Written by Jen Finn
One tough boat will go south; Maine yard molds a 46-footer
Several times, Jim Dawson has made the long drive from Virginia's Chincoteague Island to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, where Gaski Marine, in conjunction with YachtSmiths International in Halifax, Nova Scotia, is building him a 28-foot Gaski, which he will use for black sea-bass fishing.
The Gaski hull design was developed for Icelandic fishermen and then brought to Canada in the late 1980s by the Marine Institute of Newfoundland and Labrador to improve the inshore safety record of the two provinces.
Dawson puts the miles on his car because, he says, "the Gaski is the most able boat based on its patented stabilizers on the sides of the boat. Twenty-three people were put along one side of the boat, and it didn't go down 2 inches."
Dawson has had a lot of input in the construction of his boat. He says he's had three structural engineers involved in the hull's layup schedule.
"It's designed to go 50 knots through 6-foot seas," he says. At the same time, Dawson emphasizes he doesn't want to go that fast, but he wants a strong boat in case he encounters some of the plentiful debris in the area he fishes.
"There's a lot of debris: four-by-fours, six-by-sixes, telephone poles, parts of piers," he says. "The hull is half-inch thick, but it's designed to bounce telephone poles off it."
A pair of gasoline engines will power the Gaski planing hull. Dawson is part of a company called Rocketek, which marinizes 3.4- and 3.9-liter engines, similar to the ones in a Pontiac Grand Prix. In fact, Rocketek's engines won an innovation award at the 2006 International Boatbuilders' Exhibition & Conference this past November in Miami.
One feature of the engine is that all the accessories are gear driven instead of with belts and pulleys. And the starter, alternator and water pump are on top of the engine where they can be removed easily for repairs.
The gear-drive system allows a supercharger to be installed in a matter of minutes, which, Dawson says, gives you an additional 100 hp. "That's such a serious advantage. You are talking about putting out 300 horsepower at 450 pounds weight per engine."
Across the border in Maine, the crew at Wayne Beal's Boat Shop in Jonesport recently finished a mold for the shop's new 46' x 17' 6" hull.
For the mold's plug, one of the boatshop's 40-foot hulls was lengthened 6 feet, split along the bilges and widened. "We built the hull back up to full strength and put extra layers over the cuts," says Wayne Beal, the boatshop's owner.
After the mold was made, the plug went out the door as a kit boat to local fisherman Benny Beal. Wayne says Benny will put an 800-hp Caterpillar 3406E in the boat and use it for lobstering and dragging. Benny is well known for his successes on Maine's lobster boat racing circuit, but Wayne says he figures Benny's new boat will be tied to the dock when it comes time to race. "She's not much of a racer. She's built up double thick on the bottom, so she's heavy," he says.
Wayne decided to add the 46-footer to his boat lineup after watching American fishermen cross the border into Canada and bring back larger boats than New England boatbuilders were offering. "I figured it's time to offer something here," Wayne says. American fishermen, he adds, have always used "the Canadian boats for dragging, but when they get into lobstering, they like to have speed, and Canadians don't have it."
At the end of November, the first hull was being built in the mold. It will be finished off as a lobster boat at Sargent's Custom Boats in Milbridge, Maine, for Chris Nelson Jr., of Winter Harbor, Maine.
A couple of hours to the westward, Farrin's Boatshop in Walpole, upgraded a 10-year-old 40-foot Young Brothers lobster boat for David Reed, a fisherman in nearby Bremen who had just purchased the boat.
The job took about two months. It included pulling off the keel pipes and cleaning them out, building a new ventilation system for the engine room and updating the oil-smoke recovery system, says Bruce Farrin, the boatshop's owner.
A new davit was installed, the winter back repaired, and the hauler head was removed and serviced. Then starting at the wash rails, the boat got a new gel coat. Farrin says rebuilding work is not unusual for his shop. "Repairs, rebuilding, new construction, whatever it takes here in Maine," he says.
— Michael Crowley
A worthy design is expanded; Wash. yard has pit-stop niche
In 2002, Rozema Boat Works in Mount Vernon, Wash., built the 46-foot aluminum crabber Gail Force. The success and look of that boat is probably part of the reason a Westport, Wash., fisherman came to Rozema's for an expanded version of the Gail Force. "At least it helped us [with the sale]," says the boatyard's Dirk Rozema.
The new boat, the Silver Fox, was launched in early December. She measures 54' x 21'. Rozema says it has a look that's very similar to the Gail Force.
The new boat has a displacement hull and a 450-hp Cummins QSM11 for a main engine. A refrigerated seawater system will keep the crabs fresh in two holds. The boat also has an air-bubbler system. This will be used when water isn't being circulated through the holds, such as when crabs are being sold dockside.
In other boatbuilding work, the crew at Rozema Boat Works is about midway done building what Rozema calls the "ultimate multipurpose boat." It's a 55' x 17' aluminum boat that will be used for longlining, gillnetting and charter fishing. Instead of a displacement hull, the 55-footer has a planing hull and a pair of 660-hp Caterpillar C12 diesels.
The boat will fish Alaska's Cook Inlet.
Almost to the Canadian border, Seaview North Boatyard in Bellingham, Wash., is perfectly situated for quick repairs on boats going to and returning from Alaska, traveling through the Inside Passage, or just working in local fisheries.
Sometimes it's fabrication work, other times it's to put on new zincs. In another case, a boat had just had a bulbous bow installed with holes cut into the bulb. The owner decided he didn't want holes in his bulb, so he pulled into Seaview North, hauled out on one of the boatyard's travel lifts and had the holes welded shut. He then continued on his way to the fishing grounds.
