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.

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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All right! Listen up all you highliners and deadbeats. Only a couple of days before — well, you know what I mean — Christmas. Kids are humming Christmas carols while lying near the tree at night, dreaming of eight tiny reindeer dropping down on the roof, landing a sleigh with that jolly old guy and all the toys that are on the lists they gave you. And your spouse, significant other, partner — whatever — continues to come up with a few more trinkets she needs to make up for all those days you’ve been at sea this past year.

2015 1222 BG suitWhite Glacier’s Arctic 25 immersion suit on display at Pacific Marine Expo. Doug Stewart photo.That’s why you’ve been wandering the store aisles with pockets crammed full of gift lists. Of course, as always, there’s someone you forgot. You know who it is. It’s you. So I’m here to remind you that it’s socially acceptable and not illegal to buy a Christmas gift for yourself.

To assist with your personal gift selection, once again I’m providing a few Christmas ideas from National Fisherman’s 2015 Product and AAG pages. Here are four items that are a worthy gift for you know who, starting with the September 2015 issue.

An onboard fire is something no one wants to experience, but if you do, you better have something that puts it out in a hurry. That would be the Flame Guard X-Tinguish FST. When there’s a fire in the engine room, or any other enclosed space, open the door, pull the yellow pin on the X-Tinguish FST, toss it in the room and close the door.

There’s an 8-second delay from the time the pin is pulled until the X-Tinguish FST is electronically activated. The fire should be out within seconds.

Despite the fact the fire is out within seconds, what if someone is injured in events surrounding the fire. You need a way to treat the injury. That’s when you need to be able to grab the Marine 600 Medical Kit, mentioned in NF’s July issue.

The Marine 600 Medical Kit is a supply of first-aid products and basic medical tools contained in a durable waterproof case that floats. The medical kit includes, among other things, medications to treat pain, inflammation, and common allergies. Fractures, sprains and swelling can be managed with a flexible C-Splint, triangular bandage, elastic bandage and cold packs.

If things really go south in a big hurry and you end up in the water, here are the last two gifts that you better have purchased. First, White Glacier’s Arctic 25, a cold water immersion suit that will keep you warm for 25 hours in 0-degree water, as shown in NF’s December issue.

If you don’t get the suit all the way on when you hit the water, zip in up and within 10 minutes your body temperature will be stabilized and within two hours you’ll be almost dry.

Of course, once you are in the water it’s a good idea to have a way to indicate your position. ACR Electronics Aurora Red Hand Flare, in NF’s May issue, does just that. Remove the cap, pull a cord and the flare is activated. At night it burns at 15,000 candelas for 60 seconds, about 21 times brighter than most other flares. During the day, bright smoke shows your position to a boat or rescue helicopter.

There you have it, four personal gifts that when you get in trouble will help you make it back to have another Christmas in 2016.

See you then with another list. Ho. Ho, Ho!

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Commercial fishing boats have to carry flares. It’s three flares inside of three miles. Three miles to 50 miles it’s six red flares, three smoke flares and three aerial flares. If you’re a commercial fisherman you know that. I shouldn’t be telling you something you don’t know.

A flare exercise. U.S. Navy photo.A flare exercise. U.S. Navy photo.Just packing the requisite number of flares isn’t enough. When things go south in a big hurry, when the boat heaves up and starts to go over, you best be able to get to those flares immediately. They don’t do you any good if you have to muck through some locker to find them.

But maybe things happen so fast you can’t get to the flares, no matter how easy their access. So life saving gear, especially the life raft, should have its required flares. If that hadn’t been the case when the 60-foot Leviathan II capsized, everyone would probably have drowned.

It was this past October 25, when two Canadians, Ken Brown and Clarence Smith, were longlining for halibut off British Columbia’s Vargas Island.

As they were hauling back their gear, Brown happened to turn around and see a single flare go off against the afternoon sky. According to news reports, that was the “only signal anyone could see from the capsized wreckage of the MV Leviathan II, which flipped so quickly there was no time to send a mayday call.”

