Pilot Boats

Repeat orders by Delaware, Boston and Charleston pilots are testimony to Ray Hunt’s proven designs and Gladding-Hearn Shipbuilding’s quality workmanship. The Somerset, Mass., yard has delivered vessels recently to all three groups.

The Charleston Branch Pilots’ Association took delivery of Hull 355, the first of Gladding-Hearn’s new 40-foot Resilient Class rigid inflatable jet-drive pilot boats.

Fort Johnson was delivered to the Charleston pilots last November. According to Walter Prause, port manager for the Charleston pilots, the decision to go with a waterjet-driven “soft-sided” boat evolved into a 2-and-a-half-year design process. Other than one vessel that was purchased used, he said the Charleston pilots have been operating Gladding-Hearn vessels since the 1950s.

Prause said the pilots were looking for a boat that could not only be used to ferry pilots to an inbound ship but that could also function as a fast and highly maneuverable shuttle to retrieve pilots from ships in the harbor, especially in wake sensitive zones. Prause said it was also quicker to pick up the pilots directly from the ship rather than have them wait until the ship has docked to disembark.

The new boat provides a highly maneuverable, stable platform and its waterjet propulsion makes it possible to comply with minimum wake restrictions.

Fort Johnson is 39 feet, 11 inches overall with a beam of 13 feet, 6 inches. It has a deep-V aluminum hull with 22° of deadrise at the transom, increasing to 60° at the stem for maximum comfort. Wide chines and multiple spray rails provide an optimal running surface and deflect spray away from the collar, reducing maintenance.

Wing Inflatable of Arcata, Calif., built the fully inflatable collar. Prause said the decision to choose a fully inflatable collar, versus a foam or hybrid one, was based primarily upon weight and maintenance considerations, important for a boat weighing only 22,000 pounds. Foam is hard and heavy and prone to absorb water over time, he said.

Fort Johnson‘s collar comprises port and starboard sections, each containing two chambers. The port and starboard sections come together at a seam in the bow, permitting the replacement or repair of either section. The collar is fendered with a heavy rubber coating that can be reapplied when it is worn or damaged.

The collar does not serve any buoyancy function for the hull, and at rest it is completely above the water. Its primary function is as fendering. It also permits construction of a lighter weight hull without the loss of strength.

Underway, the collar creates very little drag and, because it is not constantly pounding on the water, makes for a smoother ride.

For power the Charleston pilots chose a Caterpillar C9 405 bhp engine to drive twin Hamilton 292 waterjets. At a speed of 30 knots, Fort Johnson burns about 1.5 gallons per mile. Fuel tank capacity is 300 gallons, but to keep the boat light, it normally carries only 200 gallons or less.

Prause said that waterjets are efficient and practical when it comes to avoiding debris that could damage the running gear. They also make for an extremely maneuverable vessel that can stop and turn quickly, he said. Unlike other waterjet boats he has operated, he said that Fort Johnson “will not end for end and will carve a turn.”

The pilots opted not to install a genset. Prause said the only real need for that sort of auxiliary power would have been to drive an air conditioner and that alone could not justify another system in terms of cost and maintenance. Instead they chose an electric air conditioning system that could be run independently of the engine on DC power.


The Charleston pilots acquired Fort Johnson in late 2005. The 39-foot “soft-sided” boat is driven by water-jets and has a fully inflatable collar, which serves a fendering function.
“It is essentially an RV air conditioner,” he said. Since the boat is stored on a lift out of the water when not in use, the air conditioner can be used to keep the cabin cool while the boat is on standby.

Fort Johnson is equipped with four pilot seats, one jump seat, a convertible settee and a seat for the helmsman. After operating the new boat for 800 hours, the pilots are greatly pleased with the boat, Prause said.

According to Gladding-Hearn, a second Resilient Class pilot boat is under construction for the Matagorda Bay pilots in Texas and is due for delivery in January 2007.

