National Fisherman

Boats & Gear 

Michael CrowleyThe Boats & Gear blog is overseen by our Boats & Gear editor, Michael Crowley. It explores new construction projects, electronics, gear and equipment for the commercial fishing industry.

Over the course of two summers, Shannon Ford attended two funerals, both for salmon fishermen who went into the water and drowned. That isn’t unusual for Alaska’s salmon fishermen: 47 salmon fishermen perished between 2000 and 2012 in man-overboard accidents.

2014 0417 ShannonFord — who runs a setnet operation on Bristol Bay from her aluminum skiff, Paul Revere — and her two crewmen, Don Ward and Tyler Schuldt, could have bumped that number up to 50 on the night of June 26, 2010, when the Paul Revere, having hung up a setnet line, was swamped by a wave, then flipped over on top of Ford, Ward and Schuldt.

The only reason their fellow fishermen didn’t go to funerals for the trio is because they were wearing Mustang self-inflatable PFDs. For two hours the PFDs kept them afloat until first Ward and then Schuldt and Ford were able to stumble ashore and get help.

It’s a saga aptly captured in the just released video from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health: “Paul Revere: A Story of Survival in Bristol Bay.” It’s available on the NIOSH website and at NIOSH’s YouTube channel. (See NF's coverage here.)

The 10-minute video starts with Ford and Ward relating the events that led to the skiff’s overturning and then describing how, while being carried along by a strong current, they managed to stick together and devise a plan of action.

They could spend time taking stock of their situation, said Ward, and figuring out what to do to get out of the water, instead of worrying about staying afloat and conserving energy, because the PFDs were keeping them afloat.

“Instantly it molds to you and holds in your core heat while supporting your head,” said Ford. “And it’s a mental boost: I can concentrate on directing us towards shore. None of our energy or mental focus was wasted.”

But watch the video for yourself as they describe passing numerous setnet camps, all the while signaling with a flashlight, yelling and firing off  rounds from a 357 handgun — all to no avail.

Looking beyond Alaska, that 2000 to 2012 figure for man-overboard fatalities is 191 nationwide. Only one was wearing a PFD.

Setnet capsize survivors Don Ward, Shannon Ford and Tyler Schuldt proudly display their Mustang Survival PFDs; Kenneth Becker

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Just when you thought you were set up for new equipment and wouldn’t be spending anymore money on gear, here are a couple of soon-to-be released products you might start saving for.

David Liebenberg and Willem Sandberg, described as a couple of college kids from Somerville, Mass., were at the Maine Fishermen’s Forum this spring, handing out brochures on the Trap Saver they had designed.

2014 0408 TrapSaverThe Trap Saver reduces the amount of traps lost from the buoy line being cut by a prop on a passing boat. (The average trap loss is around 12 percent or $8,000, for a lobsterman running 800 traps.)

The Trap Saver is attached to the buoy line on its own length of rope. Negative buoyancy keeps it below the depth of a passing boat. When the line is cut, the Trap Saver sinks to the bottom. There, a balloon deploys and floats the rope to the surface. You pick up the balloon and haul your string of traps aboard. (See www.trapsaver.com or (203) 554-0993 for more information.)

Future product number two is the Knight Underwater Bearing, designed by Maine fisherman Rick Knight Jr., who is also a marine engineer.

The beauty of the KUB is that when it’s time to change out the shaft bearing that’s just before the propeller, you don’t have to haul your boat to remove the prop, and then go at the bearing with hacksaws, clamps and a hydraulic press. And it eliminates the few times when a shaft and rudder have to come off.

2014 0408 KUBIn fact, the boat can stay in the water while a diver or two with socket wrenches can replace one of Knight’s bearings in a fraction of the time it would take otherwise.

The KUB’s secret is that it’s a split bearing. Just remove eight through-bolts, and the retainers holding the bearing halves come off, exposing the bearing. Remove the bearings, inspect the shaft, put the new bearing on, bolt the retainers in place, and you are good to go.

KUB also has alternative waterflow ports. When rope gets wrapped around the shaft, choking off the aft end of the bearing, water still flows through the bearing. (See www.kubearing.com or (207) 251-0001.)

Both products are still waiting for production to begin, likely by summer.

