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, 15 July 2014
Ask any lobsterman who enters Maine’s summer races which one he would most like to be at, and Stonington is probably at the top of the list. The race’s organizers always have good prizes. This year it was a Carolina Skiff with an engine, and then there’s the party the night before the Sunday race.
That the party’s reputation extends beyond the lobstering community explains the roadblocks this past Saturday evening and the presence of more than the usual number of Hancock County sheriffs.
But the next day there were no barriers on the water for the more than 100 boats that signed up to race.
Thirty-one events were scheduled for Sunday from a race for skiffs 16 feet and under, powered by an outboard no more than 30 horsepower with a skipper 16 years or younger to the fastest boat afloat races — no age limits on skippers and no horsepower limits.
Robbie Eaton in Making Knots won the skiff race.
The most anticipated races were the diesel and gasoline free-for-alls, followed by the Jimmy Stevens Cup for the fastest working lobster boat and the Fastest Lobstah Boat Afloat.
Andy Gove’s Uncle’s UFO, a Northern Bay 36 with a 900-hp Mack, won the Jimmy Stevens race at 43.7 mph, followed by the Lisa Marie, Blue Eyed Girl and Gramp’s Bird.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, or WTF as it is better known, a 28-foot Northern Bay with a 560-hp Fiat, was first at 47.4 mph in the Fastest Lobstah Boat Afloat race. For part of the race Little Girls, a 28-foot wooden lobster boat, with a 675-hp gasoline engine, was in the lead, but WTF pulled out ahead at the end. They were followed by Wild Wild West, Uncle’s UFO and Miss Katie.
There were a couple of no-shows. In the week since the Jonesport-Beals Island race, Galen Alley couldn’t fix his oil pressure problem on the 2,000-plus-horsepower Foolish Pleasure. And Alfred Osgood’s Starlight Express with a 900-hp Mack sporting four turbos reportedly had a heat exchanger problem solved but not in time for the race.
The next race is Aug. 9 in Winter Harbor.
Thursday, 10 July 2014
It’s that time again. The time when Maine lobstermen forgo hauling traps for a day or two and steam to whatever harbor happens to be hosting a race that weekend.
The first 2014 race was held June 14 at Boothbay Harbor, followed by Rockland, Bass Harbor and Jonesport-Beals Island. But if you missed those, there are plenty to come before the last race on Aug. 17 in Portland (see the full schedule below).
The big race at Boothbay was between Roger Kennedy’s WTF, a new 28-foot Northern Bay with a 560-hp Iveco, and Shawn Alley’s Little Girls, an older 28-foot wooden lobster boat with a 675-hp gasoline engine. It was close, but Little Girls took the race at just under 50 mph.
Alley’s luck ran out on him the following day at Rockland as the Little Girls and Thunderbolt, a South Shore 30, were pushing it hard, running up against the 50-mph mark, when a rod went spinning through the block of Little Girls’ engine.
The following Sunday, 73 boats showed up at Bass Harbor. WTF and Thunderbolt were joined in the fastest lobster boat race by Uncle’s UFO, a Northern Bay 36 with a 900-hp Mack, and Wild, Wild West, a West 28 with a 1,050-hp Isotta Fraschini.
This time WTF was the first across the line at about 47 mph.
The Jonesport-Beals Island race along Moosabec Reach was moved forward a day to July 6 because of the arrival of tropical storm Arthur. That made race day a Sunday, which accounts for a number of boats not coming to the starting line, as in that part of Down East Maine, a lot of older fishermen won’t race on the Sabbath.
Sixty-six boats did come to race (84 showed up last year). Among them were at least two new boats. Patrick Feeney replaced his 40-foot Wayne Beal Fraid Knot that ran an 855-hp Cat with a new Fraid Knot. This one is a 46 Calvin with a 1,150-hp Cat C18. The Hakuna Matata, a Libby 41 with a 700-hp Cat C12, was another new entry. But neither of them, despite their horsepower, could best the smaller and more slippery Janice Elaine, a 38 Northern Bay with a 610-hp Cummins, in the race for the fastest working boat. The Janice Elaine hit 34 mph.
Galen Alley’s Foolish Pleasure, a custom hull based on a wooden lobster boat with more than 2,000 hp and the speed record of 72 mph, came out to strut her stuff, but low oil pressure hampered her efforts. Still she was able to best Little Girls, which had picked up a new engine after blowing up the previous one, at a miserly 42 mph.
