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A mix-and-match method for building boats: Washington's Munson Co. uses four basic designs to prosper in manufacturing of aluminum vessels. (Marine Propulsion).

A variety of aluminum boat builders in the United States continue to find a surprisingly fertile market for small craft using a wide range of diesel and gasoline inboard and outboard motors, with propulsion increasingly employing jet drives and four-cycle outboards. Most of the boats headed for workboat service are built of heavy marine aluminum alloy and feature well developed hull forms. Most also employ internal structures and monocoque techniques that allow builders to claim hardiness and toughness. So how do the more successful builders compete in this very competitive market?

For the William E. Munson Co., Mount Vernon and Edmonds, Wash., the answer, developed over more than a generation of boat building, has been a unique "mix-and-match" philosophy of offering scores of predesigned and prepriced options that allow customers to customize boats using catalog pages.

Lists of options to basic hulls is standard in the industry. But few manufacturers have developed the practice to the extent as has Bill Munson. Munson has designed and built more than 2000 aluminum boats, most from four essential lines: the Packman monohull landing craft; the Packcat catamaran landing craft; the Chinook standard work and pleasure cruiser; and the Alaska Packer, an aluminum/fiberglass skiff Munson, who has a talent for the catchy word to promote his products, terms this an "alumiglass" boat.

The Munson story started many years ago. Bill Munson began fishing in Alaska as a teenager. In off seasons, he built aluminum boats in his backyard in Edmonds, Wash., on order. Eventually, he established Munson Manufacturing in Edmonds. His development of the "mix-and-match" buildup of boats owes much to his work under contract with the General Services Administration. A manufacturer's products are approved for purchase at set prices, prices which agencies can pay without the need for supplier bids. Builders gain approval from the GSA and products are listed in the GSA catalog. It is the way the GSA tries to realize economies of scale for all government agencies. Munson and his designers were able to develop economical fabricating and assembly methods, and track material and man-hour costs for each boat and option.

Many of the Munson boats are powered by outboards. However, a substantial number of the boats utilize inboard/outboard (IOs) and inboard jet-drive systems. An occasional customer will specify smaller inboard diesels as well.

Munson said that he bases his recommendations for propulsion on a number of factors -- size of vessel, its designed mission, and, of course, customer desires. However, he added, other considerations include what the customer is familiar with and extent of dealer and maintenance support in the areas in which the vessel will be used. This is all the more important, he said, when a vessel will be working in remote areas of the world.

Designed in 1984, the Packman has a deep vee monohull and wide forward chines with a 33[degrees] forefoot dead rise. Dead rise at the transom is 12[degrees] or 16[degrees]. Power options include single or twin outboards, IOs, and inboard jet drives. His catalog lists more than 100 standard outfitting options. Munson recently delivered five 34 x 12 ft. tenders for use on the icebreakers operated by the U.S. Coast Guard. The craft are termed Landing Craft Vehicle-Personnel (LCVP). They are installed on the USCG WAGB Polar Class vessels and the new WAGB-26 Healy. They have 6 x 6 enclosed cabins. Twin 230 hp Volvo KAD43-DP diesel IOs provide a 40 knot top speed and a 23 knot cruising speed burning under 10 gal. of diesel per hour. The 7 ft. wide bow door and 18 ft. cargo deck are used to transport cargo and crew to and from shore.

The LCVP on the Healy has a 10 x 12 cabin fitted with a galley, bunks, and a science station to allow the boat to undertake overnight missions in the ice. Outfitting includes a Northern Lights 8 kW diesel generator, True Charge multistage battery charger, davit with 12 V winch, microwave, fresh water system, head, and a diesel cabin heater.

A further sampling of the diverse versions of the Packman vessels includes:

* A 21 ft. boat for rapid response boom deployment along the world's longest pipeline, stationed in Kazakhstan, Russia.

* A 21 ft. vessel with a 150 hp Volvo AD31 diesel IO sent to the Mediterranean.

* A 21 ft. boat used for water quality and sediment research on the Columbia River.

