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, 02 July 2013
For Maine’s lobstermen summer is probably the best time of the year. That doesn’t have anything to do with prices (they are generally low anyway) or the weather. Nope, it’s lobster-boat racing time. It’s a time when fishermen who, while they can’t afford to blow up an engine, several times over the summer bring their boat to the line and when the flag goes down slam the throttle forward, asking as much from the engine as it can give over a mile or so race course.
Those are just the everyday guys with stock engines. Then there are those who don’t mind giving their engine a little something extra. With the electronically controlled engines it’s relatively easy to slide the horsepower rating up a couple hundred if you are savvy with engines and have a laptop.
Whether you are running a stock or a jacked-up engine, why take the risk of blowing a piston — or worse — then having to pay to have it rebuilt, while missing fishing days? The answer is easy. Most Maine lobstermen can’t pass up a good race. They just love the power.
“When the starter’s arm goes down, you ram the throttle home. The power nearly tears the wheel out of her. It’s hard to imagine such power,” is how Merle Beal, a Beals Island lobsterman who raced the Silver Dollar for years, describes the break from the starting line.
This year there are 13 races. The first was June 13 at Boothbay and the last is Sept. 8 at Eastport. The next race is today, July 4, at Moosabec Reach. The race was originally scheduled for June 29, but fog closed down Moosabec Reach, which separates Jonesport from Beals Island.
There’s a lot of anticipation for the race, as Galen Alley is supposed to bring Foolish Pleasure out for the first time since she had engine problems last year at Eastport. Two years ago she set the speed record at 72.8 miles per hour. Granted, with a 2,000-hp-plus turbocharged Dart block, Foolish Pleasure is not a working lobster boat.
People also want to see if Whistlin’ Dixie, a Holland 40 with a 1,000-hp Cat can continue her winning ways. She’s won all her races this year. Can Wild, Wild West, a West 28 with a 466-cubic-inch International, hold things together? At the Rockland race on June 16, the Wild, Wild West had a turbo failure. Pieces of the turbo ended up in the bilge, and the explosion blew the exhaust header off the engine.
It should be interesting. For a full schedule, visit the Maine Lobster Boat Racing site.
Photo: The Wild Wild West smokes after blowing her engine behind the Lisa Marie. Photo by Jon JohansenAdd a comment
Tuesday, 11 June 2013
What weighs 100,000 pounds, is covered with 3,500 gallons of paint, contains 1.4 million feet of rope, and if you — though be sly and don’t let anyone catch you doing it — scrape a little of that paint off, it probably still smells like the bottom of the ocean?
It’s called Red, Yellow and Blue, and it’s an art display by Orly Genger at New York’s Madison Square Park until Sept. 8 of this year.
All that rope? It’s sink line used by lobstermen and crabbers from Machiasport, Maine, to Wakefield, R.I., that Genger and a team of interns wove into crocheted rope runners that were then turned into undulating, curved structures that run — supported by poles and wires — across part of the park.
The sinking groundline used in the project was gathered by the Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation, which was previously involved in a three-year plan to remove 1 million pounds of floating groundline from the lobster fishery and replace it with sinking groundline. When the project ended in 2010 over 2 million pounds of rope had been collected. The float rope was recycled into such things as nursery trays, plant pots and woven doormats.
But about a year ago when Genger’s representatives called the Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation looking for rope, all that float line had been recycled, says the Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation’s director Erin Pelletier.
However, the ocean bottom is not easy on sink rope. “Fishermen were going through it. They were asking ‘What do I do with it?’” remembers Pelletier. Fortunately, courtesy of Genger, she had an answer, and more than 40 fishermen got 50 cents a pound for their discarded sink line. The rope was then shipped to the artist’s studio in Brooklyn, N.Y., in seven deliveries.
The next stop for Red, Yellow and Blue is the deCordova Sculpture Park in Lincoln, Mass., where it will be installed for a year. In the meantime, Genger has been in contact with the Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation because she needs rope for her next show, which is in Texas.
“It’s very ironic that an artist in New York City is up here paying these guys for their rope. I never imagined that phone call,” says Pelletier.Add a comment
Tuesday, 28 May 2013
Skipsteknisk is not a name familiar to most American fishermen and boat owners. But in the past couple of months, this Norwegian naval architecture company's name, as well as the boats it is designing for American fishermen, has attracted attention.
