Northern Marine: Baden Capsizing Due to Wheel Slip

Northern-Marine-Red Baron-launch-FacebookUPDATE, JUNE 6, 2014: The U.S. Coast Guard has turned the capsizing of Baden over to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The NTSB investigation will likely take several months. Furthermore, a spokesperson for Northern Marine confirmed to a Washington State newspaper than 50 of 54 employees were laid off within 48 hours of the accident.

Read on for the rest of the story as originally posted.


Northern Marine’s management team released a statement on May 30 regarding the capsizing of Baden. The rugged-looking megayacht rolled on he port side during launch on May 18. The statement from the shipyard underscored that its personnel are cooperating with the U.S. Coast Guard in its investigation. Northern Marine also stated that it is working with the owner and the owner’s insurance company “to address the losses resulting from the accident.”

Here is more of the statement:

Since the casualty, there has been much speculation as to what happened, often with little or no supporting evidence. Northern Marine is cooperating with the United States Coast Guard in its investigation into incident. …

Since the accident, the project naval architect/Professional Engineer has confirmed that the yacht, as designed, had adequate stability with the amount of ballast aboard at the time of launch, provided that “severe heeling moments” were not induced during the launch. Unfortunately, it appears that just such a severe heeling moment did occur during the launch.

While investigations as to the cause of the capsizing are continuing, the physical evidence on, and adjacent to, the launch ramp suggests that the dolly carrying the weight of the port stern of the yacht may have suddenly dropped off the edge of the boat ramp during the launch, causing the vessel to experience a sudden list to port from which it could not recover in its light condition for launch.

As noted above, the official USCG investigation continues and Northern Marine will cooperate in those investigations to their conclusion. Northern Marine is also working closely with the yacht’s purchaser and their insurance underwriters to address the losses resulting from the accident.

Northern Marine wishes to express its heartfelt appreciation for its many employees that contributed their talents to the construction of the yacht.

Read Northern Marine Launch Capsizes, Concerns Raised for the original story.

Northern Marine Launch Capsizes, Concerns Raised

Northern-Marine-Red Baron-launch-Facebook

PHOTO: Facebook

The launch of Northern Marine’s newest 90-footer (27.43-meter) on May 18 received the type of media attention no one wants. The yacht capsized upon launch, and some of the build staff were injured. Now more bad news comes in the form of employees possibly facing job uncertainty.

The yacht, named Baden (“Blood Baron”), is seen here just prior to the capsizing. Northern Marine is owned by New World Boat Builders. According to PassageMaker magazine, on May 20, the management sent all employees home. The magazine states about 50 people were affected. We reached out to Wes Fridell, a spokesperson for New World Boat Builders, for comment. He did not respond by press time. However, at least one employee was still at work as of late last week, answering the main phone.

What is known is that the launch on May 18 went terribly wrong. Video footage shows that when Northern Marine maneuvered the dolly holding Baden into the water, she began listing to port and then fully rolled. The same launch ramp has been ued for previous Northern Marine launches. Owned by the city of Anacortes, Washington, it reportedly has not posed trouble for the shipyard previously. When Baden began rolling, five Northern Marine build staff were aboard. According to local media, they told police that they headed to the engine room to adjust ballast. The engine room began flooding, however. First responders smashed a port to pull them out. One of the employees told a local TV station that he and the others didn’t know why the megayacht rolled. Fridell, who was on site for the launch, told the station the same. He is quoted as also saying that “the cradle had been inspected and is sound. And then we reinspected everything before we proceeded.”

Baden was righted on May 19. As is the norm for cases like this, New World Boat Builders is incurring the cost. Fridell told local media that salt water damaged all electrical systems and furnishings, but the hull suffered only scratches. The megayacht has not been hauled from the water, however. She remains held in place by a salvage crane as of press time. The Coast Guard has not yet given permission to move her. The capsizing is under investigation by the Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board.

