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.
Thursday, 17 October 2013
The Oct. 1 blog of my fellow editor, Jessica Hathaway, entitled “Better know a fisherman” was about the promotion of the fishing industry through a federal program — Seafood 101.
It made me think of an earlier seafood promotion campaign intent on reminding people that seafood was “Delicious, Nutritious, Healthful.” It was a time when there was a great deal of despair in the country. It was the Depression of the 1930s and the uncertainty swirling across the country was pulling families and businesses into its void.
That included the fishing industry, which was in a “state of irresolution,” according to an editorial in the July 1932 edition of the Atlantic Fisherman. As a result, seafood was being undercut by the “decreased price of meats and other foods, which have attracted the public, always fickle and faddish in its tastes, away from it.”
Then the Linen Thread Co., which was involved with pretty much anything that had to do with thread — sewing thread, shoe threads, mattress twine, seine twine, tarred lines, nets, trawls — came up with an idea to end the “uncertainty and aimlessness.”
It was the “Eat More Fish” campaign. Initially it was directed at those within its own nationwide organization, telling its employees to eat more fish and to promote the idea to others.
Then the Linen Thread Co. started putting stickers on all their mail, both letters and packages. The three-color sticker measured 1 1/2 inches by 2 1/4 inches with the words “Eat More Fish — Delicious, Nutritious, Healthful.”
It wasn’t long after that the Linen Thread Co. started getting requests for the stickers in lots from 2,000 to 10,000. The stickers were 50 cents per thousand to produce, and the Linen Thread Co. sold them at cost. The stickers lacked advertising, so any company could use them.
In its editorial, Atlantic Fisherman saw the campaign as a confidence builder for the fishing industry that anyone could promote and at little expense.
Eighty-one years later the fishing industry and the country, while both have their problems, are in much better shape. Still, I wonder what would happen if a company like, say, Furuno, with business in both the recreation and commercial markets, put The Linen Thread Co. sticker on all its packages and letters? It wouldn’t hurt the fishermen, and I bet the company’s sales from the fishing industry would increase. Just a thought.
Monday, 30 September 2013
Machinery-generated noise and vibration can be a real pain when you are on a boat. In the short term it, affects the amount of sleep you get, general level of irritability (that goes a long way in determining how well you get along with the crew) and how aware you are of what’s going on around you. That final component could turn into a safety issue.
In the long term, prolonged periods of noise and vibration causes loss of hearing and other physical ailments.
There are two types of noise — airborne and structural. In National Fisherman’s November issue, part of the Boats & Gear story on generators (“New generation,” p. 32) discusses these noises and focuses on an isolation mount from Christie & Grey, a noise, vibration and shock reduction outfit in Fairhaven, Mass.
Vibration and engine noise have an adverse effect on fishermen, but fish also hear noise from approaching boats and appear to respond differently to quieter boats.
Between 2006 and 2008, NOAA matched up two of its fishery research boats, the Oscar Dyson and the Miller Freeman, for a simultaneous survey of walleye pollock in Alaska’s Bering Sea, Shumagin Islands and Shelikof Straits to see if the pollock reacted differently to the two boats.
The Oscar Dyson was commissioned in 2005 and was built with acoustic quieting technologies, including vibration mounts from Christie & Grey. The Miller Freeman was an earlier generation design without the acoustic quieting features.
In the eastern Bering Sea at depths less than 120 meters, both boats recorded statistically equivalent densities of pollock. It was the same at depths of 400 to 700 meters at Bogoslof, an island in the Bering Sea.
But around the Shumagin Islands and Shelikof Straits the results were different. In the Shumagin Islands at depths of 100 to 200 meters, pollock abundance counts for the Oscar Dyson were 31 percent higher than for the Miller Freeman and 13 percent higher at depths of 200 to 300 meters in the Shelikof Straits.
