Custom Boat Building

Overview

Our custom boat building expertise is derived from our engineered-to-order and design-and-build knowledge. Through the merger of Kamma & Blake and now lead by the world renouned direction of Paul Blake who brings over 40 years of aluminum boat building experience.

Our boat designs come from Quaycraft and other marine architects such John Simpson along with Ivan Erdevicki as well as MerLion Marine Services. We provide customers with a complete bill of material along with maintenance and operational documentation for all projects. We pride ourselves on building to demanding customer specifications while delivering both performance and reliability. Canadian Alberni Engineering has worked with various regulatory bodies, including:

We are experts at modifying and improving existing designs for boats ranging from 20 to 60 feet in length and 25 feet in width. Our designs meet both Lloyds and ABS specifications. CAE is completely conversant with all forms of marine propulsion and drive trains, including:


Fire Boats

NWS Fire Boat

NWS Fire Boat - Built in 2012 for North West Fire Rescue ,Lake Okanagan. Has been certified to Fire Hydrant Equivalency, which allows for a reduction in insurance rates.

PAPA Fire Boat

PAPA Fire Boat - Originally built in 1994 for the Port Alberni Port Authority and was refit to a fire boat in 2010 and is now Operated jointly by Port Alberni Fire Dept. and PAPA.


Patrol Boats

DND Range Patrol Boat

DND Range Patrol Boat - Built in 2004 for the Department of National Defence and is stationed at the Nanoose Test Range in B.C.


Search and Rescue Boats

Built from a complete set of drawing but continue to come back for further modifications and refinement to fit the customers’ needs and generate a more efficient and reliable “engineer to Order” solution.

RCMSAR Run

RCMSAR Run - Vessels were built for the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue and are stationed in Sooke B.C.,Kitimat B.C. and Comox B.C.


Pollution Control Landing Craft

Pollution Control Landing Craft

Several have been built between 1995 and 2007 For the Department of National Defence and are stationed in Halifax and Esquimalt Navy Bases


Hydrographic Survey Boats

Hydrographic Survey Boat

12 M Cat Launch - Built in 2007 For Public Works and Government Service and is stationed on the Fraser River in BC.


Sidewinders

Overview

Canadian Alberni Engineering Ltd. manufactures small steel work boats and tugs for the logging industry.

These vessels range in size from 15 feet up to 30 feet, the most common of these vessels we build and sell are the 18 foot super winders. They are 18 feet in length with a beam of 8 feet and draft of 6 foot 4 inches, usually powered by a Diesel engine producing 175HP at 1800 RPM driving a 360 degree steerable Olympic drive. The overall weight of these boats vary depending on options but most weigh in at around 6.5Ton. These vessels are primarily used to sort and push logs within the booming grounds or at the mill site to push logs onto Peko lifts. They are single operator boats with open cabs. Most of these boats operate in very close proximity to the mills or log dumps, some never venture more than 200 feet from the dock.

These boats are very powerful, and built to take a beating they are often referred to as bulldozers in the water. They are virtually unsinkable and they will not roll over as the center of gravity is well below the water line. These boats operate during daylight hours only so very few are equipped with any type of lighting.

The next most popular of the vessels we produce would be the Pod Dozer, these boats range on length from 18 feet to 28 feet they are used for the same type of work as the sidewinders but have the ability to tow logs and are usually more powerful. These boat usually have a full operators cab as well as running lights usually a two person boat. That said these boats don’t travel far from their home docks they are mostly used at log dumps and booming grounds to push log bundles and to do some sorting. We do manufacture many other types of vessels for the logging industry, from swifter barges used to bundle up logs to aluminum crew boats used to move workers to their work sites.

A Short History of Boom Boats

Plain Jane II
Plain Jane II built by John Manly Ltd. in 1960. Image courtesy of Dave Weldon.

