Cus­tom Steel Trawler’s Maiden Voy­age.

Passage Maker - - Troubleshooter - STORY & PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BILL JA­COBS

As I pulled into Gulf­stream Ship­build­ing this year, it was eerily silent on a Sun­day af­ter­noon as a skele­ton crew pre­pared to paint the hull of a 150-foot ves­sel re­cently com­pleted for the De­part­ment of De­fense. Re­flected on its bright alu­minum pilothouse was a slowly mov­ing trawler com­ing in to raft along­side a work­boat. I was get­ting my first look at the re­cently launched Congrio, con­ceived by Eric and Patty Bradley. When I met them at the Mi­ami In­ter­na­tional Boat Show four years ago, they were in the very early stages of de­sign­ing and build­ing a cus­tom 60foot steel ocean­go­ing trawler (“New Iron­sides,” Pas­sage­Maker, March 2017), based on broad-shoul­dered work­ing boats.

Our tour started in the 1,200 cu­bic-foot en­gine bay. “This is what the boat is all about,” Eric said. Even the 330-horse­power Cum­mins diesel looked in­con­spic­u­ous sur­rounded by her sup­port­ing tanks, man­i­folds, pumps, aux­il­iary mo­tors, pipes, wiring, and a six-foot-long work­bench. The only open space re­main­ing will be filled with a five-drawer stand-up tool chest. “It feels like I had to build a larger boat to store all my tools.”

CUS­TOM SYS­TEMS Eric walked me through each sys­tem by open­ing a six-inchthick three-ring bin­der that con­tained hundreds of pages of di­a­grams and spec­i­fi­ca­tions for ev­ery piece of equip­ment in the space. Many of them are cus­tom de­signed by Eric to pro­vide the re­li­a­bil­ity, re­dun­dancy, and per­for­mance he ex­pects. As com­plex as they ap­peared, many of the sys­tems were sim­pli­fied to be man­u­ally con­trolled by the owner rather than a mi­crochip.

While look­ing at the schematic HVAC page, Eric de­scribed two sep­a­rate sys­tems made from stan­dard com­po­nents by Crui­sair, We­basto, and So­las. The AC sys­tem uti­lizes two wa­ter chillers that feed cold wa­ter to six air han­dlers through­out the boat, in­clud­ing the en­gine room. The same air han­dlers, with the valves repo­si­tioned, are used by the heat­ing sys­tem. In­stead of re­ly­ing on sen­sors, Eric man­u­ally con­trols all of this.

Both the 12- and 24-volt elec­tri­cal sys­tems pro­vide the flex­i­bil­ity to adapt to the many dif­fer­ing power sources found around the world. In­com­ing shore power goes through three ELCB cir­cuit break­ers then to a Charles In­dus­tries iso­la­tion trans­former, which pre­vents any elec­tri­cal leak­age from an ad­ja­cent ves­sel en­ter­ing the boat. The boat is not con­nected to the shore, the trans­former is. In the United States, the elec­tric­ity comes di­rectly in from shore power. In Europe, the shore power will run first to the Vic­tron in­vert­ers, and then to the out­lets. A 9kW Cum­mins Onan gen­er­a­tor runs the en­ergy-ef­fi­cient elec­tri­cal sys­tem, be­cause of the in­vert­ers. The Bradleys use the gen­er­a­tor spar­ingly, so it is ac­tu­ally bet­ter to have a smaller gen­er­a­tor so that its use is ef­fi­ciently matched to the de­mand.

Eric lo­cated the start­ing switch in the en­gine room. Af­ter powering up all elec­tri­cal sys­tems at the cus­tom Bass elec­tri­cal panel out­side of the en­gine room, he prefers to start the en­gine while he is in the en­gine room. As the en­gine warms to op­er­at­ing tem­per­a­ture, Eric is in a po­si­tion to in­spect all op­er­a­tional com­po­nents.

A dozen Hoppecke 12-volt bat­ter­ies ser­vice the house sys­tem, and four ad­di­tional 8D bat­ter­ies start the en­gine and pro­vide backup. All of the bat­ter­ies live in the lazarette abaft the en­gine room, one of six wa­ter­tight com­part­ments. The oth­ers are the an­chor locker, bow-thruster com­part­ment, the two ac­com­mo­da­tion sec­tions, and the en­gine room. The di­men­sions of these wa­ter­tight sec­tions were care­fully cal­cu­lated by a dam­age sta­bil­ity study. Any two com­part­ments can be flooded and the decks will re­main above wa­ter. Any leaks in the thruster or en­gine room can also be con­tained.

