IMAGINING, DESIGNING, AND BUILDING A SOUTH PASS 60, PART ONE.
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.
BUILDING THE DREAM
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.