The Leviathan II was a sightseeing boat with 27 people aboard. Brown and Smith hauled people out of the water and off a life raft and onto their boat, which is just shy of 20-feet long. Eventually they carried 13 survivors back to shore. Other boats rescued eight more. Five died and one was listed as missing.

There’s always a certain “what if” element to tragedies. “What if” Brown hadn’t turned around? “What if” that life raft hadn’t been equipped with a rocket flare?

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Noise; heavy, awkward weights; cold, wet weather — it’s all part of a fisherman’s life. It also helps make “commercial fishing the most challenging ergonomic environment,” said Jerry Dzugan, executive director of the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association in a Wednesday morning talk titled “Strains, Sprains and Pains: Ergonomics in the Maritime Industry."

“Anything to do with the body is an ergonomic issue,” said Dzugan. That’s another way of saying the goal of a smart work environment is to adapt the work station to be as efficient and comfortable as possible for the workers.

2015 1118 JerryDzuganJerry Dzugan. Photo: Doug StewartA simple principle is that the further a weight is from the body the more the body is stressed. So a fish plant worker constantly bending over a large table to pull halibut to her would be better served with a narrower table so she wouldn’t have to bend over as much.

Dzugan gave several examples of proper posture when handling heavy weights and some surprising examples of the forces at play on a body. One photo showed a 6-foot 2-inch, 185-pound man reaching out to pick up a pen. Dzugan says that action has the same compressive forces on the body as lifting an 80-pound box.

Translate that to fishing and “a fisherman bending over to pick up line all day off the deck could end up with 1,000 pounds of compressive forces on his back by the end of the day,” said Dzugan.

It didn’t take long before the audience was grasping the difference between good and poor work habits. So when Dzugan offered up a photo on the screen of deck hands loading crab into a brailer and asked from ergonomic point of view what was wrong in the photo, several people pointed out that the brailer was too high. Throwing the crabs into the brailer meant the deckhands had to lift the crabs above their shoulders over and over again, risking an injury to the shoulders. The simple solution: lower the brailer.

Visit the AMSEA booth — 1128 — or their website to get your own pocket guide to ergonomics.

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Sponsoning a steel boat is not unusual. But sponsoning a fiberglass hull is a different story. Early last summer, the 56-foot fiberglass seiner Freedom left Platypus Marine in Port Angeles, Wash., after a sponsoning that pushed her beam out from 15 to 20 feet.

Today at 2:15, Platypus Marine’s Bruce Bryant will talk about the sponsoning on the East Hall’s Main Stage.

2015 1111 BG Showdaily1Bruce Bryant. Platypus Marine photo.Bryant will focus on how to make sponsoning financially feasible. Included in that discussion will be determining if sponsoning should even be considered. “Cost is the most critical factor,” Bryant says. “No sense putting expensive sponsoning on a boat that’s not worth anything.”

Bryant will explain the decision making progress from the early design stages to completion. The emphasis of the session will be on sponsoning a fiberglass hull, using the Freedom as an example, but Bryant will include steel as well.

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How safe is commercial fishing? Well, if you compare it to an earlier time, say, 1877 to 1881, it’s a lot safer. In that five-year period, 452 fishermen died and 65 fishing vessels never made it back to port. That’s just for the port of Gloucester, Mass.

2015 1104 Stability Rocker BG SafetyAMSEA uses the stability rocker in training sessions to show stability principles. AMSEA photo.Putting that five-year period up against a more recent one — 2010 to 2014 — finds that 188 fishermen died nationwide, as opposed to over 400 from a single port. That’s part of a 34 percent decline in commercial fishing fatalities between 2000 and 2014, based on figures from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

While the fatality numbers from the 1800s and the fatality figures for the 21st century are fortunately very different, the leading causes are similar: man overboard, stability issues and flooding. “If those problems could be eliminated,” says Jerry Dzugan with the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association in Sitka, “you would cut the fatality rates in the fisheries by almost 80 percent.” He’s quoted in “A Way of Life” in the December issue of National Fisherman on page 48.

