Building by the book


To Capt. Richard Bailey, it looked like a scene from the movie “Brazil” — partially assembled bulkheads bursting with tubes, wires, ducts and hydraulic hoses, “things just hanging randomly from walls.” But it’s all part of the plan for the tall ship Oliver Hazard Perry, rising from a Rhode Island shipyard and scheduled to set sail this summer as the largest civilian training vessel in North America. [Ocean Navigator will be teaching week-long navigation courses on Perry starting in September. Call 207-822-4350 ext. 211 for more info.] While the clutter that Bailey observed in January is a given at any newbuild site, there also have been surprises as the ship’s owner, Oliver Hazard Perry Rhode Island (OHPRI), has worked to comply with U.S. Coast Guard and American Bureau of Shipping regulations. Both agencies have been involved in the project since its inception in 2008.

“We were surprised to learn that each watertight door must have a separate ABS certificate, even if they’re seemingly exactly the same,” said Bailey, the designated captain of Oliver Hazard Perry and previously the longtime captain of another sailing school vessel, HMS Rose. “That’s a lot of paper for a lot of watertight doors, but that’s part of the process.”

Another unexpected twist involved welds on Perry’s steel hull, which was purchased in Canada and towed to the U.S. to provide the foundation for the 196-foot, three-masted ship.

“When we bought the preliminary portion of the hull it appeared to be pretty well built,” Bailey said. “We had some welding inspection done on it, but when we brought it to Rhode Island we found that we had to demonstrate that practically every weld on the boat met ABS requirements. Consequently, we ended up having to redo a certain amount of welding.”

Tim Queeney/Ocean Navigator photo

A welder works on the interior structure of Oliver Hazard Perry.

New vessel challenges
Those challenges are typical of any new vessel being built for certification by the Coast Guard, according to Carl Moberg, assistant chief of marine inspection at Sector Southeastern New England. After approving design plans submitted by OHPRI, the Coast Guard has been inspecting systems as they’ve been installed aboard Perry, most recently at Senesco Marine in North Kingstown, R.I. The ship was scheduled to head to its permanent home in Newport in early March.

“I think it’s gone relatively smoothly,” Moberg said. “There haven’t been any problems we wouldn’t normally have to iron out with the construction of any other new vessel. We always have snags here and there, you have to redo a weld here or there — that’s why we’re overseeing it. Nothing out of the ordinary.”

To launch as a sailing school vessel (SSV), Perry must meet standards specified in Title 46, Subchapter R of the Code of Federal Regulations. An SSV is defined as a vessel of less than 500 gross tons carrying six or more sailing school students or instructors, principally propelled by sail, and operated by a nonprofit educational organization exclusively for the purpose of sailing education.

SSVs are required to meet a long list of criteria involving design, construction, stability and systems — mechanical, electrical, heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), hydraulics, piping, sanitation, lifesaving and firefighting. If the standards are met, the Coast Guard issues a Certificate of Inspection (COI). The ship then must pass annual inspections, including scrutiny of onboard operations, to maintain its certification.

Bailey said that OHPRI’s construction supervisor, Russell Bostock, is in contact with the Coast Guard several times a month to make sure everything stays on track.

“It’s not just the COI when we get done, but all of the work that happens on the ship,” Bailey said.

Operational standards range from properly maintaining lifeboats to ensuring that each student on board is instructed in the proper handling of sails. The regime should keep Perry’s crewmembers busy; the ship can handle 36 guests overnight and 85 for day sails, with summer youth programs and other sessions catering to university students and families.

Bailey said work with the Coast Guard has gone well despite discrepancies that can arise when interpreting federal guidelines.

“I think that whenever you’re doing a project with the Coast Guard, it’s a good idea to be familiar with the text of the regulations that they are using to work from,” he said. “Sometimes regulations are like biblical scholarship — different readers of the text can interpret it slightly differently, so it’s important to know the text and to be prepared to stand by what your interpretation of it is. Because there is room for interpretation.”

Safety paramount
Discrepancies aside, the safety of the ship is the paramount concern for everyone involved in the process, something that Bailey said he always tries to teach his crewmembers.

“The Coast Guard is not our enemy,” he said. “We may not always agree with them, but regulations are casualty-based. Something bad happens, then you make regulations to try to keep it from happening again. If we start with that point of view, it’s not so difficult to work together.”

Bailey said in early January that it was “hard to quantify” how much work remained to be done. The ship was still in North Kingstown, but OHPRI planned to move it to Newport to complete construction. The final phase will include rigging 18 square sails — 14,000 square feet — with six miles of rope and wire.

“We’re taking bookings for summer camp for the third week of July, so we have to be ready by then,” Bailey said. “We hope to be doing shakedown and certification by May or June.”

Bailey was confident about the outcome under the supervision of Bostock.

“It’s all going together, it’s just at a confusing-looking stage,” Bailey said, referencing the jumble of tubes, wires and hoses. “This is his job, pushing snakes into the barrel.”

By Ocean Navigator