Written by Jen Finn
March 6, 2013
It's wood again for lobsterman; Maine yard revives two classics
On April 4, Peter Kass said he should have been timbering up the lobster boat he and his crew are building for Scott Dugas of Yarmouth, Maine, except that John's Bay Boat Co. in South Bristol, Maine, along the shore of Poor House Cove, was getting a cleaning up for the launching party the next day of a 42' 6" x 15' x 5' 8" lobster boat for Edward Grant of York.
The boat closely resembles the Norman & Mary, which was launched in December 2005 for Kittery's Eddie Foye, except that Grant's boat doesn't have a cutout stern and bridge tiles on the deck. The stern is closed in and there is a caulked Douglas fir deck. And while Foye's boat has a 600-hp Lugger, Grant's is 700 hp.
One thing that always surprises people not familiar with the wooden lobster boats built at John's -ay Boat Co. is the amount of detail and finish work that goes into one of Kass' boats. Inside the split wheelhouse you will find dovetailed drawers, varnished mahogany raised paneling, varnished mahogany trim and a teak sole. And in the cuddy cabin are varnished ceiling planks and trim.
When most people talk wood versus fiberglass boats, especially workboats, the rub against wooden boats is maintenance. So it seems logical the last thing a fisherman needs is a wooden boat, especially one with a fair amount of varnish that has to be periodically sanded and refinished. But you don't usually hear of a lobster boat from John's Bay Boat Co. that isn't well maintained.
Certainly Grant knows what he's getting into because this is his second lobster boat that has taken the trip down the marine railway at John's Bay Boat Co. and into Poor House Cove. The first one was built eight years ago. A day or two before the launching of his new boat, Grant tied his first one up to the boatshop's dock. "It's had eight years of hard fishing, and it looks exactly the same as when it was built," Kass says.
Every March, some of the best examples of wood and fiberglass boats from Maine boatbuilders, as well as boatshops from nearby states, are shown off at the Maine Boatbuilders Show in Portland. Most of the boats are built for the recreational boat owner. Some will go to people who would never dream of tying up to a fisherman's dock, and if they spied a bit of lobster bait on their deck, would immediately die of cardiac arrest.
Then again, there were boats at this year's show whose decks would be a perfectly natural place for lobster bait, or anything else a fisherman wanted to put on them.
Nichols Boat Builder in Phippsburg, Maine, had an 18-foot strip-planked West Point skiff. Richard Nichols, the shop's owner, uses one for lobstering.
Down the hall and around the corner, Pendleton Yacht Yard on the island of Islesboro in Penobscot Bay, had trucked down a classic 1950s Maine lobster boat with its extremely low, sweeping sheer, diamond-shaped windows in the trunk cabin and five windows across the front of the wheelhouse.
The 35' x 10' x 2' 6" wooden boat was built by Beals Island's Harold Gower in 1953 and almost completely rebuilt by Pendleton Yacht Yard. The job took 18 months and 5,000 hours, and the only thing that remained of the original boat was the keel and the stem, says the boatyard's Bill Boardman.
The Lindsay D had been owned by one of the boatyard's employees who was going to restore it a little bit at a time. Then an island resident saw the boat, bought it and had the boatyard restore it.
The original Chevrolet V8 gasoline engine was replaced with a 220-hp MerCruiser 6-cylinder gasoline engine. The boat gets up to 20 mph and cruises at 14 mph, Boardman says.
The Lindsay D still has her davit and hauler, as the owner intends to haul a few traps.
The same person purchased another Beals Island lobster boat that Pendleton Yacht Yard is restoring. This 34' x 10' wooden boat was built by Vinal Beal in 1959 and, Boardman says, had been around Islesboro for 20 years. She was better maintained than the Lindsay D and only required new decks, some electronics and cosmetic work.
The Shadow — that's her current name, Boardman doesn't know her original name — will be used for a summer powerboat course that teaches boat handling. — Michael Crowley
Trawler receives triple rudders; boat is finished after 17 years
At Hansen Boat Co. in Everett, Wash., the 110-foot trawler Nordic Fury was in the boatyard's dry dock to have Nautican triple rudders installed behind an existing nozzle, as well as having other work done.
With the nozzle, "they had noticed a decrease in maneuverability. A nozzle is great for towing, but it doesn't maneuver as well," says the boatyard's Rick Hansen. The rudders, set up on a framework behind the nozzle, use the existing steering system.
Some wear in the steering room from the force on the previous rudder was repaired, Hansen says. Another item that needed fixing was uneven wear on the shaft's intermediate bearings.
Both of the Nordic Fury's gensets required the boatyard's attention. A Caterpillar generator had its 3306 diesel replaced with a rebuilt engine, only instead of cutting a hole in the side of the steel hull to remove the engine, it was disassembled and hauled piece by piece up the companionway. "It's pretty amazing watching an entire block come up a 2-foot by 2-foot companionway, go around a corner and come up and be laid on deck," Hansen says.
