Cheetahs go to Africa

Free Spirit, the formerCheetah demonstrator has left the Isle of Wight enroute to Sierra Leone to join another 11.2m Cheetah which began service at the end of 2011. The Cheetahswill be running a daily passenger ferry service between Lungi Internationalairport and the capital Freetownwhich is a 15 mile stretch across the Estuary.

Free Spirit underwentsome minor modifications before her voyage. Twin Honda 175hp outboards replacedthe current 135hp used when Free Spirit was running powerboat and mackerelfishing trips along the south coast of the Isle of Wight.On sea trials, the total 350hp excelled with top speeds of 40+ knots with agood cruising speed of 30 knots. Full Hydrivehydraulic steering from Southern Cross is fitted and a side door gives easypassenger access.

In order to deal withthe extreme heat and occasional tropical downpours modifications have been madeto Free Spirit. To keep guests cool, a deck sized roof has been fitted to theextended windscreen with two inch stainless steel supports, to provideprotection from the sun. All thenecessary stainless steel work was carried out in Cheetah’s production facilityin Ventnor. The central back to backseats provide comfortable seating for up to 12 passengers and a helm seat hasbeen fitted to the central steering location. Side screens will be fitted in Freetownto protect passengers from the rain.

The initial contact forCheetah Marine came at Seawork. The newowners visited the 11.2m “Lady P” on the pontoon, liked what they saw and aftera visit to Cheetah’s Isle of Wight yard, wenton to order both the 8.5m and 11.2m Cheetahs. Air conditioning was installed on the 11.2m toguarantee passenger comfort. BothCheetahs were shipped to Freetown via Amsterdam.

Sean Strevens, Cheetah Designer said “We now have to fit in a new demonstrator tripboat into our production schedule. Thismeans that we are very busy, not only with orders but also with building a newCheetah 9.95m complete with a new wide wheelhouse from scratch. The plugs are almost finished so that soon wecan start building the moulds. The orderbook is very healthy with fourteen boats either in build or not yetstarted. These include a dive supportboat, two survey boats and two of the new 9.95m Cheetahs for which the hullmould is not yet laid up and just to add to the situation Seawork will sneak upon us before long”.

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