Kvichak is Back!
New Bristol Bay Boats Cruise at 29 Knots
In the middle of April, Kvichak Marine Industries, a Vigor Industrial company, launched three aluminum gillnetters built to a new “top house” design. The company’s last Bristol Bay boats were delivered in the early 1990’s, when they began expanding into bigger vessels like catamarans, pilot boats, and more recently the 45-foot Coast Guard RB-M contract. But the company’s three founders began aluminum boat building in 1987 with gillnetters that they fished themselves, so this is really a return to their roots.
This new 32-foot by 16-foot hull is a product of the Kvichak design team with the goals of shallow draft capability, fast transit times to the line, and the ability to maintain planing speed when partially loaded. To accomplish this, water-jet propulsion was selected: twin Hamilton HJ364 water jets powered by twin 510 bhp Volvo Penta D11 EVEC-E’s via ZF 305-3 reduction gears.
These in-line, six-cylinder diesels have a high power-to-weight ratio that delivers a high torque at low rpms to give rapid acceleration onto the plane. According to Alan Dodson, of Coastal Marine Engines, these are the newest Tier 3 engines from Volvo, based on millions of hours testing in Volvo trucks. “The version chosen by Kvichak’s engineers is rated for maximum power for no more than four hours in every 12, which fits well with their use on Bristol Bay,” he pointed out. “We have a lot of customers up there, and a dealer in Homer who provides service,” he added.
During sea trials, the boats demonstrated a maximum light speed of 35 knots, economy planing speed of 29 knots, and still got up on plane when loaded with 8,500 to 9,000 lbs. of ballast. Draft was 25 inches lightship and 35 inches with wells full to a capacity of more than 20,000 lbs. Engine cooling is by streamlined, fully enclosed bilge coolers welded onto the bottom. Fuel capacity is 400 gallons.
The fish are chilled by a Pacific West Refrigeration 7.5 ton RSW system, manufactured in Sechelt BC. It utilizes a PWR titanium chiller and the refrigerant circulates through a transom cooler mounted on the stern step between the jets. This is submerged at slow speed or flushed through slots in the bottom at high speed.
Pacific West owner David Nowell says this is the most popular system they sell for jet boats in Bristol Bay, allowing the chiller to keep running safely even in very shallow water, as long as it is flowing. He adds that he would rather manufacture water-cooled systems as they are less effort to build and install, but fishermen want the transom cooler incorporated into their vessel design.
The top house superstructure maximizes space in the wheelhouse, which has good all-round visibility through Diamond Sea Glaze windows, and is equipped with radar, depth sounder, GPS and plotter by Garmin; ICOM radios and Comnav autopilot – all supplied by Harris Electric Inc. The helm seat is by Pompanette. The layout with extra headroom in the galley creates a surprising amount of space for the crew to pass the cook without bumping elbows, room for all the crew to sit around the table, and four large bunks in foc’sle cabin. There is a separate cabin for the skipper, and the boat has a head and shower, and 50 gallons of fresh water. With a Webasto diesel heater to quickly warm the whole area, this is as comfortable as a Bristol Bay boat is likely to get.
With 16 feet of beam, there is plenty of deck space on both sides of the narrow reel, with three wells per side. The roller and windlass were supplied by La Conner Maritme Fab. Hydraulics pumps and motors were supplied by Eaton and Parker, with an IQAN electronic control system. The high freeboard gives enough headroom in the space between the engines to easily move between the filters on the bulkhead and the chiller aft, with complete access to the inboard side of the engines.
“We are now building the gillnetter that might just convince me to get back to fishing in Bristol Bay,” quipped Keith Whittemore, one of the founder’s of Kvichak who is now Executive Vice President of New Business Development for Vigor Industrial. Kvichak joined the Vigor group of companies in April, and he assured me that the company will continue to offer personal service to all their clients, including fishermen.
The merger of Kvichak with Vigor will have a significant, positive impact on the effort to recapitalize the Alaska fishing fleet over the next decade, he explained. The combination of Kvichak’s first hand experience in Alaska fishing, and Vigor/Oregon Iron Work’s advanced fabrication expertise will create an organization with the talent, infrastructure and unique market knowledge to allow most new fishing vessels to be built where they work – in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.