2007-08-09 / Front Page

New harbormaster's boat hauled for major repair

By Sam Bari

Approximately three weeks ago, the new harbormaster's boat, manufactured by Ribcraft of Marblehead, Mass., was hauled out of the water for what harbor authorities assumed was routine maintenance and warranty repairs. However, after the boat was hauled, damages caused by possible galvanic corrosion, commonly identified as electrolysis, became apparent.

The anti-fouling paint was removed from the bottom, and the glue attaching the gunnels to the hull separated in one area causing a leak. Other signs of corrosion were also found in various spots around the boat.

The hard-bottomed inflatable craft was hauled and returned to Ribcraft in Marblehead where their technicians inspected the boat to analyze the problems. Ribcraft management replied in a letter to Police Chief Thomas Tighe and Harbormaster Sam Paterson that the problems were caused by galvanic corrosion that they suspect originated from the area where the boat was docked. Consequently, they did not feel that responsibility for the problems fell on their shoulders.

Ribcraft sent marine surveyor Joe Lombardi to Jamestown to take readings and test the water around where the boat was docked at East Ferry. Lombardi reported that electric current readings "went off the meter."

When Matt Provenzano, director of operations at Ribcraft, was asked about the testing, he said that Lombardi performed multiple tests in the water where the boat was docked and at the time of the testing, the level of electrical current in the water was so strong that it was a safety hazard. He said that Lombardi used a multi-meter, which tests for both alternating and direct current, but he wasn't clear about the type of current that tested so high.

Provenzano explained that the harbor needed to be analyzed in order to find the source of the problem because the damage to the boat was so severe. "The boat is two months old and shouldn't have sustained that much damage in its lifetime," he said. He said that damage to the boat was certainly a concern, "but the biggest issue should be a safety issue. The area where it is docked is dangerous and unsafe," he said.

He went on to clarify that the problem could be intermittent if it is caused by another boat using electricity at different times and leaking current into the water, or faulty shore service could cause an intermittent problem because it is not always in use. He also said that several people in the area indicated there had been intermittent electrical problems for years. He added that finding the source is going to take time and expertise, because it is a complex problem.

When asked how much the repairs would cost, he said that he had no idea. "It will be well over $10,000, but how much over, I don't know," Provenzano said.

Chief Tighe asked town electrical inspector Angus MacColl to test the area and MacColl reported no problematic readings. According to the chief, MacColl's report concurred with Provenzano's claims and could mean that the electrical current problem was intermittent, or didn't originate from the area where the boat was docked.

The chief added, "any assumptions are pure speculation because tests have to be performed to give us conclusive proof of where the problem originated." He continued to say that the town engaged Professor Otto Gregory, a chemical engineer teaching at the University of Rhode Island, as a consultant to work with Ribcraft on the problem.

Professor Gregory was scheduled to "look at the boat for the first time on Wednesday (Aug. 8)," but said that he would not even begin to speculate what caused the corrosion problems until he thoroughly inspected the vessel. "There are many kinds of corrosion," Gregory said. "Each kind tells a different story about what the cause could be," he added.

Chief Tighe said that Rhode Island Interlocal Trust, the town insurance company, is also involved in resolving the matter. "Until the experts finish their work, everybody is just guessing," the chief said. "We are working hard to get to the source of the problem and between Ribcraft, the insurance company, and the expertise of our consultants, I am sure the boat will be back in service and performing properly as soon as possible. This is not a backburner issue. We are doing all we can, as quickly as we can," the chief said.

The 21-foot, 3-inch long by 8- feet, 6- inch beamed patrol boat was made by Ribcraft at a cost of $97,920. The price included a twoaxle trailer and the engine, as well as the boat and electronics. The boat was ordered with an aluminum hull, tow posts on bow and stern, and a T-top with all available reinforcements to the tubes for durability. "The idea was that this boat should be able to serve our needs for a long time," said Mike de Angeli, chairman of the Harbor Management Commission.

The boat's specs include a Honda 150 horsepower engine, an ICOM 422 VHF radio, Garmin 298 GPS chart plotter and bottom imaging sonar depth finder, police VHF and Whelen hailer/light bar. An 800 MHZ police radio was recently added. The top speed of the craft is approximately 45 knots per hour.

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