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.
Written by Jes Hathaway
Thursday, 20 March 2014
“They need to see you to get you, and flares don’t do that,” says Jim O’Meara of North American Survival Systems, giving advice on an at-sea rescue. What’s the best way to bring someone to your position?
All seagoing commercial boats and larger pleasure boats are required to carry a type of pyrotechnic distress signal — usually flares. But a flare has a limited life span, about 4 minutes once it’s shot off.
“Three flares onboard makes you legal,” says O’Meara, who operates out of Washington's Bainbridge Island. “Three flares are only good for 12 minutes. Nobody, ever, has been rescued in 12 minutes.”
O’Meara’s company designs and markets electronic flares and strobes to be used in rescue situations. He’s more than a little annoyed with how the Coast Guard downplays the usefulness of electronic flares and strobes.
The Coast Guard refers to them as electronic visual distress signal devices, and in a non-pyrotechnic flares marine information note [MIN 464 (M+F)], O’Meara feels their role is downplayed in a search and rescue situation.
The Coast Guard says it is researching their effectiveness, but they can’t be carried as a substitute for pyrotechnic flares “on vessels to which mandatory carriage applies.”
At the end of the marine information note and almost as an afterthought, it’s written that an “EDVS may be carried and used as a locating device, though their limitations should be recognized.”
Because of the short period a flare is visible, O’Meara says, it is “inherently flawed, but the word has never gotten out that you can have something in addition to a flare.”
When a flare goes off, “you know someone is in trouble over there, but then it goes out, and you’ve got to be able to find them.” Instead of a 4-minute life span, O’Meara says a strobe light is good for “12 hours or better and can be seen from five to 10 miles away. That’s what you want to have to be rescued.” It’s why he calls an electronic flare or strobe a “critical distress signal.”
Written by Jes Hathaway
Thursday, 13 March 2014
Of course, let’s hope you never have a fire aboard your boat. But if you are going to have one, perhaps you’ll be lucky enough that it will be when the boat is tied to the dock, like the 100-foot trawler that had a welding-related fire while tied up at Seattle’s Fishermen’s Terminal in May 2013.
At least then, you can step off the boat and onto the dock. At sea, your escape options are far more limited.
There are plenty of opportunities for a fire on a fishing boat. Just about any boat “is a floating ignition source,” says Randy Hyde, senior firefighting instructor at Fremont Maritime Services in Seattle. And there are plenty of ignition sources, especially in the engine room and machinery spaces.
Hyde lists several causes of fire. One is poor housekeeping, which is another way of saying you are slacking off if flammable liquid containers aren’t properly stored. If you leave oily rags around, there’s the risk of spontaneous combustion. If you allow oil to accumulate in the engine room bilge, you are asking for trouble.
Then there’s poor maintenance that results in leaky high-pressure fuel lines. Once the fuel drips or is sprayed on a hot surface you have a fire. The leak might be caused by vibration, a clamp rubbing against a pipe or old fittings that should have been replaced a long time ago.
Hyde says one of the major causes of fires “is a lack of due vigilance.” That means you and the rest of the crew have a lack of situational awareness or sense of urgency. The crew is poorly trained and poorly equipped.
The answer to these shortcomings is a good fire prevention plan, which at least means being vigilant about housekeeping and maintenance issues.
Just in case everything goes to hell, your fixed fire-suppression system, portable extinguishers and any fire pumps have to be in good working order if you hope to save the boat and yourself.
And don’t forget to sound the alarm, letting everyone know there’s a fire. But with due vigilance, hopefully none of this is ever an issue.
Written by Melissa Wood
Thursday, 06 March 2014
Once again the faithful showed up. A land layered with extreme cold, ice and frozen snow didn’t keep them away; if anything it was a very good reason to leave the boat, gear repairs and planning for the coming fishing season to make the annual trek to the Samoset Resort in Rockland, Maine, for the Maine Fishermen’s Forum, held Feb. 27, 28 and March 1.
Just outside the doors leading into the Forum stood a Mitchell Cove 35 hull and top from Journeys End Marina. Leaning against the transom was a ladder, allowing a would-be buyer to climb aboard and check it out.
Inside the hall on Saturday morning was a meeting of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association. What that group and a future owner of the Mitchell Cove have in common is that they fish out of a traditional monohull. It’s a boat design all fishermen take for granted. No questions asked.
Well, not quite. Inside the Forum halls were two booths whose occupants, if they have their way, would see what is probably the most traditional of all American fishermen — New England lobstermen — hauling traps from multihulled boats.
