SS Norway's two own registered ships: the little Norway I and II
Built: Holen Mekaniske Verksted, Norway (lit. translation: Holen Mechanical Yard)
Type: Catamaran cruise passenger landing craft
Length: 88 feet
Width: 21 feet
GT: 97 tons
Weight: 72 tonnes
Crew: 3 (Captain and 2 tender crew + one rotating engineer between both tenders)
Passenger carrying capacity: 450 passengers.
Propulsion: 2 x Caterpillar engines 350 hp each
Propeller system: 2 x 360 degrees rotating pods eliminating the need for rudders
Speed: Approximately 10,5 knots unladen
The tenders on board SS Norway was classed as their own independently registered ships, making the SS Norway the only ship in the world to carry own registered vessels. They had their own independent call sign and were initially registered in Oslo, Norway: later Nassau, Bahamas. Their call signs did for a while stay close to the mother ships call sign, and their names were little Norway I and little Norway II. They were classed by the same classification society as their mother ship.
These shore launches were based on an idea which Knut Kloster took from their previously purchased vessel BahamaRamaMama, an old 1943 built WW2 landing craft which was being renovated and to be put in service on their private Out Island in the Bahamas. The tenders “Norway” were to carry was an improved version of this landing craft, equipped with lifiting booms so that they could be loaded onto S/S Norway’s forecastle on Viking Deck.
The tenderes measured 88 feet in length and were 21 feet wide, they had 4 gangway position gates in the railing, 2 on each side, 2 passenger decks and a ramp which they could lay down on the beach at the bow, when running directly upon a beach.
Originally, these tenders had a small bar at the lower deck and in addition to the two restrooms and a storage locker. The bar was not in service for a long time as it seemed like an impending law suit could be looming in the near future if a passenger getting his drink, walking around the tender on choppy seas and fell hurting himself. The restrooms were however in service for a very long time, if not for their whole duration of service as ship’s tender.
Their passenger carrying capacity was 450 passengers and they were each crewed by a captain (one of the Norway’s First Officer’s) and two sailors, likely two OS’s (ordinary sailors). An engineer also rotated between both tenders and tended to their machinery, which was a twin Caterpillar engine capable of propelling the tender at an comfortable 10 knots or so. The hydraulic steering system had propellers which could be turned 360 degrees and therefore rudders were not needed to control theses ships.
Launching was done with the help of two hydraulic cranes and controls located just beneath the bridge wing, behind their storage point. The responsibility of launching these tenders were of the Chief Officer, whilst the Bosun handled the controls on his orders. Their weight was some 97 gross tons but their actual weight was somewhere in the vicinity of 72 tons.
These tenders could with some practice be launched while the Norway still were making 3-6 knots headway but returning them into the blocks, it was always preferred that the mother ship was actually still in the water. A tight operating schedule and delayed departures sometimes forced the process to take place while the ship was making a couple of knots headway.
Risk assessment and risks were always considered and safety was always primary to any other operation. Deck crews and tender captain would don a harness and attaché themselves as mountain climbers on the tenders top deck whilst the boat was being hoisted. Should any thing happen, and the tenders fall, the crew would be safe in their harnesses.
Few accidents happened but the tenders were heavily used and often had some mechanical failures, similar to any other vessel. The tender engineer in charge of the tenders were always as far as I could remember splendid and did a great job keeping up with spare parts and maintenance. A spare main engine was always located on board the Norway and ready to go in case it had to be put on board on of the tenders. They were however easy to captain, even with one propeller or one engine. The trickiest place to dock was as I can recollect, Saint Maarten. It was also a bit trickier when the tender was heavily loaded to its capacity, you would have to estimate stopping distances much more carefully than whilst it was empty.