Sidewinders, pond boats, dozer boats, and log broncs. So many names for such a little tug! Yet these tiny but tough vessels have been largely overlooked when it comes to tug boat history. The term “boom boat” only began appearing in the industry media shortly after World War II. In British Columbia, the term appears to first be used by John Manly Ltd. when he completed the welded steel boat Glendale Prince for BC Forest Products in 1947. In fact, the Glendale Prince may have been the first Canadian boom boat.

Before boom boats existed, log drivers had the dangerous task of walking the logs on the water, sorting them with a pike pole and stacking them at the log lift. Boom boats were designed to make short work of this precarious job. They crash into and shuffle the logs for hours, herding them into place. Today, people enjoy watching these little boats sorting logs by bobbing, bumping, spinning around, and generally showing off their unique manoeuvrability.

There have been several prototype boom boats built over the years. Allied Builders, predecessor to Allied Shipbuilders, began building these little tugs in 1949. By the 1950s, their popularity took off. Many boat builders such as John Manly Ltd., West Coast Salvage, Mac & Mac Manufacturing, Vancouver Steel Fabricators, and Alberni Engineering, to name a few, have been active suppliers of boom boats in British Columbia. Early designers included H.C. Hanson of Seattle and Robert Allan Ltd of Vancouver.

Dozer boat

Dozer boat - Image courtesy of runran via Flickr.

The average boom boat measures approximately 16 feet long, 8 feet in the beam, and 4 feet deep. The typical gross tonnage is only a mere 3 tons. The two most common types of boom boats are Dozer boats and Sidewinders. Dozer boats have conventional drives with a single screw and the propeller near the rear of the vessel, whereas Sidewinders have a 360 degree rotating steerable drive in a cage near the front. The development of boom boats over the last 50 years was largely influenced by the motor design. The earliest models were wooden hulled, however, these models couldn’t stand up to the rugged duty. It wasn’t until the advent of welded steel hulls that the widespread use of boom boats took off. Initially fitted with gas powered engines driving a single propeller, diesel engines became standard by the mid 1950’s.. By the 1960s, right angle drives became available. Early on, companies such as Olympic Foundry and Hydro Drive Corporation in Seattle designed and built the motors. Continued competition between several companies meant increased horsepower in drives such as the “Olympic Hercules”. The Original Olympic 360 Degree Drive was first produced in 1969. Rendell Tractor built several Sidewinder boom boats with both Hydro Drives and Olympic Drives. In 1973 they bought the rights to manufacture the Olympic Drive. In 1975 Rendell Tractor redesigned the drive, changed its company name to Summer Equipment, and came out with the HD-3 model. Summer Equipment later bought the rights to manufacture the Hydro Drive in 1993. In 2005, Olympic Drives & Equipment Ltd. purchased the rights to manufacture the Olympic Drive from Summer Equipment, and they continue to sell the drives today. Another design worth mentioning is the Log Bronc. Invented in 1958 by Fred Nelson, the Log Bronc was a type of boom boat which was largely used on the West Coast of the United States. This model, with the addition of roll bars, was even used by the U.S. Navy.

Sidewinder
Sidewinder. Image courtesy of John Rendell via Flickr

These little tugs are so captivating in their manoeuvrability, that they were even featured in the festivities for Expo ’86 in a performance called the Boom Boat Ballet. The brainchild of Al Dickey of West Coast Salvage, and Lucille Johnstone of Rivtow Marine, the little sidewinders put on a choreographed musical “dance” in the waters of False Creek. Even the size of the operators had to be coordinated to achieve the perfect symmetry for the dance. Today, a similar performance takes place every year at the Discovery Passage Boat Rodeo. Other comparable performances also regularly make appearances in various festivals around BC, proving the continued charm and uniqueness of these little vessels.

Although largely viewed as a means to an end, boom boats deserve their place in tug boat history. Their ruggedness, durability, agility and simple design makes them long lasting and effective little vessels that still busily work the waters of British Columbia today.

Special thanks to Doug Blake, S.C. Heal, John Rendell, R.L. Shields, Dan Teloski, and Rollie Webb for their assistance in writing this article.