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The Transportation Safety Board of Canada recently released a report on the collision of the 90-foot Canadian trawler Viking Storm and the 40-foot longliner Maverick about 30 miles off La Push, Wash., on Sept. 28, 2012. One crewman on the Maverick drowned when the boat sank within minutes of the collision. The Viking Storm rescued the Maverick’s remaining three crewmen.

2014 0326 maverickAs is often the case, this accident was the result of a cascade of problems: The Maverick was drifting with the crew asleep and no one in the wheelhouse; in limited visibility, the crewman in the Viking Storm’s wheelhouse left to get something to eat; the Viking Storm, besides running with its navigation lights on, also was using its high-pressure sodium lights. The lights blinded a crewman on the Maverick who had gotten up to use the head, so he couldn’t react to take evasive action as the Viking storm closed in on the Maverick in near-zero visibility.

Another risk factor, which might not be considered a risk, was the use of the Viking Storm’s automatic identification system. The mate on the Viking Storm was primarily focusing his attention on the AIS to minimize the possibility of a collision. Even though a target was showing on the radar 4 to 5 miles ahead, he wasn’t using the radar to plot the target.

2014 0326 vikingstormOf course, a problem with relying on AIS is that boats without AIS won’t be displayed on your screen. The Maverick didn’t have AIS, so the mate on the Viking Storm wouldn’t have seen it.

As the Transportation Safety Board’s report reads: “If AIS are used for vessel detection and collision avoidance without the use of other collision avoidance tools, vessels fitted with AIS and those without may be at risk."


Photos: The Maverick (top), a 40-foot longliner, and the Viking Storm (bottom), a 90-foot Canadian trawler, collided off La Push, Wash., in 2012; Transportation Safety Board of Canada

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“They need to see you to get you, and flares don’t do that,” says Jim O’Meara of North American Survival Systems, giving advice on an at-sea rescue. What’s the best way to bring someone to your position?

All seagoing commercial boats and larger pleasure boats are required to carry a type of pyrotechnic distress signal — usually flares. But a flare has a limited life span, about 4 minutes once it’s shot off.

2014 0320 Flare“Three flares onboard makes you legal,” says O’Meara, who operates out of Washington's Bainbridge Island. “Three flares are only good for 12 minutes. Nobody, ever, has been rescued in 12 minutes.”

O’Meara’s company designs and markets electronic flares and strobes to be used in rescue situations. He’s more than a little annoyed with how the Coast Guard downplays the usefulness of electronic flares and strobes.

The Coast Guard refers to them as electronic visual distress signal devices, and in a non-pyrotechnic flares marine information note [MIN 464 (M+F)], O’Meara feels their role is downplayed in a search and rescue situation.

The Coast Guard says it is researching their effectiveness, but they can’t be carried as a substitute for pyrotechnic flares “on vessels to which mandatory carriage applies.”

At the end of the marine information note and almost as an afterthought, it’s written that an “EDVS may be carried and used as a locating device, though their limitations should be recognized.”

Because of the short period a flare is visible, O’Meara says, it is “inherently flawed, but the word has never gotten out that you can have something in addition to a flare.”

When a flare goes off, “you know someone is in trouble over there, but then it goes out, and you’ve got to be able to find them.” Instead of a 4-minute life span, O’Meara says a strobe light is good for “12 hours or better and can be seen from five to 10 miles away. That’s what you want to have to be rescued.” It’s why he calls an electronic flare or strobe a “critical distress signal.”

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Of course, let’s hope you never have a fire aboard your boat. But if you are going to have one, perhaps you’ll be lucky enough that it will be when the boat is tied to the dock, like the 100-foot trawler that had a welding-related fire while tied up at Seattle’s Fishermen’s Terminal in May 2013.

At least then, you can step off the boat and onto the dock. At sea, your escape options are far more limited.

2014 BG 0313 fireThere are plenty of opportunities for a fire on a fishing boat. Just about any boat “is a floating ignition source,” says Randy Hyde, senior firefighting instructor at Fremont Maritime Services in Seattle. And there are plenty of ignition sources, especially in the engine room and machinery spaces.

Hyde lists several causes of fire. One is poor housekeeping, which is another way of saying you are slacking off if flammable liquid containers aren’t properly stored. If you leave oily rags around, there’s the risk of spontaneous combustion. If you allow oil to accumulate in the engine room bilge, you are asking for trouble.

