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-   -   California Dive Boats -- the legend of Radon (pictures) (http://www.spearboard.com/showthread.php?t=129110)

Spineshot 07-20-2011 12:12 AM

California Dive Boats -- the legend of Radon (pictures)
 
We talk a lot about the fathers of diving, but the discussion on boats recently got me thinking about the pioneers of boats built specifically for divers. I feel fortunate to have gotten to know a little about the Radon history, and I would love to share it with those of you willing to continue reading.

http://spineshot.com/radon/images/headon1lg.jpg

This remarkable boat has been the vessel of choice for both commercial and hard-core sport divers like us for over 40 years. Because so many high volume production boats come from the East Coast, I guess it shouldn't surprise me that the Radon name is unknown to so many. Growing up here in So Cal, I had often seen these boats on days when no other boats were on the ocean, with guys diving places few others ventured. I grew up fascinated by, but completely unaware of, their lore and unsung virtues. Today, I'm a Radon owner (I've owned my custom built "Radon Signature 26" for 11 years).

To be clear, I'm only a Radon customer. I have no financial interest, nor gain any benefits from being a Radon fanboy. I was asked a few years ago if I could help put together the Radon website, and I did so as a volunteer. It taught me a great deal about the boat, the myth, and the family behind what many consider the quintessential diving platform of So Cal.

The Radon story begins in the early 1960 with the Radon family building commercial dive boats in Santa Barbara. The trick to building boats for those who dive the Channel Islands is to make them safe, fast, and range-worthy for long hauls out to the notorious and unforgiving waters around San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz Islands. Some crossings, like the Potato Patch between Cruz and Rosa, were more likely to bust you up (or sink you) than even the wind-swept Santa Barbara Channel itself. Forget about comfort, back then a good boat was one that just got you home. The Radon family quickly became famous for building boats that ran fast and safe when the weather was the worst. How did they do it? There are two things that the Radon family did a little differently...

1) Radon designed a boat that was safe in any weather, and exceptionally fast downhill. This was key to the core of the design and has benefited me and countless others since the 1960s. You see, the Radons figured out that the best way to get home safe in bad weather was to get off the water quickly -- get home fast at the end of the day when the wind is blowing hardest. They understood that here on the West Coast, the off-shore, or eddy winds, that often keep the channel crossing calm just before daybreak, make it relatively easy for any boat to get to the islands in the morning. But in the afternoon, on-shore winds pick up, and the ride home becomes rough -- even dangerous. They realized most of us spend little time running fast into a morning headwind -- we typically stay home if it's that rough in the morning. However, all of us spend time in dangerous following seas. The popular deep-v hull design does not solve this problem, in fact it makes things worse. Although, deep-v hulls make it easier to maintain speed through head-on rough water, this hull design can become dangerous at high speeds in a following sea creating bow-steering that makes it necessary to slow down. So Radon opted for a different hull design (not a deep-v) that has become one of the keys to Radon's success. For 20 years I've owned assorted deep-v boats (18' and 21' center consoles, and 24' and 28' cabin/flybridge), and have experienced my share of white-knuckle rides home from SCI, Catalina, and the Channel Islands. For the past 11 years I've owned a Radon, and I cannot believe the difference. I feel like the laws of physics somehow have been changed. I travel 25-30 knots every morning on the way to the islands (like I always have in any boat I've owned), but now I travel 25-30 knots every afternoon on the way home like I never could before!

2) Radon built every boat as a commercial grade boat to stand unheard of abuse. From the exotic hand-layup glassing techniques, to the use of high-end wiring and control systems, the Radons built boats that would last 40 years of daily abuse -- and many have. From my experience, most production boats are built way less tough than the manufacturer’s marketing departments want you to believe. All the other boats I've owned were at least mildly disappointing in one way or another. In every other boat I've owned, there have always been things that went wrong -- and the source was always some corner-cutting component or build decision that made me say "why didn't they just spend the extra $10 in the initial build so I wouldn't have wasted this trip?". If you're a long-time boat owner, you probably know what I'm talking about -- if you're a Radon boat owner, you probably don't!

