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.

There are a number of ways a fisherman can be in violation of Coast Guard regulations. Not having a life raft, EPIRB or a working radio are some of the things that will get you and your boat escorted back to port by the Coast Guard.

2016 0509 BG boguspilotsBut the Coast Pilot? You know, the nine-volume publication that’s distributed yearly by the Office of Coast Survey and printed by a NOAA certified printer. Each volume is devoted to a part of the U.S. coastline or the Great Lakes. There’s coastal navigation information, tides, currents, harbors, weather you might encounter and a lot of other stuff.

Well, relax, if the Coast Guard boards your boat and the Coast Pilot you have onboard doesn’t meet regulations, or carriage requirements as they say, your fishing trip won’t be terminated, but you will be written up. Then you need to get the correct publication and provide proof to the Coast Guard that it’s onboard.

If you are up for a dockside exam, you won’t get that decal until you get an approved Coast Pilot for your area.

You say, “Hell. I’m not worried. I’ve got mine. It’s right here in the wheelhouse.”

That’s what some Gulf of Mexico fishermen probably told the Coast Guard when they came aboard. Weren’t the fishermen — and the Coast Guard — surprised when their Coast Pilot (That would be volume 5 for the Gulf of Mexico) was opened up and over half the pages were missing.

Yup, Coast Guard inspectors found a number of Volume 5s that lacked about half the book. These were sold on Amazon’s website and were produced by CreateSpace, an Amazon subsidiary. I doubt NOAA approved printers were involved.

So if you have purchased one of these knock-off Coast Pilots you best check to see if everything is there. That doesn’t just mean volume 5. Any of the nine volumes could have the same problem.

That way you will avoid being written up and will also have all the necessary navigation information when it’s needed.


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2016 0504 DefenderIf you’re looking for a chance on a Bering Sea pollock boat this season and one of the boats that needs crew is Global Seas’ the Defender, you best grab that one in a big hurry.

You’ll get a boat that’s just gone through some extensive renovations designed to make her a better fishing boat and more comfortable for the crew. The Defender (ex-Western Venture) had been fishing for mackerel out of New Bedford, Mass., before being bought by Global Seas and taken to Pattie Marine Enterprises in Pensacola, Fla., to be converted to a Bering Sea pollock boat.

The conversion story is told in “Pumped for Pollock” in National Fisherman’s June issue, starting on page 28.

At Patti’s, the Western Venture was lengthened from 164 feet to 170 feet, primarily to give the crew more working space around the net reels.


Look at the photo of the Western Venture and the completed Defender and it’s obvious the forward deck area is now pretty much enclosed to give the crew a drier, safer work area.

Instead of hauling a cod end plugged with pollock up a stern ramp, the Defender will pump fish aboard from a net. It’s a style of fishing used in Europe and the U.S. East Coast but is not widely accepted in the Bering Sea pollock fishery. Of course, the goal is to deliver a better product to the dock.

The Western Venture couldn’t have been converted at Patti’s if the shipyard hadn’t just built a new railway. The Western Venture was the first boat hauled on Patti’s new marine railway. In fact, the 164-foot Western Venture is the biggest boat ever hauled at Patti’s shipyard.

But read more about it in National Fisherman’s June issue.

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If you’ve been wanting a 58-foot fishing boat or maybe a 75-footer but couldn’t afford the expenses that came along with building it to the classification requirements, well, grab your checkbook and sign up for that boat. Because the Coast Guard requirement that boats between 50 and 79 feet have to be classed has been rescinded. No longer must they be designed and built with the approval of a classification society, such as ABS or DNV.

2016 0418 SeinersThe 58-foot Isle Dominator and Magnus Martens tied up at Seattle's Fishermen's Terminal shortly after being launched in 2013 from Fred Wahl Marine Construction in Reedsport, Ore. Jessica Hathaway photo.I’m not sure how much good was accomplished by including in the Coast Guard authorization Act of 2010 the requirement that a commercial fishing boat 50 feet and over be designed and built to classification requirements.

At least one boatyard went out of business because it had invested a lot of money in a new mold to build a 58 footer. Then the class requirement came into play, which would have jacked up the price of a boat by 25 to 40 percent. Suddenly no one wanted to invest money in this boatyard’s new hulls or hulls from others for that matter that didn’t have a keel laid prior to July 1, 2013, thus circumventing the rule.