Another boat was hauled to have supports for rolling chocks cut off because fishing gear was catching on them. The yard also has done emergency repairs to boats that have been in accidents and had their hull punctured. Those have been quick in-and-out jobs, just enough so the boat can get to the boatyard that normally does its maintenance and repair work.
Of course, the yard also does more extensive work. In the case of the steel 80-foot Friendship, the boat had been a crabber but was sold to owners who took her to Costa Rica, where she now works as a seiner and hauls freight between islands.
Before she left for Central America, the crew at Seaview North Boatyard put in a new hydraulically powered bow thruster — she hadn't had one before — installed a new cutlass bearing and a PSS dripless shaft seal. Both the cutlass bearing and the shaft were worn. Though the bearing had to be replaced, the shaft could be repaired.
Jeff Packer, the boatyard's operation manager, says he is seeing more boat owners electing to use the PSS shaft seal. "Especially in steel boats, it makes sense. It's usually an easy swap over, and you don't have to worry about packing anymore," he says.
The 58-foot limit seiner Voshte Lynn was in for a new bulbous bow. The job took about 100 hours. "It was a propane-tank-style bulb, and was put on to make the boat more fuel efficient," Packer says.
Sometimes the crew at Seaview North Boatyard does the work, and other times the crew on the fishing boat pitches in. That was the case with the 58-foot seiner Kulshan. Besides a sandblasting and painting job, the boat's crew was doing much of the work, including adding new rolling chocks and interior work on the boat.
A number of seiners have been in for sandblasting and painting, including the Nicholas Michael and Breakers Edge.
As a result of an incident that's probably on the minds of many fishermen traveling the Inside Passage, a 74-foot charter boat had to be hauled to have her blown gearbox removed and replaced.
Packer says the boat's owners are not sure what caused the accident, but "think that they hit a log and that moved the gear just enough that it blew it [the gearbox] up on the inside. It was a twin-screw boat, so they made it back, but it was quite a rigging job to get that out." — Michael Crowley
Va. railway is tight with boats; Yard seeks ark accoutrements
At Reedville Marine Railway in Reedville, Va., boats were waiting to get on the railway, being built in both boatbuilding sheds, and lined up in the parking lot for repairs.
On the rails in late November was the Mary Trew, a deadrise workboat owned by Fred Biddlecomb, a pound netter and charter boat captain.
George Butler, owner of Reedville Marine Railway, says the Mary Trew is having most of the bottom planking replaced with new cedar planks. In addition, some of the planking on both the port and starboard sides has to be replaced in the area of the chine.
In one of two boatbuilding sheds, Butler is building a 16-foot deadrise skiff for a Lewisetta, Va., crab potter. Butler specializes in building 16- to 20-foot deadrise and flat-bottom skiffs. Many of his boats are used in the Potomac River pound-net fishery and Chesapeake Bay's crab-pot fishery.
In the other shed, a round-stern deadrise pleasure boat is being built. She will have a motor well for an outboard. The crab skiff and the pleasure boat have cedar planking and white-oak frames.
In Reedville Marine Railway's parking lot, boatbuilder Frank Fife is putting a new bottom of cedar planks on a 16-foot outboard-powered, flat-bottom crab skiff.
Outboard skiffs are the boat of choice for many crabbers in the soft-shell and peeler-crab fishery. Sixteen- to 18-foot skiffs work well in shallow guts and coves where peeler pounds and pots are set.
Fife is a journeyman boatbuilder who works off and on at Reedville Marine Railway. Butler says Fife is extremely handy and knowledgeable when it comes to boat repair work and maintenance.
Gwynn Island, Va., has a long commercial fishing tradition, and a small commercial fishing fleet is based on the island. Most of the 25 or so commercial fishing boats are made of wood and are serviced by Narrows Marina, located near the bridge to the island.
Inside a Narrows Marina building is the 45-foot Sea Quest, owned by Gwynn Island's William Nelson Haywood. Haywood uses his boat to gillnet for spot and croaker in the spring and the summer and as a crab dredger in the winter.
The Sea Quest was built by Deltaville, Va., boatbuilder Grover Lee Owens. Gywnn Island watermen fish several of his boats.
Haywood was painting the bottom and sides and installing a new shaft in time for the opening of the crab dredge season on Dec. 1.
Several weeks ago, the Bay Lady, also built by Owens, was on the rails at Narrows Marina. "They are getting ready for crab dredge season," says Preston Jenkins, owner of the marina. "We service about 25 commercial fishing boats annually, and we let them decide how they want the work to be done. They can do it, or we will help them with it. We are one of the few yards around that still cater to the watermen."
Farther up Chesapeake Bay in Chestertown, Md., boatbuilders at Sultana Shipyard, a non-profit business that restores old boats, are working on a Chesapeake Bay ark. Before wheelhouses and cabins became the norm on Chesapeake workboats, watermen working the wintertime shad and herring fisheries near Kent Island, Md., lived aboard arks while they fished.
Ronald Fithian of Rock Hall, Md., says arks were an important part of the history on Maryland's Eastern Shore. "When watermen traveled to fish in better stocked waters, they were often gone for several months at a time, and they had to have some place to live," he says.
Watermen would tow arks behind their boats, and when they got to the fishing grounds, they either pulled the arks up on shore or tied them off in shallow water. They then spent the winter fishing in open boats and living aboard the arks.
Although several arks still exist, the interiors of the boats have all been modified, and there is no clear understanding of how they were equipped when fishermen used them as homes.
To make their ark as historically accurate as possible, Sultana Shipyard wants to know what the interior of an ark looked like when they were used in the shad and herring fisheries. If there is anyone out there who was around when the arks were used or knows about their traditional interior, they can contact Craig O'Donnell, at P.O. Box 30, Chestertown, MD 21620; tel. (410) 778-2011, or e-mail at email@example.com.
— Larry Chowning
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