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.

Ok. It’s the end of June and what does the end of June mean for many Maine lobstermen? Race time.

2016 0628 lobsterracingThe Wild Wild West setting a new diesel speed record at Bass Harbor. Jon Johansen photo.A winter’s worth of bragging, boasting or maybe just silent hoping, culminates when you take the boat you depend on for earning a living, idle up to the starting line, hands shaking, sweat rolling off your brow, then when the starter’s flag drops jam the throttle forward.

So far there have been three races: Boothbay (June 18), Rockland (June 19) and Bass Harbor (June 26). The biggest story of the first three races was Cameron Crawford’s 28-foot Wild, Wild, West, which set a new diesel speed record at Bass Harbor.

At Boothbay, Wild, Wild West’s fastest time was 54.6. The first race she won at Bass Harbor the speed was 51.8 mph, though it’s said there were wakes across the course where a couple of boats had cut through before the race. That would slow down a fast burner like the Wild, Wild West. But for the last race of the day, the Fastest Lobster Boat race, conditions were perfect. A slight breeze had created ripples on the water’s surface, which it is said breaks the water’s surface tension. 

Conditions must have been perfect for the Wild, Wild West with a 1,050-hp Isotta Fraschini hit 60.6 mph. That broke the old record of 58.9 mph set in Portland in 2010 by Alfred Osgood’s Starlight Express with a 900-hp Mack. Rumor is that losing his record might bring Osgood out of retirement.

Here is the racing schedule for the remainder of the summer:

July 2              Moosabec Reach (Jonesport and Beals Island)

July 10            Stonington

July 24            Friendship 

August 13        Winter Harbor

August 14         Pemaquid

August 20       Long Island

August 21         Portland

 

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If you think it’s time to replace the machine in your wheelhouse that’s supposed to find and keep track of fish lurking beneath your boat then you need to check out “Finding Keepers.” That’s a roundup of some of the newest sonar and sounder machines in National Fisherman’s July issue. The story begins on page 30.

2016 06060 BG KodenKoden’s KDS6000BB sonar is billed as the industry's first broadband searchlight sonar.It starts off with Furuno’s FCV-1900 series sounders, which come as both black box and stand-alone units. Some of the features include scroll back, which allows past echo displays to be reviewed and the simultaneous display of two gain settings.

The FCV-1900G, a stand-alone sounder, comes with Furuno’s TruEcho CHIRP and a fish size indicator. This gives precise estimations of fish size and the distribution of fish in a school by size.

Another sounder is Simrad’s ES80, a split-beam echo sounder with a frequency range of 10 to 500 kHz. The ES80 can have CHIRP capability and sweep a range of frequencies. It might be the only sounder combining both CHIRP and a split beam.

Another first would be Koden’s KDS6000BB sonar. It’s billed as the world’s first broadband searchlight sonar. It uses a wideband transducer letting you to select a range of frequencies between 130 and 210 kHz. And the frequencies can be changed in 0.1 increments.

Simrad’s FM90 trawl sonar is a third-wire system that puts a new view of the trawl opening on your screen every one to three seconds. Information from Simrad’s wireless sensors on the trawl and doors can be digitally transmitted to the headrope mounted FM90 and then sent on to the wheelhouse.

A new dual-beam sonar that’s just been put on some West Coast shrimpers and Alaska pollock boats is Wesmar’s HD860. For a shrimper, the wide beam allows you to bottom type the sea floor in front of the trawl and steer to where the shrimp are. In the Bering Sea the HD860 has been successful at detecting pollock on the bottom.

Marport’s Speed Explorer SPE 155-W is a headrope-mounted sensor that combines the functions of a trawl eye and a trawl speed sensor. Among other things, it tells if the trawl is being towed at the right angle and condition of the trawl in relation to the sea floor and the surface. Information on water flow across the trawl and along direction of the two are upgraded every three seconds.

 Anyway, these are just some teasers. You best turn to “Finding Keepers” to learn more about the latest fishfinding machines.

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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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Page 1 of 13

Inside the Industry

Fishermen throughout the Gulf of Mexico are praising Louisiana officials for a series of strong decisions last week that have broken the deadlock of red snapper management in the Gulf of Mexico.

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According to the Portland Press Herald, the Maine Seaweed Festival has been canceled this year due to a rift between the event’s organizers and seaweed harvesters.

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