Aaron Pufal, who was the build captain until last December, has been blogging about the project since 2012. He blogged again a few days after Baden capsized. He states that last year, he raised concerns about her stability. Pufal says he therefore commissioned Roddan Engineering to perform a stability study. In his blog post, Pufal shares what he says is the report from Roddan Engineering, dated July 19, 2013. It indicates that the yacht was lighter than other Northern Marine 85s, which were from the same model series as Baden. The alleged report reads, “It is recommended that partial ballasting be done currently, with final ballasting for trim and desired waterline to be performed at launch.” The alleged report also states, “It is recommended that an Inclining Experiment, supervised by Roddan Engineering Ltd., be performed at launch (and after final ballasting) to confirm the stability estimates and determine exact VCG (vertical Center of Gravity) and LCG (Longitudinal Center of Gravity).”

In his blog post, Pufal wonders whether his recommendations were considered prior to launch, and why the capsize happened. “Why didn’t the new project management team heed my warning or the stability study and my concerns? What could have been done to prevent this terrible mess? In the pictures of this accident that I have seen, why are the wheels on the dolly compressed so much that the tires are flat? Did someone not notice this? Why didn’t any one stop the launch if there were warning signs with the dolly?”

Northern Marine Creates Refit Division

Since Northern Marine has had a number of existing clients return for repair and renovation work, the Washington State yard has officially launched a refit division.

The Northern Marine refit division will service both Northern Marine-built yachts as well as other builders’ boats. Since it builds yachts and megayachts to 151 feet (46 meters), it can handle a few different projects.

Arguably the most famous refit underway right now is that of Cheemaun, a 75-footer (22.9-meter) built at Northern Marine in 1998. Back then, she was known as Starship, and she undertook a three-year, 75,000-mile circumnavigation to study and document the state of oceans and waterfront villages. In 2002, after the voyage ended, an experienced yachting couple, who just so happened to be actor Gene Hackman and his wife, purchased the yacht for themselves and their two seagoing pups, refitting her in Florida and rechristening her Machiko. Now in new hands and rechristened again, Cheemaun is back at Northern Marine for the creation of a Portuguese bridge, new bottom paint, systems upgrades, and an interior redesign.

Four other yachts from 57 to 72 feet (17.4 to 22 meters, respectively) are being refitted at Northern Marine now as well.

In related news, earlier this year Northern Marine acquired the assets of Glas-Ply, a fellow Washington State boatbuilder that shut down operations more than a decade ago. Glas-Ply offered fiberglass boats from seven to 28 feet, and many dating back more than two decades are still in Pacific Northwest waters, so the brand was known for its durability. Andy McDonald, Northern Marine’s president, says the boats will now be offered as custom tenders.

Northern Marine Signs New-Look 85-Foot Megayacht

A few weeks after launching a 64-footer, Northern Marine sealed the deal for a new 85-foot expedition yacht bearing far different styling than its usual approach.

Aptly named Blood Baron, the 85 has a red paint job and the styling input of Northern Marine’s in-house team, Adriel Design, and the captain, Aaron Pufal. Together, they blended Northern Marine’s proven hull form with more yacht-like lines for the superstructure, rather than the usual rugged appearance of an expedition yacht. Among the benefits is a good-size skylounge just aft of the wheelhouse, larger than the ones aboard most megayachts in this LOA range. It will include a bar, seating area, TV, and entertainment center. Capt. Pufal credits Northern Marine’s custom approach to construction for the skylounge’s outcome, noting that most builders with similar-size yachts are either production builders or semicustom builders that limit structural changes.

Other highlights of Blood Baron include an on-deck, full-beam master and three guest staterooms below decks. Because the owner wanted minimal crew, there’s just one crew cabin. Up top, the skylounge will lead out to an alfresco dining spot, while the flybridge (the uppermost deck) will have a bar, seating, sun lounges, and toy stowage. (There’s the possibility of the owner toting motorcycles in addition to PWCs.)

Besides the ability to customize the yacht, the owner of Blood Baron selected Northern Marine for its reputation of building global cruisers. Perhaps its most famous delivery to date is Spirit of Zopilote, the first in its line of long-range trawlers, which has visited more ports than you could shake a stick at. The owner of Blood Baron wanted to step up in size to something capable of taking his family to ports on both sides of the ocean.

Blood Baron is set for delivery in 2013.