Fast-forward 40 years and you'll find Don Radon still making boats from the same core design, using the same commercial-grade build techniques in Santa Barbara. Don is the son of Ron Radon Sr. who started it all in the 1960s. Don Radon has been a legend in the business since his father retired in the 1970s, and someone who has enable countless spearfishermen like myself to enjoy the beauty of our islands safely for years. If you're ever in Santa Barbara, you owe it to yourself to stop by his shop and say hello. He's the quiet, soft-spoken guy usually found working in the molds or running systems checks on the boats.

A few of the things that make Radon boats so remarkable to me include:

1) Every boat is custom made to the owner’s needs – you can start with a basic mold and a blank sheet of paper (I did).
2) No screws hold it together – the entire boat is glassed: top, bottom, and top to bottom connections.
3) Every hold, hatch and opening is fully scuppered, self-draining or sealed. There’s not even a drain plug in the engine compartment because nothing drains there either.
4) The hull is remarkable. The nicest ride in the worst weather imaginable. An impossibly fast, safe downhill ride in a following sea.

In my book, Don Radon holds a special place right at the top of the legend's roster of boats built for Southern California divers.

Below are some photos of a few things that make my custom 26’ Radon special to me:

http://spineshot.com/radon/images/ontrailerlg.jpg
On the trailer (note front headlights for anchoring at night).



http://spineshot.com/images/radon_st...pilothouse.jpg
Fully enclosed cabin with sliding windows (the famous Bryant Lum photographing sunset at Santa Cruz island).



http://www.radonboats.com/images/helm3lg.jpg
The helm with unobstructed view from all three forward-facing windows.



http://www.radonboats.com/images/Dinette1lg.jpg
The dinette (it also makes into a bunk).



http://www.radonboats.com/images/microwavelg.jpg
Massive cabin heater below the microwave (this thing makes the cabin warm and dry in minutes).



http://www.radonboats.com/images/showerlg.jpg
Hotwater shower (we hold 50+ gallons of freshwater), and freshwater washdown hose.



http://spineshot.com/images/radon_story/wash_down.jpg
Here on the other side of the boat is a saltwater washdown hose (at my feet). Comes in handy on days like this!



http://www.radonboats.com/images/holdlg.jpg
6' x 4' gear storage with built-in ice locker below deck. I wanted this to keep as much off the deck at possible -- and easy access to the 150 quart ice locker. I've had a dozen WSB stuffed in that locker -- completely separated from the gear.


More pictures coming up...

Spineshot 07-20-2011 12:13 AM

Re: California Dive Boats -- the legend of Radon (pictures)
 
A few more pictures...


http://spineshot.com/images/cameras/cameras2.jpg
Two cameras mounted behind bullet-proof glass are wired into a split screen monitor at the helm.



http://spineshot.com/images/cameras/monitor1.jpg
The swivel monitor display the images from both cameras (here you can see the image below the boat when it's on the trailer in my side yard).



http://spineshot.com/images/cameras/monitor-below.jpg
Another wide screen monitor below in the bunk room displays one camera at a time, and plays DVDs. Bose stereo system throughout the boat is also part of the entertainment system.



http://spineshot.com/images/radon_story/2fish.jpg
Note the extra long gaff trays below the gunnels for horizontal speargun storage.



http://spineshot.com/radon/images/swimsteplg.jpg
Swimstep and cut-out dive door.



http://spineshot.com/images/radon_story/swim_step.jpg
The swimstep is about 1" above the water for easy entry exit and getting fish on the boat single-handed.



http://spineshot.com/images/radon_story/kayak.jpg
Lots of room for gear storage and surfboards on the roof -- we often slide a kayak on the side.



http://spineshot.com/images/radon_story/70_bugs.jpg
Limits of bugs from a multi-day neatly posing on the engine cover (Me, Kyle, Matt Lum, Bryant Lum). Note the bait tank just in front of me as I'm kneeling on the swimstep. It holds 40+ bugs and keeps them alive on multi-day trips.



http://spineshot.com/images/radon_st...llet_board.jpg
We mount a 51" fillet board on the side next to the saltwater washdown hose. Note the speargun and fins stored in the bait tank behind Kyle.



http://spineshot.com/images/radon_st...let_board2.jpg
Another shot of the fillet board with guns in the bait tank in the background.


