The 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.
Tuesday, 24 March 2015
There's nothing like a gathering of the fisherman's clan or a good boat show to help get through the winter doldrums.
Out in northern California snow has not been the problem it's been here in Maine. In fact they could use snow, lots of it, to relieve a freshwater drought. But that's not why fishermen will be coming to the Longshoremen's Hall in Oakland, Calif., this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
It's a chance to meet, greet and maybe get a deal on that fishing gear you've been putting off buying. It's the annual Swap Meet put on by the Small Boat Commercial Salmon Fishermen's Association. Billed as the "biggest event of its kind on the West Coast," the Swap Meet offers fishermen a chance to buy new gear at discounted prices and trade in used gear.
When you aren't bargaining for fishing gear, the Coast Guard will be there to test your EPIRB, and you can have other safety equipment checked and certified as well.
If you have fisheries questions, you'll probably get some of them answered by representatives from the Institute for Fisheries, the California Department of Fish & Game and the California Salmon Council. There will also be a seminar on black box electronics, another on refrigeration and Pro-Troll reportedly has some deals for commercial trollers.
In the past upwards of 500 fishermen have attended the Swap Meet, the association says. No doubt many of them will take advantage of a barbecue the association will hold there.
Across the country, the gathering that took place in Portland, Maine, this past weekend was to get people thinking about spring and ignore the record setting snowfalls and plenty of really cold weather.
Unfortunately, part of the weekend it was blowing like stink, pushing the wind-chill factor below zero, but fortunately there was an escape — if only for a few hours. It was the Maine Boatbuilders Show.
Held each year along the Portland waterfront in several big, ancient looking wooden buildings owned by Portland Yacht Services, the show is packed with boats on the bottom levels, and vendors and food up above.
Richard Pulsifer from Brunswick, Maine, was there with one of his partially completed Pulsifer Hampton Boats. It's a 22-foot wooden boat based on a design of the Casco Bay Hampton, a Maine lobster boat built in 1902 by Charlie Coombs. With just the hull, frames and floor timbers in place it was easy to see that this is a stout boat and very well built.
About 20 feet away from the Pulsifer Hampton, was the Northern Rose, a Torrey Island 29-foot wooden sloop design by the late Joel White of the Brooklin Boat Yard in Brooklin, Maine. The sweet, clean lines of this double-ender cutter were attracting a lot of attention.
Someone had bought the design, started building the boat and died with not much more than the hull completed. Brooklin Boat Yard finished the job and is due to launch it this May.
Way in the back of the building, past a slew of high-end yachts and a few fiberglass workboats, was another boat with its own gathering. That was the 34-foot Merganser, a wooden lobster boat built by Will Frost in 1948 when he was building boats in Portland. When it was built, some considered the Merganser the finest lobster boat hull ever built.
Merganser still retains her lobster boat look but these days she is strictly a recreational boat.
Looking at Merganser or thinking about hoisting the mainsail on the Northern Rose, it was momentarily easy to image a sunny day and running down the Maine coast before a warm summer breeze.
Thursday, 19 March 2015
Dale Williams admits he was on his soapbox. Williams is the owner of Williams Fabrication, a boatyard in Bayou La Batre, Ala., that builds fishing boats for Gulf of Mexico and East Coast fishermen. He was lecturing a member of the Coast Guard who had come to the boatyard to see if the scallop boats he was building would meet class or load line regulations.
"You walk on a boat and start looking for correct documentation," Williams began. "You ask do you have a flare kit? Do you have safety inspection on the life raft? And walk by a watertight door that the dogs don't even work on and some are missing, and then go into the engine room to see if it has a fire extinguisher and walk by a bilge manifold rusted through, or a bulkhead gland held up by a string." Then he adds, "I've got pictures."
What set Williams off was the whole idea of having to class boats 50 feet and over, supposedly to make them safer. That, he says, "is a bunch of crap. If the Coast Guard would implement the rules on the books now, boats would be a lot safer."
Not only will classing not make fishing boats safer, the process will push the cost of a boat up so high "it will put us out of business," says Williams. For instance, an engine outfit he was talking to figured that to class a new engine would drive the price up by 25 percent. "What does that do to increase the safety of a boat? Nothing," Williams says.