In that issue, there are a couple of examples of projects to reduce the numbers of fatalities due to stability and man overboard issues. One is AMSEA’s stability rocker that it uses in its training courses to help fishermen visualize stability concepts.

The other is a pilot project led by Julie Sorensen with the Northeast Center for Occupational Health and Safety in Cooperstown, N.Y., to understand the barriers to wearing PFDs among lobstermen in Maine and Massachusetts.

Part of that study is not only figuring out why fishermen don’t wear PFDs but why marine supply stores don’t carry PFDs appropriate for fishermen.

The December story features one PFD designed specifically for fishermen. That’s Kent Safety Products Rogue flotation vest. Check out “A Way of Life.” That Kent PFD might be for you.

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The Coast Guard has had several regulations pending. The first deadline just passed. It was Oct. 15 and required your boat to complete a mandatory dockside safety examination. Three more are due by the end of March. If you miss any of them it just might cost you a bunch of money and loss of fishing time. Fortunately, there are a couple of events coming up that should make it easier and perhaps cheaper to meet the requirements.

2015 0928 SAFETYPetty officer Fernando Brown out of Portland, Ore., heads out for another day of safety inspections. Michael Rudolph photo.A regulation that won’t affect that many boat owners requires fishing boats to be equipped with a VHF radiotelephone installation, which must have DSC capability. However, it only applies to boats of 300 gross tons or more.

The DSC equipped VHF has to be hooked up by Jan. 20, 2016. The regulation applies to boats operating within 20 miles of the East, West, and Gulf coasts, as well as Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands. However, Alaska isn’t included, as it does not yet have the infrastructure to support digital selective calling.

A pending requirement due to affect far more fishermen concerns survival equipment and is scheduled to start Feb. 16, 2016. This is part of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 that was to have gone into effect Jan. 1, 2015 but was put off until this coming February.

By Feb. 15, if you don’t have a survival raft that “ensures that no part of an individual is immersed in the water” and you fish outside of three miles, you probably will find your boat tied to the dock.

In other words, ditch that World War II-type raft with its buoyant ring around the outside and webbing stretched across the inside. And get rid of any buoyant apparatus designed to support people in the water.

The last ruling requires commercial fishing boats 65 feet or longer to have an Automatic Identification System installed by March 2, 2016.

The benefit of AIS is that it enhances your awareness of boats operating nearby — as long as they also have an AIS unit — and those same boats know where you are.

Only class-B AIS is required though you can opt for the more effective class-A. The Coast Guard estimates that this ruling affects 2,906 fishing boats.

That many potential sales might be why ACR has just come out with new class-A and class-B AIS transceivers. They are the AISLink CA1 and AISLink CB1. It might also be part of the reason a Swedish outfit received type approval to market its class-B AIS unit starting this summer. It’s the CTRX Graphene.

No matter if you are looking for a VHF radio, inflatable lifesaving equipment an AIS unit or all three, it would be best to buy it as soon as possible, thus avoiding that last minute rush and maybe having to accept a product that’s not your first choice. Again, if you don’t meet the Coast Guard requirement, you will probably pay a penalty for noncompliance.

An event making the task of avoiding being shut down by the Coast Guard easily avoidable and perhaps saving you money on the new equipment is Pacific Marine Expo held in Seattle Nov. 18 – 20. More than 450 exhibitors will be there and many will be carrying just the gear that meets the Coast Guard’s new regulations.

If you miss that event, there’s always the International WorkBoat Show in New Orleans on Dec. 1 -3. Both shows have great shopping opportunities with chances to compare products for both features and price.

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Page 2 of 13

Inside the Industry

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation announced last week the sixth round of grant awards from its Fisheries Innovation Fund, a program launched in 2010 to foster innovations that support sustainable fisheries in the United States. 

The goal of the Fisheries Innovation Fund is to sustain fishermen and fishing communities while simultaneously rebuilding fish stocks.


Alaskan Leader Fisheries will give Inmarsat’s new high-speed broadband maritime communications service, Fleet Xpress, a try on the 150-foot longline cod catcher/processor Alaskan Leader.


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