Boyce B. gives Weeks Marine new capabilities at the dredge site
Earlier this year, as the calendar rolled over from winter to spring, Weeks Marine welcomed a new dredge support tugboat with the delivery of the 1,600-hp Boyce B.
Rodriguez Shipbuilding built the 72-by-30-foot pushboat using plans from Entech Designs. It has the same Cummins main engines as the three model bow tugboats Rodriguez built for the Cranford, N.J., dredging company in recent years.
Boyce B. replaces Charlie G., which was built 48 years ago a few miles away at Steiner Construction. Since delivery, it has worked alongside the water-injection dredger WID, which was busy this spring on a project along the Gulf of Mexico. It is one of just two pushboats in Weeks’ tugboat fleet.
Boyce B.’s primary role involves moving WID along its predetermined dredging path. But the pushboat can do a lot more, according to David Tuck, a chief engineer for Weeks Marine and a the vessel’s construction project manager.
“It is usually married to one of the company’s dredges. It is the main source of transportation for the dredges, but they also do anchor handling, pipe tows and general dredge assist work,” Tuck said in an interview this spring.
Capt. Joe Savoie, captain of Boyce B., liked what he saw — and felt — during sea trials in Coden, Ala., where Rodriguez Shipbuilding is based.
“It’s going to be a nice boat. It’s real nice,” he said. “It’s a little bit bigger, a little longer and wider (than Charlie G.) and with a little more room. Plus, it has all up-to-date stuff on it.”
Boyce B. adds to an impressive series of new tugboat deliveries from Rodriguez since 2020. The first two vessels were the 62.5-foot model bow tugboats Jack K. and William O., both of which entered service in 2021. These twin-engine tugs feature the classic lugger tug design developed by Weeks Marine to perform a wide range of dredging support tasks.
If those two tugboats are as versatile as a Swiss Army knife, James K., which entered service in 2022, is a more rugged Leatherman. The largest and most capable of the three, 70-by-30-foot model bow tugboat is powered by three 800-hp Cummins QSK19 main engines.
Boyce B., like its predecessors, is built to handle the unforgiving work around the dredge site. Its hull, for instance, features half-inch steel on the bottom plate, three-quarters on the stern plate, and five-eighths on the deck edge, which is thicker than the steel plating typically used for a pushboat.
“In dredging,” Tuck said, “you need that extra support and durability because you are working in tight corners and there is a lot of equipment coming off the dredge that you are navigating around.”
Boyce B. features an all-Cummins engine room consisting of two 800-hp Cummins QSK19 main engines driving Kahlenberg propellers through Twin Disc gears and stainless-steel shafts. Two 75-kW Stamford generators driven by two Cummins QSB7 marine engines provide electrical power.
“They are reliable, they are easy to maintain and we have had very few breakdowns,” Tuck said of the Cummins engines on the three other recent newbuilds. “We are kind of streamlining our fleet with these so that if people have to bounce from boat to boat there is familiarity.”
Steering comes courtesy of barn door rudders as well as flanking rudders that add to the vessel’s maneuverability. Tuck described the handling as excellent.
Savoie went even further in his praise. “It walks side-to-side really good. And it’s got flanking rudders and steering rudders, so it handles good, too.”
Boyce B. has its share of innovation built in. Tuck and senior port engineer Shaun O’Brien designed the emergency backup power system to supply everything from a single battery bank, rather than having different batteries for different components. The battery backup supplies power to the standard lights, instead of separate emergency lights that only come on when the primary power is out.
“Everything is streamlined into one battery bank,” Tuck explained. “It’s not a bunch of individual batteries for individual components.”
Boyce B. also is equipped with a closed-circuit camera system that gives the captain better visibility all around the boat. All told, the vessel has 12 cameras that show the engine room, the deck and other critical spaces that can’t be seen from the wheelhouse.
“It covers all the blind spots so you can take care of the crew better when they are working on deck,” he said.
The wheelhouse on Boyce B. is equipped with a modern suite of navigation electronics featuring Furuno radar, AIS, GPS and compass. Standard Horizon supplied the VHF radios and loudhailer. Large windows afford 360-degree views and excellent visibility.
The crew spaces were outfitted with crew comfort in mind. Boyce B. will typically run with a four-person crews working 28-day hitches. The vessel has four cabins with each outfitted with satellite TV, wireless internet and individual climate controls.
Instead of traditional deck winches on the bow, Boyce B. is equipped with a single Wintech double-drum winch on the aft deck. The system, spooled with Spectra line, gives the crew a lot of versatility to safely make up barge tows depending on the job.
With four recent tugboat deliveries under their belt, Weeks Marine and Rodriguez Shipbuilding have developed a solid working relationship.
“With this crazy world we have had in the last year or so, we still made the delivery schedule, so I am pretty proud about that,” Joseph Rodriguez, the yard’s president, said in an interview.
“This being the fourth newbuild,” Tuck said, “we are happy with the finished product.” •