Add to that all the steel, welding material, piping, pumps and wiring that has to be approved by a classification society, plus all the drawings, and, he says, "you create jobs for other people and put us out of business."
Oh, and as for the boat owner who likes to come to the building site and make changes while the boat is being built? No more. Or if changes are made, it's only after new drawings are submitted to and reviewed by the classification society. If the classing society has a backlog, that adds more time and money to the process.
Then there's the guy who started as a deckhand and wants to some day own his own boat. The cost to build a new boat makes that a much more elusive dream.
This is an issue "that has got to be addressed," says Williams.
He's not the only one who feels this way. Boatbuilders, naval architects and a few — very few — fishermen have talked about their displeasure with the regulation. But they are all isolated voices, and as long as they remain that way and lack legislative backers or lobbying groups, the situation won't change.
A big part of the problem is the balkanization of much of the fishing industry by region and boat types, resulting in the lack of a united front when it comes to something as basic as determining how safe the boat on which you'll be fishing is. It's basically a question of control and now that is being left up to the politicians.
In the workboat industry there is an outfit called the National Association of Charterboat Operators. They have done a lot of work for a diverse group of boat owners engaged in things such as fishing, sailing, diving, eco-tours and excursion boats.
Is something like that possible for owners of seiners, crabbers, scallopers and the rest of the fishing fleets? It's an idea. The other option is continuing to let members of Congress determine what kind of boat is safe. And how many Congressmen and women ever get close to a fishing boat, let alone operate one?
Tuesday, 10 March 2015
Despite the fact that fishermen work in the first or second most dangerous occupation — depending on who you talk to — fishermen can be very casual about the risks they face daily.
So I was not surprised when last week's Maine Fishermen's Forum had a seminar on Saturday titled "Reducing Risk on Deck in the Lobster Fishery" and only about 25 people showed up — eight of them fishermen.
Jennifer Lincoln, the head of NIOSH's Alaska Pacific office, moderated the session. Over a number of years, she and her staff have gone to great lengths to document fatal and non-fatal injuries in the business of commercial fishing.
Lincoln talked about the gathering of that information and, focusing on the Pacific Northwest, some of the things they have done to reduce those numbers. They include the E-Stop, which allows someone wrapped up in a seine winch to immediately shut it off and getting more fishermen to wear PFDs.
Saturday's session, she said, was to be an exchange of information, and the first speaker, researcher Scott Fulmer of the University of Massachusetts Lowell, set the tone. Fulmer, who has conducted ergonomic studies among Bay State fishermen, began by telling the audience, "What we are getting at today is problem solving."
Starting with a photo of a waitress in a torturously painful posture, he pulled the audience into the discussion by getting them to talk about what was wrong in the photo and what could be done to make her job easier.
From there he and the audience went on an ergonomic job analysis of life on deck, with fishermen in the audience describing their own problems.
"Where does it hurt?" Fulmer asked.
"It starts at the wrist, works up to the elbows and the shoulders," said one fisherman.
"Both shoulders and the lower back," said another fishermen.
That was followed by suggestions for reducing ergonomic risk factors.
Francis Coulombe, of the Quebec Fisheries & Aquaculture Center, and Sylvie Montreuil, of Laval University in Quebec City, Quebec, followed Fulmer. They presented an analysis of a study on risk and prevention of fishermen falling overboard from Quebec lobster boats.
Out of 50 incidents, lines on deck accounted for nine people going over board, while 12 went after losing their balance.
Improved line handling was high on the list of ways to prevent going overboard, but so were "cohesion among crew members" and a deck with a non-skid surface.
On a scale of 1 to 10 ranking factors to prevent lobstermen going overboard, line control came in at 6.2, while, surprisingly, captain's attitude was 6.4.
The 25 or so people attending the seminar seemed to get some good information. It's too bad more were not there. After all, it's not as if Maine lobstermen are immune from risk. A story in the Feb. 13, 2014, Portland Press Herald was entitled "Maine lobstermen fall overboard more often than people may think." In the story, David Cousens, president of the Maine Lobsterman's Association, said he had gone over twice, with the rope wrapped around his feet both times.
Oh, well, maybe more will attend next time. Though hopefully it won't take some deaths in Maine's lobster fleet to bring fishermen to the next seminar.
