Raincoast’s dedicated research boat, a 66-foot steel hulled sloop called Achiever, is very close to being operational for 2006. We will launch her from the Shelter Island Shipyard on the Fraser River on July 15 at 10am, and as that day approaches we are ticking off the remaining tasks like items on a grocery list.
With confidence won by the completion of so much gruelling work, I sat down last month with Brian Falconer- Raincoast’s director of marine operations, project dream scheme manager, dinner lady and general man extraordinaire – to look at some truly horrific photographs of Achiever stripped to her open steel hull just a year ago. These images would send most sane yacht builders, tradesmen, and accountants to an early grave.
Fortunately, Brian’s unique skills and some inspired decisions assembled a dream team of suppliers, tradesman, stellar volunteers (Doug, Paul, John), and funders who pushed the clouds of doubt beyond the horizon. The hull was lengthened, the roof cut off and replaced, the inside reconfigured, the water and fuel tanks increased, the engine replaced. We are proud to say that our vessel now exceeds the rigorous standards for certification set by the Canadian Coast Guard and Transport Canada.
During the last year and a half of land-locked work at the marina, the Achiever crew were slowly accepted into the ranks of the Shelter Island Shipyard’s permanent residents. Somewhat disturbingly, we fit in quite nicely. Now, as our months of long hours in the shipyard draw to a close, Brian’s parting words before his current three-week hiatus echo in my mind: “Don’t worry, I’ve thought of everything.” This memory deepens the sickening feeling in my stomach as launch day approaches.
Thank goodness for the recent return of Heidi and Stephen, our captain and first mate who helped get the ship rigged and ready for its launch. Heidi and Stephen will be at the helm for the upcoming marine mammal surveys that will mark Achiever’s first tour of duty in 2006. The return of this boat to the Great Bear Rainforest will mark a new era of research and monitoring, and we can hardly wait. We hope to see you all on July 15, and yes, the rumours are all true . . . this is one heck of a boat.
From the Shelter Island Shipyard, Fraser River, BC