The whereabouts of Thunderbolt and Wild, Wild West remain a mystery. Thunderbolt was seen being trucked across the bridge to Beals Island, but she never showed up for any of the races.
Those questions might be answered this Sunday at Stonington, which always has a good turnout and plenty of white-knuckle races.
The final races of the season are:
Thursday, 03 July 2014
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recently released a very detailed analysis of injuries suffered by the crews of freezer trawlers and freezer longliners operating in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska from 2001 to 2012. The 11-page report published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine looks at fatal and non-fatal injuries; lists the nature of the injury, such as fracture, amputation, laceration, contusion; and notes the task being performed when the injury occurred, such as processing, handling frozen fish and hauling the gear.
One purpose of the study is to give boat owners, the Coast Guard and academic researchers information they can use to design equipment and develop work practices to eliminate as many injuries as possible.
They could start with the freezer trawler fleet, which had a fatal injury rate nearly twice that of the freezer longline boats, while the non-fatal injuries were 22 percent higher.
A majority of the non-fatal injuries among the freezer trawler boats took place while handling frozen fish in the freezer holds. Those accounted for 139 of the 409 injuries. Many of those injuries took place while stacking blocks of frozen fish. Second on the list was processing fish in the factories with 72 injures. The level of severity went from minor to serious.
There were 25 fatal injuries in the freezer trawler fleet with 20 deaths stemming from the sinking of the Arctic Rose in 2001, followed by the sinking of the Alaska Ranger in 2008.
Three of the five remaining deaths came as a result of falling overboard, one from being struck by a trawl cable and another from being hit by a hydraulic door.
In the case of the freezer longlining boats, a majority of the accidents took place on deck. The roller was the culprit, inflicting the crew with lacerations, punctures and avulsions from flying hooks. There were 61 injuries, mostly from working the roller. The freezer hold, responsible for 51 injuries took second place.
The freezer longline fleet had nine fatalities between 2001 and 2012. Three people died when the 180-foot freezer longliner Galaxy caught fire and sank in the Bering Sea in 2002. Three of the remaining six deaths were by drowning, two from blunt force trauma after being caught in a conveyor belt, and one from asphyxiation after being exposed to Freon in a confined space.
The injury rates for both the freezer trawler and longline fleets may be much higher as the report's authors note some injuries were unreported. "Not all injuries were accounted for in this study," the report says, "and thus the true risk of injury exceeds the amount measured in this study."
Still, it's obvious that enough people are being injured and dying that work should be done to make onboard work areas safer.
Thursday, 26 June 2014
New Bedford’s State Pier hosted Commercial Marine Expo on June 11 and June 12. The surrounding docks were packed with scallopers, draggers and some gillnetters and clam boats.
Near the entrance to the show floor, was Notus Electronics, one of 119 exhibitors. Notus, based in St. John’s, Newfoundland, brought its latest product, which is particularly appropriate for New Bedford with its large scallop fleet.
The Dredgemaster is a wireless sensor that mounts on a scallop dredge and monitors how much wire is out, the dredge’s pitch angle and the heel angle. All three are critical factors when towing a scallop dredge. Run out too much wire and you lose the optimal angle of pitch for the front of the dredge — about 9 degrees. And you don’t want the dredge to roll over when it’s being set or towed.
Notus Electronics has been building sensors for the commercial fishing industry for 22 years. It’s not a newcomer to the game. But Commercial Marine Expo did have some newcomers to the fishing industry with interesting products.
One of them was Enforcer One out of Fayetteville, Ga. Enforcer One brought its line FireAde products, which are designed to extinguish both class-A and class-B fires.
Some products extinguish fires by cutting off the source of oxygen, but FireAde is a cooling agent that removes heat from a fire. It works so well that you are supposed to be able to spray your hand with FireAde, then aim a torch at your hand and not feel any warmth.
FireAde is a compressed foam concentrate that is added to water, in amounts from 3 to 6 percent. It leaves a layer of foam over the area that prevents additional combustion. The manufacturer also claims that from an environmental standpoint, FireAde is “relatively harmless.”
Now those are just two out of 119 good reasons to have gone to the show. Stay tuned to NF Live for video coverage of the show!
