To bring the offshore catamaran into the space age, modern materials and designs must be used. Recent years have produced a revolution in the fiberglass boating industry. There is no longer a need to produce huge, heavy offshore boats equipped with giant, fuel guzzling engines, in order to have a fast boat. Strength can be engineered by using the proper materials for the job rather than adding more material like most production boat builders.
For four decades, Ross Edward Focht of Ocean Express Powerboats has been on the leading edge of catamaran design technology. His development of high quality, high technology composite catamarans has set standards throughout the world. His innovative ideas drive the Ocean Express Team to produce a boat that is fast, strong, and efficient.
Ocean Express Powerboats continues to refine their manufacturing procedures to produce a superior product. And the innovation begins on the surface. They use Neo-Pental Glycol based gel coats that are the best for gloss retention and long life in a marine environment.
After the gel coat has cured, they begin to laminate the hull itself. The first layer of fiberglass material is a unidirectional, isotropic pattern matte to prevent print-through of successive fabrics and ensure good adhesion with the gel coat. This material is laminated with vinyl ester resin. Vinyl ester resins are much more expensive but have proven to be the most effective for the prevention of osmosis induced fluid migration through the gel coat layers.
Now successive layers of matte and fabric are laid down using modified resin. The exact number of layers depends on the boat being built and the location within the hull structure. They use stitched unidirectional and biaxial E-glass fabrics exclusively throughout the hull lay-up. Unlike traditional woven fabrics, these unidirectional fabrics have "tow", or strands of fiberglass laid down parallel in one layer and stitched. More "tows" may be applied over the first layer at either 45 or 90 degree angles. These layers are then stitched together to form a one-piece fabric.
The unidirectional or biaxial cloth has several advantages. First, it allows them to align the strands of fiberglass with the stress load, ensuring the maximum strength of the fabric is distributed along the load lines. Second, in traditional woven fabrics, the strands are not straight. They must be "woven" over and under the strands, passing at 90-degree angles; thereby putting a "bend" in the strands. The fiberglass is at full strength only when the strands of fiberglass are straight, those using traditional woven material must add extra materials to achieve the same strength. Thirdly, non-woven fabrics are much easier to "wet out" with resin and easier to work with. This allows their laminators to achieve a better glass/resin ratio and a higher glass content without having a "dry"laminate. Here again, less weight and more strength!
The middle of the hull sandwich is the key to Ocean Express Powerboat's lightness and strength. The Baltek AL600 End Grain Balsa Core is pretreated with resin to improve bonding and reduce "wicking" of resin. Wicking draws resin out of the contact layers of the fiberglass into the balsa, making the balsa heavier and drying out the laminate. The AL600 balsa prevents this. The balsa core separates the two fiberglass layers, creating the effect of an "I-Beam". This increases panel strength without a corresponding weight increase.
The core is set in modified epoxy and allowed to dry. The entire core is then inspected. Now successive layers of multi-directional matter and biaxial fabrics are added to reach the required panel thickness. Certain areas receive extra reinforcement depending on projected force loads.
During lay-up, each layer is allowed to fully cure before the next layer is added. The only exception is the isotropic pattern matte that the balsa core is set in. It is tested for proper hardness and visually inspected for air pockets. Any air pockets are removed before proceeding to the next layer.
When the hull is fully laminated, it is allowed to cure in the mold for 24 to 48 hours while the engine structure, bulkheads, and stringers are enclosed in fiberglass. The stringers are glued and laid-up using multiple layers of unidirectional and biaxial fabrics. Large radiuses are pulled through all corners in order to distribute loads over a larger area. Where the engines are mounted, double laminates are used. Offshore "girder style" motor mounts are installed and 3/8th aluminum backer-plates are installed. All fasteners are stainless steel.
Deck lay-up is done in much the same manner, with biaxial and unidirectional fabrics and a balsa / honeycomb core. In high stress areas, such as under cleats, an aluminum backer-plate is used for compressive strength. Large flat areas, such as the cockpit, have extra thick cores for extra panel stiffness. Most deck parts, e.g. hatches, are also cored to reduce weight.
This concentrated effort to achieve a strong, lighter hull shows in the performance of the product. Our Ocean Express composite catamarans will weigh 20-30% less than the competition and have the same or greater panel strength. This along with their efficient and highly evolved catamaran hulls, provides a boat that will run at higher speeds with less fuel consumption. Less weight also means less pounding in heavy seas and results in a smoother ride with less wear and tear on both the boat and crew.
The communities of Algonac and Clay Township have a rich tradition of building powerboats. This dates back to the 1930s when The Chris Craft Company was setting the world standard for excellence in boat manufacturing. During this era, they also routinely set world speed records in the local flats surrounding Harsens Island. Appropriately, the area is now referred to as, "Where It All Began".
Ross Focht, founder of Ocean Express Powerboats and Focht Marine Design, has continued this tradition and is recognized within the powerboat catamaran industry as a leading force in design and manufacturing. Ross has the unique distinction of having designed and built the Worlds first Offshore Composite Power Catamaran. His designs are regularly seen in publications like Offshore Powerboat Racing, Poker Run and Sport Boating.
In July 2003, the Algonac/Clay Township Historical Society invited Mr. Focht to display examples of his work in their museum, located in the historic Bostwick Building in downtown Algonac. This display is now a permanent part of the Museum's collection. We honor and celebrate Mr. Focht for his accomplishments and thank him for his contribution to our community.