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.
Friday, 20 December 2013
All right! It’s that time of the year again. After months of busting your hump on deck — through good trips and losers — now there’s time to lean back, relax and enjoy spending time with family and friends.
That is as long as the Christmas gift shopping is done. If you’re really organized it’s out of the way; if you’ve slacked off — well you’d better get on it because we’re coming right down to the wire for old Saint Nick.
In either case, I bet there’s one person you’ve forgotten, and that’s you. I know, you had to buy stuff for the significant other, the kids and parents and a few others. But no one knows better than you what you need, and at Christmas it’s perfectly all right to treat yourself.
To help with your personal gift selection, once again I’m providing a few Christmas ideas from National Fisherman’s 2013 Product and At a Glance pages.
For the fishermen working northern waters, the months of December, January and February are especially cold. One place that cold always works its way down to is the feet. With that in mind, it would be hard to turn down the Heated Insoles from Thermacell that are highlighted in this year’s January issue.
Put the insoles in your boots, and a wireless remote control lets you adjust the heat level. Can’t be a simpler way than that to keep your feet warm.
Speaking of boots, in the April issue is Bogs’ Highliner Pro, a boot that was designed especially for commercial fisherman. It features a Bio Grip outsole that has plenty of contact area with the deck, so it’s slip resistant as well as being chemical resistant. And the boots have a wide steel shank for good support. Match the Highliner Pro with the Thermacell Heated Insole, and you should be very comfortable on those wet, cold, crappy winter nights.
Since we are on the subject of personal comfort, how about Grundens Weather-Boss jackets and pants? They have a heavy-duty nylon liner, coated on the inside with a waterproof, breathable barrier that prevents you from getting sweaty or cold. The pant legs come with a bottom zipper, letting you pull them on or take them off without removing the boots.
If things go south when you are on the grounds and you end up ditching the boat, you need a way to ensure that you make it back for the next Christmas. The Ocean signal RescueMe PLB in the March issue just might be what you need.
It’s said to be 30 percent smaller than other PLBs, can be operated with one hand and has a well-designed antenna that transmits your position with its 66-channel GPS. At the same time a strobe light goes off.
Now get out there, splurge on yourself and have a Merry Christmas.
Thursday, 19 December 2013
Last weekend prognosticators of the radio, TV, newspapers and Web were all saying New England’s first storm of the season would hit on Saturday, December 14th. And they were right. Many places got a foot of snow and a lot of wind late Saturday night. While people died in automobile accidents that could be blamed on the storm as it swirled across the country, no boats in New England — at least as far as I know — went down and no lives were lost.
If only mariners caught in the storm on Saturday, December 14, 1839, had the benefit of the weather predictions that we enjoy. That was 174 years ago. The day started out mild and clear, pleasant enough that many boats hoisted sail and left a safe anchorage for Boston, New York and other points south.
During the night, the wind turned to the southeast and the first of three gales — the others were December 22 and December 27 — swung into New England near midnight, with Massachusetts receiving the worst of it.
When the storms were over, 150 people were dead, 90 boats sunk and nearly 200 dismasted, driven ashore or otherwise damaged. Most of the boats were coastal schooners, for this was before the railroad lines and highways that allowed goods to be trucked and freighted up and down the Atlantic coast. If you wanted wood, flour, coal, sugar, corn — you name it — the stuff was hauled on a coastal schooner.
With the exception of possibly one boat, the schooner Transport, which capsized December 28, no fishing boats went down in the December storms. Part of the reason might be that the Georges Bank winter fishery started in 1830 and most of the fleet, especially from Gloucester, was offshore. (That doesn’t mean the winter offshore fishery was a safe place. Between 1830 and 1873, Gloucester lost 1,250 men and 281 schooners, with most of them in the offshore fishery.)
If in fact that’s where the Gloucester fleet was, there were still some Gloucester fishermen to help out in the December storm. In Gloucester — in the words of one account — “such a scene of terrific and horrible ruin has not been witnessed in that harbor within the memory of the oldest resident, a man of 104 years of age, who has always lived there.”
More than 50 boats were driven ashore, dismasted or carried to sea in Gloucester and about 50 lives lost. Many of the dead were scattered along the beach. In one case the “body of a woman lashed to the windlass-bitts of a Castine [Maine] schooner.”
But at the height of the storm, as recounted in a 28-page booklet “Shipwrecks of December, 1839, and Burning of the Lexington,” the boys of Gloucester stepped up:
“In the midst of this scene of terror, the hardy and noble fishermen of Cape Ann, fully proved that a sailor’s jacket seldom covers a craven heart. They manned two boats, the Custom House boat and the Van Buren; and fearlessly risked their lives for the safety of their fellow creatures. Vessel after vessel was visited by them; they made their way over the tops of mountain waves, and through the gaping chasms of the hungry waters; and from the very teeth of greedy death, plucked many a poor, despairing, and exhausted fellow; bringing him safe to shore. Excellent, generous men!”
