Home Making Waves Making Waves – July 2024

Making Waves – July 2024

by Randy Woods
Maritime Innovation Center
Photo Courtesy of Port of Seattle

[ port progress ]

Port Breaks Ground on Seattle’s Planned Maritime Innovation Center 

By Randy Woods / Photo Courtesy of Port of Seattle

The wait for movement on Seattle’s long-planned Maritime Innovation Center (MInC) appears to be over. After six years of planning, the Port of Seattle finally broke ground May 21 on the new Center that is set to support and promote the Northwest maritime industry, plus revitalize the Fisherman’s Terminal property where the building will be located.

The first step in the ambitious plan is to demolish the currently vacant Ship Supply Building at the Salmon Bay site and use the original concrete slab as a base for the new MInC facility. Once completed at the end of next year, the new 15,000-square-foot MInC structure will house office and fabrication space for maritime workers.

The MInC will also be a location for new marine businesses and a training center for the next generation of people seeking careers in this growing field. One of the first anchor tenants will be Washington Maritime Blue, an organization that promotes the development of the state’s maritime businesses, technology, and environmental stewardship and acts as an incubator for the blue economy. (For instance, see Silverback Marine story on page 24.) 

The plan for the MInC is part of a $100 million strategic redevelopment plan created by the Port of Seattle in collaboration with local maritime businesses and public entities to support Seattle’s working waterfront and attract new blue economy jobs to the region.

At present, project work on the new building will begin with partner architectural firm Miller Hull, which designed the new facility to follow the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and Living Building Challenge (LBC) frameworks. Under the strict LEED and LBC environmental standards, the building is designed to operate sustainably with net positive energy and a reduction in carbon emissions, compared with conventional building practices. Some of the green building elements of the plan include the use of salvaged materials, and the capture and reuse of rainwater.

Other redevelopment work being planned for the rest of the year and 2025 at Fisherman’s Terminal include the doubling in size of the Nordby Conference Center, new landscape plantings on the property, fresh striping for the parking lots, crosswalk improvements, added benches, and interpretive signage under the 1% for the Arts program for visitors wishing to see the terminal, including the famous Fisherman’s Memorial monument.

Following the completion of the MInC facility, the Port will also begin a rehabilitation plan for the 110-year-old Northwest Dock of Fisherman’s Terminal, which will replace deteriorating timber piers with new steel piles and fender systems to protect moored fishing vessels. Work on the docks is expected to begin in 2026 and continue into 2028, the Port said. For more information on the project, go to: portseattle.org/projects/fishermens-terminal-redevelopment-1.

Wheelhouse Building
Photo Courtesy of Community Boating Center

[ building for the future ]

Bellingham’s CBC Celebrates Completion of Wheelhouse Building Project in Time for 2024 Summer Season

By Randy Woods / Photo Courtesy of Community Boating Center

Excitement among boaters in Bellingham, Washington, is growing as the town’s Community Boating Center (CBC) completed a fundraising and construction campaign this spring for the Wheelhouse Building project, which will open this summer as a gathering space for boating enthusiasts.

At the end of the campaign in April, CBC said it had raised $1.2 million of the expected $1.5 million total cost of the project. Under Phase 1 of the plan, set to end in 2024, CBC will complete construction on utility work on the Wheelhouse Building, located on Harris Avenue, just mere steps from CBC’s current rental headquarters.

Phase 2 will involve the purchase of new boating equipment and converting some of CBC’s existing powerboat fleet from fossil-fuel-based engines to electric power in an effort to reduce carbon emissions. The Phase 2 upgrades will also allow CBC to more easily serve community members with disabilities.

This second phase is expected to begin in 2025, once the Port of Bellingham finishes upgrades to its Small Watercraft Dock adjacent to CBC’s recently completed new campus. CBC described the new dock as the first one north of the City of Everett to provide “unprecedented access to the water for all.”

More than 5,000 boaters per year are expected to use the Wheelhouse building for year-round events, classes, and community meetings. The Wheelhouse will provide heated spaces, meeting rooms, restrooms, showers, and other amenities. The group will use the Wheelhouse to promote boating to people of all ages, teach boating skills, provide safety lessons, and encourage a sense of marine stewardship among all boaters through “therapeutic recreation,” CBC said.

The Wheelhouse project broke ground last fall, thanks to donations from boaters, civic groups, and corporate partners. This summer, CBC founding board member Deb Dempsey said she hopes to close a $70,000 gap remaining in Phase 1 funds with a $20,000 matching grant from the Whatcom Community Foundation. 

The CBC is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing accessible and inclusive recreational boating opportunities in Bellingham, fostering marine stewardship, and promoting community engagement. More information about Bellingham boating and making donations to the project can be found at: boatingcenter.org.

