DeJong and Lebet, Inc.

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In late summer of 1984, during a visit to The Gateway Clipper Fleet, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Mr. Norman N. DeJong, President of DeJong & Lebet, Inc., saw for the first time the 160’ passenger barge ELIZABETH MONROE SMITH, which had been brought from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. The barge had a covered and partially enclosed Main Deck and an open Second Deck. A few weeks later, in early September, 1984, Mr. DeJong set-up shop in the Gateway Clipper Fleet offices and developed together with Mr. John E. Connelly, owner of the Gateway Clipper Fleet; Mr. Zack D’Alesandro, General Manager; Mr. Terry Wirginis, Assistant Manager; and other members of the staff, the concept and details of what recently arrived in Pittsburgh as a 1000 passenger deluxe false side wheel riverboat.

The power unit, which pushes the barge, was originally going to be powered by two (2) of the three (3) Harbormaster Z-drives that at one time propelled the ADMIRAL which is being developed into a St. Louis floating shopping, entertainment and convention center.

Due to space and weight considerations., the final power plant consists of Fabick Tractor supplied Caterpillar 3508 Main and 3408 Auxiliary Engines. The Main Engines drive 68" X 55" Columbian Stainless Steel propellers through Twin Disc MGS3O reverse reduction gears. The Auxiliary Engines drive 300 KW generators, which provide power for both the power unit and the barge.

The 60’ X 38’ X 10’ power unit hull has five foot (5’) wide sponson decks attached to its side to simulate sheer and to attain the sane width of the barge attached paddle boxes. A sufficient amount of deck area was created to facilitate enough food preparation and associated storage equipment to supply meals for the entire fleet in Pittsburgh. The power unit was designed to look like a continuation of the barge, with the rounded stern of an original "riverboat", and feathered stacks for the four (4) diesel engines.

Flanking and steering rudders, combined with twenty—two feet (22’) between tunneled propellers provide superb handling according to Captain Jack Goesling and eliminate the need for a bow thruster.

The V—bottomed barge, originally constructed in the fifties, measured 160’ X 38’ X 10’ and had no sheer. In order to provide enough deck area to seat seven hundred (700) people, house five (5) bars, a gift shop, restrooms, etc. and to introduce the sheer necessary to reflect authenticity, five foot (5’) wide, sponson decks were attached to the hull’s sides. In order to meet floodable length and stability requirements, two (2) skegs were added to the stern of the barge. These skegs became false side wheel boxes, housing restrooms, air conditioner condensing units, platforms for power unit/barge connecting equipment and a disguise for the fact that the 270’ vessel really is a combination of two (2) vessels, generally referred to as an ATB, or articulated tug—barge. Since these vessel combinations are generally ocean going units, DeJong & Lebet, Inc. had little trouble designing the intricate connecting and ballasting systems, having almost two (2) decades of experience in ocean transportation. Accurate pre-construction weight calculations and rigorous weight control during the construction program ensured proper alignment between both vessels.

The barge’s superstructure underwent a conversion program which required it to be moved from Pittsburgh to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for the steelwork, and from Baton Rouge to Pensacola, Florida, for the final outfitting. The steelwork covered adding the sponson decks, closing—in the Main fleck, adding the paddle boxes, a totally enclosed Boiler (Second) Deck, Hurricane and Texas Decks, as well as a Texas Deck roof on top of which is the pilothouse, to a height of approximately forty feet (40’) above the waterline.

Radio Antenna, Radar and Stage-mast were designed not to exceed this height so the "vessel" can clear the bridges over the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers. In order to not jeopardize the "authenticity", and still be able to clear the low bridges, the main stacks were designed to be raised and lowered from the pilothouse.

One of the major design features of the barge is a large (50’ X 20’) cut-out in the Boiler (Second) Deck, directly over the Main fleck dance floor. The resulting radical departure from the United States Coast Guard "Balcony Rule" required close cooperation with the Coast Guard, resulting in an extremely low amount of combustible outfitting materials. This had to be accomplished without jeopardizing the appeal of the vessel. Close coordination between the interior decorators (Directions in Design), the Owners, the Coast Guard, orchestrated by the Naval Architects successfully resulted in meeting this goal.

After moving the barge to Patti Shin in Pensacola, Florida, where the power unit was under construction, the real challenge began. Not only did Patti Shipyards need all available workers to first complete the MISSISSIPPI BELLE and then construct the STARLITE PRINCESS (also a DeJong & Lebet, Inc. design), many of the outfitting tasks required specialized labor, not normally found in a small shipyard. Therefore, a number of subcontractors were selected to help Patti Shipyards in completing the vessel. DeJong & Lebet, Inc. furnished on-site project personnel to coordinate between the Owners, DeJong & Lebet, Inc.’s home office, and the numerous subcontractors, with Patti supplying ship fitting, sandblasting, painting, crane and many other services.

The barge was basically outfitted in less than four (4) months with the following organizations contributing to the effort

bulletNaval Architects   DeJong & Lebet, Inc.
bulletInterior Decorating   Directions in Design
bulletJoiner Work and Ceilings   Ceilings & Walls
bulletGalley and Bar Equipment   Curran-Taylor
bulletCarpet and Wallpaper   Specialty Ship's Interiors
bulletHVAC Installation  Serveco
bulletSteering System  Custom Hydraulics
bulletICC and Sound Systems  Electronics Systems
bulletThermal Insulation Warren Ingram
bulletDeck Leveling and Fire Fighting Equipment Hiller Company

Major Equipment suppliers area as follows:

bulletWindows   Wynne Enterprises
bulletDoors   Dean Steel 
bulletAir Conditioning Components   Allegheny Air Conditioning
bulletPropellers Columbian
bulletEngine Controls Circuit Engineering
bulletSwitchboard Industrial Power Systems
bulletBattery Chargers La Marche
bulletShaft & Rudder Bearings BTR Silverton
bulletBarge Connection Winches NABRICO
bulletMooring Fittings  Dilbert, Bancroft & Ross
bulletSewage Treatment Plant Envirovac
bulletAir Conditioning Equipment Carrier
bulletHeating Boilers Weil-McClain
bulletHorn Kahlenberg
bulletElectrical Wiring L.F. Gaubert
bulletEngine Controls WABCO
bulletFenders Morse Rubber Products
bulletPumps ITT Marlow


Some advantages of the Power Unit/Barge dinner-cruise vessel should be noted.

  1.  Noise and vibration on the passenger barge are virtually non-existent.

  2.  Power Unit is not subject to U.S. Coast Guard Inspection.

  3. Construction may be split between specialty shipyards, smaller and cheaper than required for a 240’ vessel.

  4. Simplification of Structural Fire Protection Requirement.

  5.  Over-all Construction cost savings.

 
       This page last edited on  07/09/2010