Tuesday, 24 February 2015
Even if you believe you don't need one or it's an expense you can't afford, if your boat is 65 feet or longer, and you operate on any navigable U.S. waters, the Coast Guard is requiring you to have an automatic identification system.
The ruling, "Vessel Requirements for Notices of Arrival and Departure and Automatic Identification System" becomes effective March 2. However, you have until March 1, 2016 to install the AIS.
If you aren't aware of this rule, you're not alone. Though the rule has been in the works for about 11 years, the Coast Guard hasn't done a very good job of publicizing it. I just spoke to a Coast Guard fishing vessel safety officer and he didn't become aware of the rule until about a week ago.
The Coast Guard says the purpose of the AIS requirement and the Notice of Arrival and Departure, which affects only commercial vessels 300 gross tons or less coming from a foreign port, "is to improve navigation safety, enhance the Coast Guard's ability to identify and track vessels, and to heighten the Coast Guard's overall situational and maritime domain awareness, which will enhance mariner's navigation safety and the Coast Guard's ability to address threats to maritime transportation security."
Commercial fishermen won't be alone in the Coast Guard's AIS rulemaking. It's estimated that 5,848 commercial boats are affected. Of that total, 2,906 are commercial fishing boats, the largest vessel group subject to the requirement. Another 1,429 tugs and other towing boats make up the next largest group of boats affected. The vessel groups occupying the bottom of the list are school boats —10 — and dredges at 17.
For those who haven't seen the benefit of AIS, the Coast Guard says it's "the most effective tool currently available to enhance a mariner's situational awareness and our own [maritime domain awareness]."
In the comment period to the proposed rulemaking, one concern from several people in the fishing industry was that having to install and use AIS meant that a fishing boat captain's hot spots would no longer be his secret; other boats would quickly join him.
However, the Coast Guard reasoned that the ability of an AIS unit to help a boat navigate safely superseded the need for someone to keep his favorite fishing spots secret.
From a financial standpoint, owners of commercial fishing boats 65 feet and longer did luck out in that they are only required to have class-B AIS and not class A, though they can if they want. That's opposed to other categories, such as passenger boats over 65 feet, which must have class-A AIS.
The Coast Guard figures an average class-B AIS unit costs about $700, whereas the average cost of a class-A unit is $3,230.
Tuesday, 17 February 2015
This past Saturday, Valentine's Day, two Maine lobsterman from Matinicus Island came home with a gift that others in their situation have not been so fortunate to receive — they lived to fish another day.
A blizzard was due on Sunday and Craig MacLeod and his son, Samuel, were on their way to the mainland town of Rockland to stock up on supplies. As they got close to the mainland and Monroe Island, their 32-foot boat started taking on water.
Things must have gone downhill fairly fast, for before long the MacLeods were in the water. The air temperature was 7 degrees, the water was 32 degrees, and the wind was blowing 10 knots. In those conditions it's not long before you first start to lose coordination and then consciousness.
But the MacLeods had two things going for them: They had survival suits onboard and they had time to get in them. Then the state ferry on its run from Vinalhaven Island to Rockland spotted the two men, got them into their rescue boat and handed them off to the Coast Guard, after which an emergency medical crew treated and released them.
The MacLeods' gift of life was of their own doing: The boat was equipped with survival suits and they didn't hesitate to put them on. As a Coast Guard officer later told a Bangor Daily News reporter, "We credit them for being prepared. It saved their lives."
The point is, once you drop the mooring and head out of the harbor, your life may depend on being prepared for the worst. That includes having a working radio, an EPIRB, and, yes, PFDs and survival suits. Just ask the MacLeods.
Tuesday, 10 February 2015
In the Around the Yards West column in National Fisherman's upcoming April issue, one of the Prince William Sound bowpickers being built at Hard Drive Marine in La Conner, Wash., features a pair of engines that the boatyard hadn't used before. I wasn't aware of them and I suspect most fishermen aren't.
It's the Duramax Marine V8, a marinized version of General Motors' 6.6-liter diesel. The engine comes from GM, the marinizing components from Marinediesel Sweden in Angelhom, Sweden, and the marinizing package and engine are matched up at Performance Diesel in Galveston, Texas, the engine's distributor.
