New Iron­sides


Passage Maker - - Electronics Products - Story & Pho­tog­ra­phy by Bill Ja­cobs

Pick­ing a paint color for your cus­tom 60-foot trawler to match the top of a Rus­toleum spray can is not nor­mally the way it’s done. But in the case of the South Pass 60, Con­grio, de­signed by Eric and Patty Bradley, the prac­tice is more than fit­ting.


There is no limit to the num­ber of trawler own­ers who have dreamed of de­sign­ing and build­ing the ideal boat, but rarely does ev­ery­thing fall into place. When it does, how­ever, there is usu­ally a com­pelling story that begs to be told. What led the cou­ple down the path to a cus­tom build, and what gave them the con­fi­dence to do it?

The Bradleys have ex­ten­sive boat­ing and cruis­ing ex­pe­ri­ence upon which to draw. Eric grew up in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, raised by par­ents who were avid boaters. His fa­ther is a grad­u­ate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and en­rolled young Eric in sail­ing classes and schooled him in the art of ce­les­tial nav­i­ga­tion. In his high school years, Eric served as race crew and was re­spon­si­ble for re­turn­ing the boat to San Diego from races that ended in Mex­ico. He spent some of his sum­mers as crew on a 150-foot purse seiner dur­ing South Amer­i­can fish­ing trips, and when he was in col­lege, he spent sum­mer va­ca­tions in­stalling elec­tron­ics, rig­ging, launch­ing new boats, and per­form­ing war­ranty work.

Patty’s ear­li­est boat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence took place on in­land lakes and rivers around St. Louis, Mis­souri. When she moved to Cal­i­for­nia and met Eric, they had use of his par­ents’ boat, an Eric­son 37 and later a Ket­ten­burg 50, which they cruised ex­ten­sively along the Pa­cific coast. They bought their first cruis­ing boat right af­ter they mar­ried. Be­ing ad­mir­ers of tra­di­tional styles, at first they fo­cused on Maine-built lob­ster­boats. “I like tra­di­tional boats be­cause they have been de­vel­oped over cen­turies by peo­ple who spent time on the boats they de­signed,” Eric said.

Ul­ti­mately they chose a Duffy 35, built by At­lantic Boat Com­pany in Brook­lin, Maine. Be­cause the boats are built on a semi-cus­tom ba­sis, they were able to de­sign the lay­out and se­lect all of the equip­ment. They leaned to­ward sim­plic­ity, spec­i­fy­ing a white Her­reshoff-style in­te­rior, sin­gle diesel en­gine, and ro­bust steer­ing and an­chor­ing gear. She was com­pleted in 1999 and shipped to Cal­i­for­nia, where they used her for div­ing, fish­ing, and cruis­ing from Baja to San Fran­cisco.

Eric’s ca­reer has cen­tered on var­i­ous as­pects of the oil in­dus­try where he has amassed a great deal of ex­pe­ri­ence with crew and sup­ply ves­sels, oil tankers, and su­per­vis­ing port op­er­a­tions. His tech­ni­cal ex­per­tise within the in­dus­try ul­ti­mately led him and a part­ner to form a com­pany that re­cap­tures, re­cy­cles, and pro­cesses used oil prod­ucts. He has also de­vel­oped skill in de­sign­ing with CAD soft­ware.


The Bradleys re­lo­cated to the East Coast, and brought the Duffy with them. Since then, they have spent six to seven months aboard each year and have cruised the At­lantic se­aboard from the St. Lawrence Se­away to the Florida Keys, and the Great Loop. In ad­di­tion to their per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences, they read about Lin and Larry Pardy’s world­wide trav­els aboard en­gine­less sail­boats, Robert Beebe’s Pas­sage­maker, one of the first world­cruis­ing power­boats, and Steve and Linda Dashew’s suc­cess­ful

Above: Rick Howard (mid­dle), Con­struc­tion Man­ager, is flanked to his left by An­thony Holmes, Project Su­per­vi­sor, and to his right by “Bea” who heads up qual­ity con­trol.

de­vel­op­ment of the FTB se­ries of self-suf­fi­cient, ocean­go­ing mo­to­ry­achts.

