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Island-built Sea Fighter ready to float

With 68,000 horsepower moving 1,100 tons, this is no toy boat.

Members of the public will have a chance to tour the Navy’s newest vessel, the Sea Fighter today at Nichols Brothers Boat Builders in Freeland. The ship will be officially christened in a ceremony today at noon.

The newest addition to the Navy’s fleet was originally designed as an experimental vehicle, but some last-minute tweaks will have it ready for warfare when the Navy takes over command April 30.

“It’s a dream come true,” said the ship’s new commanding officer, Lt. Cmdr. Brandon Bryan. “I can’t wait to get this ship in the water and go fast.”

The catamaran hull has an innovative design that will allow the ship to reach speeds around 60 knots, or 69 mph. It uses a light-weight aluminum hull and the exterior has not been painted, which will save 30 tons in weight.

Matt Nichols, Nichols Brothers Boat Builders CEO, said that construction of the vessel, which began in August, 2003, employed up to 310 people at the ship yard. He said that the project, which fetched $50 million for the company, signals the growth of the company.

“We’re very much going to stay commercial,” he said. “We’ll build these all day long, but we don’t want to change our mode of business.”

The 262-foot long ship is a display of the cutting edge of marine technology, said Nichols’ Director of Production Justin Nichols. Builders utilized a new technique for welding the aluminum flooring together. Resulting in no raised seams, a special router is used to blend two pieces of aluminum together.

Justin Nichols said that building of the ship was the sole responsibility of the ship yard.

“Even if it was supplied by others, it was installed here at Nichols Brothers,” he said.

The vessel will first see water early Wednesday morning and will venture to Everett where finishing touches will take place. A last-minute change of the vessel from an experimental craft to a war-ready ship put the shipyard into high gear.

“It will be going directly into war,” Justin Nichols said. “We are in the process of getting it fleet ready.”

Officially dubbed the “Littoral Surface-Craft Experimental” is called the X-Craft for short. Designed to be the next wave of amphibious warfare, it will be the home to 26 sailors and will have room for two helicopters on its flight deck.

The Sea Fighter will officially become Navy property April 30 after all testing and sea trials are completed.

You can reach News-Times reporter Eric Berto at eberto@whidbeynewstimes.com

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