Two decks up is the pilothouse—not a wheel­house, be­cause it sim­ply doesn’t have a wheel. The helm sta­tion con­sists of two con­trol levers: a jog lever and a fol­low-up lever used to con­trol the elec­tro-hy­draulic Jas­tram steer­ing sys­tem. Sep­a­rate con­trols oper­ate the bow thruster and an­chor wind­lass. There is a rud­deran­gle in­di­ca­tor and an en­gine-man­age­ment mon­i­tor. That’s it for now. The elec­tronic pack­age had not yet been in­stalled. A

Sim­rad mul­ti­func­tion nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem and AP70 au­topi­lot will be in­stalled, driven by Rose Point’s Coastal Nav­i­ga­tor pack­age. All in­for­ma­tion will be dis­played on three iden­ti­cal Sam­sung mon­i­tors. Eric will prob­a­bly use Fu­runo for his radar. Still a be­liever in paper charts, he in­stalled six chart draw­ers to star­board of the helm. He is also work­ing on a por­ta­ble wing sta­tion that can be taken out from ei­ther side of the pilothouse and at­tached to the handrail.

ON DECK The view for­ward is through five ¾-inch plate glass ports sep­a­rated by 4-inch square muntins. Not only does this rugged ar­range­ment guar­an­tee the de­flec­tion of green wa­ter com­ing over the bow, their thick­ness al­lows the per­son at the helm to shield their vi­sion from di­rect or re­flected sun­light when trav­el­ing into the sun. Eric and Patty have a con­tin­u­ing dia­logue on the need for wind­shield wipers. Above the ports, hid­den in the over­hang­ing brow, three large fresh-air in­lets ven­ti­late the pilothouse and main sa­loon.

Port and star­board Free­man doors lead to the side decks, which are en­closed by bul­warks and sand­blasted rails, mak­ing a safe route to the bow. A Maxwell wind­lass is flanked by a sub­stan­tial hose that can be used to wash down the an­chor or wash the boat with ei­ther fresh or salt wa­ter. A large Free­man deck hatch opens to the enor­mous self-drain­ing an­chor locker, which is it­self ca­pa­cious enough to con­tain an adult-size per­son. Welded hooks hold dock lines and fend­ers. The 400-foot, ½-inch chain rode is con­nected to a 275-pound Man­son Supreme an­chor. Just above the wa­ter­line on the bow, an at­tach­ment point is pro­vided for snub­bing the chain rode at a greatly re­duced an­gle, short­en­ing the ef­fec­tive length of rode re­quired for an­chor­ing.

Mov­ing aft on ei­ther side, a con­tin­u­ous welded handrail on the cabin sides en­sures se­cure pas­sage. At mid­ships, re­cessed fillers on each side feed six linked fuel tanks. An elab­o­rate fuel trans­fer and fil­ter­ing sys­tem gives Eric flex­i­bil­ity to bal­ance the fuel load. All welded deck cleats, bol­lards, and hawse open­ings will han­dle heavy dock lines. Large open­ings in the hull above the deck line prom­ise quick drain­ing in heavy seas. A 2-inch di­am­e­ter solid tube is welded bow-to-stern and adds rigid­ity to the hull which makes a rub rail of great strength.

The af­ter­deck is com­pletely cov­ered by the ex­tended coach roof and can be closed in with screens. Another Free­man deck hatch pro­vides ac­cess to a large fish bin. There are four rod hold­ers in the rail, a fish-clean­ing sink, built-in bait box, and a grill to cook their fresh catch. Two Free­man doors open into the main sa­loon. Fixed brack­ets on the tran­som se­cure an as­sem­bled 69-pound Fortress stern an­chor. It is not un­com­mon for a ves­sel of Congrio’s size and dis­place­ment to drop a stern an­chor to ac­com­mo­date the dif­fer­ing re­ac­tion to wind and cur­rent.