Then there’s poor maintenance that results in leaky high-pressure fuel lines. Once the fuel drips or is sprayed on a hot surface you have a fire. The leak might be caused by vibration, a clamp rubbing against a pipe or old fittings that should have been replaced a long time ago.

Hyde says one of the major causes of fires “is a lack of due vigilance.” That means you and the rest of the crew have a lack of situational awareness or sense of urgency. The crew is poorly trained and poorly equipped.

The answer to these shortcomings is a good fire prevention plan, which at least means being vigilant about housekeeping and maintenance issues.

Just in case everything goes to hell, your fixed fire-suppression system, portable extinguishers and any fire pumps have to be in good working order if you hope to save the boat and yourself.

And don’t forget to sound the alarm, letting everyone know there’s a fire. But with due vigilance, hopefully none of this is ever an issue.

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Once again the faithful showed up. A land layered with extreme cold, ice and frozen snow didn’t keep them away; if anything it was a very good reason to leave the boat, gear repairs and planning for the coming fishing season to make the annual trek to the Samoset Resort in Rockland, Maine, for the Maine Fishermen’s Forum, held Feb. 27, 28 and March 1.

Just outside the doors leading into the Forum stood a Mitchell Cove 35 hull and top from Journeys End Marina. Leaning against the transom was a ladder, allowing a would-be buyer to climb aboard and check it out.

Inside the hall on Saturday morning was a meeting of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association. What that group and a future owner of the Mitchell Cove have in common is that they fish out of a traditional monohull. It’s a boat design all fishermen take for granted. No questions asked.

Well, not quite. Inside the Forum halls were two booths whose occupants, if they have their way, would see what is probably the most traditional of all American fishermen — New England lobstermen — hauling traps from multihulled boats.

rm007Penobscot East, a group working to maintain healthy fisheries and fishing communities in Eastern Maine, was there with literature on its Green Lobster Boat.

This is a 38-foot trimaran hull designed by Doug Read at the Maine Maritime Academy. The rationale for the trimaran hull is that the traditional Maine lobster boat burns about 3,000 gallons a year and fuel costs constitute about 30 percent of a fisherman’s operating expenses.

 

tarmarin

Whereas the trimaran hull will substantially reduce fuel costs, thus saving fishermen money. The initial design has been tank-tested, and a 6-foot model was recently matched up against a 6-foot model of a Holland 38 in the waters off San Diego.

Penobscot East is claiming a 20 percent fuel savings up to 16 knots, though results of the testing weren’t in evidence at the booth and some people wanted to see the results of the testing before it would be believed. Currently Penobscot East is looking for funding to build a full-size prototype.

In a nearby exhibit room was the Pro Cat. This is a catamaran design from a company in Ontario. It’s the second generation of this design. The first generation has been sold in England as a replacement for wood and fiberglass longliners and gillnetters. Forty of them are fishing in the North Sea out of English ports.

There are 27- and 32-foot designs; both have 16-foot 6-inch beams. Each hull has a bulbous bow, which is said to improve fuel efficiency by 40 percent over a design without bulbous bows. The initial design is powered with outboards though inboard engines can be used. Twin 150-hp outboards should give the 27-footer a 20-knot speed and twin 200-hp outboards on the 32 footer should get it up to 20 knots.

The first Pro Cat to be built in North America will be launched this summer on Lake Champlain in New York.

What are the chances of a multihull design being used by a New England — especially a Maine — lobsterman? Well, they won’t be winning any lobster boat races; that’s for sure. But if the promoters of the designs can build them at a comparable price to a monohull and get highliners in ports along the coast to try them and their reports of fuel economy and seaworthiness are favorable, then some multihull boats will be hauling gear in New England waters.

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Last week, National Fisherman Assistant Editor Melissa Wood wrote about the halibut schooner exhibit “Highliners: Boats of the Century” that opened on Saturday at the Center for Wooden Boats in Seattle.

It reminded me of when I was driving a forklift at Seward Fisheries in Seward, Alaska, taking carts of halibut from the unloading dock into the plant. Every boat that came in, I was asking for a “chance.” In college I’d read too much Jack London and drank too much cheap red wine not to recognize the potential for an adventure when I saw it and these boats had it written all over them.

