Nichols Bros. launches its latest California-bound cat at Freeland

The last in a series of catamaran ferries is launched in Holmes Harbor on Monday by Nichols Brothers Boat Builders of Freeland. - Brian Kelly / The Record
The last in a series of catamaran ferries is launched in Holmes Harbor on Monday by Nichols Brothers Boat Builders of Freeland.
— image credit: Brian Kelly / The Record

The last of four sleek twin-hulled passenger ferries destined for San Francisco Bay was floated by Nichols Brothers Boat Builders on Monday.

“It’s been a very successful project,” said Matt Nichols, managing director for business development. “They’re great customers, and the crew did a great job. Hopefully, we can build more.”

The $8.8 million catamaran “Taurus” was built for San Francisco’s Water Emergency Transportation Authority, concluding a four-vessel contract.

The vessels were built in partnership with Kivchak Marine Industries of Seattle.

The Taurus was launched in Holmes Harbor on Monday afternoon, and taken to the Langley Marina, where it will undergo two or three weeks of sea trials before being delivered to California, Nichols said.

The vessel is entirely of aluminum and loaded with sophisticated electronic and technical features, he said.

The Taurus is 118 feet long and nearly 29 feet wide, and has a draft of about five feet. It can carry 149 passengers and 34 bicycles, and has a VIP lounge on the upper deck.

It is operated by a crew of three, and can cruise at 25 knots, or more than 37 miles per hour.

Nichols said a new catalytic converter system for the boat’s two 1,410-horsepower diesel engines ensures optimum efficiency while reducing exhaust emissions.

He said the vessel’s emissions are 60 percent below California requirements and 85 percent below 2007 Environmental Protection Agency standards.

“It has to be the greenest vessel in the world,” Nichols said.

He said the California agency wants to order two more of the boats, and is looking for more funding while attempting to complete its system of permanent docks.

“We may not hear anything more for a year or so,” Nichols said.

He said that after the Taurus is delivered, a photo session will be staged in California with the four sister ferries running side-by-side.

He said Nichols Brothers has built 49 large catamarans since 1982, and the vessels are in service throughout the world.

“They sure run good,” he said.

Even without more catamarans to build for the time being, Nichols Brothers still has plenty of work. Officials said this past week that orders are nearly completely booked for the year, and that the workforce may be increased from 186 to 250 by summer’s end.

The company has contracted to build the superstructures for two more new 64-car ferries for Washington state, with an option for a third; an eight-car ferry for a California buyer; and two large tugboats at $10 million each for a Bay Area firm, along with other maintenance and renovation projects.

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