Their months of dis­cussing the many facets of long-dis­tance cruis­ing—the need for self-suf­fi­ciency, ease of main­te­nance, econ­omy, safety, and the free­dom to ac­cess re­mote lo­ca­tions with­out draw­ing undo at­ten­tion to them­selves—re­sulted in a de­tailed de­sign brief.

Armed with a brief­case filled with draw­ings and files, Eric and Patty spent al­most two years at­tend­ing ma­jor boat shows to eval­u­ate the many pro­duc­tion boats that might pro­vide all the things they had on their wish list. Many of them had in­di­vid­ual char­ac­ter­is­tics that they deemed nec­es­sary, but none of the yachts they saw in­cluded ev­ery­thing, so they de­cided that a cus­tom-built boat was the only an­swer.

“We work as a team and dis­cuss and col­lab­o­rate on ev­ery­thing. I am sure it would surprise many peo­ple to know how much Patty has con­trib­uted to the de­sign in places that have noth­ing to do with the gal­ley,” Eric said.

His ex­per­tise with CAD al­lowed them to de­velop a se­ries of draw­ings that rep­re­sented the pro­file and gen­eral deck ar­range­ments of the ves­sel. So, af­ter more than three months of work­ing full-time on the de­sign, they be­gan the search for a naval ar­chi­tect. Be­cause they were sat­is­fied with their fi­nal vi­sion of the boat, they were only in­ter­ested in hir­ing a firm with a proven marine en­gi­neer­ing back­ground. The firm would work within the frame­work of the Bradleys’ de­sign con­cept, but

would also put ex­tra fo­cus on the hull shape, struc­tural el­e­ments, weights, and sta­bil­ity cal­cu­la­tions. Ad­di­tional con­sid­er­a­tion would be given to meet­ing re­quire­ments of ABS, ABYC, and U.S. Coast Guard spec­i­fi­ca­tions. The naval ar­chi­tect would be re­spon­si­ble for cre­at­ing the fi­nal con­struc­tion plans for use by a ship­yard.

Eric and Patty se­lected Boksa Marine De­sign in Tampa, Florida. The cou­ple was par­tic­u­larly impressed with the cre­den­tials of Nick Boksa, who stud­ied at King’s Point Mer­chant Marine Academy, and com­pleted his grad­u­ate work at the Univer­sity of Michi­gan. Boksa had also spent a few years build­ing alu­minum yachts at Burger Yachts, fol­lowed by a cou­ple of years at Buddy Davis Yachts be­fore found­ing his own de­sign firm.


Boksa Marine be­gan work­ing with the Bradleys in late 2012. In ad­di­tion to a num­ber of face-to-face meet­ings, they col­lab­o­rated on all de­tails of the de­sign as it un­folded and changed daily. In the months that fol­lowed, the Boksa office com­pleted fi­nal work­ing draw­ings, weight es­ti­mates, ABS scant­ling cal­cu­la­tions, bill of ma­te­rial lists, elec­tric power anal­y­sis, and equip­ment lists.

The hull spec­i­fi­ca­tions con­sist of a com­bi­na­tion of plate thick­nesses. The side plate from chine to bul­wark cap rail is 1/ 4inch and the bot­tom plate from chine to keel is 5/ 16- inch. There are sev­eral 1/ 2- inch in­serts at the bilge keels, the pro­peller noz­zle, and the rud­der area. A cut­wa­ter, fash­ioned from 5/ 16- inch plate, ex­tends 12-inches aft, run­ning par­al­lel to the curve of the bow from the cap rail to the chine. The Bradleys also re­tained Ed Joy in Cam­den, Maine, to de­tail the rig­ging and spar de­sign for the stay­sail/dinghy-launch­ing rig.

Among the in­ter­est­ing equip­ment se­lec­tions in the de­sign brief, the ar­chi­tects de­signed fixed bilge keels to re­duce rolling at sea as well as pro­vid­ing a base for hull in­spec­tion and main­te­nance while rest­ing on the bot­tom dur­ing low tide. The sin­gle Cummins QSL9 en­gine will de­liver 330 horse­power at 1,800 rpm, driv­ing through a ZF gear, Aquadrive CV joints and thrust bear­ing to a Kort-type pro­peller noz­zle. Be­cause of their plans for in­ter­na­tional travel, a com­plex elec­tri­cal sys­tem will ac­cept shore power with dif­fer­ing volt­age, amps, and fre­quen­cies.