Penobscot East, a group working to maintain healthy fisheries and fishing communities in Eastern Maine, was there with literature on its Green Lobster Boat.
This is a 38-foot trimaran hull designed by Doug Read at the Maine Maritime Academy. The rationale for the trimaran hull is that the traditional Maine lobster boat burns about 3,000 gallons a year and fuel costs constitute about 30 percent of a fisherman’s operating expenses.
Whereas the trimaran hull will substantially reduce fuel costs, thus saving fishermen money. The initial design has been tank-tested, and a 6-foot model was recently matched up against a 6-foot model of a Holland 38 in the waters off San Diego.
Penobscot East is claiming a 20 percent fuel savings up to 16 knots, though results of the testing weren’t in evidence at the booth and some people wanted to see the results of the testing before it would be believed. Currently Penobscot East is looking for funding to build a full-size prototype.
In a nearby exhibit room was the Pro Cat. This is a catamaran design from a company in Ontario. It’s the second generation of this design. The first generation has been sold in England as a replacement for wood and fiberglass longliners and gillnetters. Forty of them are fishing in the North Sea out of English ports.
There are 27- and 32-foot designs; both have 16-foot 6-inch beams. Each hull has a bulbous bow, which is said to improve fuel efficiency by 40 percent over a design without bulbous bows. The initial design is powered with outboards though inboard engines can be used. Twin 150-hp outboards should give the 27-footer a 20-knot speed and twin 200-hp outboards on the 32 footer should get it up to 20 knots.
The first Pro Cat to be built in North America will be launched this summer on Lake Champlain in New York.
What are the chances of a multihull design being used by a New England — especially a Maine — lobsterman? Well, they won’t be winning any lobster boat races; that’s for sure. But if the promoters of the designs can build them at a comparable price to a monohull and get highliners in ports along the coast to try them and their reports of fuel economy and seaworthiness are favorable, then some multihull boats will be hauling gear in New England waters.Add a comment
Written by Jes Hathaway
Thursday, 20 February 2014
Last week, National Fisherman Assistant Editor Melissa Wood wrote about the halibut schooner exhibit “Highliners: Boats of the Century” that opened on Saturday at the Center for Wooden Boats in Seattle.
It reminded me of when I was driving a forklift at Seward Fisheries in Seward, Alaska, taking carts of halibut from the unloading dock into the plant. Every boat that came in, I was asking for a “chance.” In college I’d read too much Jack London and drank too much cheap red wine not to recognize the potential for an adventure when I saw it and these boats had it written all over them.
Then one morning a couple guys from the cannery came screaming up to the Quonset hut where I was living in their old beater of a car: “You’re on. They’ll take you!” they shouted.
One of the crew on the halibut schooner Attu had gotten himself wrapped up with one of the Seward lovelies the night before, and no one could find him. So his stuff went on the dock and my gear went aboard.
But about two-thirds of the way out Resurrection Bay, the skipper started feeling guilty, turned back to Seward and eventually found the guy — and didn’t leave me on the dock.
Thus began several years of halibut fishing, all but one year on schooners. I never saw it as a regular job — every trip was that adventure I’d been dreaming about.
Like the time we were fishing near the Pribilof Islands and decided we wanted to take a short break from fishing and go into St. Paul for a drink and something to eat. So we anchored up, threw all the gear out of the ancient wooden dory that was on top of the house, swung it out over the side and started to lower it to the water. But it had been forever since anyone tried that so the rotten line on the boom parted, the dory dropped into the water, the plug popped out of hole in the bottom of the dory and it started to sink.
The vision of booze and a break from hauling several thousand hooks a day was too great, so a couple of us jumped into the sinking dory, shoved a rag into the hole and started bailing. Eventually we rowed the couple hundred yards to shore and spent the afternoon on St. Paul.
I’d never been ashore on the Pribilofs before that, and I’ve not been since, but the way I got there was a most interesting way to go.
The crew of another halibut schooner would tie up in Sand Point (a port in the Shumagin Islands) at night, and if they’d been away from land long enough, they would drift off into the dark and go “peeping.” Nope, we never did that.
Halibut schooners are the best sea boats in the North Pacific and Alaska, and the Attu was as good as any. Unfortunately, a number of years after I left the boat, a substitute skipper got lazy when going into a small bay and drove the Attu onto a ledge and broke her back. There she still lies.
Written by Jes Hathaway
Thursday, 06 February 2014
Owners of fishing boats less than 79 feet will want to keep an eye on a proposed EPA regulation called the small Vessel General Permit (sVGP). If enacted, it would be the first regulation under the Clean Water Act to address discharges incidental to the normal operation of commercial vessels less than 79 feet in length.