Then one morning a couple guys from the cannery came screaming up to the Quonset hut where I was living in their old beater of a car: “You’re on. They’ll take you!” they shouted.

attuOne of the crew on the halibut schooner Attu had gotten himself wrapped up with one of the Seward lovelies the night before, and no one could find him. So his stuff went on the dock and my gear went aboard.

But about two-thirds of the way out Resurrection Bay, the skipper started feeling guilty, turned back to Seward and eventually found the guy — and didn’t leave me on the dock.

Thus began several years of halibut fishing, all but one year on schooners. I never saw it as a regular job — every trip was that adventure I’d been dreaming about.

Like the time we were fishing near the Pribilof Islands and decided we wanted to take a short break from fishing and go into St. Paul for a drink and something to eat. So we anchored up, threw all the gear out of the ancient wooden dory that was on top of the house, swung it out over the side and started to lower it to the water. But it had been forever since anyone tried that so the rotten line on the boom parted, the dory dropped into the water, the plug popped out of hole in the bottom of the dory and it started to sink.

The vision of booze and a break from hauling several thousand hooks a day was too great, so a couple of us jumped into the sinking dory, shoved a rag into the hole and started bailing. Eventually we rowed the couple hundred yards to shore and spent the afternoon on St. Paul.

I’d never been ashore on the Pribilofs before that, and I’ve not been since, but the way I got there was a most interesting way to go.

The crew of another halibut schooner would tie up in Sand Point (a port in the Shumagin Islands) at night, and if they’d been away from land long enough, they would drift off into the dark and go “peeping.” Nope, we never did that.

Halibut schooners are the best sea boats in the North Pacific and Alaska, and the Attu was as good as any. Unfortunately, a number of years after I left the boat, a substitute skipper got lazy when going into a small bay and drove the Attu onto a ledge and broke her back. There she still lies.

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Owners of fishing boats less than 79 feet will want to keep an eye on a proposed EPA regulation called the small Vessel General Permit (sVGP). If enacted, it would be the first regulation under the Clean Water Act to address discharges incidental to the normal operation of commercial vessels less than 79 feet in length.

2014 0206 sVGPLast year Congress renewed the EPA’s Vessel General Permit, which affects boats 79 feet and longer. It’s designed to reduce incidental discharges for boats operating within three miles of the coastline and in the Great Lakes. The sVGP would be a scaled down version of the Vessel General Permit.

A small portion of the Vessel General Permit requires the use of “environmentally acceptable lubricants for all oil-to-sea interfaces, unless technically infeasible” — that affects parts like stern tubes, thrusters and rudder bearings. The idea is to cut down on what the EPA says are “millions of liters of oil being released to the aquatic environment every year.”

Owners of larger boats also have to keep seals and equipment maintained to regulation standards, with fines for noncompliance.

There was a Congressional moratorium on applying permit coverage for incidental discharges to commercial fishing and recreational boats under 79 feet. But at this point, it looks like the moratorium will expire on Dec. 19, 2014.

What that will mean for boats less than 79 feet is unclear, as the potential regulation for the small Vessel General Permit is still in a draft form and hasn’t been released.

Boat operators may be required to use environmentally acceptable lubricants, or EPA may tone down the ruling to a recommendation to use an environmentally acceptable lubricant.

If the ruling requires a change for smaller boats, then operators will be paying about $1,200 for 100 liters of an environmentally acceptable lubricant versus $350 for non-environmentally acceptable lubricants. They would probably also have to change the oil-to-sea seals.

The ruling is likely to include something about engine oil control, fish-hold effluent and fuel management. Though these will probably be a list of suggested best management practices.

Owners of smaller boats can save themselves some surprises by inquiring at their local EPA offices about the small Vessel General Permit now, rather than waiting for the final rule to be handed down.

Photo: USCG

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OK. Just about everyone in America is aware that for this past decade, Congress has been on record as being mostly a dismal, lackluster, do-nothing, divisive group of men and women.

2014 0130 LimitseinerUnfortunately, at least as far as commercial fishermen are concerned, they did do something, and it’s not good. I’m referring to the Classing of Vessels section of the USCG Authorization Act of 2010. It requires commercial fishing vessels built after July 1, 2013 (originally it was July 1, 2012), that are at least 50 feet long overall and operate beyond three-mile demarcation line to meet survey and classification requirements.

