Safehaven Marine MD talks Thunder Child, Tests and the Long Way Round

Cork-based shipbuilder’s Safehaven Marine have big plans for 2017.

Having just launched their newest vessel the 60ft high-speed boat Thunder Child in Cork harbour, and after a few final tests, they will set off on their record-breaking round Ireland attempt this Summer. Their plan is to circumnavigate the entire island and they’re even including the distant rocky outcrop of Rockall which lies about 460km north west of Malin Head as well. It’s the first time such a record has been attempted and certainly one to keep an eye on!

We caught up with Frank Kowalski, managing director of Safehaven Marine, to find out more.


For the record attempt you’re going via rockall, what made you include this distant outcrop?

This route showcases the vessels strengths and key features – namely its speed, range (5,000 litres and 750 nautical miles) and also the seakeeping abilities which Safehaven are renowned – the ability to handle rough conditions which one might inevitably encounter in the North Atlantic all year round.

Ball park figure, how long do you expect the journey to take?

We expect to complete the journey in approximately 30 hours – this will involve certain parts of the journey being carried out at night which will test the skill and endurance of the crew

That’s an impressive time! Conditions will be tough though – what could go wrong?

A 30 hour journey at speed in any circumstances presents challenging and stressful conditions to a crew. A journey such as this which includes quite a bit of night time travel, and over 500 nautical miles of open ocean crossing into the North Atlantic could certainly pose a lot of potential problems. The vessel’s unique advanced design and technology including HD radar and thermal/infra-red night vision systems will certainly go a long way towards managing these risks but at the end of the day it’s the extensive experience of the crew that will come into play in the event of anything going wrong.

And what’s the ideal scenario?

Our ideal scenario is that we set off on our trip from Cork, re-fuel on the West coast of Ireland, travel to and back from Rockall, re-fuel in the North of Ireland and return to Cork in under 30 hours safe and sound!!!

Safehaven Marine MD talks Thunder Child

Thunder Child Powered by a pair of Caterpillar C12.9 1,000hp engines

You’re testing the boat at the moment in extreme conditions – How long will these tests take?

We hope to continue our testing for the remainder of January and into early February. This is a critical time for us, especially for a new design such as this, and we are aiming to gather as much information and data as possible. Hopefully the coming weeks will bring some stormy conditions for us to truly test our vessels seakeeping abilities in various sea states not only for the record attempt but also for the designs future operational roles sush as search and rescue.




What’s the most important thing when taking a new boat out?

Confidence in the vessel is crucial. Our track record in Safehaven has been to produce high quality vessels whose seakeeping ability is second-to none and our reputation is based on this. The only way to prove this is to take our boats out into the worst conditions possible and to test them ourselves.

What have you learned so far from the tests?

The tests to date have been very informative. The hull design is a wave-piercing hull which is a new design for us. We have been testing her performance in various sea states so far and she is performing exceptionally well. For example the tests have highlighted the efficiency of the anti-submersion fins on the boat and have allowed us to analyse the effects of the adjustable trim control on the performance. The vessel is using surface drives which are also a new area for us and the performance data we have gathered to date has been very informative in terms of highlighting certain key information such as the effect of the drive position on the fuel efficiency of the vessel at varying speeds – obviously on a journey of this magnitude into the North Atlantic fuel consumption is a critical piece of data.

Safehaven Marine MD talks Thunder Child

Impressive Specs Has a 45 knots+ cruise speed and long range fuel tanks provide a range of 700nm+

Has there been any unexpected challenges?

So far so good……we haven’t really encountered any significant problems. The biggest issue so far has been the unseasonably calm winter so we are patiently waiting for some stormy conditions to really put her to the test.

That’s good to hear! And what’s Thunder Child like to drive?

She is amazing! She handles exceptionally well. Remember her top speed is 60 knots which is double that of any of our other boats – The hull design, wave-piercing bow, twin C12.9 turbo-charged Caterpillar 1,000 HP engines and surface drive propulsion system have come together in our design to produce a vessel with its own unique combination of speed and seakeeping.

By March, where along the process of building toward the record attempt will you be?

All of our initial testing and sea-trials will be complete and we have gathered critical data. At that stage we expect to pull the vessel back out of the water, complete the final fit out and add the finishing touches to prepare her for the World Record Attempt.

What’s the market for it? Who would this boat best suit?

It’s ideally suited for high speed search and rescue operations even in very rough sea states. It has an obvious naval and military application by way of patrol, surveillance & interception duties and would be a valuable addition to many coastal defence programmes.

How does this compare to previous projects?

It’s a new design, its radical, it’s high-speed and it’s exciting! We hope this will open more doors for the company and expand our marketplace into new areas and locations that we can service as well as we have done in all our previous projects.

Cork and Safehaven Marine, a good match?

Yes, Cork has proved a great match for us, certainly the geographical position of Cork to the Atlantic and the challenging conditions prevalent at the entrance to Cork Harbour in wintertime has given us an ideal development and testing ground for our vessels.

And finally, what’s the most rewarding part of your shipbuilding job?

The most rewarding aspect is to see a new vessel design that you conceived in your mind, put down on to paper, built over many months and then perform at sea just as you envisaged. That’s pretty damn satisfying!

Thanks for speaking with us Frank and good luck with the record attempt, we’re rooting for you and the team!

Find out more about Safehaven Marine here

About the Author

Daniel Farrell

Interested in all things on the Irish coast and sharing the best of it. // Email: Daniel@coastmonkey.ie // Follow on Twitter: @DanielsSeaViews