With predictions for a number of catcher boats and longliners being built for the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska in the next 10 years, some domestic naval architects are looking uneasily at the sudden appearance of Norwegian designers building boats for American fishermen.
“Are American designers in competition with European? I think it will be an issue,” says Jonathan Parrott with Jensen Maritime Consultants in Seattle. Whatever the level of competition, there’s a general consensus that the Norwegian boats will certainly be different from what Americans are used to fishing on. The problem, says Kenny Down with Blue North Fisheries in Seattle, “is that U.S. designers have fallen behind the curve on innovations.”
So far, Skipsteknisk has contracts for two of its designs to be built in this country. Both will be going to the Bering Sea. One is a 194' x 49' stern trawler for the O’Hara Corp. in Rockland, Maine. The Eastern Shipbuilding Group in Panama City, Fla., will build the Araho.
The Araho will be set up for both bottom and pelagic trawling with electric winches. She will be classed to Det Norske Veritas rules, including an ice classification that allows it to work through ice floes just under 2 feet thick. She’s expected to be completed in mid-2015.
Dakota Creek Industries in Anacortes, Wash., is building the second boat, a 191' x 42' longliner for Blue North Fisheries in Seattle. She will also be DNV-classed with diesel-electric power and a pair of Schottel azimuth pods, each producing 1,000 horsepower.
An artist's rendering of the Norwegian-designed 191-foot Bering Sea longliner Blue North.
The biggest departure from longliners currently fishing in Alaska is that the new boat’s hauling station will be completely inside. The ground line will bring fish — primarily cod — through the bottom of the boat. That will be a lot safer for the guy working the ground line, and it will be easier to take bycatch off the hooks and let them swim away.
The launch date for Blue North’s longliner is tentatively set for Oct. 1, 2014.
Will Skipsteknisk bring in more contracts? Undoubtedly. Will the new boats set the standard for state-of-the-art U.S. fishing-boat designs? For that we’ll have to wait a couple of years, but you can bet that designers in this country are going to be paying attention and maybe making some changes of their own.
Thursday, 02 May 2013
No doubt about it, the marine diesel engine is a lot more efficient and practical than the engine envisioned by Rudolph Diesel in 1892 when he filed for a patent for his first engine at Germany’s Imperial Patent Office.
Today’s diesels are smaller, more fuel-efficient and burn cleaner, but they aren’t as versatile as some earlier 20th-century diesels. Imagine this, you’re ending a really long trip. Nothing’s gone right, what with breakdowns, few fish and the guy overseeing the filling of the fuel tanks before you left port was a bit drunk from the night before and thinking only about the wonderful time he had. So, all the tanks weren’t filled and now you’re a couple hundred miles from the nearest port — it’s blowing 80 with 30-foot seas — and you’ve just run out of fuel. It doesn’t help that the wind is setting you down on a lee shore.
Minus refined diesel fuel, your engines are silent and useless. But if it was 1930 instead of 2013, the diesels might still be operating and you wouldn’t be in a sweat.
In the January 1930 edition of Atlantic Fisherman there’s an ad for an engine company that tells the story of Capt. C.T. Pederson. Pederson was with the Northern Whaling and Trading Co., and was doing a little whaling east of the Mackenzie River, which would put him in the Beaufort Sea.
Westerly gales had “slammed the ice pack in on the coast… We found our way blocked,” Pederson recounted. It took five days to blast and buck their way free. In doing so, “We burned up so much fuel, without making any headway, we naturally ran short of diesel oil.”
But not to fear, for that engine, an Atlas Imperial, ran on more than just diesel fuel. Into the fuel tank was dumped “the cook’s savings of pork grease, rotten whale oil, remainder of diesel oil, a quantity of used lubricating oil, aviation gasoline, coal oil, distillate and gasoline.”
The Atlas Imperial, according to the ad, never shut down. Now that’s a versatile engine. Upon reading this, the challenge for outfits like Caterpillar, Cummins and MTU is to get their engineers — I mean these are people from places like Caltech, Stanford and MIT, they can do it — to build a diesel that continues to meet today’s standards for air emissions and fuel efficiency, but in a pinch, can operate on a smorgasbord of fuels.
That would be an engine Capt. Pederson would appreciate.
