Let’s jump right in, the Potomac River Company’s passenger fleet may lack the fit and finish of many of the yachts Bluewater regularly services, but they’re not without their unique charm—as well as technical challenges.
For several years now, the Bluewater Yacht Yard in Hampton has developed a strong working relationship with the operators of the Potomac Riverboat Company as the yard crew has performed countless services on nearly their entire fleet. On these unique vessels, a task that may seem ordinary, such as paint work ort a repower, becomes extraordinary as you consider stripping and painting an all-steel 65 foot river boat down to the bare hull and decks. Repowers require greater strategy when the old engines must be retrieved through multiple decks and carefully slid horizontally through tight spaces. Similar to a game of Jenga, it’s a deliberate orchestra conducted by chain and forklift. Nonetheless, Bluewater’s highly-skilled technicians, and yard manager Craig Messick, welcome challenges such as these. “Pushing the boundaries of what we do everyday keeps it interesting, and we like to pop in a creative engineering solution every now and then,” explains Messick.
Over the last couple years, several Potomac Riverboats have received new power at the Bluewater Yacht Yard, including Commander Jacques and Lady Josephine—both water taxis that run daily through the National Harbor in Washington D.C. Two more repowers within the fleet included the Matthew Hayes and Miss Mallory, two very different vessels tasked with routine passages between Alexandria and Georgetown. All four of these repowers included replacing most of the power systems including new fuel components, transmissions and electronic controls, all the way down to new digital helm gauges. The 65’ steel, single-level riverboat, Matthew Hayes also had her engine room and exhaust system completely reconfigured along with shortening of the drive shafts to allow the new Cat C12 engines to be centered where the old 3208s had previously resided. While in for her repower, the Matthew Hayes also received a complete paint job, just as the fiberglass double-decker river boat, Admiral Tilp did the year before.
“Then there’s the Miss Mallory…” Messick begins. As the most ambitious of the projects, Potomac Riverboat Company requested not only that she be repowered, but have an upper deck designed and installed as well as the hull extended by five feet. While a hull extension is definitely within the scope of the Bluewater boys’ abilities, Miss Mallory happened to be an all-fiberglass catamaran. Not one, but two hulls needed to be cut, extended and finished to exacting—and identical—measures. Under the guidance of a naval architect, the upgrades and extension were completed on-time and within the proposed budget. The company was pleased to report that her new, longer waterline provided for a much better riding angle as well as greater speeds. Her all-new upper deck included seating and common areas for mingling during private cruises and dramatically increased the amount of passengers the vessel can comfortably carry. Essentially, an all new boat and asset for the company’s operations.