Outrunning the dark ominous clouds and blankets of rain of a South Louisiana storm racing at you across the marsh is feasible in a 1,200-hp speedboat. Still, it was close. And the storm caught up when we slowed for the wake zone. Though I was soaked through, the exhilaration of being propelled across the surface of the water at 68 mph in an open boat was worth it.
|The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheriesâ€™ 41-foot patrol boat was designed by Gravois Aluminum Boats and built at Metal Shark Aluminum Boats in Jeanerette, La. Most Gravois boats are designed for military applications. (Brian Gauvin photo)|
Fearless is a 41-by-10-foot aluminum-hull watercraft designed by Gravois Aluminum Boats. The company is the builder of the Metal Shark line of boats at its subsidiary, Metal Shark Aluminum Boats, in Jeanerette, La. Keeping the weight down without sacrificing speed, stability, strength and ride comfort was the design departmentâ€™s main challenge.
â€œItâ€™s all about the weight,â€ said naval architect John Wise. â€œAnd keeping the longitudinal center of gravity (LCG) at about 60 percent of the length of the boat is very important. Itâ€™s also a combination of function and aesthetics and the LCG for performance.â€
Four 300-hp Mercury four-stroke outboard motors and the double-stepped hull generate the boatâ€™s speed. Stability is achieved with the deep-V hull and enhanced by a semi tunnel down the center of the second step.
â€œThat double step creates a lot of lift,â€ said Jimmy Gravois, third generation boat builder and co-owner, with Christopher Allard, of Gravois Boats and Metal Shark. â€œIt gives the boat more speed and efficiency. And itâ€™s smoother in high seas because it cuts down on the pitch. The semi tunnel in the last step helps the back end from sliding out during harsh turns.â€
|Brenden Gravois (right) is accompanied by his father, Jimmy, a third-generation boatbuilder and co-owner of the companies that designed and built the boat. (Brian Gauvin photo)|
The bottom, side frames, deck and flotation are completely enclosed with marine grade 5086 aluminum plate, giving the vessel its strength and ride comfort.
Fearless by name and military by nature, the vessel was designed for coastal and offshore intervention. However, the first three were bought by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and stationed at its Calcasieu, Grande Isle and Venice bases.
â€œThey have a broad range of applications, but are primarily an enforcement boat,â€ said Gravois. â€œThe range is 500 miles, so Fish and Wildlife can cover a lot more area much faster than they could before. And in severe conditions.â€