Tuesday, 23 April 2013
National Fisherman’s June issue has a story on the pending classification and load line regulations for new commercial fishing boats (page 34). Those regulations are part of a larger group of requirements that started out with the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 and were followed by the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2012.
Fishermen need to pay attention to these regulations, as they will be affected in terms of money and time. For instance, existing boats 79 feet or greater in length that undergo a major conversion will be required to comply with alternate load-line regulations; boats operating outside of three miles will be required to have a complete record of equipment maintenance and drills; boats will be required to have a dockside exam once every five years. (The Coast Guard says only 10 percent of boats have a dockside exam each year.)
The skipper operating outside of three miles must take a training program. In terms of safety standards, there will no longer be a difference between state-registered and federally documented boats. That means state registered boats will have to pack more expensive — but probably more reliable — safety gear. And that cellular telephone you’ve been passing off as your form of emergency communications — not allowed. It must be a “marine radio.”
Click here for a summary on the Coast Guard’s update of commercial fishing vessel requirements that was released by the North Pacific Fishing Vessel Owners Association to its members on March 12, 2013.
Tuesday, 05 March 2013
Maine lobstermen have always had a thing about being faster than the other guy. Even back in the days of the sloop boats, there were impromptu races out to the grounds and back in. That intensified once fishermen started strapping — first gasoline and then diesel — engines to the bottoms of their boats.
Individual towns began sponsoring races and then participants formed an association — the Maine Lobster Boat Racing Association — with classes, points and even a year-end banquet.
Every year the Maine Lobster Boat Racing Association meets during the Maine Fishermen’s Forum, which is held the first week in March at the Samoset Resort in Rockport. Those sessions have pretty much focused on the here and now: electing officers, hashing out rules and regulations and deciding if races should be added to the schedule.
Last year the group took a step back — way back — by instituting a Maine Lobster Boat Racing Hall of Fame. To make that list, a person had to have contributed to lobster boat racing. It could have been as a racer, key organizer, boatbuilder or engine builder.
Ten people were inducted in 2012:
• Gus Alley, a racer and organizer;
• Benny Beal, who captured a lot of attention 30 years ago when he raced Benny’s Bitch and then the Stella Ann, a 50-mph-plus boat;
• Isaac Beal, who had the Christopher, a dominant boat in the gasoline class;
• Merle Beal, for nearly three decades a constant presence in the 38-foot wooden Silver Dollar;
• Richard Duffy, of the boatbuilding shop Duffy & Duffy and an avid racer;
• Jerry Farrin, who organized the Merritt Bracket Lobster Boat Races in Pemaquid;
• Will Frost, a major influence on lobster-boat design and whose torpedo-sterned lobster boats, the Red Wing and Thoroughbred, were known for their speed in the 1920s and ’30s;
• Corliss Holland of Holland’s Boat Shop and a constant threat in the 32-foot Red Baron;
• Ernest Libby Jr., who designed and built the Marguerite G., which won the World’s Fastest Lobster Boat title four years in a row;
• Arvid and Alvin Young, of the Young Brothers boatshop and builders of the Sopwith Camel.
Then last Saturday (March 3), lobstermen went into the Samoset’s Rockland Room and elected five new members:
• Freddy Lenfestey, whose wooden Laura W. was a dominant force in the 1970s;
• Louis Stuart from Cundys Harbor, who raced the Voop, which had a cored hull with a double skin of glass on each side, lacked a keel, a windshield, and went close to 70 mph with a 1,000-hp engine;
• Andy Gove, who raced the Uncle’s UFO, a 36-foot Northern Bay with a 900-hp Mack;
• David Taylor of Boothbay, who was always on the race course with his Misty, a Crowley 33;
• Brian Robbins, an important force in the development of the racing association.
There weren’t any major rule changes at this year’s meeting except to alter the cubic-inch displacement on gasoline engines. Classes have been based on a displacement either up to or over 502. Now the line of demarcation is 525 cubic inches.
One race was added to the schedule. It will be at Long Island, which is just off Portland, on June 30. That brings the number of races to 13, from Portland to Eastport.
The opening race is scheduled for June 15 in Boothbay.
Tuesday, 19 February 2013
The Coast Guard’s latest release, “Safety Alerts, Safety Advisories, Lessons Learned 2008-2012” won’t be on the New York Times’ best-seller list, but it’s something fishermen and boat owners should read.
