MetalCraft Marine recently delivered two high-profile Fire Rescue boats to the east and west coasts of Florida, weeks apart. The exclusive communities of Ocean Reef in Largo Key and Boca Grande on Boca Grande Island both selected MetalCraft Fire Interceptors to provide protection and security to their very important citizens.
The Fire Interceptor is a fire rescue version of the highly successful MetalCraft Interceptor that is used by several friendly foreign militaries around the world as well as fleets operating in USCG and US Navy Programs and numerous select Police Forces.
The selection made a lot of sense to decision makers as both communities have a very protected side of the island and a very rough exposed to open ocean side and their men don’t get to choose when someone is in distress and needs their help. Let’s face it, Fire Rescue crews don’t get that many calls on really nice days for a cruise.
As high-performance military vessel designs they have a very low Beam to Length Ratio (BLR), which serves to dramatically reduce pitching and vertical slamming impact (termed Vertical Acceleration). Very important for those rough days offshore, but this low BLR also means that in canals and harbours they produce a very low wake signature.
The Interceptor hull is designed to have its main hull chines sitting at or slightly above the waterline meaning much less water being displaced as it moves effortlessly. And as you think this through, you are correct, this means it takes less horsepower to push it along at hull speed or slightly above to about 30% more than hull speed.
Another big feature for military action is reduced horsepower at cruise planing speed. The optimal planing speed for least use of fuel for most boats is somewhere in the 22–28 knot range. Militaries commonly look for 200 NM or greater range on a vessel. And they want to get there as fast as possible. Needless to say that takes a lot of fuel and that adds weight, lots of it. At some point this can become self-defeating. The Fire Interceptor with all the added weight of the fire pump, piping and lots of associated gear, crew and the fuel, needs as little hull resistance as a designer can provide.
The Fire Interceptor’s low-resistance hull surprises everyone when she can cruise for hours on end at 28 knots optimum fuel burn, this means she can beat a slower boat by 6 nautical miles per hour and burn the same amount of fuel. There are theoretical calculations for this and then there are hard test data numbers. In a recent test boat that had a specific range requirement we were able to reduce the tank size by 9%. Now this needs to be tested again because now you have the reduced weight of the tank itself. Can we save 10%?
In a recent training session operators from eight departments drove the Fire Interceptor that they said will be their next boat.
Wing flotation collar
As you can see the Fire Interceptor is available with or without flotation/fender collar options and the collar by Wing Inflatables of California can be air (D shaped or round), solid foam or air foam hybrid, with port and starboard (P&S) dive doors or notched sides. Wing is the undisputed leader in RIB collars in North America and possibly the world. They offer a five-year warranty even for military use – bullet holes excluded!
Both boats have P&S dive doors with an angled dive ladder locking bracket that allows a proper safe angle for divers to climb out. The Wynne stainless dive ladder can carry 400lb for those bigger divers. Having both sides available is very important as it is common to be diving next to a structure like a ship or pier and you can’t always control your preferred docking position considering waves, wind and current.
Imtra cool equipment
Under the dive ladder positions are Imtra underwater lights. These are critical in tepid water situations with low visibility. Light up the side the dive ladder is at and the diver can follow the glare to the correct location. They also provide enough light to help the diver offloading gear or fins while on the ladder. This is a natural safety feature for PIWs (people in the water).
Zipwake Gyro controlled Interceptors are one of the greatest inventions to make it to the marine market. Previously available only for very high-end military buyers, IMtra has brought this useful navigational tool to the broader market including recreational boats. Unlike conventional trim tabs, which are like fins, these are vertical knife like wedges that lower and raise automatically as the Gyro senses the boat’s trim. If the bow is too high the Zipwake controller lowers the blades to adjust trim automatically, you don’t do a thing. But you do save fuel, have better visibility and it is much safer for people moving about the deck.
