Things have been quiet at Chuck's Boat and Drive Company in Longview, Wash., since the forest industry slowed to a crawl a decade ago. But now the company's largest order ever has emerged from an unlikely direction. In the U.S., the increased attention to port security in the past year has led to the installation of floating booms, known as Port Security Barriers (PSB), around key naval docks. When U.S. military officials went looking for a mini-tug that had the power and mobility to open and close these booms, they were pointed in the direction of a company that represents decades of experience in perfecting rugged boats to move big heavy west coast logs around in booming grounds.
Chuck's Boat and Drive Company was formed by Chuck Slape who had worked on the early boom boats in Coos Bay before forming his company on the Washington side of the Columbia River. He made a variety of boats including the popular azimuthing drive "log bronc" that took its name from the boat's action when the operator spins the steering wheel 180 degrees and the heavy little 12 to 16-ft. boats rear up like a rodeo horse. The company also developed a mini-tug that carries a 260 hp Cummins 6BTA engine in a pod that allows a straight through drive from the ZF 4:1 reduction reverse gear to the conventional propeller in a 36-in. nozzle. Turning in 1.5 times it length, the boat is incredibly maneuverable and will deliver from 7,000 to 7,500 pounds of bollard pull. A 10-ft. beam adds stability to the deep 6.5-ft. molded depth and 6-ft. draft. The 10-ft. beam means that, with the removable house lifted off, the boats are entirely highway trailerable. Chuck's son Mark, who now manages the company, expects to deliver the first of the 13-boat order by early January 2003 and the last by the end of that year.