Fifty feet is a completely arbitrary number made without any thought as to how it affects boat owners and the fishing industry. It’s time that the Classing of Vessels section is repealed.

Do fishing boats need more safety standards? Some probably. Boats under 79 feet fishing in unprotected waters in the winter — cod potting in the Bering Sea, crabbing off the West or trawling in the Atlantic — do need higher safety standards in terms of stability and watertight integrity.

But the seiner working the protected waters of Southeast Alaska in the summer needs a less stringent set of requirements.

Now, under the Authorization Act, instead of new safety rules, boats being built now for working in harsh conditions and those being built for relatively mild weather are subject to being judged by classification societies.

Classification societies aren’t up to the task of making judgment calls on the design and building of small boats: offshore supply boats, ships, big tugs, factory trawlers, yes, but not small fishing boats. They don’t have the mindset and most haven’t even started at developing rules for small fishing boats. One classification society will try to use its under-90-meter rule. That’s 295 feet, which is hardly something you would want for a 58-footer.

Then there’s the cost: $50,000 to $75,000 just for the design work: total cost, maybe $250,000 more to build a 58-footer.

Some politicians might have had good intentions, but by throwing classification societies into the building of a new boat, they had little understanding of what they were doing. It’s time to repeal that mistake. So talk to fishing organizations and put some heat on Washington.

Photo: New classification rules threaten to skyrocket the cost of construction for the popular 58-foot limit seiner, like the recently launched Magnus Martens built by Fred Wahl Marine Construction in Reedsport, Ore.; Jessica Hathaway

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CLASSEDIn the mid-1920s, the government, that is the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries, laid down the Alaska limit rule on boats in Alaska’s purse-seine fishery. Henceforth and forever boats built for that fishery were to be no longer than 58 feet.

Over the years designers and builders learned to deal with that length restriction, turning out extremely handsome boats, and though they could not get longer they did get wider. The 58-footers were also extremely seaworthy, enough so that several are being used in the Bering Sea’s cod-pot fishery.

It turns out that ruling might not be exactly “forever,” as the government has stepped in with a new ruling that impacts fishing boat design: part of the 2010 Coast Guard Authorization Act — supposedly done in the name of safety — says boats 50 feet and over that operate beyond three miles have to be classed. (I say the government “stepped in” as naval architects and boatbuilders — people who understand boats and safety — were not consulted. The rumor is that a certain Democratic congressman from Massachusetts who recently retired was a driving force behind the Act’s “class” and other requirements.)

Classing a boat will cost prospective boat owners a lot of money. One boatbuilder estimates it will drive up the cost of a new boat by as much as 30 percent. “It could put me out of business,” says Howard Moe at Little Hoquiam Shipyard in Hoquiam, Wash.

As a result, boatbuilders are coming up with designs they are calling 49 footers — actually 49 feet, 11 inches — to slide in under the 50-foot class rule. Little Hoquiam Shipyard and Fred Wahl Marine Construction in Reedsport, Ore., are two boatyards with such designs. Pat Pitsch at Strongback Metal Boats in Bellingham, Wash., has built a 46-foot seiner.

If 49 feet becomes the new 58 footer, all in the name of safety, then ironically the ultimate question becomes “by forcing fishermen to go with a boat nine feet shorter have the politicians put fishermen in harm’s way?”

As Fred Wahl says, “Sending someone to the Bering Sea in a 49-foot boat instead of a 58-foot boat is not the right direction for safety!”

Or because of cost, how many fishermen, instead of building a new boat, will stick with their old boat that’s sorely in need of major renovations? Probably too many.

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National Fisherman Live

Brian Rothschild of the Center for Sustainable Fisheries on revisions to the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

National Fisherman Live: 4/8/14

Inside the Industry

The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council is currently soliciting applicants for open advisory panel seats as well as applications from scientists interested in serving on its Scientific and Statistical Committee.

Read more...

The North Carolina Fisheries Association (NCFA), a nonprofit trade association representing commercial fishermen, seafood dealers and processors, recently announced a new leadership team. Incorporated in 1952, its administrative office is in Bayboro, N.C.

Read more...

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