STORY Commercial Marine

A New Yorker in Alaska

Posted on March 30, 2021 by Chuck Mahnken, Images by Phillips Cruises and Tours, William Rome

Repowering of a fast ferry: Bravest has completed her first season of service for Phillips Cruises and Tours in Whittier, Alaska. For decades, the 127-foot high-speed catamaran provided commuter ferry service in New York Harbor.
Prince William Sund., Alaska
Trading skyscrapers for towering glaciers, Bravest has completed her first season of service for Phillips Cruises and Tours in Whittier, Alaska. For decades, the 127-foot high-speed catamaran provided commuter ferry service in New York Harbor. The vessel played a role during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, part of a makeshift fleet of boats that came together to carry 500,000 survivors off Manhattan Island - the largest sea evacuation in history.

Today, Bravest explores the glacier-filled fjords of Alaska’s Prince William Sound. Phillips Cruises and Tours' signature tour, the 26 Glacier Cruise, follows a route that features views of 26 named glaciers and many others, and its popularity continues to grow every year. To meet the demand, the tour operator needed a vessel with the perfect combination of speed and capacity to handle the heavy workload of daily fivehour excursions. Bravest fit the bill. Phillips Cruises and Tours worked with Yank Marine in Tuckahoe, New Jersey to transform the commuter ferry to a sightseeing excursion vessel, a process that took more than two years.

A change of scenery

Bravest underwent significant structural changes to improve the customer experience. Removing bulkheads and moving stairways that impeded sightlines made wildlife and glacier viewing easier for passengers. A galley was added for meal service, along with a new HVAC system, high-back seating and new electronics in the wheelhouse. Spaciously outfitted, Bravest provides 286 guests with seating on two levels. Among Alaskan mariners, Phillips Cruises and Tours is well known for its fleet of smooth-cruising fast catamarans, all powered by mtu engines. The fleet operates seasonally, from May through early October. In order to endure long hours of daily operation with minimal downtime, Bravest needed to be repowered with powerful engines that were up to the tour operator’s high standards for performance and speed. “We cover 140 miles every day on our 26 Glacier Cruise, and we do it in five hours with lots of stops. We need 32-34 knots of cruising speed. Power is definitely necessary for our business plan,” says Gary Sommerfeld, Captain and Marine Operations Manager, Phillips Cruises and Tours.

The new engines are quiet and smooth. Ther're also TIER 3-certified.

Gary Sommerfeld - Captain and Marine Operations Manager, Phillips Cruises and Tours.

Repowering reaps rewards

mtu distributor Pacific Power Group helped replace Bravest’s aging twin mtu 16-cylinder 396 engines with twin mtu 16-cylinder 4000 M64 engines delivering 2,680 hp. The team has been a longtime partner with Phillips to keep its catamarans running at peak performance. “We’ve been working with mtu and Pacific Power Group for quite a few years. It made sense to stick with them,” says Sommerfeld. “The new engines are quiet and smooth. They’re also Tier 3-certified, so they’re very clean burning. It’s rare you see any kind of smoke out of them, even with cold starts.” With a cruising speed of 32 knots, guests are able to see the glaciers and abundant wildlife of Prince William Sound very efficiently. As Bravest weaves through the pristine passageways and fjords, passengers may spot a variety of seabirds, bald eagles, black bears, orca whales, humpback whales, sea lions, harbor seals and sea otters. The reliability of the mtu engines provides guests with more time to experience the amazing scenery and less time on the dock.

A force of nature

From a business perspective, Phillips Cruises and Tours appreciates the uninterrupted service as well. In its inaugural season in Alaska, Bravest never missed a trip. The addition of Bravest has helped the company to nearly double capacity on its popular 26 Glacier Cruise route. On the calm waters of Prince William Sound, far away from the concrete canyons of New York City, Bravest has found new life, giving more people the opportunity to enjoy Alaska’s natural beauty.

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