More pictures coming...

Spineshot 07-20-2011 12:15 AM

Re: California Dive Boats -- the legend of Radon (pictures)
 
One more...


http://spineshot.com/radon/images/radon-sunset-lg.jpg
I love this shot showing the serenity and beauty of the boat anchored for the evening at the West end of Santa Cruz island (Santa Rosa island in the background).

That's it. Hope you enjoyed the story! If you'd like more photos, just ask.

bowboy 07-20-2011 12:19 AM

Re: California Dive Boats -- the legend of Radon (pictures)
 
That is one incredible boat!

mikelb 07-20-2011 12:27 AM

Re: California Dive Boats -- the legend of Radon (pictures)
 
Damn, nice, nice boat! The following seas ability of that hull is everything in that channel!

maidendeth13 07-20-2011 12:45 AM

Re: California Dive Boats -- the legend of Radon (pictures)
 
Incredible. Dream boat right there!

Might not be remembering right but I want to say a few of those pictures look familiar. Is that the hand grabbed wsb?

Chris Oak 07-20-2011 12:49 AM

Re: California Dive Boats -- the legend of Radon (pictures)
 
Wow that's a badass boat! Your son is getting big too, are those pix of his first speared seabass?

Adam Sachs 07-20-2011 12:52 AM

Re: California Dive Boats -- the legend of Radon (pictures)
 
Great post, Ron. That is one beautiful boat you've got there. Thank you for sharing your pictures and insights.

One question: In your first paragraph you mentioned that Radon's deep v-hulls can be dangerous in a following sea, but then you mentioned that you still run home to Channel Islands at 25-30kts. That confused me a bit. What is it about your boat that allows you to maintain that speed in a following sea, despite the stated drawback of the v-hull?

Lightfoot 07-20-2011 12:52 AM

Re: California Dive Boats -- the legend of Radon (pictures)
 
Amazing! Thanks for posting!

Spineshot 07-20-2011 12:54 AM

Re: California Dive Boats -- the legend of Radon (pictures)
 
Not the same fish, but the same kid on the same boat. My son Kyle has grown up on the boat. He hand grabbed the WSB in the photo below a little over 4 years ago:

http://www.spineshot.com/fish/slides/kfs-hc1.jpg

Chris Oak 07-20-2011 12:55 AM

Re: California Dive Boats -- the legend of Radon (pictures)
 
I remember that story well, I'm still blown away by it :)

Spineshot 07-20-2011 01:04 AM

Re: California Dive Boats -- the legend of Radon (pictures)
 
Adam, sorry for the confusion. The Radon hull design is not based on a deep-v. It's a very different design that has been one of the keys to the Radon success. I'll go back and edit my post to make it more clear.

gwedge 07-20-2011 01:04 AM

Re: California Dive Boats -- the legend of Radon (pictures)
 
Wow...soo jealous. Thx for sharing!

Sasha 07-20-2011 01:12 AM

Re: California Dive Boats -- the legend of Radon (pictures)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Adam Sachs (Post 1484497)
Great post, Ron. That is one beautiful boat you've got there. Thank you for sharing your pictures and insights.

One question: In your first paragraph you mentioned that Radon's deep v-hulls can be dangerous in a following sea, but then you mentioned that you still run home to Channel Islands at 25-30kts. That confused me a bit. What is it about your boat that allows you to maintain that speed in a following sea, despite the stated drawback of the v-hull?

Radons are not deep V. Spineshot was writing the difference of a deep v. Big belly/extended lip is its uniquness. Radon is one of very few who do a 0*-90* sandiwhiched in between 45*-45* cloth ply for the hull. Incredibaly strong, along with using Iso Resin instead of Ortho Resin. More expensive but way worth it if your Workin the ruff.