Noble men indeed!
Thursday, 12 December 2013
It definitely appeared unusual, if not strange. I’d been walking the aisles of Pacific Marine Expo searching for new ideas, different ways of approaching old problems.
Looking at the profile drawing on the wall of Northern Marine’s booth, I thought “OK. I haven’t seen that before on a fishing boat.” The artist’s rendering displayed a 58-foot seiner, but instead of sporting the normal cylindrical shaped bulbous bow that juts straight out from the hull’s forefoot, this bulb seemed kind of squished up, while pushing up from the forefoot to the waterline and not going out very far.
George Roddan, a Canadian architect, designed the hull (which packs 210,000 pounds below deck) and bulb using computational analysis. The bulb was designed to give the 58-footer a 10-knot speed. Early reports from the first 58-footer launched by Northern Marine put the speed at 10.8 knots, with a 750-hp Cummins QSK19.
Don’t feel alone if you haven’t heard of Northern Marine. Located in Anacortes, Wash., Northern Marine is a newly created branch of New World Yacht Builders, and this is their first commercial fishing boat.
Also on the show floor, I’m always on the lookout for safety products, especially from outfits new to the show, which is what I found at the Nautilus Lifeline booth. As I remember, they had one product, a marine rescue radio with GPS.
The company started out selling the waterproof radios to divers and other recreational users before deciding to enter the commercial market. The small handheld radio seems simple to use. Flip up the top and push the red button to send a distress message and your GPS position. The green button lets you talk to your own boat — if, say, you are in a skiff or suddenly find yourself in the water. The orange button is for talking to other boats on channel 16.
If you do go in the water, it’s best to be in an immersion suit, and the Stearns booth displayed the Thermashield 24+, which pushes the design level for immersion suits up a notch or three.
The normal immersion suit in 32-degree water provides a roughly six-hour window of protection from hypothermia. As the name says, the Thermashield 24+ gives you at least 24 hours.
Here’s where Stearns is different from every other immersion suit. With the suit zipped up, you blow into a tube, and that transfers heat from your breath — about 88 degrees — into a series of air bladders within the suit. Basically you use your core body heat to warm the immersion suit and yourself.
Stearns’ new immersion suit also comes with hard-sole molded boots, making it easier to walk on deck than when wearing Gumby-style footwear.
There were other new products at the show, including an engine from GE that probably was the biggest that’s been at PME, but the three mentioned here were showstoppers for me.
Tuesday, 19 November 2013
All right! Listen up! For all you commercial fishermen and boat freaks in the Pacific Northwest who have been asleep for the past few months, I’m here to remind you it’s Pacific Marine Expo time at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field. The show starts Wednesday, Nov. 20 and runs for three days.
The show is loaded with new products and is the perfect place to see the latest fishing gear, electronics, clothing, engines — you name it. If it’s new, it will probably be there. And some of these companies don’t want to take home what they hauled to the show, so it can be a good place to make a deal. I’ve known of more than one fisherman who has outfitted a new boat pretty much from the stuff he’s been able to get at the show and didn’t pay top dollar.
On Thursday — if you like boats, and I have to assume you do — take a break from cruising the aisles and checkout Boatyard Day. That’s an area of the show floor where we will be talking about and showing slides of a number of the boats that have appeared in National Fishermen (as well as WorkBoat magazine) in the past year. There will be big boats, little boats, futuristic boats and fast boats — I’m talking close to 80 mph. That kind of fast.
At this point, I hope you haven’t spent all your money because every afternoon, there’s Happy Hour in the Beer Garden. Sit down, relax and have a cold one.
See you there.
Thursday, 31 October 2013
Rolls-Royce's new integrated prop and rudder retrofit package could cut the fuel bill for boats approaching factory-trawler size.
The first installation of Rolls-Royce’s Promas Lite on a commercial fishing vessel should be completed by the first of November at Vigor Shipyard in Seattle. The vessel is the 376-foot factory trawler Alaska Ocean owned by Seattle’s Glacier Fish.
There are three elements with a Promas Lite retrofit. A stainless steel hubcap goes over the propeller hub, while behind it is a prefabricated bulb that’s attached to the existing rudder. Then the propeller is either rebladed or replaced by one that allows maximum loading on the blade tips.
Put them all together and you have a streamlined waterflow across the rudder, as well as behind it. That results in increased propeller thrust, fuel reduction of 5 to 15 percent (It’s near the lower end of the scale when towing), and a reduction in emissions. It’s also possible that a reduced engine load will reduce the wear on the engine.
Promas Lite can go on single- and twin-screw vessels. While it has been installed on a number of cruise ships, this is the first commercial fishing vessel installation. The payback period should be two to three years.
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.”
Add a comment
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
Page 5 of 8
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.