The differences were likely greater in shallower water because the fish were closer to the boats. In addition, there was a stronger diving response from the fish when the Miller Freeman was in the area.
This was the first demonstration that noise reduction equipment can reduce the likelihood of fish avoiding the boat. If investing in noise reduction equipment improves fish estimates, it would seem to follow that noise reduction could increase the amount of fish caught on commercial fishing boats.
Photo: NOAA's R/V Oscar Dyson at work; NOAAAdd a comment
Thursday, 26 September 2013
When most people think about the hazards of commercial fishing what comes to mind is going overboard, being nailed with a parted line, getting wrapped up in a winch, or going down with your boat.
That’s the gruesome, dramatic side of fishing, guaranteed to get some press attention. Fortunately, those types of injuries don't occur every day (though the threat looms). However, there’s a more persistent and painful side to this kind of work that is more apparent the longer you are in the game. The cause is mostly repetitive stresses to the lower back, shoulders, elbows, wrists and hands. If ignored they make fishing (and just getting around) uncomfortable at best.
“Strains, Sprains & Pains: Ergonomic Injury Prevention for Commercial Fishermen: A Pocket Guide to Ergonomics” from the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association can guide you through the basics of onboard ergonomics. Adapting your work area — deck, fish hold, hauling station, whatever — the equipment and how you fish to reduce those stresses can change the way you feel about your job.
The booklet explains how various postures and the forces they put on an individual — say, when hauling in a gillnet — can be stressful and what can be done to alleviate the situation. For instance, keep the load close to the body, and when pushing or pulling, have the load at mid-torso height.
Sometimes the tool needs to be altered. In a discussion on injuries to the wrists and hands, the organization recommends using a scraper with a built-in bend to minimize the twisting of the wrist, instead of using a fish scraper with a straight handle, which bends the wrist. Or use one with a hose fitting on the end.
That’s just a taste of the wide range of helpful hints in this informative booklet. Finding out more by contacting AMSEA at (907) 747-3287; www.amsea.org.
Tuesday, 03 September 2013
On August 18, 65 boats showed up in Portland for the last event on Maine’s lobster-boat racing circuit. Lobster boats came to race from as far away as Beals Island to the east and Hampton, N.H., to the west. Lining the racecourse were about another 150 spectator boats and hundreds of spectators looking out onto the course from Portland’s Eastern Promenade.
More was at stake here than just prizes and bragging rights. Since 2010 the Portland race has been part of a weekend fundraising effort for the Greater New England Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, thus the name: MS Harborfest Lobster Boat Races.
Besides the lobster boat races, there was a sailboat race, an auction and a tugboat race. All of them were part of the revenue stream that generated just over $100,000 for the weekend. The biggest part of that — about $46,000 — came from the auction. Tugboat operators made donations and kicked in money from the sale of merchandise. Sailboat operators got businesses and individuals to sponsor their boats.
The lobster-boat races kicked in just over $6,000. The money came from selling T-shirts and donating each boat’s $20 entry fee. In addition, many fishermen give up the prize money they won for first, second or third place, and if no boats showed up for a particular race, all the prize money for that race went to the multiple sclerosis fund.
In at least one case, a fisherman who wasn’t racing “came up and handed over a $100 bill,” says Jon Johansen, president of the Maine Lobster Boat Racing Association. “A lot of these people have been affected by MS, so they give.”
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Top: Easy Money cruises to a finish in Portland Harbor; Portland fireboat starts the day's festivities; Harborfest closes with a tugboat muster and race; Photos by Jessica Hathaway
Thursday, 15 August 2013
I know, the photo with this blog looks like a rerun of the photo of Foolish Pleasure at the Moosabec Reach lobster boat races that ran with my last entry. However, this shot was taken at the Winter Harbor races on August 10 and shows why Galen Alley’s 30-foot Foolish Pleasure with 2,000-plus horsepower is, as more than one person has said, “an accident waiting to happen.”