Bob Ballew 07-20-2011 01:16 AM

Re: California Dive Boats -- the legend of Radon (pictures)
 
My Radon 24'er saved my bacon during a sudden mid-channel storm off Catalina...The sky turned a swirling black and soon, I was going up 15' curler waves with my feet off the deck, hanging from the steering wheel..dropping off the top for 10', skipping down the front like a surf board...3 1/2 hours to go 15 miles...waves breaking over the boat would fill the deck up to my knees...wave tops were blowing away into sea foam at about 60 mph...the sealed engine compartment and self-draining deck saved my life..any other boat would have gone down...best dive boat ever made...

ThumperFish 07-20-2011 01:27 AM

Re: California Dive Boats -- the legend of Radon (pictures)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Bob Ballew (Post 1484512)
My Radon 24'er saved my bacon during a sudden mid-channel storm off Catalina...The sky turned a swirling black and soon, I was going up 15' curler waves with my feet off the deck, hanging from the steering wheel..dropping off the top for 10', skipping down the front like a surf board...3 1/2 hours to go 15 miles...waves breaking over the boat would fill the deck up to my knees...wave tops were blowing away into sea foam at about 60 mph...the sealed engine compartment and self-draining deck saved my life..any other boat would have gone down...best dive boat ever made...

:eek: wow that sounds freaking scary

Adam Sachs 07-20-2011 01:41 AM

Re: California Dive Boats -- the legend of Radon (pictures)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Spineshot (Post 1484505)
Adam, sorry for the confusion. The Radon hull design is not based on a deep-v. It's a very different design that has been one of the keys to the Radon success. I'll go back and edit my post to make it more clear.

Thanks for clearing that up, Lance. For a few minutes there I was scratching my head thinking, "Well, it sure doesn't look like a v-hull to me, but Lance obviously know more about boats than me, so....". :p

undrH2Ohntr 07-20-2011 09:26 AM

Re: California Dive Boats -- the legend of Radon (pictures)
 
Wow...as if I didn't already have boat fever/envy...very nice.

JimmyJam 07-20-2011 09:59 AM

Re: California Dive Boats -- the legend of Radon (pictures)
 
Great post, best radon I have seen.
Questions: Where can I get a Radon shirt? How, when and why do you use the underwater cameras.

Congrats to Don Radon, a living legend for sure.

'o Cino 07-20-2011 10:04 AM

Re: California Dive Boats -- the legend of Radon (pictures)
 
Great write-up! Is yours a single screw diesel?

CitoRat4Ever 07-20-2011 10:11 AM

Re: California Dive Boats -- the legend of Radon (pictures)
 
From the day I first went fishing with my Dad a nice, big Radon has always been my dream. I often find myself just cruising through the harbor to look at a few.

A funny side note, the pride of ownership of people that have Radons (or Andersons or Wilsons)is always present. They seem to know everyone else who has one. I can't tell you how many times I have had people come up to talk about my boat (an Anderson) for no other reason than they also have one. A special local community for sure.

Spineshot 07-20-2011 10:47 AM

Re: California Dive Boats -- the legend of Radon (pictures)
 
JimmyJam, you can call the Radon shop to get a shirt. Phone, address, and lots of boat pictures can be found on the website (but you'll need to call for a shirt): http://www.radonboats.com

I use the underwater cameras to look for WSB in thick kelp and choppy water. It's pretty awesome to nose into a big kelp forest and see a school of seabass without even getting wet -- makes for a lot of motivated divers scrambling to get in the water first. They also help when looking under paddies for YT (especially in rough conditions). And, they are great fun when running through dolphin in the channel. When dolphin ride the bow wave, you get an amazing close-up view of the pod.

"Congrats to Don Radon, a living legend for sure." Agree!

Dwikkles 07-20-2011 11:31 AM

Re: California Dive Boats -- the legend of Radon (pictures)
 
Whoa! Awesome boat man what a dream. Thanks for posting such great detail!

I drooled

Mike Morgan 07-20-2011 11:36 AM

Re: California Dive Boats -- the legend of Radon (pictures)
 
Simply awesome! Thanks for the great informative read and those u/w cameras are so flippin cool!!!

