What do you get when you cross a personal watercraft with an airboat and then float it all on a RIB? A one-of-a-kind research vessel
dubbed Kelpfly for its ability to “fly” over kelp beds and
even work in the surf zone while mapping California’s
ultra-shallow inshore seabed. The creation of Dr. Rikk Vitek,
who heads the Seafloor Mapping Lab at Cal State, Monterey Bay, Kelpfly is a
Yamaha WaveRunner mounted on a custom-built aluminum rigid inflatable hull,
and powered, airboat-style, by a paraglider engine and propeller. It’s equipped
with sophisticated side-scan sonar and other instruments, and the airboat propulsion allows the boat to map right through the floating kelp forests, a previously impossible task because the kelp would plug the WaveRunner’s jet drive. It
can record geophysical data in as little as 20 inches of water, and its “armored”
hull even bounces off rocks. Kelpfly’s mother ship is a 46-foot Hatteras sport-fisherman donated to the university and extensively equipped for seafloor
mapping as well. — R.L.
NOW YOU SEE IT,
SOON YOU WON’T
CALIFORNIA BOATERS lucky enough to have glimpsed the Navy’s mysteri- ous stealth ship, Sea Shadow, may
want to cherish those memories. The odd-shaped, Darth Vader-like vessel has a date
with the scrap dealer’s cutting torch. One
of the more radical ships ever floated, Sea
Shadow was built in 1985 under a shroud of
secrecy in the backwaters of San Francisco
Bay. For years the 164-foot-long vessel clandestinely operated off the California coast as
test bed for maritime stealth technology. So
secret was the project that the Navy housed
and transported Sea Shadow aboard a covered
barge to hide it from curious boaters and foreign spy satellites.
In 1993, the Navy took the wraps off Sea
Shadow and allowed boaters to glimpse the
vessel in and around San Francisco and San
Diego Bays. After decades of playing “now
you see it, now you don’t” with boaters, the
$50-million Sea Shadow recently sold at auction for $3.2 million (including barge), with
a stipulation that she be cut into scrap. Take
a virtual tour of the ship that inspired the villain’s vessel in the 1997 James Bond movie,
“Tomorrow Never Dies,” at: www.hnsa.org/
seashadow — JACK INNIS
An Overripe And Underpriced Banana?
$19.37 THAT’S THE PRICE a Wisconsin nonprofit organization paid for an iconic bit of Upper
Mississippi River history, the 267-foot dredge William A. Thompson.
Known as “the big banana boat” to boaters on the river for her
yellow U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ color scheme, for 68 years
the Thompson maintained 850 miles of the river until it was retired
in 2008, at Fountain City, Wisconsin. Lying at its new home 100
miles downriver at Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, since mid-June, the
cutterhead dredge could become a museum or an environmental
learning center while undergoing restoration.
The Thompson could cut a channel 28 feet deep and 350 feet
wide in a single “mooring.” She carried 8,000 feet of floating dredge
pipe and could dredge 1,000 cubic yards per hour. Over the years
she handled about 2 million yards of dredged material annually.
And the sale price? That’s the year of the William A. Thompson’s first
roll on the river. — R.L.