Story last updated at 8:33 PM on Wednesday, June 8, 2011

vessel too new to be named — yet

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer


Photographer: McKibben Jackinsky, Homer News

Waiting to be named, Ninilchik Native Association's 35-foot landing craft will support NNAI's enforcement and compliance efforts on both sides of Cook Inlet.

One of the newest additions to the Homer harbor is too new for a name, but definitely has a purpose.

The 35-foot, aluminum vessel with a landing craft design will allow Ninilchik Native Association Inc. to oversee use of the land it owns on both sides of Cook Inlet.

"It's a combination of things, the enforcement aspect and compliance of our permit program," said Bruce Oskolkoff, spokesperson for NNAI.

With 70,000 acres on the inlet's east side and claim to more than 100,000 acres on the west side, the Native association has been challenged to monitor who's where and what they're up to.

"We issue commercial permits for guide services, hunting, bear viewing ... and we have commercial activities with oil and gas exploration, geothermal exploration and surveying," said Oskolkoff.

There also are environmental and habitat assessments done on the land.

"Prior to this, we had to take people at their word. Now, instead of having to call in the troopers or not be able to address the issue, we'll be able to do some kind of compliance," said Oskolkoff, adding that law enforcement will still be summoned if violations are discovered.

Finding just the right vessel for Cook Inlet conditions led NNAI to the William E. Munson Company, a welded aluminum boat manufacturer in Burlington, Wash., in 2010. A spec boat already under construction made it possible to cut short an otherwise lengthy wait while giving NNAI time to make modification.

For starters, the hull was lengthened from from 30 to 35 feet.

"The hull design allows it to perform really well on anything we've ever been in," said Oskolkoff.

"It's good on inland, flat waters and we just trialed it out of Seattle on a day when they'd shut down the ferry service because it was so rough and it handled well."

The landing craft design, with a power gate on the front and a power anchor system, allows for loading and unloading directly to and from shore. The vessel also is equipped with dual radar, two completely independent systems. There are redundant chart plotters, so if one fails, there's a backup. There's a 3-D, bottom-viewing sonar to allow safe maneuvering of the rock-strewn shallows off the inlet's west shore.

"We're concerned about crew safety and making sure everyone gets home," said Oskolkoff.

With twin 250 hp Yamaha engines, the landing craft cruises well at about 24 knots.

"It can go real fast and is designed to be that way so we could get across the inlet," said Oskolkoff.

The cabin is small, but has a seat that could be used as a sleeping berth if the need arises.

Since tying up in slip L-6, the unnamed enforcement vessel has attracted a fair amount of attention.

"We're getting a lot of people every day that want to get on and look at it," said Oskolkoff, also a fan of the new vessel.

"In the shake-down trials out of Homer and the bay, it exceeded our expectations. ... It's a great boat. A real nice boat."

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at