The Duramax Marine engine is available in 350-, 400-, 450- and 500-hp Tier 3 models. The engines utilize variable geometry turbocharging for low RPN torque and fast throttle response. There's also a common-rail fuel-injection system.
The engines have been available for about four years and Performance Diesel is starting to seriously try to get into the fish-boat market. Some testing with gillnetters has been done and now there will be an effort to enter the lobster boat market.
The engines have a couple of things going for them. One is the power-to- weight ratio. For instance the VGT500 measures 31" long, 32" wide, 38" high and weighs 992 lbs. That should make it a good replacement for big-block gasoline engines and good for small boats that don't want a lot of extra weight.
Secondly, they are said to be very quiet. In one case Duramax Marine engines were put on airboats in an Alaska bird sanctuary after gas engines proved to be too noisy. The Duramax engines were quiet enough that the birds weren't disturbed.
An interesting feature is the electronic control unit. Marinediesel uses its own ECU in the marinizing package, so some things can be programmed into the ECU that normally couldn't be. For instance, the military wanted an engine with two horsepower options — a combat mode and a patrol mode.
The Duramax engine being used could be set up for dual horsepower. One setting was for 450 horsepower and another for 500. Flip a switch to go from one to the other.
Anyway, check it out. You can visit Performance Diesel online at www.performancediesel.com or call them at (281) 464-2345.Add a comment
Thursday, 29 January 2015
It's Thursday, Jan. 29, two days after the Northeast's first blizzard of 2015 ripped its way up the coast. If winter wasn't in the air before it sure is now.
Winds over 50 miles an hour generated near whiteout conditions in some spots and left 2 to 3 feet of snow on the ground. In Massachusetts coastal homes were flooded from surging seas and when a seawall collapsed in Marshfield.
Yet at first glance there doesn't seem to be much damage to the Northeast's fishing community. A quick call to the Coast Guard found the only incidents related to the storm involved broken moorings for fishermen in New Hampshire and Maine. Things didn't seem to be much worse for Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut though that hadn't been confirmed.
It could have been a lot worse. Sure, it can always be a lot worse, but I'm talking WORSE — the February Gale of 1862.
Feb. 24 of that year, some 70 schooners out of Gloucester were anchored in close proximity on Georges Bank when a storm blew down out of the Northwest.
It came on so quickly there wasn't time to heave up anchors and run for deeper water to get away from one another. So they did what they could: post two lookouts, one on the fore gaff and another on the main, out of the way of boarding seas. Both were peering to windward — with snow and sleet driving at them, nearly blinding them, spray freezing against eyes, beards and hair — hoping to discern a vessel drifting down on them. If the boat could be seen soon enough, their anchor cable could be cut and a collision avoided. If the vessel couldn't be seen soon enough, the gale force winds would send the drifting schooner careening into the anchored vessel and both would probably sink.
Collisions happened a lot on Feb. 24, 1862. Thirteen schooners and their crews disappeared. Two more were abandoned and their crews rescued by other vessels. The human toll: 120 men, leaving 70 widows and 140 fatherless children.
George Procter's "The Fishermen's Memorial and Record Book" (originally published by Proctor Brothers, Gloucester, 1873) lists all 13 schooners and the crews that were lost, along with the value of the boat and what it was insured for.
Procter also gives an idea what it was like for those waiting back in Gloucester. "The anxiety of those having friends thus exposed was terrible to witness, and, as each vessel rounded Eastern Point, there was the most intense desire to learn her name, and to ascertain if those on board had seen anything of other vessels since the blow. Nearly every vessel met with more or less disaster, losing cable and anchors, booms, masts, or were so badly stove up as hardly to be able to get back to port. One by one they came along until the number narrowed down to thirteen, who with their crews had left port for their last fishing trip."
Thursday, 22 January 2015
In the March 2013 issue of National Fisherman we carried a story on Alabama shrimper Randy Skinner's Winged Trawling System ("Winged trawls," p. 32). Instead of using wood or steel doors to hold open a shrimp trawl, Skinner invented an aluminum wing-like affair that spreads the net apart to its full 100 percent opening.