It contains 43 safety alerts that have come out of the Coast Guard’s Office of Investigations and Casualty Analysis over a period of five years. Here’s a brief look at some of the points in the report.
The document includes a few safety alerts having to do with faulty safety equipment. One is a March 2012 notice of problems with Mustang inflatable PFDs. The culprit is faulty hydrostatic inflation systems, which may not inflate. The safety alert identifies which products are affected.
Then the August 2009 alert warns EPIRB users of servicing companies using unapproved 406 EPIRB replacement batteries. “These unauthorized battery installations would likely result in a failure” reads the safety alert. That’s something worth knowing.
Some of the safety alerts serve as a reminder that when you do one thing to your boat — upgrade fishing gear — it almost always affects something else — stability. Take the safety alert for November 2008 on fishing vessel stability:
A “major marine casualty” occurred because of improper loading of fuel, water, fishing gear and the catch. The crew was using an outdated stability book “that failed to account for heavy fishing equipment that had been removed from the vessel as well as new fish processing and equipment additions when it changed fishery operations.”
Then again there are just plain dumb things. These are usually committed in an attempt to fish harder and faster, without bothering to think of consequences. A safety alert for February 2012 discusses how a number of people have died or been injured because of “several catastrophic failures of masts, booms and lift cables” on purse seiners. Some of these evidently happen when a crewman tries to increase the lifting capacity beyond its design capacity.
Did you know that 42 percent of all marine casualties on fishing boats are the result of flooding that could have been prevented with watertight doors? A December 2008 safety alert has several suggestions for maintaining watertight doors. Even if a door is closed it might not be watertight. That’s because the door gasket has been painted or the gasket has deteriorated.
Then there’s an interesting breakdown of why a relatively new boat’s CO2 fixed firefighting system failed in an October 2010 safety alert. The crew put the fire out with portable extinguishers, but if they had needed the CO2 system for machinery spaces it wouldn’t have worked.
Not all of these safety alerts pertain to commercial fishing boats. The alert titled “Danger Aloft” is one. An 18-year-old was engaged in a “rite of passage” on a tall ship by crossing between masts on the spring stay when he slipped, fell to the deck and died. Still, this is informative for fishermen if only because it emphasizes the need for safety equipment and training, especially for greenhorns.
Tuesday, 22 January 2013
Back when fuel cost a lot less than it does today and fish were more plentiful, the subject of “efficiencies” was not something that concerned a large number of fishermen. But now with rising fuel prices, aging fleets and fish tougher to find, a lot more fishermen are asking how to make their boat more energy efficient.
Here are a few ideas taken from a paper presented by Terry Johnson with the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program at last November’s Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle.
• Slowing down brings the quickest results — hear this, Maine lobstermen who love beating the other guy out to the grounds and back in a 36-footer that might have an 800- to 1,200-hp diesel. Every knot increase in speed requires about a 50 percent increase in full. Above hull speed the rate of fuel consumption goes up even more.
• Having a clean bottom and good antifouling paint saves up to 3 percent.
• Lengthening the boat to increase the waterline length by 25 percent improves hull efficiency up to 20 percent.
• Replacing paravane stabilizers with antiroll tanks or gyro stabilization might save 10 percent in fuel usage.
• Switching the engine out for a new one of the same horsepower saves 5 to 20 percent, depending on your operating profile. If the engine is consistently running below its maximum rated output, get a smaller engine.
• Put a fuel-flow meter on the main engine and save up to 10 percent.
• Getting rid of heat buildup in the engine room definitely reduces fuel consumption. Adequate ventilation brings in cool air; cool air contains more oxygen and, therefore, better combustion in the engine. A 30-degree reduction in intake-air temperature results in 2 to 3 percent reduction in fuel consumption.
• Check the engine exhaust. It should be invisible. If it’s black you’ve got bad injectors or inadequate air supply. White exhaust indicates an overheated engine, leaky head gasket, burnt valves or incorrect timing. Blue exhaust means you’re burning oil from worn piston rings, valve guides or there’s a leaky turbo seal. Whatever the color, it’s time to call the engine guy.