78sharpshooter 07-20-2011 11:38 AM

Re: California Dive Boats -- the legend of Radon (pictures)
 
Is there a waiting list to become your friend? Sick boat. I rode a 22' anderson to the channel islands once and remember it being a very stable hull at rest.

Spineshot 07-20-2011 12:07 PM

Re: California Dive Boats -- the legend of Radon (pictures)
 
Michael, it's a single screw gas 454 MPI. I've hit 40 MPH on the GPS, but I cruise 30ish in average weather. Gets 1.75 MPG at just about any planing speed.

fishnstix 07-20-2011 12:39 PM

Re: California Dive Boats -- the legend of Radon (pictures)
 
My dream boat. Radons are built for following seas. Running from those white buffaloes.

You're rig is amazing. Some day, some day .....

Scottywotty 07-20-2011 01:14 PM

Re: California Dive Boats -- the legend of Radon (pictures)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by JimmyJam (Post 1484651)
Great post, best radon I have seen.
Questions: Where can I get a Radon shirt? How, when and why do you use the underwater cameras.

Congrats to Don Radon, a living legend for sure.

Whats your size? I may have one for ya, it does not fit me... as I... um.....
may have um.....gained...... a bit.....of weight:o since I got it about 10 years ago, a close bud has a Radon, so I bought the shirt and I think some hoodies too, Its still hanging in the closet almost new!

Scotty

Bob Ballew 07-20-2011 01:31 PM

Re: California Dive Boats -- the legend of Radon (pictures)
 
interesting milage comparison: our 25' Parker with twin 200 h.p. Yamahas burns 14 to 15 gph at 27 mph cruise, so, both boats appear to be about the same in fuel usage..

SLOfisher 07-20-2011 02:15 PM

Re: California Dive Boats -- the legend of Radon (pictures)
 
Words can not describe the level of my jealousy. We had Don design and install a new fuel tank on our our little 17ft CC...even for such a small job, he was happy to do it and it goes without saying that the work was great.

You have some epic freedivers for brother in laws...? Played some Polo with Matt Lum, and the end of eash semester he usually has a BBQ at his house.....my jaw dropped at all the amazing pics he has of diving and shooting fish, especially of the one where he is skin diving right next to a rogue Orca

:allhail:

sbsurfer 07-20-2011 04:40 PM

Re: California Dive Boats -- the legend of Radon (pictures)
 
Great writeup Lance!

Radon Boats are hands down one of the finest for our local conditions in the SB Channel (and Hawaii too). Andersons and Wilsons are damn nice rides too. I don't fish or dive but i have been surfing the Islands and Ranch for many years now and after enough white knuckle rides home in deep V boats i knew it was time to upgrade to a modified V Radon. The real nice Radons were way outta my price range so the first one i bought was an old urchin dive boat, ran solid and was extremely stable. The boat i really wanted was a 20 ft Radon that sat in the harbor but was well outta my price range. Finally last year the owner and i struck up a deal and i sold the 24 Radon and bought the 20 fter, which had more creature comforts (like seats). Turns out the boat i bought is Don Radon's old surf boat....STOKED!!! Don and Linda are super nice people and after talking to Don it turns out my 20 is the boat he used to make the mold for the new 22's...he just raised the sides a bit. It's cool to own a neat little piece of Radon history.

These boats ride so well in the rough stuff, even my little 20fter, it's unbelievable. In boats i have owned of similar size where i would throttle down to 12 kts i can keep charging at 22 kts in the Radon. Plus these boats are constructed so well they are as bulletproof as a boat can get. And it's stories like the one Bob Ballew shared about his 24 in super gnarly conditions that are a testament to these boats seaworthiness.

here's a few shots of my Radon surf sled Caitlin:

Anchored at Scorpion
http://i15.photobucket.com/albums/a3..._7511260_n.jpg


At the Radon yard
http://i15.photobucket.com/albums/a3...ns/photo-6.jpg


Quote:

Originally Posted by CitoRat4Ever (Post 1484661)
A funny side note, the pride of ownership of people that have Radons (or Andersons or Wilsons)is always present. They seem to know everyone else who has one. I can't tell you how many times I have had people come up to talk about my boat (an Anderson) for no other reason than they also have one. A special local community for sure.