Last year Congress renewed the EPA’s Vessel General Permit, which affects boats 79 feet and longer. It’s designed to reduce incidental discharges for boats operating within three miles of the coastline and in the Great Lakes. The sVGP would be a scaled down version of the Vessel General Permit.
A small portion of the Vessel General Permit requires the use of “environmentally acceptable lubricants for all oil-to-sea interfaces, unless technically infeasible” — that affects parts like stern tubes, thrusters and rudder bearings. The idea is to cut down on what the EPA says are “millions of liters of oil being released to the aquatic environment every year.”
Owners of larger boats also have to keep seals and equipment maintained to regulation standards, with fines for noncompliance.
There was a Congressional moratorium on applying permit coverage for incidental discharges to commercial fishing and recreational boats under 79 feet. But at this point, it looks like the moratorium will expire on Dec. 19, 2014.
What that will mean for boats less than 79 feet is unclear, as the potential regulation for the small Vessel General Permit is still in a draft form and hasn’t been released.
Boat operators may be required to use environmentally acceptable lubricants, or EPA may tone down the ruling to a recommendation to use an environmentally acceptable lubricant.
If the ruling requires a change for smaller boats, then operators will be paying about $1,200 for 100 liters of an environmentally acceptable lubricant versus $350 for non-environmentally acceptable lubricants. They would probably also have to change the oil-to-sea seals.
The ruling is likely to include something about engine oil control, fish-hold effluent and fuel management. Though these will probably be a list of suggested best management practices.
Owners of smaller boats can save themselves some surprises by inquiring at their local EPA offices about the small Vessel General Permit now, rather than waiting for the final rule to be handed down.
Photo: USCGAdd a comment
Written by Jes Hathaway
Thursday, 30 January 2014
OK. Just about everyone in America is aware that for this past decade, Congress has been on record as being mostly a dismal, lackluster, do-nothing, divisive group of men and women.
Unfortunately, at least as far as commercial fishermen are concerned, they did do something, and it’s not good. I’m referring to the Classing of Vessels section of the USCG Authorization Act of 2010. It requires commercial fishing vessels built after July 1, 2013 (originally it was July 1, 2012), that are at least 50 feet long overall and operate beyond three-mile demarcation line to meet survey and classification requirements.
Fifty feet is a completely arbitrary number made without any thought as to how it affects boat owners and the fishing industry. It’s time that the Classing of Vessels section is repealed.
Do fishing boats need more safety standards? Some probably. Boats under 79 feet fishing in unprotected waters in the winter — cod potting in the Bering Sea, crabbing off the West or trawling in the Atlantic — do need higher safety standards in terms of stability and watertight integrity.
But the seiner working the protected waters of Southeast Alaska in the summer needs a less stringent set of requirements.
Now, under the Authorization Act, instead of new safety rules, boats being built now for working in harsh conditions and those being built for relatively mild weather are subject to being judged by classification societies.
Classification societies aren’t up to the task of making judgment calls on the design and building of small boats: offshore supply boats, ships, big tugs, factory trawlers, yes, but not small fishing boats. They don’t have the mindset and most haven’t even started at developing rules for small fishing boats. One classification society will try to use its under-90-meter rule. That’s 295 feet, which is hardly something you would want for a 58-footer.
Then there’s the cost: $50,000 to $75,000 just for the design work: total cost, maybe $250,000 more to build a 58-footer.
Some politicians might have had good intentions, but by throwing classification societies into the building of a new boat, they had little understanding of what they were doing. It’s time to repeal that mistake. So talk to fishing organizations and put some heat on Washington.
Photo: New classification rules threaten to skyrocket the cost of construction for the popular 58-foot limit seiner, like the recently launched Magnus Martens built by Fred Wahl Marine Construction in Reedsport, Ore.; Jessica HathawayAdd a comment
Written by Melissa Wood
Thursday, 23 January 2014
In the mid-1920s, the government, that is the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries, laid down the Alaska limit rule on boats in Alaska’s purse-seine fishery. Henceforth and forever boats built for that fishery were to be no longer than 58 feet.
Over the years designers and builders learned to deal with that length restriction, turning out extremely handsome boats, and though they could not get longer they did get wider. The 58-footers were also extremely seaworthy, enough so that several are being used in the Bering Sea’s cod-pot fishery.
