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Nichols Brothers delivers its 34th catamaran to Catalina Express Lines

This high-speed catamaran is in service in southern California. It is the 34th catamaran to roll off the line at Nichols Brothers Boat Builders, Inc. in Freeland. - Submitted photo
This high-speed catamaran is in service in southern California. It is the 34th catamaran to roll off the line at Nichols Brothers Boat Builders, Inc. in Freeland.
— image credit: Submitted photo

Like any businessman, Bryan Nichols appreciates repeat business.

In June, Catalina Express took delivery of its third catamaran built by Nichols Boats in Freeland.

“It’s real neat to have repeat customers, like Catalina Express Lines,” said Bryan Nichols, president of Nichols Brothers Boat Builders, Inc.

The “Jet Cat Express” joins the Catalina Express fleet which sails between southern California and Catalina Island ports.

It is the 34th Nichols catamaran now in service primarily along the West Coast.

“Catalina Express has been tremendously successful with the Nichols ‘cats.’ Our boats are the Cadillac of this fleet with very luxurious interiors,” Nichols said.

The vessel features airline type seating supplied by Beurteaux of Australia. A VIP lounge forward on the second deck seats 77 persons. The second deck aft offers 81 outside seats. The main deck seats 200 passengers. Both decks offer snack bar and cocktail service. The vessel employs a crew of eight persons in service.

The $8.5 million project was completed in nine months.

Nichols built vessels for Catalina Express in 1996 and 200l.

The boat company is already looking ahead. Several more projects are on the horizon for Nichols.

“We are starting to ramp up on other contracts,” Nichols said.

Current projects at the Nichols’ yard include a large hopper dredge and an auto ferry.

The hopper dredge is being built for American Construction of Tacoma. The 215-foot, 54-car ferry will be operated in southern Puget Sound by Pierce County.

Nichols, which employs 120 people, has turned out a steady stream of aluminum passenger catamarans since it initiated production in 1984. With the decline of the West Coast fishing industry in the early 1980s, the yard diversified by introducing high-speed catamarans to the passenger vessel market.

Nichols Brothers recently completed the Navy’s experimental “Sea Fighter” catamaran. At 265-feet by 73-feet, it is the largest and fastest catamaran ever completed in the United States.

The $60 million prototype hits a top speed of 69 mph, consuming 3,000 gallons of fuel per hour with its 68,000 horsepower engines.

The X-Craft was christened in Freeland in February 2005.

Nichols officials will participate in a dedication ceremony of the X-Craft on Aug. 1, at its home base in San Diego.

Nichols is a 41-year-old family business that has built boats for fishing, hauling freight, extinguishing fires, ferrying cars and passengers, luxury cruising and guiding oceangoing ships.

The company was founded by George Mark Nichols and his brother in Hood River, Ore. The business moved to Whidbey Island in 1964.

In 1972, Matt Nichols and his brother Archie Nichols ran the business. In 1996 Matt Nichols bought out Archie’s share of the company, which is now owned by the family’s third and fourth generations. Bryan Nichols is the son of company CEO Matt Nichols.

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