Thus you don't have to use the power of the boat to keep the net open. That saves fuel. As the wing travels through the water, it pushes fish away from it and the net. That reduces bycatch. The wing, however, doesn't affect shrimp behavior.
Since the winged trawl was introduced it's been mostly used in waters off Skinner's home state, but lately its benefits have attracted the attention of fishermen outside Alabama, even from as far away as Europe.
Fuel savings and bycatch reduction are the two main benefits to using the winged trawl. In a conversation last week, Skinner said his fuel savings are 30 to 50 percent on a 65' x 20' trawler powered by a pair of 350-hp Cummins engines.
"The last trip was 14 days. I burned 2,000 gallons," he said. If he'd towed doors instead of the winged trawl he would have burned 3,000 gallons.
As for bycatch reduction, Skinner said he's been making some "incredible tows — over 50 percent bycatch reduction. Whatever bycatch you get out of a 10-foot trynet equals about what you have out of two 45-foot wings."
Those kinds of results have attracted an outfit in Denmark that runs 80 shrimpers off West Africa. Representatives from that company are due to go out on an Alabama shrimper pulling winged trawls in January.
A pair of winged trawls is headed to North Carolina, where state fisheries specialists will test them. And Skinner said outfits in South Carolina, Florida, Louisiana and Texas have expressed an interest in the winged trawls.
Within the next 45 days a NOAA grant will allow winged trawls to be matched up against traditional doors and a net. "We'll pull trawl doors on one side, pull a wing opposite it with an identical net and do it for 30 days," Skinner said. "We'll document everything that falls out of the net."
The University of New Orleans will be doing the documentation and NMFS in Pascagoula, Miss., will write up the study.
Clearly, Skinner's Winged Trawling System is ready to move beyond the waters of Alabama.
Thursday, 15 January 2015
Are you a longliner plagued with a shark bycatch problem? Well, not to worry. The Super Polyshark just might be the thing to keep sharks away from your hooks. This is a semiochemical shark repellent that when added to bait forms an odor plume in the water that repels sharks.
It was tested in Florida’s swordfish fishery and reduced shark bycatch by as much as 70 percent, while maintaining the target catch rate. Super Polyshark also holds the promise of reducing shark bycatch in tuna and swordfish longline fisheries around the world.
That’s why Super Polyshark’s designers, Florida researchers Eric Stroud and Patrick Rice won a $10,000 runner-up prize in the 2014 World Wildlife Fund’s International Smart Gear Competition. WWF started the competition in 2004 to develop innovative but practical fishing gear to reduce the decline of fish and other marine species caused by bycatch.
The prize for the second runner-up went to a German group made up of scientists and fishermen who came up with the Freswind (Flatfish Rigid Escape Windows) to release flatfish from a trawl.
Generally, a grid system in a trawl is better at releasing round fish than flatfish. Using behavioral differences between fish species, the developers of Freswind determined the most appropriate angle and spacing of vertical bars within a grid to reduce flatfish bycatch. The results have shown a bycatch reduction of 54 to 66 percent.
Of the 26 albatross species that have been identified, 25 are listed as endangered, and longline fishing is a big reason for those declines. Thus when a Dutch team came up with an innovative idea to reduce bycatch in longline fisheries that is also in improvement over the use of streamer lines, they were awarded a $7,500 Special Bycatch Reduction in Tuna Fisheries Prize.
The Seabird Saver uses a laser and optional acoustic stimulus to keep birds away from fishing areas, thus reducing bird bycatch while not affecting the catch rate.
The laser’s beam and the “scattering” effect when it hits the waves is said to be a powerful bird deterrent. It’s seen as a threat and the birds move away. The laser is designed so that it won’t cause retinal damage to the birds.
As opposed to streamer lines, the Seabird Saver should be able to be used in strong wind conditions, which restricts the use of streamer lines.
OK. Now the $30,000 Grand Prize. It went to a group of Norwegians for a device to reduce bycatch in purse seine fisheries. A problem with mackerel, herring, capelin, anchovy and sardine fisheries is when the net is pursed up close to the boat, and it is discovered the fish are the wrong size or quality, they have to be “slipped” or released. Because of high stress levels and fish being jammed up against each other, this results in a lot of dead fish.
