Miss Vivian has a commanding presence while plying the waters off the Texas Gulf Coast.
This hardworking crew boat serves offshore oil platforms and large ships moored in Corpus Christi Harbor. Owned by Sea Level Marine, Inc., in Aransas Pass, Texas, the 28-meter (91-foot) welded aluminum vessel is U.S. Coast Guard-approved for 50 passengers, and its 15x5-meter (50x15-foot) deck offers ample space to transport food provisions, equipment, and other supplies to offshore locations.
There's a rather heroic side to Miss Vivian, too. Fitted with two life rafts and 50 life preservers, the crew boat responds to calls of distress. Miss Vivian was used to retrieve personnel from an offshore oil platform during an approaching hurricane. It rescued a shrimp boat that lost engine power. Equipped with fire pumps, the vessel was also used to help extinguish a shoreline fire in Aransas Pass.
However, after years of dutiful service, the 1979 vessel needed a new lease on life, according to Richard Palmietto, owner of Sea Level Marine. Miss Vivian underwent a refurbishing that included interior updates, new exterior paint, and a plan to replace its aging two-cycle diesel engines.
Getting the grant
Knowing an engine repower would be a smart decision for Miss Vivian and the future of the business, Sea Level Marine applied for a grant through the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP), a program administered by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Once approved, Palmietto turned to Land & Sea Services, a certified John Deere marine engine dealer in La Marque, Texas, which recommended three John Deere PowerTech™ 6135SFM85 marine engines.
Palmietto and the vessel’s captain, Rueben Molina, were confident about their decision to repower with John Deere marine engines. “We know of other boat owners who were getting rid of their two-cycle diesel engines and going to John Deere,” says Palmietto. “We also liked having the support of two John Deere marine dealers for warranty work and parts.”
Sea Level Marine worked closely with Land & Sea Services to repower the vessel in early 2019, mounting all three John Deere engines onto the original engine beds. Making some modifications to the motor mounts, the John Deere dealer paired the 429-kW (575-hp) marine engines with new ZF transmissions, along with the original shafts and 84x46-centimeter (33x30-inch) props.
A trio with engine torque
After the engine repower, the gear ratio increased from 2:1 to 2.3:1, and the overall weight of the marine engines decreased by 1,860 kilograms (4,100 pounds). "To prevent a change in stability of our deck carrying capacity, we bolted lead plates below the engines in the bilge," explains Palmietto.
An increase in horsepower and engine torque improved Miss Vivian's ship speed and performance. "I'm running about 21 knots, which is pretty fast for a boat this size," says Captain Molina. "The additional engine torque helps me maneuver the boat in tight spaces in the wind and waves."
The increase in engine speed is also attracting more business from offshore clients needing equipment and supplies as soon as possible. Molina says Miss Vivian has a reputation for reaching platform destinations in half the time as other crew boats that are running top speeds of only 8 to 10 knots.
The marine engines are proving to be financially rewarding in other ways, too. "They are extremely economical compared to the previous marine engines," adds Molina. "Before, I would run hard six hours and burn 500 to 600 gallons (1,893 to 2,271 liters) of diesel fuel under heavy load. Now, I run the same amount of time — with a comparable load — and the John Deere marine engines only consume 375 gallons (1,420 liters)."
A successful engine repower
Faster, more powerful, and fuel-efficient, Miss Vivian is better than ever, according to Molina and Palmietto. Plus, Miss Vivian is emissions-compliant now and is able to cruise into inner harbors.
“We took a 1979 boat and made it like brand-new,” says Palmietto. “We gave Miss Vivian another life, and hopefully she’ll run another 20 years.”
I’m running about 21 knots, which is pretty fast for a boat this size. The additional torque helps me maneuver the boat in tight spaces in the wind and waves.