Northern Marine: New Contracts, New Expansion Plans

When Northern Marine shuts its doors in 2009, it was an early victim of the economic slowdown that became the global recession. It hasn’t remained that way, however. Not only is the Washington State yard back in business, but the new plans it has reflect a strong focus on a niche few large-yacht yards are addressing.

Northern Marine actually reopened shortly after its owners filed for bankruptcy and shut down operations. A craftsman who had worked for Northern Marine, Andy McDonald, formed New World Yacht Builders. The goal was to keep fellow craftsmen employed, including ones laid off from other area builders. With the blessing of the owners of Northern Marine, New World Yacht Builders started doing business as Northern Marine in September 2009. Then last year, Bud LeMieux, who founded Northern Marine, came back onboard. He had sold his interests in the yard in 2006. A recent addition to the team is Randy Cowley, another marine-industry veteran who serves as vice president of sales and marketing, Among other things, Cowley founded the brokerage firm Venwest Yachts about 30 years ago.

Together, the management team is overseeing about 60 craftsmen, with lamination, carpentry, and painting all performed in house. Crowley says that Northern Marine anticipates having 100 employees by the end of the year. In addition, and equally important, while the yard previously built up to 151 feet LOA, Northern Marine is remaining focused on the smaller end of the spectrum. In fact, it’s returned to its roots, building trawler-style, long-range cruisers. The size range starts at 54 feet and extends to 118 feet.

Northern Marine currently has three yachts in its build shed, each under contract. The smallest is a 64-foot trawler yacht being built to U.S. Coast Guard subchapter T class. (The class governs small passenger vessel safety and stability.) The other two projects are megayachts: an 80- and a 95-footer. Both are what Northern Marine calls a Long Range Expedition (LRE) cruisers, emphasizing rugged looks and oceangoing abilities. The 80 was commissioned for a couple from the East Coast stepping up from a yacht in the 50-foot range. The raised-pilothouse design has quite an unexpected layout on the lower and main decks. The master is the sole stateroom below, with a VIP and a guest stateroom located forward on the main deck. A captain’s cabin is just aft of the pilothouse. In addition, the 80 LRE is powered by a single diesel, for fuel efficiency. When the owners take delivery next spring, they’ll embark on extended cruises.

As for the 95 (pictured at top), she was commissioned by yet another experienced owner who anticipates traveling around the world. Even with the hard-charging looks, she’ll feature the niceties of a typical luxury yacht, including a hot tub forward on the flying bridge. A large bar aft, fitted with a dumbwaiter, will keep guests in the tub and seated on the port and starboard lounges satisfied. The owners’ stateroom is forward on the main deck, with three guest staterooms and a crew cabin below decks. Similar to the 80 LRE, the 95 LRE will feature single-diesel propulsion.

A few new designs are on the boards, too. There’s an Aft Pilot House 80 LRC (above), featuring tender stowage on the foredeck. She emphasizes the rugged looks you’d expect of a long-range yacht. There’s also an 80 Tri Deck, with a main-deck master and a lounge below decks accompanying two guest staterooms. The lounge can convert to an extra stateroom when needed. In addition, the flying bridge can be configured different ways. The standard layout features dual helm seats forward, with a bar and large circular seating and dining area just aft, followed fully aft by RIB stowage. Alternately, owners can request three helm seats, with an observation settee just aft to port and the bar pushed a bit farther aft of that. Either way, the bridge deck, just below it, contains a captain’s stateroom tucked to starboard and alfresco seating and a bar fully aft.

The combination of go-anywhere styling and luxury touches is in response to what Crowley says is an emphasis on travel as a lifestyle. He explains that the buyers and potential buyers that Northern Marine is meeting “don’t just want a weekend platform.” Rather, they’re family-oriented and want to truly travel aboard their yachts. Plus, “you don’t need a 150-footer to do it,” he adds.

Northern Marine isn’t done yet. It also has a facilities expansion in the works. It recently broke ground on a new waterfront site for refit and repair, across the street from its present shed. Crowley says Northern Marine is looking to purchase a 300- to 500-ton TraveLift, so that it can attract large megayachts to 200 feet. It’s a wise move, as nearly all motor- and sailing yachts in that size range head to yards in San Diego for this work. Northern Marine expects the new site to be operational by summer 2013.