Some fishermen, unable to afford a new boat built to the class requirements, threw a lot of money at rebuilding an older hull that probably should have been retired. Others built a boat at 49 feet 11 inches long — thus avoiding classification expenses — when they wanted a 58 foot or 65 footer. That 49 footer is probably not as safe as the larger boats.

But now as long as the boat is between 50 and 79 feet you don’t have to worry about the expense and hassle of working with a classification society. Though if the boat is over 79 feet it has to be classed and load lined.

However, building between 50 and 79 feet, while now much more affordable, isn’t quite as easy as it was before the Coast Guard Authorization Act.

The boat has to be designed by a naval architect or marine engineer licensed by the State and be designed to standards equivalent to those prescribed by a classification society. Many naval architects already design boats to those standards, so this shouldn’t be a problem. The key here is that the plans do not have to be approved by a classification society.

The boatbuilder/designer who bears neither the naval architect or marine engineer title will have to add another step to the process by working with a licensed naval architect to have them approve his plans.

Construction of a new boat now has to be overseen by a marine surveyor to ensure that the design is being followed. The exact involvement of the surveyor in the building process is still being worked out, as are a number of other requirements.

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You buy yourself a boat, new or used, and you should have a very good idea how much fuel and water can be carried in tanks below the deck. You should also be pretty certain how much product can be carried, whether its 74,000 pounds in four fish holds on a 49-foot Alaska shrimper or five crates of lobsters in a below-deck tank on a 40-foot Maine lobster boat.

2016 0406 BG AshleyNAfter extensive repairs, the Ashley N. is launched back into the water. Jonesport Shipyard photo.Of course, the boats are designed to operate efficiently and safely with all those tanks filled.

But it’s possible you might be packing around a lot more than what are in those tanks, which could affect the boat’s efficiency and safety. Imagine, if you will, 600 gallons of seawater under the cabin sole in a 45-foot lobster boat. That would be about 5,100 pounds, figuring that a gallon of seawater weighs about 8.556 pounds.

That 600 gallons is what Sune Noreen of Jonesport Shipyard, in Jonesport, Maine, found when he cut through the watertight cabin sole of the 45-foot lobster boat Ashley N, which was in for repairs and had just been purchased by a local lobsterman. The water got there as a result of the boat grounding out and leaking through the keel. But since the boat’s new owner had bought the boat in the water he didn’t know about the damaged keel or the leak.

You can find out more about this water issue in “Leaking below the Waterline” in National Fisherman’s May issue. The story starts on page 26. In addition, Noreen, who before he took over the Jonesport Shipyard was repairing fishing boats and surveying them in Alaska, offers some observations on how to avoid unwanted surprises when buying a used boat.

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OK, let's say you’ve got some extra money and have wanted to upgrade your navigation electronics for some time. What makes the most sense, especially in terms of getting you home when everything goes to hell?

2016 0330 2016 BG sextantCaptain Shields of the cod-fishing schooner Sophie Christenson "shoots" the sun during passage through the Bering Sea. File photo.I just about guarantee you it’s something you haven’t thought of. It doesn’t cost that much, though there’s a learning curve involved. Oh, and the marine electronics companies won’t like the choice. You best get yourself a sextant, especially if you are an offshore fisherman. I know, we are talking about an instrument developed in the late 17th century, with antecedents going back to the early Polynesian voyagers’ latitude hook, which, like the sextant, measures the distance between a celestial body and the horizon.

Why the sextant? Because navigation on today’s boats is GPS satellite driven and that can be compromised. That’s why the U.S. Navy has started teaching celestial navigation again to its officers, after dropping sextant skills training and celestial navigation in the 1900s. The Navy is preparing for a time when their ship’s navigation systems shut down.

In case of a cyber attack by a rogue group that hacks into GPS data links, knocks out GPS satellites, or simply jams the signals of a specific GPS satellite, a boat’s navigation systems will be compromised, but the sextant doesn’t have an operating system that can be compromised.

In non-marine settings that type of attack has already been done. Take the case of Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp that was hacked by Iranians (probably the government) in February 2015. It was a political attack designed to punish Adelson after he threatened Iran with a nuclear attack.