The Air Powered Sampling System allows fishermen to obtain a sample of the fish before they are brought next to the boat. The Air Powered Sampling System consists of a mini trawl packed into a plastic tube that’s loaded into a pneumatic line thrower.
The plastic tube is shot into the purse seine up to 50 meters away. When a length of thin line is stretched out, it pulls the trawl out of the tube just before it hits the water. The tube and trawl sink into the purse seine, gathering a sampling of fish, and are then pulled back to the boat with a small hydraulic winch. If the fish are not the right size or quality, the purse seine can be opened up and the fish released without a high mortality rate.
Markets for the Air Powered Sampling System are considered to be the North Sea herring fishery, sardine fisheries of West Africa, and the anchovy fisheries of Peru.
A question has to be what will happen to these ideas? Do they ever get on a boat? Once the prizes are awarded, the WWF says it works with each winner to see their idea implemented in fisheries. Forty percent “of the winning ideas identified by the competition in previous years are being used regularly in different types of fisheries,” says Bill Fox, WWF’s fisheries vice president in a press release.
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Tuesday, 30 December 2014
The Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 called for fishing boats to meet survey and classification requirements if they are 50 feet and over, operate outside of three miles and are built after July 1, 2013. The regulation has been called a huge cultural change.
Critics said the fishing industry had virtually "no input" in the law, and making matters worse has been the lack of guidelines describing a classed boat from any of the possible classification societies: American Bureau of Shipping, DNV GL (previously Det Norske Veritas), Lloyd's Register, Bureau Veritas or Germanischer Lloyd.
Some of that mystery was cleared up this past November at Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle when DNV GL's Joar Bengaard talked about some of DNV GL's classing requirements contained in a November 2014, 90-page document, "Rules for Domestic Class U.S. fishing Vessels."
This might not be the final version, as it is labeled "Tentative Rules v6.7."
DNV GL's classifying standards apply to boats from 50 to 148 feet overall length. Larger boats fall under DNV GL's Rules for Classification of Ships. If a boat has speeds in excess of 15 knots, different rules apply.
Classing a boat starts with the builder submitting a request for classifications and the builder or designer then submitting plans and specifications to DNV GL.
Construction inspections will take place, with DNV GL determining their frequency and duration. Once completed, the boat has a class certificate valid for five years, and the boat will be subject to annual surveys. Bengaard said in some cases the owner may do those surveys.
The 90-page document covers just about everything that goes into a boat's construction and operation. That includes DNV GL approval of welding procedures, stability requirements for various loading conditions, anchoring and mooring equipment.
The rules also establish requirements for certification of materials, components and systems. That could mean classing machinery such as engines and gears, which could be costly, but Bengaard said, "Not many materials and equipment will be classed." Industry accepted standards would be substituted for a rigorous classifying procedure. Though that might not apply to shafting and switchboards. DNV GL will have to certify and approve new machinery and components that have not previously been used in the fishing industry.
In summary, there's a lot in this publication, but I'm sure any qualified naval architect is familiar with most if not all of it, and why a fisherman has to pay for a classification society to get between him and the naval architect, I still don't understand.
Lastly, the rules are for a boat, as stated above, between 50 and 148 feet. I suspect that what goes into a 145-foot boat in terms of structural members, stability and watertight integrity is different from what is required for a 58 footer. In fact, the rules in the document are partly based on DNV GL's Rules for Classification of Ships.
Might it not have been more practical to have DNV GL's class rules apply to boats 50 to 79 feet?
But take a look at the document, because if you are going to be building a 50-foot or longer boat, these standards will apply to you.
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National Fisherman Live: 3/10/15
In this episode, Online Editor Leslie Taylor talks with Mike McLouglin, vice president of Dunlop Industrial and Protective Footwear.
National Fisherman Live: 2/24/15
In this episode:
March date set for disaster aid dispersal
Oregon LNG project could disrupt fishing
NOAA tweaks gear marking requirement
N.C. launches first commercial/recreational dock
Spiny lobster traps limits not well received
Today Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced legislation to extend a permanent exemption for incidental runoff from small commercial fishing boats.
The National Working Waterfront Network is now accepting abstracts and session proposals for the next National Working Waterfronts & Waterways Symposium, taking place Nov. 16-19 in Tampa, Fla. The deadline is Tax Day, April 15.Read more...