New composite tour boats airlifted into Crater Lake
When three new composite tour boats, built by Modutech Marine (Tacoma, Wash., U.S.A.), were delivered to Oregon’s famed Crater Lake in July, the means used to move the custom-built 15,000-lb, 48-passenger craft to the road-inaccessible lake – situated in the crater of extinct volcano Mt. Mazama – were as unique as the boats themselves. Modutech trucked the boats to Pumice Desert near the park’s north entrance, where a Columbia Helicopters Boeing 234 Chinook airlifted the 12,000-lb craft, one at a time, eight miles to the lake and over the 7,000-foot-high crater rim to Governor’s Bay at Wizard Island.
Built for quiet operation and fuel efficiency, the boats’ composite design optimizes safety as well, with foam-filled buoyancy chambers and molded hulls of inch-thick sandwich construction, featuring 7 to 10 layers of fiberglass and a foam core, with fiberglass composite decks and seating, as well. Engine compartments are sealed and the composite hulls dampen engine noise. In addition, Bilge pumps are fitted with smart sensors to prevent engine fluids from getting pumped into the lake.
The composite hull and bilge precautions were especially important to tour boat operator Xanterra Parks & Resorts (Aurora, Colo., U.S.A.), which took over operation of the lodge and other concessions at Crater Lake National Park last year. In the 1990s, researchers had detected gasoline residue near the tour boat docks on the lake’s north shore. A subsequent federal investigation, concluded in 2002, found serious safety lapses in the operation of the previous wooden vessels. Xanterra layed out a total of $600,000 for the virtually unsinkable and corrosion-resistant composite craft. the new boats are expected to be less likely to leak gasoline into the lake and will be easier to repair than the wooden hulled boats of the 30-year old fleet they replace.