So­lar power will aug­ment the gen­er­a­tors and bat­tery charger. Fi­nal se­lec­tion of elec­tronic con­trols, in­stru­ments, and nav­i­ga­tion sys­tems will not be con­sid­ered un­til well into the fi­nal con­struc­tion phases to in­sure ac­cess to the lat­est equip­ment. In ad­di­tion to the de­sign work, Eric thought it worth­while to in­volve an­other set of eyes to en­sure that noth­ing was over­looked. He re­tained marine guru Steve D’An­to­nio to do a com­plete re­view of the project and spec­i­fi­ca­tions. He gen­er­ated a 25-page re­port with 139 ob­ser­va­tions, many of which led to re­con­sid­er­a­tion. D’An­to­nio, in turn, sug­gested they also hire Mickey Smith, who has done elec­tri­cal de­sign for Nord­havn, to look at their AC sys­tem. This ex­tra re­view work and sub­se­quent de­sign changes added about three months to the project, but Eric felt it was time and money well spent be­fore ac­tual con­struc­tion be­gan.

Af­ter pre­par­ing their own cost es­ti­mate, the Bradleys be­gan look­ing for the right builder. They had vis­ited a num­ber of U.S.based yards prior to re­quest­ing bids from three well-known builders. The ini­tial re­sponses, while vary­ing con­sid­er­ably, were all much higher than their bud­get. Al­though they’d ac­cu­rately

es­ti­mated the cost of ma­te­ri­als, they hadn’t an­tic­i­pated how much the costs of la­bor, over­head, and profit added to the to­tal. The Bradleys felt that the quotes they re­ceived did not re­flect the work­boat char­ac­ter and utilitarian fin­ishes they de­sired, so they broad­ened their search to in­clude builders of com­mer­cial ves­sels.

That search led them to 36-year-old Gulf­stream Ship­build­ing in Freeport, Florida. Gulf­stream has built a wide va­ri­ety of ves­sels, in­clud­ing din­ner-cruise ships, car fer­ries, tour boats, pi­lot boats, and oil plat­form sup­ply ves­sels. Sev­eral meet­ings later, which in­cluded the Bradleys, Boksa, and man­age­ment at Gulf­stream, they ne­go­ti­ated a con­tract for the con­struc­tion of the hull and sys­tems for the South Pass 60. The in­te­rior com­ple­tion was not in­cluded in this phase and would be han­dled separately as con­struc­tion pro­gressed.

I vis­ited the yard last March and was met by Rick Howard, Gulf­stream’s pro­duc­tion man­ager, who took me to the con­struc­tion shed. The framed hull rose out of acres of pre­vi­ously cut metal pan­els dis­trib­uted around the floor. Only the crack­ling of a sole welder broke the si­lence and lit up the space. Af­ter meet­ing a num­ber of the crew work­ing on the boat, Rick com­mented, “What hap­pens is, you start a cus­tom project for a cus­tomer. Be­fore you know it, you be­come friends. Around launch time you re­al­ize you are send­ing good friends out to sea, which is a big re­spon­si­bil­ity. You built their boat, so it bet­ter be a good one.”

I re­turned to Gulf­stream in Novem­ber and joined the Bradleys at a house they had rented near Gulf­stream’s yard. The skele­ton of the boat I had seen in March, now about seven months into con­struc­tion, had been trans­formed in to an enor­mous hull re­sem­bling a large, gray an­i­mal caged in by steel scaf­fold­ing, sur­rounded by crates of com­po­nents, en­snared by miles of ca­bles, hoses, and wires lead­ing from machines through open­ings into the beast. Work­ers ham­mered, ground, and welded steel plates, tubes, and pan­els, cre­at­ing a hair-rais­ing din from within. I was trans­fixed as if look­ing at one of Hierony­mus Bosch’s me­dieval paint­ings of the Apoca­lypse.