Tuesday, 10 June 2014
As a kid I remember sitting in a theater and watching a movie that had tuna fishing scenes in the Pacific. It seemed like great fun. The sun was out. The ocean was a beautiful blue, and it didn’t look like work at all. It certainly was better than mowing lawns and raking leaves, which I did to pay to get into the movies and buy a box of popcorn.
A new report from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health on the hazards the U.S. distant water tuna fleet faces certainly would have straightened that kid out quickly.
“Commercial Fishing Morbidity and Mortality U.S. Distant Water Tuna Fleet 2006-20012” is the first baseline assessment of hazards in this fishery. The findings are that those working on these boats, compared to most other fishing fleets in this country, are at a high risk of suffering a fatal injury, with falls overboard being the leading cause of death. There’s also a very high risk for nonfatal injuries, including head injuries, asphyxiation and finger amputations.
No wonder the terms “morbidity” and “mortality” are part of the title.
The number of boats operating in the fleet — also known as the U.S. purse seine fleet — has increased from 14 to 39 between 2006 and 2012. The average length is 214.5 feet with 28 crew members.
During the report’s time period, there were 14 deaths and 20 nonfatal traumatic injuries. The report doesn’t count three fatalities involving non-crew members, a stevedore and marine pilot that fell overboard.
Nearly half of the fatalities were from falls overboard where someone was working a line or climbing on a net. There were three nonfatal falls overboard. In none of the cases was the victim wearing a PFD.
Besides wearing a PFD, recommendations to prevent falls overboard include installing rails and creating more enclosed workspaces.
There were deaths from asphyxiation from exposure to hydrogen sulfide in a holding tank. Then there was an intentional stabbing, where one guy stabbed two others after he had been drinking. One of his victims died.
Among the nonfatal injuries there’s “digital amputation,” a medical way of saying someone lost fingers. In one case a crewman put his hand into a blower fan blade while trying to maintain his balance. In another one person was lubricating a winch drum when someone else turned it on, severing three fingers.
There’s more gruesome stuff than this in the report, but many of the recommendations for injury prevention at the end apply not only to tuna boats, but other types of fishing boats as well. They are worth looking at.
Check it out.
Tuesday, 27 May 2014
A halibut schooner pulled up next to a Soviet factory trawler in the Gulf of Alaska. A rifle emerged from the schooner’s wheelhouse window and fired shots at the trawler’s bridge.
The skipper of another halibut schooner planted himself smack dab in front of an oncoming Soviet factory trawler, its nets out, dragging the bottom. The halibut schooner had set its gear: 10 strings, six skates to a string — with hundreds of baited hooks — lying on the bottom. A flagpole bobbing across the tops of rolling swells marked the ends of each string.
Tuesday, 13 May 2014
On Sept. 20, 2012, the 107-foot Moonlight Maid sank about 55 miles south of Seward, Alaska. No lives were lost, but it was a sinking that didn’t have to happen.
The 72-year-old Moonlight Maid had a fairly long life for a wooden fishing boat. She was built in 1942 at Peterson Boat Works in Sturgeon Bay, Wis., as the USS PC-0536, a 110-foot sub-chaser. After its wartime duties ended, the sub-chaser was transferred to the Coast Guard and renamed the Air Cormorant.
Then in 1951 a Seattle fisherman purchased the Air Cormorant, changed the name to Moonlight Maid and lopped off three feet of her length. Ownership changed several times, but for the past 30 years or so, the Moonlight Maid was operating out of Valdez, Alaska, as a salmon tender for the Prince William Sound salmon fleet, from late May to early September.
It’s not a fishery where a boat is going to suffer a lot of abuse, and weather wise it takes place during a mild time of year.
The Moonlight Maid had undergone some extensive repairs. Two years before she sank, the owners replaced 40 planks and rebuilt the transom. The repairs were said to have “addressed the worst rot and damage the boat currently had but did not address everything,” according to the National Transportation Safety Board Marine Accident Brief.
In September 2012, the Moonlight Maid’s deck was repaired, but the repairs did not address the “most serious recommendations” from the previous work. That included framing that should have been replaced.
On the morning of Sept. 20, the Moonlight Maid steamed away from Seward and out Resurrection Bay toward Kodiak 175 miles away. She was running into seas up to 12 feet, and the wind gusted to 27 knots.
