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.

2013 0903 EasyMoneyRaceOn 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.
2013 0903 Fireboat
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.

2013 0903 TugMusterIn 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.”


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

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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.”

BG 081513 WinterHarborRacetNotice 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 Johansen

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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.

4-Moosebec-165But 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.

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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.

safetyposterThe 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.

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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.

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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.

Wild Wild West smokes ater blowing its engine behind the Lisa Marie. Photo by Jon JohansenThose 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 Johansen

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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.

GengerAll 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.

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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.

BlueNorth NewVessel

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.

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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.

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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.

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National Fisherman Live

National Fisherman Live: 10/7/14

In this episode, National Fisherman Publisher Jerry Fraser talks about the 1929 dragger Vandal.

National Fisherman Live: 9/23/14

In this episode:

'Injection' plan to save fall run salmon
Proposed fishing rule to protect seabirds
Council, White House talk monument expansion
Louisiana shrimpers hurt by price drop
Maine and New Hampshire fish numbers down

 

Inside the Industry

NOAA and its fellow Natural Resource Damage Assessment trustees in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill have announced the signing of a formal Record of Decision to implement a gulf restoration plan. The 44 projects, totaling an estimated $627 million, will restore barrier islands, shorelines, dunes, underwater grasses and oyster beds.

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The Golden Gate Salmon Association will host its 4th Annual Marin County Dinner at Marin Catholic High School, 675 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Kentfield on Friday, Oct 10, with doors opening at 5:30 p.m.

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