Photo Courtesy of Silverback Marine
Photo Courtesy of Silverback Marine

[ electrifying the industry ]

Silverback Marine Launches Sherpa 24 Electric Workboat

By Randy Woods / Photo Courtesy of Silverback Marine

Fresh on the heels of last year’s reveal of its eGrizzly electric workboat, Tacoma-based Silverback Marine is back with another all-electric debut, the Sherpa 24, a landing craft designed to access environmentally sensitive beaches and fragile estuaries, where dock access is often limited.  

Based on a variant of Silverback’s larger Sherpa 28 hull, designed by Elliot Bay Design Group and released in 2023, the new Sherpa 24 was created for customers that need to access delicate sea-to-shore environments. Powered by twin Photon Marine 300 electric outboards, the Sherpa 24 can also operate in noise-sensitive environments without producing harmful emissions.

With its ability to beach bow-first onto shore, the Sherpa 24 is equipped with an 81-inch fold-down bow door and push knees, allowing easy egress on shore. Other unique features of the new model are a fold-out dive ladder within the bow door and high-density polyethylene fendering on each side of the hull. Dual side dive doors and two aft PRC cutouts also provide additional water access for crews.  An inset Euro transom also offers increased protection for the hull and electric outboard. The noiseless Photon 300 engines on the Sherpa 24 operate with 500 Newton-meters of torque, providing surprisingly strong towing capacity for a vessel of its size.

Ian Gracey, co-owner of Silverback Marine, called the Sherpa 24 the “Swiss Army knife” of workboats for its ability to perform a wide variety of duties in tight spaces, from shoreline surveying to marine biology research.

The recent workboat releases from Silverback are the result of a successful collaboration with other manufacturers of electric boat equipment through the Washington Maritime Blue (WMB) accelerator program, Gracey said. Set up to encourage greater development of sustainable maritime companies, WMB focuses on innovative green strategies to reduce carbon emissions within the industry.

Silverback, Gracey added, is a prominent alumnus of WMB, as was Portland-based Photon Marine and e-boat builder Pure Watercraft in Seattle. “What we’re seeing is the fulfillment of the Washington Maritime Blue vision,” he said. “Now we are seeing actual, functioning, commercially produced product entering the market.”

The environmental benefits of all-electric workboats are expected to be in high demand in the coming years, Gracey continued. “Ports and state agencies across the country are urgent to switch their small fleets to a reliable, proven, and versatile electric workboat platform,” he said.

In late May, Gracey said his company has started the first two hulls of the Sherpa 24 at its Tacoma facility. He added that Silverback plans to release an all-electric barge at the end of this year and is having initial discussions about creating a hybrid-electric truckable tug in the near future. For more details on the new landing craft, go to: silverbackmarine.com.

Making Waves Dock Image

[ what’s app? ]

New OnBuoy App Offers Rentable Moorage Without Damaging Habitat

By Randy Woods

The idea of Airbnb-style rental space for boat slips is not exactly new, but a recently launched app called OnBuoy allows boaters to offer buoy or other moorage tie-ups for short-term rental and protect the fragile marine environment from unnecessary anchor usage.

Speaking on the Boat Geeks podcast back in February, OnBuoy founder Darren Austin described the service as an app that allows boaters to quickly contact owners of privately owned mooring buoys by smartphone for the temporay rental of any available unused moorage.

The idea came to Austin while he was rushing to get to a first-come, first-served moorage destination. “As I’m looking over on the coastline, I just see private dock, private dock, mooring buoy, mooring buoy—and they were all empty,” he said. “I started thinking, ‘What if we were under sail power? What would we do if we needed to stop?’”

If someone wanted to just stop for a short tie-up before moving on to another destination, Austin said, “I don’t want to squat, I don’t want to trespass; if I just had this person’s contact information, I’d give him a ring” and ask if it’s OK to tie up to the unused ball. “Maybe I’d buy him a six-pack or something,” he added.

The app Austin later created makes this informal process faster and easier, based on seamless online payments rather than alcohol swapping. OnBuoy allows private moorage owners to offer their buoys or docks to an online community of boaters wishing to rent space, either hourly or overnight. Such spaces, he said, are in high demand and short supply as interest in boating continues to ramp up across the region.

The service also has an environmental edge to it, Austin added. If boaters can’t find moorage, they’ll drop anchor. When these anchors are hauled back in, a chunk of sea life, such as vital eelgrass habitat, is almost always ripped out from the seabed. “Anchors can do some damage, even if you’re using them properly,” he said. As a result, OnBuoy was created as Washington State Social Purpose Corporation (SPC) committed to preserving and restoring the marine environment through the use of existing moorage options.

Members who use the app can also use their rental proceeds to offset the high costs of maintaining their buoys and docks. If not used often or well cared for, moorage equipment can decay and become adrift, which tangles boat props or endangers marine life.

All tie-ups listed on the OnBuoy site are regularly inspected for structural integrity, Austin said. The company also provides insurance for its customers against accidental damage and allows all hosts to approve all rental requests before reservations are set. Potential renters are also screened to ensure that reservations come from properly registered boats that meet the size and draft limitations for each tie-up location. For more details, or to download the app, go to: onbuoy.com.

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