Notice that the keel doesn’t show up until you’re well behind what would be the hauling station if Foolish Pleasure were a working lobster boat, which it isn’t. Lacking any keel in the water through the fore part of the boat, Foolish Pleasure’s directional stability is limited, if there at all, when running into a good chop, swell, wind or even strong tides.
That’s when Foolish Pleasure can be beat in a race, which is what happened in the Gas Free for All at Winter Harbor. Shawn Alley in the 30-foot Little Girls beat Foolish Pleasure. Little Girls is a wooden lobster boat built by Beals Island’s Calvin Beal Jr. in 1981, though back then she was “Little Girl” — singular.
Little Girl’s first brush with notoriety was almost a tragedy when, at the 1981 Fourth of July races at Jonesport, a steering linkage broke and the Little Girl slammed into a piling supporting the Jonesport to Beals Island bridge that crosses Moosabec Reach.
On the stern was a toddler, Beal’s nephew, I think, who went over the transom and out of sight. Beal jumped into the water and after the longest time for those watching from shore, surfaced with the kid under one arm.
These days, Little Girls is powered by a big-block Ford, with just over 500 cubic inches and rumored to have slightly more than 700 horsepower. Normally that’s not enough to beat Foolish Pleasure, but for this race, sea conditions weren’t the best for Galen to run at full throttle, and near the finish line the engine “hiccupped,” says Jon Johansen, president of the Maine Lobster Boat Racing Association, “someone said a bungee cord let go and he had to come back on the engine, but just for a moment.” Still, it was enough for Little Girls to cross the line first.
(If the bungee cord tale is true, you have to wonder why someone spends well over $125,000 for an engine and to risk everything going to hell because of a $2 bungee cord.)
The Maine Lobster Boat Racing Association has had problems with its radar gun, but estimates put the Little Girls at 45 mph when she hit the finish line.
A bit of a sideshow at Winter Harbor was the lobster boat Going Deep with a hailing port of “Up Shit’s Creek Maine.”
The next day’s races at Pemaquid were different. Sea conditions allowed Galen and the Foolish Pleasure to go unchecked. “He could fly. He could give it to her and didn’t have to worry at all. The conditions were absolutely perfect, and he put on a show for the people,” says Johansen.
Again, the radar gun wasn’t working, so it’s hard to say for sure how fast Foolish Pleasure was going, but based on Foolish Pleasure’s GPS readings, it’s estimated she was running at about 80 mph.
This Sunday, August 18, the last race of the season is in Portland. Hopefully sea conditions will be flat calm with no wind, and Foolish Pleasure and all the other boats will cross the finish line without any mishaps or hiccups.
Photo: Jon JohansenAdd a comment
Tuesday, 06 August 2013
Every lobsterman loves a good race. At least if the lobsterman is from Maine, which is why some have engines rated from 500 to 1,000 horsepower in boats ranging from 30 to 42 feet. You certainly don’t need that much horsepower to haul traps. Chalk it up to more than a smattering of — pleasurable and intense as it may be — irrationality, which is all part of Maine’s lobster boat racing season.
These are not fishermen with outfits like Caterpillar, Twin Disc and Cummins picking up the tab. These are guys that a day or two after a race have to go out and haul, and the day after that and the day after that. Blow a piston and your day job is shot. And you’ve got to spend money to fix the problem.
But that’s being rational. Bank on it, lobstermen will show up for the race. When the flag drops they’ll slam the hammer down and head as hard down the course as their boat will go.
At this year’s Stonington races 92 boats competed, and 84 showed up at the Moosabec Reach races. The numbers dropped off after that, but you can bet that by the time the last race is held on Aug. 18 in Portland, several hundred boats will have run in this year’s races.
Fortunately, there haven’t been a lot of breakdowns. In It’s racing season, I mentioned that the 28-foot Wild, Wild West had a turbo failure with parts of the turbo ending up in the bilge at the Rockland races.