IN­TE­RI­ORS Cur­rently un­der con­struc­tion, the in­te­ri­ors will re­main un­fin­ished as the Bradleys work through their check­list of equip­ment is­sues that need to be com­pleted be­fore leav­ing the yard. A lo­cal cabi­net maker was con­tracted to build in most of the fixed mill­work, in­clud­ing base cab­i­nets in the gal­ley, drawer units, and bases for all up­hol­stered seat­ing and bed­ding. Coun­ter­tops and gal­ley ap­pli­ances will be in­stalled soon. One in­ter­est­ing de­tail that caught my eye was the use belowdecks of seago­ing, proper dogged-down port­lights.

The Bradleys are plan­ning to leave in mid-May of 2018 to be north of Vir­ginia by the end of June, and have al­ready iden­ti­fied

pos­si­ble con­trac­tors along the way north to com­plete the fin­ish work. Eric and Patty are flex­i­ble with their sched­ule. “It is most im­por­tant to al­low the time to get the work done cor­rectly,” Eric said. “Over this length of time, we still look for­ward to com­ing to the boat each day [and] watch­ing it come to­gether,” Patty added.

Cra­dles on the up­per deck hold a 10-foot AB RIB and a 14-foot Catalina sail­boat, both launched from the boom. The hard­work­ing top above the pilothouse is a busy place: a radar arch, a cus­tom Charley No­ble for the genset, a sail winch, the mast and step, and room for four yet-to-be-in­stalled 340-watt so­lar pan­els. A mod­est sail plan of main and spin­naker can be set to steady Congrio at an­chor or drive her if the en­gine fails.


We left the dock in the late af­ter­noon, trav­el­ling care­fully down Four Mile Creek into Choctawhatchee Bay. The nar­row chan­nel has a max­i­mum depth of 14 feet, so the six-foot draft left lit­tle room for er­ror. The con­di­tions were what I would nor­mally hope for: suf­fi­cient light, smooth wa­ter, and clear skies, but Congrio’s per­sona had me hop­ing for a strong blow, scud­ding clouds, and lots of spray to test her seago­ing na­ture. With three of us in the pilothouse and both doors open, the ride was the essence of com­fort. Even with doors fully closed, the gen­tle mur­mur com­ing from the en­gine room var­ied less than 10 deci­bels from idle to wide open throt­tle. Eric put the Jas­tram lever hard over to port. She turned quickly in her own length, with­out a dis­cernible amount of heel, her twin bilge keels keep­ing things level.

Af­ter com­plet­ing our test data, Eric of­fered me the steer­ing lever. I must say that there is a learn­ing curve to han­dling a ship with a lever. I felt like I had gone back 60 years to when I was get­ting my driver’s li­cense, and was happy that I did not have a good view astern to see the snaking wake. As the first set of chan­nel mark­ers came into view, I gladly yielded the con­trols to Eric.

I have used the word “de­tails” fre­quently through­out this piece. The sum to­tal of the thoughts, se­lec­tions, and in­stal­la­tion of so many of them make Congrio a re­mark­ably ca­pa­ble off­shore cruis­ing boat. The voy­age from con­cep­tion through de­sign, con­struc­tion, and com­ple­tion is a long one, and I am pleased to have been with the Bradleys on their in­cred­i­ble jour­ney thus far. I hope for one more op­por­tu­nity to sail with them again.

Spa­cious af­ter­deck with full over­hang pro­tects from both rain and sun­shine ex­po­sure, while over­size scup­pers and hawse cutouts pro­vide for a wide range of dock­line con­fig­u­ra­tions.

Above: Wide, cov­ered side decks, high bul­warks, and co­pi­ous hand­holds al­low for un­matched safety while un­der­way. Be­low: Great care was put into the sys­tems and en­gine room con­fig­u­ra­tion, with mas­sive space for DIY ser­vice checks. Bot­tom: The own­ers in the wheel­house of Congrio for the first sea trial near the trawler’s birth­place, at Gulf­stream Ship­build­ing in Freeport, Florida.

This Photo: Gulf­stream Ship­build­ing’s crane is put to the test as they put Congrio’s 160,000 pounds into the wa­ter. Be­low: Ba­sic cab­i­netry has been in­stalled in the U-shape gal­ley and sa­loon, but plenty of work re­mains to make Congrio a com­pleted ar­ti­cle. Op­po­site: The new trawler cuts a nice fig­ure as she pa­trols calm wa­ters in Florida.

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