Very true. It's definitely a cool community to be part of. Whether its a 17ft Anderson Greenough (like CitoRat's), a 22ft Wilson or a really nice 26ft Radon like Lance's there is a real appreciation and respect amongst the owners of these boats.

BTW, right now Don and Linda are out of T-Shirts but they will be ordering more soon so give them a call and get one on order...they seem to go pretty quick.


Dolphins like Radon's too:

SB Channel Crossing with Dolphin Friends - YouTube


Here's a little vid of when i was in the process of buying the boat (i probably watched this video 10 times a night til i bought the boat):

Radon 20 - YouTube

Spineshot 07-20-2011 08:01 PM

Re: California Dive Boats -- the legend of Radon (pictures)
 
Bob, it might be interesting to compare weight. My 26' Radon is 11,000 with gas, water, ice, dive gear, and the trailer (weighed it at a truck stop once). That puts the dry weight at about 6,500 lbs. So I estimate the boat sits in the water averaging 8,500 - 9,000 lbs (with fuel, water, ice, gear, people, etc).

filletofish 07-20-2011 08:22 PM

Re: California Dive Boats -- the legend of Radon (pictures)
 
WTF. Now I just gotta win the lotto! What a beautiful boat!

CaptainLeo 07-20-2011 09:46 PM

Re: California Dive Boats -- the legend of Radon (pictures)
 
That's such a nice boat! Mine is the illegitimate bastard step-brother of the Radon. It is the H&F Custom made up in Oregon from the Radon mold. I love it. When I first saw the Radons, I couldn't stand the way they looked, but I saw mine and started looking at them in a whole new light. I would love to have a real Radon, but I will settle with what I have for now.

Sasha 07-20-2011 11:14 PM

Re: California Dive Boats -- the legend of Radon (pictures)
 
5 Attachment(s)
Quote:

Originally Posted by Spineshot (Post 1484505)
Adam, sorry for the confusion. The Radon hull design is not based on a deep-v. It's a very different design that has been one of the keys to the Radon success. I'll go back and edit my post to make it more clear.

Here some classic photos of early Radon experimental hull designs. Lance, you might have seen these. 68' / 69' / and the other is a 74' And of course the seven WSB in one day of your old man.

Scott Diego 07-20-2011 11:32 PM

Re: California Dive Boats -- the legend of Radon (pictures)
 
This is an awesome thread. Thanks for posting.

As a Parker owner, I first thought my boat was a little utilitarian looking. Soon after I started to love the simple 'commercial boat' look/feel of it. Same thing with the Radon's.

I especially like the underwater hull cameras!

Sierra Bravo 07-20-2011 11:40 PM

Re: California Dive Boats -- the legend of Radon (pictures)
 
Growing up with Don as my uncle definitely had it's perks. We've had both a 26' and a 24' in the past and they were both awesome boats. Our machine shop does a bunch of work for their customers and I've had the chance to go out on countless different boats. Each boat has that Radon quality with cool personal touches. Can't wait till I can affoard my own.

Bob Ballew 07-21-2011 12:06 AM

Re: California Dive Boats -- the legend of Radon (pictures)
 
Are Radons still being built?...seems all I see in Southern CA is Davis boats, based on the Radon design.....am seeing more and more Parkers around Long Beach since I bought mine..

Spineshot 07-21-2011 12:30 AM

Re: California Dive Boats -- the legend of Radon (pictures)
 
Sasha, those are some amazing photos! Where did you find them?

Yep, that last one I know well.

sbsurfer 07-21-2011 12:46 AM

Re: California Dive Boats -- the legend of Radon (pictures)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Bob Ballew (Post 1485176)
Are Radons still being built?...seems all I see in Southern CA is Davis boats, based on the Radon design.....am seeing more and more Parkers around Long Beach since I bought mine..

Yes, Don is still building awemazing boats from their yard in Goleta.

Sasha...awesome pics man! very cool to see the different concepts of the hull design (almost as cool as your avatar photo, that is sick!)


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