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.

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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Maine lobstermen have always had a thing about being faster than the other guy. Even back in the days of the sloop boats, there were impromptu races out to the grounds and back in. That intensified once fishermen started strapping — first gasoline and then diesel — engines to the bottoms of their boats.

Individual towns began sponsoring races and then participants formed an association — the Maine Lobster Boat Racing Association — with classes, points and even a year-end banquet.

Every year the Maine Lobster Boat Racing Association meets during the Maine Fishermen’s Forum, which is held the first week in March at the Samoset Resort in Rockport. Those sessions have pretty much focused on the here and now: electing officers, hashing out rules and regulations and deciding if races should be added to the schedule.

Last year the group took a step back — way back — by instituting a Maine Lobster Boat Racing Hall of Fame. To make that list, a person had to have contributed to lobster boat racing. It could have been as a racer, key organizer, boatbuilder or engine builder.

Ten people were inducted in 2012:

• Gus Alley, a racer and organizer;
• Benny Beal, who captured a lot of attention 30 years ago when he raced Benny’s Bitch and then the Stella Ann, a 50-mph-plus boat;
• Isaac Beal, who had the Christopher, a dominant boat in the gasoline class;
• Merle Beal, for nearly three decades a constant presence in the 38-foot wooden Silver Dollar;
• Richard Duffy, of the boatbuilding shop Duffy & Duffy and an avid racer;
• Jerry Farrin, who organized the Merritt Bracket Lobster Boat Races in Pemaquid;
• Will Frost, a major influence on lobster-boat design and whose torpedo-sterned lobster boats, the Red Wing and Thoroughbred, were known for their speed in the 1920s and ’30s;
• Corliss Holland of Holland’s Boat Shop and a constant threat in the 32-foot Red Baron;
• Ernest Libby Jr., who designed and built the Marguerite G., which won the World’s Fastest Lobster Boat title four years in a row;
• Arvid and Alvin Young, of the Young Brothers boatshop and builders of the Sopwith Camel.

Then last Saturday (March 3), lobstermen went into the Samoset’s Rockland Room and elected five new members:
• Freddy Lenfestey, whose wooden Laura W. was a dominant force in the 1970s;
• Louis Stuart from Cundys Harbor, who raced the Voop, which had a cored hull with a double skin of glass on each side, lacked a keel, a windshield, and went close to 70 mph with a 1,000-hp engine;
• Andy Gove, who raced the Uncle’s UFO, a 36-foot Northern Bay with a 900-hp Mack;
• David Taylor of Boothbay, who was always on the race course with his Misty, a Crowley 33;
• Brian Robbins, an important force in the development of the racing association.

There weren’t any major rule changes at this year’s meeting except to alter the cubic-inch displacement on gasoline engines. Classes have been based on a displacement either up to or over 502. Now the line of demarcation is 525 cubic inches.

One race was added to the schedule. It will be at Long Island, which is just off Portland, on June 30. That brings the number of races to 13, from Portland to Eastport.

The opening race is scheduled for June 15 in Boothbay.

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The Coast Guard’s latest release, “Safety Alerts, Safety Advisories, Lessons Learned 2008-2012” won’t be on the New York Times’ best-seller list, but it’s something fishermen and boat owners should read.

It contains 43 safety alerts that have come out of the Coast Guard’s Office of Investigations and Casualty Analysis over a period of five years. Here’s a brief look at some of the points in the report.

The document includes a few safety alerts having to do with faulty safety equipment. One is a March 2012 notice of problems with Mustang inflatable PFDs. The culprit is faulty hydrostatic inflation systems, which may not inflate. The safety alert identifies which products are affected.

Then the August 2009 alert warns EPIRB users of servicing companies using unapproved 406 EPIRB replacement batteries. “These unauthorized battery installations would likely result in a failure” reads the safety alert. That’s something worth knowing.

Some of the safety alerts serve as a reminder that when you do one thing to your boat — upgrade fishing gear — it almost always affects something else — stability. Take the safety alert for November 2008 on fishing vessel stability:

A “major marine casualty” occurred because of improper loading of fuel, water, fishing gear and the catch. The crew was using an outdated stability book “that failed to account for heavy fishing equipment that had been removed from the vessel as well as new fish processing and equipment additions when it changed fishery operations.”

Then again there are just plain dumb things. These are usually committed in an attempt to fish harder and faster, without bothering to think of consequences. A safety alert for February 2012 discusses how a number of people have died or been injured because of “several catastrophic failures of masts, booms and lift cables” on purse seiners. Some of these evidently happen when a crewman tries to increase the lifting capacity beyond its design capacity.

Did you know that 42 percent of all marine casualties on fishing boats are the result of flooding that could have been prevented with watertight doors? A December 2008 safety alert has several suggestions for maintaining watertight doors. Even if a door is closed it might not be watertight. That’s because the door gasket has been painted or the gasket has deteriorated.

Then there’s an interesting breakdown of why a relatively new boat’s CO2 fixed firefighting system failed in an October 2010 safety alert. The crew put the fire out with portable extinguishers, but if they had needed the CO2 system for machinery spaces it wouldn’t have worked.

Not all of these safety alerts pertain to commercial fishing boats. The alert titled “Danger Aloft” is one. An 18-year-old was engaged in a “rite of passage” on a tall ship by crossing between masts on the spring stay when he slipped, fell to the deck and died. Still, this is informative for fishermen if only because it emphasizes the need for safety equipment and training, especially for greenhorns.

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Page 6 of 8

National Fisherman Live

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.

Inside the Industry

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.

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Fishermen in Western Australia captured astonishing footage this week as a five-meter-long great white shark tried to steal their catch, ramming into the side of their boat.
 
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