It turns out that ruling might not be exactly “forever,” as the government has stepped in with a new ruling that impacts fishing boat design: part of the 2010 Coast Guard Authorization Act — supposedly done in the name of safety — says boats 50 feet and over that operate beyond three miles have to be classed. (I say the government “stepped in” as naval architects and boatbuilders — people who understand boats and safety — were not consulted. The rumor is that a certain Democratic congressman from Massachusetts who recently retired was a driving force behind the Act’s “class” and other requirements.)
Classing a boat will cost prospective boat owners a lot of money. One boatbuilder estimates it will drive up the cost of a new boat by as much as 30 percent. “It could put me out of business,” says Howard Moe at Little Hoquiam Shipyard in Hoquiam, Wash.
As a result, boatbuilders are coming up with designs they are calling 49 footers — actually 49 feet, 11 inches — to slide in under the 50-foot class rule. Little Hoquiam Shipyard and Fred Wahl Marine Construction in Reedsport, Ore., are two boatyards with such designs. Pat Pitsch at Strongback Metal Boats in Bellingham, Wash., has built a 46-foot seiner.
If 49 feet becomes the new 58 footer, all in the name of safety, then ironically the ultimate question becomes “by forcing fishermen to go with a boat nine feet shorter have the politicians put fishermen in harm’s way?”
As Fred Wahl says, “Sending someone to the Bering Sea in a 49-foot boat instead of a 58-foot boat is not the right direction for safety!”
Or because of cost, how many fishermen, instead of building a new boat, will stick with their old boat that’s sorely in need of major renovations? Probably too many.
Written by Jes Hathaway
Thursday, 09 January 2014
Sisu is not the name on engines commonly found in fishing boats. However, in Maine Sisu has received some recognition, as it’s the diesel bolted to the engine mounts of Travis Otis’ First Team, a Northern Bay 36 that wins most of its races on Maine’s lobster boat racing circuit.
The engine in Otis’ boat is the 6-cylinder, 645-cubic-inch 84CTIM, which puts out 410 horsepower at 2,100 rpm. That’s enough power to send the First Team (named after the Army unit his dad served with in Vietnam) up a Maine racing course at 39 mph.
F/V First Team guns it down the lane in the Portland, Maine, lobster boat races, with Travis Otis at the wheel.
Besides lobstering, Otis, with his father, Keith, operates the boatshop Otis Enterprises Marine in Searsport and is also a dealer for Sisu Diesel. That means they are among the first to find out when Sisu is bringing any new marine engines into this country.
At 410 horsepower, Travis has been running Sisu’s most powerful marine engine. It has served him well, but now he’s got his eye on two engines Sisu will be introducing over the next year or two.
The first is the 7-cylinder 98CTIM, a 9.8-liter diesel with a rating of more than 500 horsepower at 2,100 rpm. It’s a bit longer than its predecessor, but at 1,900 pounds only about 180 pounds heavier. The Tier-3 engines are now being marinized in Finland and should be available the third quarter of 2014.
There’s not as much information on the second marine engine coming out of Finland, other than that it’s a 16.8-liter V-12. The marinized version is still in the planning stages, but should come in around 900 horsepower. Expect that engine to be available sometime in 2015.
For more information, contact Otis Enterprises Marine Corp., 85 Prospect St., Searsport, ME 04974; tel. (207) 548-6362, or the Sisu distributor for North America: West Mount, 970 Farmington Road, Farmington Falls, ME 04940; tel. (207) 778-3778; www.westmountweb.com.
Written by Jes Hathaway
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.
Written by Jes Hathaway
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!
Page 6 of 10
National Fisherman Live: 3/10/15
In this episode, Online Editor Leslie Taylor talks with Mike McLouglin, vice president of Dunlop Industrial and Protective Footwear.
National Fisherman Live: 2/24/15
In this episode:
March date set for disaster aid dispersal
Oregon LNG project could disrupt fishing
NOAA tweaks gear marking requirement
N.C. launches first commercial/recreational dock
Spiny lobster traps limits not well received
Alaska Gov. Bill Walker is required by state statute to appoint someone to the Board of Fisheries by today, Tuesday, May 19. However, his efforts to fill the seat have gone unfulfilled since he took office in January. The seven-member board serves as an in-state fishery management council for fisheries in state waters.
The resignation of Walker’s director of Boards and Commissions, Karen Gillis, fanned the flames of controversy late last week.
Keith Decker, president and COO of High Liner Foods, will take over for the outgoing CEO, Harry Demone, who will assume the role as chairman of the board of directors. The Lunenburg, Nova Scotia-based seafood supplier boasts sales in excess of $310 million (American) for the first quarter of the year.Read more...