Written by Jen Finn
Maine ships out Dungie boats and a New Jersey purse seiner
PenBay Boat Co. finished off an H&H Marine–built Osmond 38 for a California Dungeness crabber, put it on a trailer at the end of October and shipped it west. PenBay Boat, a Sedgwick, Maine, boatbuilding shop is talking with a second Dungeness crabber about finishing off a boat, and another Maine boatshop, RP Boat Shop in Steuben, sent a 40-footer to a California crabber at the end of August.
PenBay Boat's Ken Ryan has a theory that might explain why West Coast crabbers are showing an interest in fiberglass-built Maine lobster-boat-style hulls. It's the rising cost of aluminum, driven up by demand for the metal in places that don't have anything to do with Dungeness crabbing or lobstering — India and China, primarily.
"It used to be that [Dungeness crabbers only] had aluminum boats, but in the past couple of years the price of aluminum has gone crazy. We've finally gotten to be competitive," Ryan says. And that includes the cost of hauling the boat to California.
The 38-footer finished off at PenBay Boat Co. went to Nick Hofland, who fishes out of Bodega Bay, about 50 miles north of San Francisco. Ryan describes the boat as "pretty much a standard Maine lobster boat with a split wheelhouse."
It has a solid fiberglass hull, though the wheelhouse is cored with Divinycell. The platform has traditional kiln-dried spruce framing covered with plywood and fiberglass. There's a fish hold with an aluminum hatch, but the hold wasn't plumbed before the boat left Maine. Ryan says Hofland will install all the wiring, plumbing and hydraulics. Thus the boat wasn't sea-trialed before it left PenBay Boat Co. And because Hofland has a cabinet shop, he will also do all the interior woodworking, including the accommodations area.
The boat did go out with an engine; it's a 375-hp John Deere hooked up to a ZF 280A marine gear with a 2.5:1 reduction that spins a 28" x 40" four-blade prop. Ryan says the popularity of engines seems to "go in runs." Lately it's been John Deere for commercial boats and Volvo Pentas for pleasure boats.
Ryan figures Maine boatbuilders could be hearing more from West Coast Dungeness crabbers, especially "once word gets around as to how this type of boat performs in weather. Any aluminum boat is going to pound," he says.
In the meantime, PenBay Boat Co. is finishing off an Osmond 40 from H&H Marine for an entirely different type of customer. For power, it will have outboards on the transom and look like a pirate ship when it is finished, including a water cannon. The boat will be used to run tours for kids on Cape Cod.
Within Maine, Down East (the coast from Ellsworth to Eastport) has always had a tradition of boatbuilding. In the case of Milbridge and Cherryfield, it started around 1820 with at least a couple hundred boats launched into the Narraguagus River in the next 100 years. These were mostly barks, brigs, barkentines and a mess of coastal schooners. After 1920, steel boats and the railroads eliminated the need for large wooden ships, and boat launchings were limited to a few sardine carriers and lobster boats.
These days, fiberglass boats enter the river at the Milbridge town landing. Boats built at Sargent's Custom Boats in Milbridge, and H&H Marine and RP Boat Shop, both of Steuben. Most of these are lobster boats and even the pleasure boats look like lobster boats, so when Charger's Automotive and Marine in Steuben finished off a 54-foot Wesmac hull as a purse seiner for a New Jersey fisherman, it drew some attention.
The forward sloping transom and the large house with an extension on the port side for a gear locker, engine intake and exhaust definitely marked this as a different boat. Certainly it's the only purse seiner to be launched in this part of Maine in recent years.
The boat's owner, Dan Axelsson, was going to mount the winches and mast on the deck when the boat got to New Jersey. The winches will go on solid fiberglass sections of the deck, which otherwise are made up of Penske board, which is fiberglassed and then screwed down to 4 x 4 fiberglass deck beams.
The main engine is an 800-hp Lugger 6170. The boat has a galley, stove, sink and shower. "It will sleep five," says Kevin Briggs, owner of Charger's Automotive and Marine. — Michael Crowley
Crabber goes to California; bulbous bows are all the rage
Howard Moe has built probably 250 boats for the North Pacific and Alaska fishing industries. The past few years have been a dry spell for his Little Hoquiam Boat Shop, in Hoquiam, Wash., as far as commercial fishing boats go, but that might be changing. At the end of October, he launched the 36' x 13' Abundance for Zach Rotwein, who will use the boat for Dungeness crabbing and salmon trolling out of Trinidad, Calif.
Moe says he has built a lot of crab boats, most of them either 46 or 52 feet. This 32-footer is the smallest crabber built at Little Hoquiam Boat Shop.
Rotwein's boat is an extended version of a 32-foot hull first built as a Bristol Bay gillnetter around 1985. It's a solid fiberglass hull with a deck that Moe describes as "built heavier than normal. Where they load [crab pots], it's not the best conditions. Zach wanted a deck that wouldn't be damaged if crab pots were dropped on it."
The deck has a 1-inch core with two layers of fiberglass mat, four layers of roving on top, and one mat and three layers of roving on the bottom.
The floodable fish hold packs about 9,000 pounds of crab. Behind it is a dry hold that can be used to store bait or gear.
In the stern is a trolling cockpit for when the Abundance goes after salmon. It has a removable cover that's in place when the boat is crabbing.
In the engine room is a 330-hp John Deere 6081 hooked up to a Twin Disc 5065A marine gear with a 2.5:1 reduction. Moe says the Abundance won't be a fast boat and should run at 9 knots.
Along with the engine, there's an 8.8-kW MER generator that operates a 3-hp Pacer pump for the fish hold. A hydraulically operated variable-volume pump runs off the engine for the crab block, anchor winch, trolling gurdies and a water pump. According to Moe, that gives Rotwein the "choice of running electric or hydraulic water pumps, or both, if he wants to fill the hold in a hurry."