It’s been described as an IT catastrophe, shutting down the Sand’s casinos and gaining thousands of files and folders with names IT passwords and credit information. Damage was estimated at $40 million

Then Sony Pictures was hacked by North Korea after the studio released the movie The Interview, about an assassination plot against the country’s leader Kim Jong Un. The hackers got company secrets, the social security numbers of 47,000 employees and crippled the studio’s computer systems. The North Koreans said anyone attacking the supreme leader would be “mercilessly destroyed.”

Just in case someone or some country goes after the GPS satellite you are depending on, being able to navigate without a dependence on wheelhouse electronics just may prove valuable.

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Whatever role it is we are playing in our daily life, it never hurts to pause and take a look back to see what came before us and ask what it was like to have been a fisherman or a boatbuilder, say, 60, 90, 171 years ago.

That’s what National Fisherman's 2016 0302 BG PINKYMaine's last working pinky is anchored in Belfast Harbor. Penobscot Marine Museum photoBoats & Gear section has done the past few years in the Yearbook issue. It’s nothing too extensive, just a quick glance astern at the country’s commercial fishing heritage as shown in three boatyards and some boats that have long disappeared.

This year’s issue includes Herbert and Emory Rice, a couple of boatbuilding brothers from the Chesapeake, who started building purse and striker boats in the 1930s.

Out on the West Coast there was William Colberg, who had his first boatyard in 1918. Colberg built a lot of boats other than fishing boats, but at least one fishing boat is still working today, the 37-foot crabber Aimee June.

Then there’s William “Pappy” Frost, the transplanted Canadian who settled in Jonesport, Maine, in 1912 and is credited with building the first modern Maine lobster boat. Oh, and when prohibition rolled around, Frost showed he wasn’t slow to take advantage of a situation, building boats both for the rumrunners and the Coast Guard, which was chasing the rumrunners.

The classic boat section has the story of some of Maine’s early sardine carriers. One of those is the Grayling, which was built in 1915 and looks far more like a yacht than a fishing boat.

In a section on schooners, the emphasis is on the pinky schooner, primarily the 46-foot pinky Maine. She was built in 1845 and fished until about 1926. When she was broken up, there were no more pinky schooners.

I suspect not that many people are familiar with the pinky schooner, but it’s here, so check it out.

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If you are fishing Dungeness crab off the coast of Washington, Oregon or California, you are most apt to be injured when hauling back crab pots and landing them on deck — and the injury is likely to be a fracture. Working the hauling block accounted for 47 percent of the injuries in a recent study on the types and nature of injuries and fatalities within the Dungeness fleet from 2002 to 2014. The study is out of Oregon State University and was published in the latest issue of the journal International Maritime Health.

2016 0222 BG safetyAn ongoing study at Oregon State University is focusing on injuries and safety issues among Dungeness crabbers. Oregon State University photo.In that time period, 28 crabbers died, which confirmed what most people already knew that the Dungeness crab fleet is the deadliest fleet in U.S. waters; the death rate is also 65 times higher than that for all U.S. workers.

While fatal injuries in the crab fleet had previously been studied, the incidence of non-fatal injuries had not been examined. Understanding the nature of the injuries was an important part of the Oregon study. But the 45 injuries within that 12-year-time period was something of a surprise. It’s an injury rate much lower than in many other fisheries: ten times lower than for the Alaska freezer-longline fleet and 13 times lower than the freezer-trawl fleet.

It’s likely that the nonfatal injury numbers is a result to underreporting. “In general,” the report says, “underreporting of occupational injuries from employers has been linked to concerns of financial and regulatory repercussions, and the burden of reporting itself may be a barrier.”

To get a better understanding of injuries and safety issues in general among Dungeness crabbers, Oregon State University’s Laurel Kinci, one of the authors of the study, will be leading focus group meetings with fishermen and surveying fishing crews along the Pacific Coast to learn more about safety and injuries, and develop several interventions to help reduce injuries among crabbers.

Oregon State University
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There’s no getting around the fact that building a new boat or signing up to have your existing boat go through a major restoration is not for the faint of heart. You have to come up with a bunch of money at the start of the project, make periodic payments until the work is completed, and you are putting your means of making a living in the hands of another person. The tension is jacked up if the work needs to be done by a definite date — say, the start of a season.

How do you ensure that the project goes smoothly and that you and the boatbuilder end up shaking hands, instead of any number of unpleasant alternatives?