Seven hours later, water was rising in a space before the engine room and a 3- to 4-foot length of planking was missing on the port side, and another section, 10 to 12 feet long, was loose. Four hours later the crew got into the life raft, and about two hours after that a Coast Guard helicopter hoisted them off the raft.
The Moonlight Maid sank in 100 fathoms of water near Seal Rock. Again, it didn’t have to end that way. Take care of a wooden boat and it can fish for a long time. A good example is the halibut schooners, several of which are more than 100 years old.
In all probability the planking let go because the frames were rotten and, perhaps, the fastenings were corroded. If you don’t maintain a boat — any boat, not just a wood boat — she will sink. As the NTSB determined, “contributing to the hull failure was inadequate maintenance of the aging wooden vessel.”
Thursday, 01 May 2014
From a safety standpoint, I suspect the biggest problem many fishermen have is a lack of self-awareness. Once the boat pulls away from the dock, their view of the world is limited by the space between the bow and stern and the sides of the boat. It’s an area most fishermen are comfortable in, and many don’t want to think about what lies beyond those boundaries.
Years ago when I was fishing, that was certainly the case before the start of one season when we needed to have the halibut schooner’s life raft inspected. But after a not-so-lucrative previous season, the skipper didn’t want to pay for the inspection. And besides, he said, “We won’t need it.”
At the other end of the spectrum, I’m reminded of reading about the first Portuguese who came to Gloucester, Mass., to fish on the local schooners. They are supposed to have put lead inserts in their boots. If they did go overboard the trip to the bottom would be quick, thus avoiding unnecessary anxiety at the surface because they knew they wouldn’t be rescued.
These days I’m not aware of any lead-insert advocates, but there are still plenty of fishermen not prepared for the time when they end up outside their comfort zone — bow, stern and the connecting railings. If you are different and think you should be prepared, there are other fishermen who won’t hesitate giving you grief for your unconventional ways.
Fortunately Bob Raymond, a Cape Elizabeth, Maine, lobsterman who works out of a 20-foot fiberglass skiff, turned a deaf ear toward fishermen questioning the use of the life jacket he’s worn for years.
Raymond’s story was related in a blog by Chris Shorr on the Bangor Daily News site. In April, Raymond was hauling traps in Dyer Cove along an area known for its rocks and ledges. Just as the wind picked up, his engine quit, the boat went sideways to the oncoming seas, and it wasn’t long before Raymond was in the water.
The current and seas slung him toward a nearby ledge. He turned his back to the ledge and used the life jacket as a cushion when he was slammed against the rocks.
Raymond didn’t have much going for him except for the life vest: “Without that vest I would have been dragged under and been gone,” he told Shorr. (The use of a life jacket or PFD as a cushion isn’t a selling point used by safety gear manufacturers, but it obviously came in handy here.)
When another wave tossed him at the same ledges, he turned around just after hitting the rock and hung on. He started yelling for help and this is when things get bizarre. Tourists rushed down from the Lobster Shack, a local seafood restaurant, but instead of helping him they stopped, pulled out their phones and cameras and started taking pictures of Raymond.
Finally someone from the Coast Guard who happened to be on vacation came over and helped him.
Raymond said he was not only glad to be alive, but “I’m happy I ignored all those guys who made fun of my life jacket all those years.”
Photo: Maine lobsterman Bob Raymond proves that personal safety gear, like this life vest, is worth the grief; NIOSHAdd a comment
Wednesday, 23 April 2014
You would hope if politicians in the nation’s capital aim to devise legislation that will have a significant impact on the design and construction of commercial fishing boats, the politicians would take the time to get the opinion of those most affected — fishermen, boatbuilders and naval architects.
So far, that has not been the case for the section of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 that requires boats 50 feet and over built after July 1, 2013, to be classed.
What mystical gurus the politicians were consulting is unclear, but it wasn’t fishermen, boatbuilders and naval architects. If they had, then the United Fishermen of Alaska, which represents at least 36 fisheries groups in the state, would not have come out with a resolution stating, “The United Fishermen of Alaska do not support mandatory classification of fishing vessels that are at least 50 feet in length overall built after July 1, 2013.”
