Gladding-Hearn completes pilot launch refit

Written by Nick Blenkey
Pilot boat refit put Tampa back in water looking like new

Pilot boat refit included a repower with a new pair of Caterpillar C18, EPA Tier 3-compliant diesels

The Tampa Bay Pilots Association has taken delivery of Tampa, a Chesapeake Class pilot boat originally built by Gladding-Hearn Shipbuilding in 2003, after an extensive refit at the Somerset, Mass., shipyard.

The boat was ordered when Gladding-Hearn first introduced the Chesapeake class of mid-size, high-speed launches. In 2015, the Tampa pilots also took delivery of the shipyard’s first Chesapeake Class MKII, which incorporates the performance benefits of Volvo Penta’s IPS 2 pod system.

“After 19 years of hard work, the vessel was showing some wear and tear but she still had a lot of life left so it was definitely worth re-investing in her,” said Peter Duclos, Gladding-Hearn’s co-president and director of sales.


With more than 50,000 operating hours, the 53-foot all-aluminum pilot boat’s twin 600 bhp Caterpillar 3406E engines were replaced with a new pair of Caterpillar C18, EPA Tier 3-compliant diesel engines, each delivering 670 bhp at 2,100 rpm and a top speed of over 25 knots.

The engines turn new 5-blade Bruntons propellers via Twin Disc MGX-5136A “Quickshift” gears.

In addition, the pilot boat received a new Seastar Optimus steering system and a new Northern Lights 12 kW generator. To accommodate the new engines, the shipyard modified the launch’s engine beds, hull frames, exhaust systems, cooling and fuel system piping.

Other upgrades in the pilot launch refit included new Norsap 1500 pilot seats, new windows, three new doors to the pilothouse and four new hatch covers. The boat’s bottom, topsides and pilothouse were stripped to bare metal. After some minor plating repairs, the vessel received a fresh coating system.

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