National Fisherman

Boats & Gear 

BG image 9.8.16The Boats & Gear blog explores new construction projects, electronics, gear and equipment with contributions from Jean Paul Vellotti (NF B&G editor) and Michael Crowley (former B&G editor).

Ask people what upcoming date might most affect their lives over the next several years, and the answer could well be Nov. 8, when either Donald or Hillary is elected president. Ask a boatbuilder or naval architect that question and if they tell you Nov. 8, it should quickly be followed by “Oh. Yeah, and January 1.”

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The Maine lobster boat racing season, after eight races, starting June 18 at Boothbay, drew to a close the weekend of Aug. 20 and 21 at Long Island and the next day at Portland. Just over 50 boats showed up for each race.

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Nothing makes a long stint in the wheelhouse more miserable than a crappy, uncomfortable helm chair. It doesn’t matter if you are hauling gear back or making a long run. Had one of those helm chairs once, going from Kodiak to Prince Rupert to sell a load of fish. We were short-handed only three of us aboard which meant long wheel turns. 

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A downside to operating with paper navigation charts is the need to make periodic corrections. That takes time and money when you are paying someone to do it. Boat owners that want to ditch the paper charts can now do so without a risk of being cited by the Coast Guard. Of course, you won’t be getting rid of charts, just substituting electronic charts for paper charts.

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Some call it the Holy Grail of Bristol Bay. It’s getting a 32-foot gillnetter up on step with 10,000 pounds of salmon aboard. Five or six boats have been designed and built to do just that but they fell short of the goal.

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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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Inside the Industry

It’s no secret that fraud is a problem in the seafood industry. Oceana repeatedly touts a mislabeling epidemic. While their method has been criticized, the perception of rampant fraud  has been established.

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The Center for Coastal Studies recently announced that Owen Nichols, Director of the Center for Coastal Studies’ Marine Fisheries Research Program, has been selected as this year’s recipient of the John Annala Fishery Leadership Award by the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. 

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