Rick Howard was there as well, wear­ing a wide grin. Af­ter a brief visit, he left us to ex­plore the project, lit by the am­bi­ent light from the open end of the shed, ac­cented by a con­tin­u­ous flow of sparks from grind­ing wheels and bursts of white-hot light from the welders. Eric and I climbed the steel stairs, en­ter­ing the boat through a port­side open­ing in the rail onto the main deck and in through the pilothouse door. The five alu­minum-framed open­ings looked for­ward from the braced alu­minum skin of the pilothouse. The ex­te­rior of the house will re­main un­painted in the fin­ished boat. The pilothouse and cabin struc­ture, at this stage, were only spot-welded to the hull so it can be lifted off when the hull fin­ish­ing takes place. It will then be repo­si­tioned and at­tached us­ing a de­ta­cou­ple strip, al­low­ing the dis­sim­i­lar me­tals to be per­ma­nently joined.


We climbed be­low and in­spected the in­nards from bow to stern, with Eric giv­ing me a run­ning com­men­tary on an­chor lock­ers, wa­ter­proof bulk­heads, in­te­gral metal tanks, mount­ing lo­ca­tions for the en­gine, ma­chin­ery, bat­ter­ies, stor­age lock­ers, and myr­iad other de­tails, all of which will be ac­ces­si­ble by the owner. My mind scram­bled to ori­ent me to the lay­out draw­ings that I had re­viewed the day be­fore.

Eric was to­tally fa­mil­iar with ev­ery inch, nook, and cranny, al­low­ing him to make con­tin­u­ous ad­just­ments and place­ments to en­sure ser­vice ac­cess; a tour de force of vi­su­al­iza­tion. I be­gan to un­der­stand and ap­pre­ci­ate how their par­tic­i­pa­tion in the con­struc­tion of the boat will pro­vide them with an ex­tra level of con­fi­dence while alone at sea.

As we were ready to descend the stairs, Eric picked up a chunk of heav­ily walled steel that makes up the rail of the boat. It was only about eight feet long, but it took a lot of strength to hold it; em­blem­atic of the heft and strength of the hull. Be­low the wa­ter­line I got a close look at the twin bilge keels that draw the same depth as the keel it­self, al­low­ing the boat to sit level on the sea bot­tom when the tide re­cedes.

The keel runs the full length of the bot­tom and ter­mi­nates in a mas­sive pro­peller hous­ing, which en­closes a 35-inch di­am­e­ter ni­bral five-blade pro­peller. Care­ful en­gi­neer­ing of size and spac­ing will elim­i­nate any prop wash vi­bra­tions against the hull. Ly­ing on the floor of the shed just abaft the pro­peller was the huge rud­der, dis­tin­guished by end plates, both top and bot­tom.

“The end­plates will in­crease wa­ter flow over the sur­face of the rud­der and in­crease its ef­fi­ciency in turn­ing the boat, par­tic­u­larly at low speeds.” Eric said, as the late af­ter­noon light be­gan to di­min­ish, the whis­tle blew and a line of work­ers be­gan to emerge from the hull as the work­day ended. One of them stopped to talk to Eric, and ex­pressed his con­cern that maybe the length of the for­ward berth might be too short. “You are in­vited on an overnight fish­ing trip once we’re fin­ished and you can try it out.”

Part two will cover the fi­nal con­struc­tion of the hull and in­te­rior, lead­ing into Con­grio’s launch, the sea trial, and ini­tial per­for­mance data on the com­pleted ves­sel.

Above: Joe Do­herty works along­side the mas­sive keel. The keel and the hull bot­tom above him give a sense of the mam­moth pro­por­tions. Be­low: The welder fin­ishes the edge of the port­side bow thruster open­ing. Also vis­i­ble on the star­board side are welded draft marks.

Above: No­tice the welded draft marks on the stern quar­ter and mas­sive rub-rails. Right: Bulk­head #17 is po­si­tioned on the floor, ready to be hoisted and welded in place. The open­ing will frame a wa­ter­tight door from Free­man Marine.

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