But Zipwakes go much further than this. Everyone knows how hard it is to trim out a boat’s list with trim tabs, to fumble around until you get it. But if the weight has just moved to the other side it will take minutes before you can re-adjust. If this event happened at high speed or in the wrong wave conditions, it could be very dangerous. The Zipwakes auto adjust for list, instantly and you don’t touch a thing and the Gyro does this continually. You can improve speed, improve bad bow trim and greatly improve fuel burn when getting on plane. We have installed them on small high-performance boats and large tour boats and fireboats.
MCM cabin design
Other than the obvious difference in the collar/no collar decision are the differences in the wheelhouses. The Ocean Reef boat has a full-width cabin with narrow side decks but good aisleway widths in excess of ASTM F1166 and ABS. Boca decided they were better served with external aisleways also exceeding the stds mentioned so the cabin utilises the side entry doors only. There are several advantages to a walk around cabin, but one of the less obvious is that the crewman can act as a throttleman as controls can be placed in the centre for both operators’ easy reach. This is being used more and more in military situations where there is always a chance the Coxswain could be injured by gunfire.
The Ocean Reef boat has one of MCM’s rapid hinged masts as they have a number of low bridges and the crew can raise or lower while underway even on plane, with no tools. That’s an important feature for a Fire Rescue boat to be able to service a wider area.
Visibility in any rescue boat is king. The windows are oversized but still meet MIL STD ASTM ISO 12216 for Category B wave impacts. The Ocean Reef has very unique full glass side sliding doors, which provide unbelievable up-close sight angles for Search & Rescue, docking, coming alongside. This gives you a real appreciation for how hard the Interceptor can bank in a hard-over turn as you feel like you can reach out and touch the water. But in these hard-over banking turns most boats give the operator a huge blind spot as the low inboard side windows are facing the water and you can’t see what’s coming beside you. Not in the Interceptor, the roof angles are set for the side spotter windows to be nearly vertical to the operator’s sight lines and he has a great view of what’s beside him and side ahead and side behind. This is extremely important for high-speed operators.
A high speed turn at 50 knots does not allow much room for error. Speaking of speed, the Boca boat had twin Merc 350 Verados and did 60mph, for sure they will get there in a hurry. Ocean Reef went with Merc 300 HP Sea Pro engines and did a respectable 45mph. A lot of people ask, what is the warranty for commercial boats? Merc warrant the engines for a complete three years for government commercial use, including military, and they’re made in Wisconsin, not China.
Based on such high speeds and high wave conditions, (Florida has had 8–10ft waves most of the winter) the boats both come with Shoxs HD suspension seats that withstand 8 Gs of force for great crew protection. You can sit and glide through these high waves and you can’t stand at any higher speeds. How rough can you operate in? The boat can take more than you can and its structure is designed to MIL std ISO 12215 Category B, 11–16ft waves – not exactly a cruising day.
Darley fire pumps
And what fire pump would they recommend? Darley and Darley. Also made in Wisconsin, the Darley family business makes the best marine pumps you can buy. The Boca boat had a 200 GPM pump and Ocean Reef had a 500 GPM pump. Both are mounted in the forepeak and are in an enclosure that has a car-type engine hood cover over them. Release the stainless latches and it lifts up on gas shocks. You can walk on it unlike a new car and it doubles as a strong foredeck for going over the bow when beaching. It’s quite slick and greatly protects the pump from adverse salt spray. As both pumps are air cooled they have back up ventilation fans and external exhaust in line with ABYC standards.
The boats are slightly different in length with Ocean Reef at 37ft 8in LOA and Boca Grande at 35ft 1.5in and come with MetalCraft’s standard 10-year hull warranty, both are fitted with ABYC required anti-corrosion meters with data logging so if the boat has been in an area with high stray current it is recorded for better observation. Ocean Reef has a Phaser generator for a climate controlled cabin space.
One thing is for sure: the east and west coast communities of Ocean Reef and Boca Grande’s residents are now much better protected for marine or shoreside accidents and fires.
For more information, go to www.metalcraftmarine.com