IN THE WATER AT LAST
Custom Steel Trawler’s Maiden Voyage.
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.
ON THE WATER
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.