Turbo failures caused a couple of other boats to be towed from the course. The 37-foot Madison Alexa reached the finish line at Jonesport when people heard a pop followed by a lot of smoke. At Stonington, the same pop sounded from First Team and, “green stuff was running out of the motor,” says Jon Johansen, president of the Maine Lobster Boat Racing Association.
At Searsport, the 37-foot Miss Karlee broke a piston ring. She had to be hauled out of the water and up to Otis Enterprises Marine to have the engine torn apart.
The nearest miss involved Galen Alley’s Foolish Pleasure at the Moosabec Reach races. Foolish Pleasure is not a working lobster boat. The boat is built on a 30-foot lobster-boat hull but with an engine that’s over 2,000 horsepower and runs on something only the owner and the boat’s mechanic know. She’s got the speed record at 72.8 mph.
Foolish Pleasure was running well ahead of her competitors, probably over 65 mph, when she started porpoising. “That’s always been a problem with that boat,” says Johansen. “It can go so fast but unless the conditions are right, he has issues.”
Foolish Pleasure came down on its bow, and once that happened, “it just sucked in around,” Johansen says. The boat went over and, according to estimates, went sideways for at least three boat lengths. Alley was strapped in at the helm, or otherwise he probably would have gone overboard.
Does that mean that Alley and any of the others won’t be idling up to the starting line at the next race? Nope, they’ll be there. After all, every lobsterman loves a good race — at least if he’s from Maine.
Thursday, 25 July 2013
You'd be hard pressed to find a bigger commitment to commercial fishing safety than what is happening in Scotland.
In Scotland there are just over 5,000 commercial fishermen. Any of those that value their lives and don't want their skipper to have to deliver the message to the poor wife — "I'm so sorry. Young Breannan went over the side two days ago and never came back up." — can take advantage of a safety program that provides a free inflatable PFD.
The force behind the program is the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, and you don't have to be a member of that group to get a free PFD. The PFD, says Derek Cardno, the project leader for the initiative, is the Compact 150 PFD. It was developed over a two-year period by a group of fishermen and Mullion, an outfit that specializes in flotation garments and life jackets in Scunthorpe, England.
"It has been tested and tried on every fishing sector in the UK with great success and good feedback," Cardno says.
The Scottish Fishermen's Federation purchased 5,000 PFDs and so far 800 fishermen have applied for their free PFD. Of course, nothing is free, so where did the money come from. The Scottish Fishermen's Federation is kicking in £130,000 British pounds ($198,666) via the Scottish Fishermen's Trust, £10,000 ($15,282) comes from the UK Fisheries Offshore Oil & Gas Trust, and £306,604 ($486,554) is from the European Fisheries Fund.
The only stipulations require that the boat the fisherman is on has a fishing license administrated by the Scottish government and the fisherman has a safety certificate.
U.S. fishermen seem somewhat reluctant to wear PFDs, but Cardo says, "On walking the quayside having discussions with fishermen, the feedback has been very positive because the Compact 150 has been designed by fishermen for fishermen. Fishermen when challenged with the product are finding it hard to come up with a good reason not to wear it."
For further information, contact Derek Cardno: Tel. 01224 646944, D.Cardno@sff.co.uk; www.sff.co.uk.
Thursday, 18 July 2013
The most recent blogs of my fellow editors Jes Hathaway and Linc Bedrosian were about seafood. Jes had a market-driven slant, and Linc was reveling in the pleasures of pecan encrusted sockeye salmon with faro chanterelle risotto and seared sea scallops with a coconut-lemongrass sauce that he and Kelley, his new bride, were dining on in an inn in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.Add a comment
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
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National Fisherman Live: 8/14/14
In this episode:
National Fisherman Live: 8/5/14
In this episode, National Fisherman's Boats & Gear Editor Michael Crowley talks with Frances Parrott about the Notus Dredgemaster.