* A 28 ft. boat in Alabama that is powered by a 315 hp Cummins 68TA turbodiesel coupled to a Hamilton 274 jet drive that will transport fill-sized vehicles.

* A 27 ft. vessel powered by a 230 hp Volvo KAD43 diesel used for halibut long lining in Alaska.

* A 28 ft. boat powered by a 250 hp Yanmar 6LPM-DTZE diesel with Bravo III sterndrive used for ferry service to Decatur Island in Washington.

A company in Juneau, Alaska, used a 32 ft. Packman to transport a backhoe excavator to isolated worksites in southeast Alaska. A Special Forces 32 ft. Packman has a fly bridge and will carry up to 8500 lb. at 50 knots, including such cargo as a 5000 lb. Navy Seal deep-diving mini submarine. It is powered by twin 650 hp gas turbine engines coupled to Mercury Speed-master sterndrives.

A 38 ft. sports yacht in Sitka, Alaska, is powered by twin 7.5 L, 340 hp Volvo Penta diesels driving Hamilton 273 waterjets through Borg Warner 1.5:1 gear boxes. A flip-out bow ramp allows a full-sized vehicle to be loaded on the 18 ft. long cargo deck. Twin 7.3 L 300 hp StarDec diesel IOs power a fishing vessel in Glacier Bay, Alaska.

In 1998, Munson patented the Packcat, a twin hull design that combined tunnel hull cat performance and landing craft capability for the first time, according to Munson. The boat has twin 16[degrees] dead rise hulls. Shape and rise of the forward tunnel was developed to provide maximum lift, Munson said. Moss Landing Marine Laboratories in California recently took delivery of a 10 x 30 ft. Packcat powered by twin 150 hp Mercruiser diesel IOs. It has a standard 74 in. wide bow door, wheelhouse, roof mounted captains' seats, head, davits, washdown pump, bow door winch, and a hinged radar mast that allows the vessel to pass under low bridges.

A boat rental agency in La Conner, Wash., uses a Packcat to transport kayaks. An all-volunteer floating fire department in Virginia has a 30 ft. Packcat for fire suppression and injured patient transport. A second Packcat carries a 1250 gpm singlestage Hale pump driven by a 454 engine with two bow monitors and four hose discharge hydrants. A company in Montana uses a 30 ft. Packcat to carry crews and supplies to repair underwater valves and piping on hydroelectric dams. It is driven to 50 mph by twin 5.71, 260 hp Mercruiser-Bravo II IOs.

Munson markets 14 Packman hulls to 40 x 14 ft., all but one suitable for IO power and jet drives. Munson offers 12 Packcat hulls with those over 28 ft. suitable for IO power. A number of outboard and inboard engine arrangements have been worked out. For example, flush and guttered engine hatches with 104 noise insulation have been installed on a 30 ft. Packcat to accommodate twin Mercruiser 2.8 L diesel IO engines.

Munson recently introduced two other model lines. The Chinook series is described as a foul weather cruiser built for high-speed offshore operations. Chinook hulls run from 24 to 34 ft., suitable for a variety of power options including IOs and inboard jet drive systems. Munson built a 32 x 10 ft. Chinook dive boat for Ed Robinson Adventures that can be trailered on public roads. It is U.S. Coast Guard certified for 17 divers and is powered by twin 230 hp Volvo KAD43/290 diesels with dual-prop drives. The Alaska Packer is an all-aluminum hull with a fiberglass interior.

Munson built hundreds of boats, most for specific duties around the world. They were used for patrol, transportation and a variety of other tasks under the Hammerhead trademark. In 1986, Munson Manufacturing was merged into another Northwest boat building company. That company subsequently dosed. In 1994, Munson reconstituted his enterprise under its present name, this time taking on his son, Jesse Munson as a vice president.
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Comment:A mix-and-match method for building boats: Washington's Munson Co. uses four basic designs to prosper in manufacturing of aluminum vessels. (Marine Propulsion).
Author:Clevenger, Mark
Publication:Diesel Progress North American Edition
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2002
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