the man overboard control station, each giving the helmsman ideal position for docking, personnel transfers or man overboard recovery.

Passenger seating includes eight high-back, reclining seats with side supports. Nordlund Boat photo

Forward seating includes Stidd elevated contoured chairs with retractable dual armrests for the helmsman and crewman. Passenger seating includes eight Eknes high-back reclining chairs with side supports. Large overhead hand rails in the ceiling provide additional safety in heavy weather conditions. The engine room has plenty of headroom, is well lighted, and offers easy access to all of the mechanical systems during routine maintenance.

Other features include a hydraulic man overboard rescue system (MORS) mounted on the stern, with an aft control console. The rescue lift has a submersible frame with web mesh, that opens and lowers below surface level to allow a quick retrieval of an injured man overboard. The twin steps that lead down from the aft deck to boarding platforms protect the waterjets, allow boarding from a float and provide access to the water. The waterjet drives also add safety during personnel transfers, emergency rescues and maneuvering around lines or nets in the water.

The Airex sandwich composite hull was infused in a mold with Hydrex Vinylester blend resin using knitted E glass fabrics to meet ABS requirements for high speed vessels. The fendering strake is cored with Coosa high density core for increased shear strength. The decks and bulkheads are of composite E glass and foam sandwich construction. The deckhouse and mast are built of carbon fiber with a foam sandwich to reduce weight and make a strong and stiff structure. The resulting center of gravity is such that the vessel has a positive righting arm for 180° port and starboard. The Orion is self-righting and capable of recovering from a capsize.

Other hull features include a two stage deadrise prismatic afterbody, designed to make “coordinated turns”, meaning the resultant vector during a turn is perpendicular to the deck plane. There’s also a frog perch, which is a bottom extension beyond the transom that increases afterbody lift and damps pitch and heave motions at the stern during rescue operations. And Orion’s passive anti-roll tanks in the aft outboard corners of the hull reduce roll and pitch motions at rest. They also reduce change in trim underway by emptying through transom openings during the transition to planing speed.

Orion is built for tough, continuous duty, with wide exterior decks and exterior handrails all around combined with Harken Access track systems. Resilient fendering is by Wing Inflatable. The new boat’s bright yellow hull and clear pilot boat markings make it easy to spot on its rounds.

Ken Hocke has been the senior editor of WorkBoat since 1999. He was the associate editor of WorkBoat from 1997 to 1999. Prior to that, he was the editor of the Daily Shipping Guide, a transportation daily in New Orleans. He has written for other publications including The Times-Picayune. He graduated from Louisiana State University with an arts and sciences degree, with a concentration in English, in 1978.