The resolution of Feb. 21, 2014, opposing the classification regulation lists several complaints naval architects and boatbuilders have already raised: The cost for building a classed boat could be 25 to 30 percent more than a boat built before July 1, 2013. Fishermen will end up keeping their old boat or building a boat shorter than 50 feet. In either case it “will make the Alaskan fishing fleet less safe.”
A justification for the idea of classing boats is to make them safer. But, as is clear from the above quote, an important segment of this country’s fishing industry thinks the opposite will happen. In fact, Alaska’s fishermen will tell you that boats over 50 feet — especially the 58-foot class — are quite safe.
Further, the resolution states that the Commercial Fishing Industry Vessel Safety Advisory Committee “does not support survey and classification requirements for new vessels that are at least 50 feet in overall length.”
Congress established the Commercial Fishing Industry Vessel Safety Advisory Committee in 1988 to advise the Coast Guard and Congress on fishing boat safety issues. It would seem logical that a politician might have checked in with this committee, with representatives from the East and West coasts, Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico. It doesn’t appear to have happened.
So now the United Fishermen of Alaska has taken their resolution opposing classification of fishing vessels over 50 feet to Alaska’s federal delegation.
“We’ve been working with our congressional delegation on this issue,” says Julianne Curry, UFA’s executive director. “They are very aware of how the United Fishermen of Alaska feel about this issue.”
Curry also notes, “We know it’s a countrywide problem and not just an Alaska problem.” That’s the key to turning back the classification ruling: fisheries organizations from around the country putting pressure on their senators and representatives. Otherwise, we truly might have a segment of the fishing fleet that’s suddenly not as safe as it has been.
Photo: The 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 HathawayAdd a comment
Thursday, 17 April 2014
Over the course of two summers, Shannon Ford attended two funerals, both for salmon fishermen who went into the water and drowned. That isn’t unusual for Alaska’s salmon fishermen: 47 salmon fishermen perished between 2000 and 2012 in man-overboard accidents.
Ford — who runs a setnet operation on Bristol Bay from her aluminum skiff, Paul Revere — and her two crewmen, Don Ward and Tyler Schuldt, could have bumped that number up to 50 on the night of June 26, 2010, when the Paul Revere, having hung up a setnet line, was swamped by a wave, then flipped over on top of Ford, Ward and Schuldt.
The only reason their fellow fishermen didn’t go to funerals for the trio is because they were wearing Mustang self-inflatable PFDs. For two hours the PFDs kept them afloat until first Ward and then Schuldt and Ford were able to stumble ashore and get help.
It’s a saga aptly captured in the just released video from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health: “Paul Revere: A Story of Survival in Bristol Bay.” It’s available on the NIOSH website and at NIOSH’s YouTube channel. (See NF's coverage here.)
The 10-minute video starts with Ford and Ward relating the events that led to the skiff’s overturning and then describing how, while being carried along by a strong current, they managed to stick together and devise a plan of action.
They could spend time taking stock of their situation, said Ward, and figuring out what to do to get out of the water, instead of worrying about staying afloat and conserving energy, because the PFDs were keeping them afloat.
“Instantly it molds to you and holds in your core heat while supporting your head,” said Ford. “And it’s a mental boost: I can concentrate on directing us towards shore. None of our energy or mental focus was wasted.”
But watch the video for yourself as they describe passing numerous setnet camps, all the while signaling with a flashlight, yelling and firing off rounds from a 357 handgun — all to no avail.
Looking beyond Alaska, that 2000 to 2012 figure for man-overboard fatalities is 191 nationwide. Only one was wearing a PFD.
Setnet capsize survivors Don Ward, Shannon Ford and Tyler Schuldt proudly display their Mustang Survival PFDs; Kenneth BeckerAdd a comment
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National Fisherman Live: 12/16/14
In this episode, Bruce Buls, WorkBoat's technical editor, interviews Long Island lobsterman John Aldridge, who survived for 12 hours after falling overboard in the dead of night. Aldridge was the keynote speaker at the 2014 Pacific Marine Expo, which took place Nov. 19-21 in Seattle.
NOAA, in consultation with the Department of the Interior, has appointed 10 new members to the Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee. The 20-member committee is composed of individuals with diverse backgrounds and experience who advise the departments of commerce and the interior on ways to strengthen and connect the nation's MPA programs. The new members join the 10 continuing members appointed in 2012.