National Fisherman


A bold step backward

A Bristol Bay salmon fisherman returns to his roots with a 49-year-old wooden gillnetter built by Bumble Bee

By Matt Marinkovich

It was a stubborn cold start, but once the old Perkins fired off it rolled along like a good diesel should. Mike Carr was like a kid on Christmas morning with his new toy, grinning in anticipation of the upcoming season, as he revved the throttle, the engine screaming.

After 44-years' gillnetting in Bristol Bay and operating seven boats — three he had built — Carr had decided his next boat would be affordable, fuel efficient, cheap to maintain, refrigerated, and have a bow thruster for maneuverability. Surprisingly, the boat is made of wood.

"Wood boats are great fishing boats," Carr declares. "They get in real shallow, can pack pretty well, and ride like a duck in nasty weather. And it's not like a fiberglass boat is free of problems," he points out. "The plywood bulkheads [under layers of fiberglass] soak up water and rot out, and fiberglass cracks and delaminates [around damaged or stressed areas].

"No matter what it's made of, a boat requires maintenance."

Carr began gillnetting in Bristol Bay in 1965, hand-hauling out of a 24-foot wooden skiff with a 65-hp Mercury outboard. The next year he bought a wooden boat from Commercial Marine Construction in Seattle, where he worked from 1960 to 1967, when Commercial Marine Construction shut down. He fished another wooden boat as well before he began running the first of three fiberglass boats he built for himself.

Each boat Carr built grew progressively wider and deeper because of Bristol Bay's 32-foot length limit — until he wound up with his last Bristol Bay boat, which he didn't build. It was an enormous aluminum slab Carr called a "hotel." It had a 590-hp engine, four giant bunks, head, shower, refrigerator and freezer, and too many comforts from home for a fishing boat.

In a bold step backwards, away from high-horsepower and creature comforts, Carr returned to his beginnings when at the end of the 2008 season, he laid down $6,000 for a 49-year old wooden boat with a 10-foot beam, the BB-43. He shipped it south to his home-based shop on Discovery Bay near Port Townsend, Wash., and was all set for his winter project. Carr's 17-year-old son, Rich, and his nephew Drew Carr have been his crew for the past few years, and Rich helped out quite a bit when rebuilding the wooden boat.

The BB-43 was built in the Bumble Bee shipyard in Astoria, Ore., in 1960. Bumble Bee was primarily a fish packing company, but back in those days fish packers owned the boats and the fishermen just ran them. Carr guesses that about 60 Bumble Bee boats were built to the same design as the BB-43, with oak frames, Port Orford cedar planking and a six-cylinder, 85-hp Waukesha (sometimes earning the name "walk-ashore") diesel.

When Carr bought the BB-43, it had a 135-hp Perkins diesel driving a Borg-Warner 2.5:1 marine gear. With only 2,000-hours on the engine, it will continue its service with the boat, but he tuned up the Perkins and rebuilt the gear for good measure. This modest power package is easy on fuel, but only pushes the boat along at 8-knots.

Inside the Industry

The following was released by the Maine Department of Marine Resources on Jan. 22:

The Maine Department of Marine Resources announced an emergency regulation that will support the continued rebuilding effort in Maine’s scallop fishery. The rule, effective January 23, 2016, will close the Muscle Ridge Area near South Thomaston and the Western Penobscot Bay Area.

Read more...

Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, which governs commercial and recreational fishing in the state, got a new boss in January. Charlie Melancon, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and state legislator, was appointed to the job by the state’s new governor, John Bel Edwards.

Although much of his non-political work in the past has centered on the state’s sugar cane industry, Melancon said he is confident that other experience, including working closely with fishermen when in Congress, has prepared him well for this new challenge.

Read more...
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