• Lastly, if you really want to make a fuel-saving statement and get on the local TV program, flying a 300-square-foot sail can save one gallon of fuel per hour in a 26-knot wind. At least that’s what I was told. Now, with some sail needles, a sewing palm and used sailcloth from the local yacht club, this would be a good winter project. You bet.
Tuesday, 18 December 2012
All right. Listen up!
This Christmas business is getting right down to the wire. I know, you’ve been out hitting the stores with gift lists for the wife, kids, parents or girlfriend. That’s good.
But you also need to develop a list for yourself. You know better than anyone else what you need out on the grounds. Sure, you don’t want to spend the money, and you can get by for a couple more trips wearing those oilskins that only leak a little. Well, frugality is a good thing, but, heck, this is Christmas. It’s one time you can splurge — I don’t mean a case of Jack — and not feel guilty about it.
So, for the reluctant fisherman, I thought I would provide some suggestions, all from National Fisherman’s 2012 Boats & Gear pages.
We’ll start off with ditching those oilskins that have caught a few too many hooks, tested the sharpness of a dressing knife or are just plain and simply worn out.
In our August issue, Grundens offers its Deck Boss bib pants made of breathable, three-ply waterproof nylon that’s designed to withstand repeated encounters with barnacles, scallops, wire, you name it.
For a jacket and bib that are entirely different from the normal oilskins, check out the Stormr neoprene foul-weather gear from Henderson Sports Group in the September issue. This is a high-end neoprene that’s cut very thin, is a high stretch material and waterproof and windproof. There’s a microfleece lining on the inside, and the garments have about 5 pounds of positive buoyancy, which would help you stay afloat if you go overboard.
Something that’s not going to cost you very much — I knew you’d like to hear that — and makes good safety sense is SCRAMP or small craft motion program in the July issue. This is an iPhone app with a real-time motion display with stability indicators on your boat’s acceleration, heave, roll, pitch and yaw. Plug in the degrees of roll, pitch and heave that are acceptable and when those levels are reached an alarm is triggered.
If the worst happens and you end up in the water with no one around, you might wish you had purchased the Smartfind S10, an AIS man-overboard beacon that’s also described in the July issue. This is one of the first devices to work with AIS. Activate the S10 and any boat or shoreside facility with an AIS class-A or class-B receiver within 10 miles will display your position on a chart as a distress signal, the direction and speed you are drifting, and the course to pick you up.
Well, we will assume you don’t go over but are out on deck, plugging away — day after day, night after night — and not catching much. Nothing helps ignore the frustration, cold, and boredom better than good tunes blasting away. I wouldn’t want to try to select your music, but the April NF, featured ASA Electronics’ satellite-ready marine stereo. It has an AM/FM tuner, electronic–skip CD protection, and you can play any portable music device through the audio input.
So now go out and buy yourself a present. Remember, Christmas only happens once a year.
Thursday, 06 December 2012
Aging fishing fleets, the high cost of diesel fuel and the need to operate at efficiency levels unimaginable 20 years ago are all good reasons to consider building a new boat.
If that’s something you are contemplating, a good place to have been last week was Seattle’s Pacific Marine Expo. More than one fisherman has purchased most of the equipment his new boat needs at the Expo, and a goodly amount of it can be had at a discount.
While there, you would have attended a conference on the design challenges you, the naval architect and boatbuilder will encounter. Labeled “Naval Architecture: Understanding the process, decision points and input requirements for designing you next vessel,” the conference was guided by Jonathan Platt of J.M. Martinac Shipbuilding Corp. and Johan Sperling of Jensen Maritime Consultants.
The rising costs of steel, maintenance and fuel, as well as better crew accommodations are some of those design challenges. “Until recently boat owners didn’t care about fuel costs. Today every single one asks, ‘How can we save on fuel?’” said Sperling.
Add to those hurdles new regulatory challenges for things such as wastewater management, weight, and stability. “Wastewater treatment can change the life of vessels,” noted Sperling.
In the old days — 30 years ago — designing and building a boat were separate options. Today, the boat’s owner, the shipyard and the designer have to work together. That means getting the regulatory agencies and the Coast Guard involved early. “It's important to be all working together on the project,” said Platt. Then when the construction starts, time, materials and your money won’t be wasted.
As Platt said, “Once we start building and we put 100 guys on a boat, it's like ants to a picnic. We want to give them the right sandwich.”
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