This is the first variable volume hydraulic pump to go on a Howard Moe–built boat. Mostly they've "been 45-35 fixed volume pumps. It gives a lot of hydraulic power. He has a big block on for crabbing. It's like something you would put on a 50-footer," Moe says.
In Washington, a number of boat owners are trying to make their existing boats more efficient because of the rising cost of diesel fuel. Adding a bulbous bow is one answer and Platypus Marine in Port Angeles, Wash., seems to have cornered a small market for this work, especially for the fiberglass 58-foot limit-seiner hull.
The seiner Alaskan Lady was in this summer to get a bulbous bow, along with some paintwork, repowering of the skiff and have some fiberglass work done. Platypus Marine has developed a mold for a bulbous bow that fits on the Delta seiner, so down time for the boat is relatively short.
After using the boat with its new bulbous bow, the Alaskan Lady's owner reported back to Platypus Marine that "overall it was a great improvement and running at the engine's normal rpm, there was an increase in speed."
A Delta 58 will be hauled in December for a bulb and, as of the first week in November, another 58-footer was expected to be in for one, too.
The Vulcan, a 48-foot troller from Craig, Alaska, was having her fish hold rebuilt to pack more fish, and getting a new bleach tank and two slush tanks. The slush tanks will have a combined capacity of 1,200 pounds. The Vulcan was also having roll chocks added. These were laid up in a mold Platypus Marine developed for the Delta hull, but they happened to fit the troller as well.
A first for Platypus Marine when it comes to hull-appendage refits is a beaver tail for Delta boats, though it will work with some other hulls. This is added in the area of the prop and rudder. It looks a bit like a hydrofoil and helps keep the stern down in rough water. It also helps focus the thrust coming out of the prop. The first one might go on a multipurpose boat used for dragging, crabbing and longlining. — Michael Crowley
Yard keeps Big John in shape;
a different Iva W. comes home
Several wooden Florida-built fishing trawlers have been converted to scallopers and are now operating in the Mid-Atlantic scallop fishery. Smith Marine Railway in Dare, Va., is picking up some of the business of maintaining and repairing these boats.
The 60' x 18' Big John is one of the wooden boats now fishing for scallops that was recently hauled out at Smith Marine Railway. Tim Smith, the boatyard's manager, says the Big John is a smaller version of boats built by St. Augustine Trawlers but wasn't built by that boatyard. (St. Augustine Trawlers in St. Augustine, Fla., built many wood, fiberglass and steel fishing boats before going out of the boatbuilding business in the late 1980s. The boatyard is now known as St. Augustine Marine.)
Anthony Thomas of Charles City County, Va., purchased the Big John, along with scalloping permits, and is working the boat out of Seaford, Va.
"The planking and everything is in pretty good shape on the Big John but she needed a lot of caulking," Smith says. "Sometimes they put filler in the butts and no cotton, and there is nothing to hold the filler; so it eventually falls out. Then, we have to go in and caulk the entire bottom with cotton using caulking irons."
That's what the crew at Smith Marine Railway did, along with painting the bottom and routine maintenance on the rest of the boat.
Besides working on Big John, a 42-foot crab boat is having a new wheelhouse put on, and a sportfisherman is getting a new transom and planking.
"We specialize in wood and there are not many wooden-boat repair yards around anymore on the entire Chesapeake," Smith says. This is particularly true of boatyards that can haul and repair large commercial fishing vessels.
George Butler of Reedville Marine Railway in Reedville, Va., has just about completed a deadrise skiff. The 16' x 5' 8" skiff is made of fir and oak and will be used as a gillnetter. The skiff is fastened with stainless steel nails. The side and bottom planks, and the transom are white cedar. The stem, sternpost, and stringers are white oak.
On the railway is Fred, a 42-foot pound-net boat, owned by Fred Jett of Northumberland County, Va. Jett is replacing bad wood in the boat's bottom and sides, and he is doing the job himself.
Reedville Marine Railway is a commercial fisherman friendly yard. If you need Butler's talents, they are available or watermen are allowed to do the work themselves.
In 1998, many commercial fishermen on Chesapeake Bay perked up when news spread that the Ward family of Deltaville, Va., had sold the Iva W. The 55-foot Chesapeake Bay buy boat had belonged to Capt. Johnny Ward, patriarch of a family that had been commercial fishermen for generations.
Capt. Johnny, as he was called, was a legend on the bay and considered one of the hardest drivers to ever work the water. John Wright built the Iva W. in 1929 at his boatyard, just an oyster shell throw from Capt. Johnny's house in Deltaville. The waterman was 26 years old and he named the boat for his wife, Iva Ward.
He dredged crabs in the Iva W., bought oysters, fish and crabs and ran the boat until he was in his 90s. When it was sold, the boat still had the dredge post and gear, along with a Caterpillar engine; it was the boat's third engine. Until then, she had spent her entire life on Jackson Creek.
Art Wolfe, who purchased the buy boat, took her south to Palm Beach, Fla., and converted it into a double-decked bed-and-breakfast boat. He recently donated the boat to the Deltaville Maritime Museum, and it is home again moored on Jackson Creek, across from where John Wright's boatyard used to be.
The museum is delighted to have a John Wright–built buy boat that belonged to Capt. Johnny Ward, but one old waterman straightened every one out in a hurry.
"Ya damn lucky Capt. Johnny ain't alive today to see what they did to the Iva! Damn, if he wouldn't take all that mess off of her in a heartbeat and take her out dredging crabs again — where she belongs.
"Yes he would!"
The museum is not quite sure what they are going to do with the boat but most everyone's glad the Iva W. is home again — even if she doesn't look the same. — Larry Chowning
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