2016 0203 BGblogWelders at Fashion Blacksmith need a couple more frames before they can weld the sponson plating. Fashion Blacksmith Inc. photo.A good way to start is to following the advice of Ted Long who runs Fashion Blacksmith in Crescent City, Calif., a boatyard that does a lot of sponsoning work: “Talk to fellow boat owners who have been through a similar project that you may be planning, who have been to that yard and can say what happened that they didn’t expect — that cost them money.”

Long is being quoted in “Talking Shop,” starting on page 28 in National Fisherman’s March issue. Long and other long-time boatbuilders on the East Coast and the West Coast offer examples of how things go wrong in a boatyard deal and how to prevent that from happening.

The burden falls on both the boatbuilder and the boat owner. The boat owner should have a good understanding of the boatbuilding or repair process and communicate to the boatbuilder exactly what they want done.

The boatbuilder needs to be very clear about where the customer’s boat is in the work schedule, not hesitate to question some of the boat owner’s choices — they might be unrealistic — then verbally and with pictures keep him informed of the work progress. Of course, there’s the question of add-ons and how much of a financial cushion the boat owner needs, beyond the agreed repair or building price. But it’s all in “Talking Shop” in our March issue. Check it out for yourself.

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You are fishing inshore when the boat snaps hard to port. Another wave slams her and she goes all the way over. It happens so fast you never get off a distress call. What to do?

2016 0125 bg BUDDIESScreenshot of the Pro Chart app's "Buddies" feature courtesy of Jay Stipe.Something like that happened off Florida’s East Coast last month, only it was a recreational boat with five guys in it on a duck-hunting trip. Probably the only reason they all made it back is Jay Stipe, the father of Kevin Stipe, one of the five in the boat, owns the company MiraTrex, which offers the Pro Charts app that works with an iPhone or IPad.

MiraTrex recently added the GPS driven “Buddies” feature to the Pro Charts navigating app after two young boys were lost off the East Coast of Florida in July and never heard from again.

So when Kevin called his father to tell him they were floating in the water, Jay could view his location on the iPad screen and pinpoint the spot with an on-screen icon. He took a screen shot to capture the display in case the signal was lost.

Jay called the St. Pete Coast Guard and gave them the coordinates, much to the surprise of the Coast Guard officer who didn’t expect to get the exact lat-lon numbers. Shortly after that, a helicopter and rescue boat were on the scene.

In addition to displaying an icon of a buddy’s position on screen, the app shows their history for the previous 48 hours.

Kevin’s iPhone and the Pro Charts app with the Buddies feature proved critical in rescuing the five men, but just as important is the fact that Kevin’s iPhone was in a waterproof LifeProof case. Without that case, the iPhone wouldn’t have worked and all five might have perished.

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How many of you have bought into an older fishing boat? Thirty-foot lobster boat or a big, old offshore trawler, you figured you knew what work needed to be done. But once the ripping and tearing out started, you were surprised at how much rebuilding was required to get the boat back fishing. And throw in a very limited time — say ten-and-a-half weeks — to complete the work before the boat has to be back fishing.

2016 0106 BG CMThe Cornelia Marie arrives at Seattle's Northlake Shipyard ready for 10 1/2 weeks of intensive work. Jeff Pond photo.That’s the situation described in the story “Not Your Dad’s Crab Boat” in National Fisherman’s February issue, when Roger Thomas and Kari Toivola bought into the 126-foot crabber the Cornelia Marie. Yup, the same boat that’s been featured on the Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch.”

Despite the work required — replacing the main engines, generators and rebuilding part of the main deck — and what Thomas referred to as “a big obstacle,” which meant rebuilding the accommodation’s area and galley, the Cornelia Marie made in out of Seattle’s Northlake Shipyard in time to start its tendering contract in Bristol Bay.

And the work seems to have been worth it. Now the Cornelia Marie burns 900 to 1,000 gallons a day instead of the previous 1,400. And the noise levels in the accommodations area have been significantly reduced, to the point it’s possible to carry on a normal conversation. But check it out for yourself, starting on page 24 in the February issue.

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Page 1 of 13

Inside the Industry

Legislators from Connecticut and Massachusetts complained about the current “out-of-date allocation formula” in black sea bass, summer flounder and scup fisheries in a letter to the U.S. Department of Commerce earlier this week.


The Southeast Alaska Fishermen’s Alliance recently announced that the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation has awarded the organization a Hollings Grant to reduce whale entanglements in Alaska salmon fisheries by increasing the use of acoustic whale pingers to minimize entanglements in fishing gear.


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