Boston Pilot Association LLC took delivery of two sister vessels, the 53-foot Chesapeake Class Chelsea (Hull 353) and Mystic (Hull 354). Gladding-Hearn’s Chesapeake Class is extremely rugged and seaworthy and succeeds Hunt’s 20-year-old Delaware Class deep-V design. According to Gladding-Hearn, the hull shape, arrangement and structural refinements have improved seakeeping ability, comfort and safety.

Both aluminum boats are 52.5 feet overall and have a 17-foot beam. Mystic and Chelsea are powered by twin six-cylinder Lugger 6140AL2 engines delivering 600 bhp at 2,100 rpm. At full power they have a range of about 300 nautical miles and consume approximately 50 gallons per hour with a top speed of 24.5 knots. Full capacity aboard both vessels is 690 gallons. For auxiliary power, they each have a 10-kW Alaska Diesel/Northern Lights genset.

Capt. Gregg Farmer of the Boston Pilot Association said his group has previously owned Gladding-Hearn boats and has been very pleased with them. Farmer said the Boston pilots needed a vessel with berthing space since the boats are manned around the clock and make runs of 10 miles to the sea buoy. Both Mystic and Chelsea are configured with bunks, head and shower. For cold weather operation Farmer said the boats are equipped with heated wheelhouse glass, rails and deck areas. One of the unique features aboard both boats is the deck lighting, which employs a shielded rope light. This style of deck lighting avoids any glare back. “When a pilot is boarding, all he sees is the lit deck,” he said  Both boats are fitted with three Stidd Model 500-100X3 high-back recliners for pilots and one Stidd Model 500N-200X2 low-back seat for the helmsman. Interior soundproofing is designed to keep the decibel level below 80.

Like Boston, the Pilots Association for the Bay and River Delaware has chosen sister Chesapeake Class vessels from Gladding-Hearn. Last year the association took delivery of Brandywine. This year it is Brandywine‘s nearly identical twin, Lewes, the ninth boat Gladding-Hearn has built for the association since 1957.

According to Gladding-Hearn president Peter Duclos, Lewes differs from its sister in that it is equipped with Furnstrum keel coolers to maximize engine cooling.

The 53-foot Lewes is powered by twin Daewoo V180TIM 10-cylinder diesels developing 640 bhp at 2,100 rpm and turning ZF Marine 350A gears. The boat’s top speed is 26 knots. The propellers are five-bladed Hall and Stavert props on 3-inch shafts.
The Boston pilots acquired two Chesapeake class boats, Chelsea, shown, and Mystic. They are powered by six-cylinder Lugger engines.
Lewes‘ cabin is fitted with five Stidd reclining pilot chairs and a settee. For pilot safety, there are heated handrails and a heated foredeck to prevent slipping. The boat has a transom cutout and ladder for pilot rescue. The stern is equipped with a rescue davit and vessel controls for rescue maneuvering. Although most of Lewes‘ work will involve 5-mile runs, Hunt’s seaworthy deep-V design will assure safe passage when the need arises to go offshore.

Master Marine

Master Marine of Bayou La Batre, Ala., has delivered a new multipurpose pilot boat, Gutu, to San Antonio-based Valero Energy Corp. The new boat will replace the 40-year-old Dori at its Aruba refinery. Gutu will serve as a pilot boat, crew boat, and small docking tug and line handler. According to Valero Energy spokesman Bill Day, the vessel was built of steel for weight, durability and ease of repair. “The shape of the hull and horsepower range allow us to dock small vessels, move barges, tow buoys and pull mooring lines from tankers at the reef berths,” he said.

The new vessel is 40 feet overall with a beam of 16 feet and a draft of 5 feet. Gutu is powered by twin Catepillar C7 electronic turbo-charged engines rated at 250 hp each. Day said the vessel would be used in San Nicolas Harbor in support of refinery operations. “We selected this boat because we decided that we needed a high horsepower mini-tug that was maneuverable, safe and would last for many years.”

By Professional Mariner Staff