Back in March, David LeBlanc, regional sales director for Diesel Outboards, invited me aboard the 42'x13' multipurpose workboat Miss Ida, part of TK Boat Rentals’ fleet, to check out the performance of the twin Oxe 200-hp diesel outboards hanging from the boat’s stern.
It was the end of April before we could get our schedules to mesh, and we made plans for a ride along. It happened that three people from Diversified Communications, our main/Maine office in Portland, were scheduled to come down for the Offshore Marine Service Association (OMSA) golf tournament on May 1. So, I suggested that we schedule the ride along for that week, if possible. Well, LeBlanc made it happen.
On the morning of April 30 in Morgan City, La., we all climbed aboard — LeBlanc; Wade Crappell, vice president, TK Towing Inc./TK Contractors, LLC; Douglas Natoce, president, Diesel Outboards; Bob Callahan, Diversified/WorkBoat group vice president; Lauren St. Clair, director of marketing; Doug Stewart, WorkBoat’s art director; and me.
The 16,000 dwt. Miss Ida easily handled all seven of us as Crappell pulled away from the dock into the Atchafalaya River. (The boat can handle up to 12 passengers/crew.)
“The main appeal of these outboards is safety, longevity and lower cost of maintenance as compared to a gas outboard,” said LeBlanc. “The diesel outboards are more expensive, but if you run the boat a lot, the fuel economy is over 50% and you can pay for the engines in about eight months.”
Crappell said the fuel savings and increased safety of the diesel engines is no exaggeration. “A job that burned 44 gallons of gas we’ve been able to keep under 20 gallons with these engines,” he said as he steered the aluminum boat around a plethora of barge tows. “We could not believe the fuel economy.” In addition, the Oxe diesels run seawater through the heat exchanger, not the block the way gas outboards do. That cuts down on corrosion.
Among its many duties, the Miss Ida supports dredging activities, hauls people and supplies to and from shallow water oil and gas rigs, carries chemicals, groceries and many types of commodities to TK’s customers. And the boat, which has a 4,000 lb. cargo deck capacity, works every day.
Some of Diesel Outboards’ customers, including Crappell, are waiting for the Oxe 300 diesel outboards. The 300s offer the safety and fuel savings of the 200s, but also offer something more — additional torque that’s needed for many workboats. The torque with an Oxe 300 at 1,750 rpm is 502 ft. lbs. For now, demand for the new 300s, featuring an aluminum 3-liter BMW block, is outrunning the supply. “I’d like to have 10 of them right now,” said Crappell.
“I wish we could get him his 10 300s right now,” said Natoce, who was in town from Florida’s Tampa Bay area. “Right now, the engines are being built in Sweden and there’s just so many they can produce in that manufacturing facility.”
The shortage will soon change. Diesel Outboards is building its own manufacturing facility in Albany, Ga. “All the engines and parts will be made there for U.S. customers,” said LeBlanc. “We’ll start manufacturing the 300s in Albany by the end of the year.”
Back at the dock, Natoce said, “We’ll have an announcement for the industry at this year’s (International WorkBoat) Show. I wish I could tell you now, but I can’t. But we think it’s going to be big. Really looking forward to the show.”
LeBlanc said the workboat industry is just starting to embrace diesel outboards. “Right now, it’s a slow process, but it’s building,” he said. “Ten years from now diesel outboards will be a very common sight on the rivers. Ferry owners are also showing interest, along with the Coast Guard, the Navy. This is just starting.”
With that, we went across the street for lunch.
My sincere thanks to Douglas Natoce, David LeBlanc and especially Wade Crappell (it's his boat) for their hospitality. We caught a beautiful day in the Louisiana sunshine during one of the wettest springs in Southeast Louisiana history.