The boatyard's crew replaced the exhaust system on the other generator because of corrosion. Before the boat came out of the Bering Sea, the turbocharger was replaced in Dutch Harbor. At Hansen Boat Co. part of the auxiliary was torn down to make sure seawater had not gotten into the engine.
In the wheelhouse, all but one of the monitors were pulled out and replaced with seven flat-screen displays. That necessitated a lot of what Hansen refers to as "cosmetic rebuilding" to accommodate the new display units.
Rebuilding, cosmetic or otherwise, is not a new concept for the Nordic Fury, which started out as a crabber when she was built in 1973. Along the way, she picked up about 10 feet of beam with a sponsoning job, and in the early 1990s, Hansen Boat Co. built a new pilothouse on the boat.
Then she had a shelter deck built on one side, wave walls added, a refrigeration unit put on deck, trawl winches mounted on the upper deck, and a large gantry now spans the stern. "There's not much left of that boat around the outside that's original," Hansen says.
The crew at Buffalo Boats in Bellingham, Wash., can usually be found finishing off one of its own boats, but this winter they've been working on a couple of older hulls for commercial fishermen.
In one of the projects, Roger Allard, the owner of Buffalo Boats, says he has been "piecing together a really neat crab boat." It is built on a 30-foot GlassFab hull that was constructed 17 years ago as a bowpicker for a gillnetter. It came with a deck and house but, for the past 17 years sat on a trailer next to the owner's home, without being finished off.
"It never had a drum, a motor or anything on it," adds Allard, who was setting up the fiberglass boat to fish for crabs, prawns and halibut for Dana Wilson of the Lummi Nation tribe. That required replacing the old deck and aft-located wheelhouse with a new deck and building a wheelhouse up forward.
The engine that Allard put in the boat is a used 200-hp Volvo Penta 41 series inboard-outboard with duoprops. It had about 200 hours on it.
Allard remembers asking the boat's owner where he was going to get an engine for the boat. "I don't know. I can't afford a new one," he told Allard. So they went to Craigslist online and found the Volvo in Pelican, Alaska.
Another boat that is being pieced together at Buffalo Boats is a 32-foot bowpicker that Allard says "has been decommissioned out of Bristol Bay." At his shop the boat is being set up as a light boat for California's squid fishery.
The old wheelhouse and decks were torn off and new ones installed. The fish hold was eliminated because the boat will be working as a light boat, not packing fish. A 35-kW genset was installed to power the lights.
"There will be lights hanging all over the place to attract the squid, and then the seine boat will set around it," says Allard, explaining how the boat will be used. — Michael Crowley
Bugeye gets a fiberglass coat; Fantail stern for 1924 logboat
Small marine railways that serve commercial fishermen are scattered up and down the southern portion of the United States. They are an important part of the infrastructure that keeps fishing boats afloat and the business of catching fish alive.
Linton Marine Railway in Valona, Ga., is a good example. It is at the end of an old dirt road that leads down to shrimp boat docks. With a single railway, Linton caters to the longtime shrimping fleet that works out of Valona and other small fishing villages on the Georgia coast.
Matt Linton, who owns and operates Linton Marine Railway, says his main customers are commercial fishermen. "Mainly all we work on are commercial fishing boats or fishing boats that have taken on a new life," he says. "We are mostly a wooden-boat boatyard."
One older commercial fishing boat that has taken on a new life was on the railway in March getting its wooden hull covered with fiberglass.
The O.A. Bloxom was built in 1901 and originally named the Nora Phillips. J.T. Marsh built the 75' x 21' O.A. Bloxom at his boatyard at Solomons, Md. The boat is historically significant because it is one of just a few Chesapeake Bay bugeyes still afloat.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, these sail-powered boats were used to dredge for oysters, serve as buyboats and haul freight on the bay. Most were built out of logs instead of planks. However, the O.A. Bloxom was built with planks — pine planks, 3 inches thick. After being converted to power, the O.A. Bloxom worked Chesapeake Bay until 1991, when she went south to carry freight from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., to the Caribbean.
Ritch McCormack of Fernandina Beach, Fla., the boat's owner, says, "When we sandblasted to remove all the paint below the waterline, the entire boatyard smelled like fresh-cut heart pine.
"Some people say fiberglassing the bottom is like putting a coffin on a wooden boat. Well, I say those old iron fasteners that weeped rust out onto the hull so proficiently will forever be denied the opportunity to detract from the appearance of the Bloxom."
The boat also got new wooden cap rails and rub rails, four berths were installed in the main hold, the heads were upgraded and a new shower was added.
Williams Fabrication of Coden, Ala., has two New England scallop boats underway that will go to Fleet Fisheries of New Bedford, Mass.
The boatyard's Lane Williams says these are the fourth and fifth scallopers they have built for Fleet Fisheries, and all have been different size boats to meet permit requirements.
One of the new steel boats measures 90' x 27', and the other is 101' x 27'. The smaller boat will be powered by a 6-cylinder 700-hp Lugger L6178.4C that will work through a Twin Disc marine gear with a 6.5:1 reduction that turns a four-bladed prop.
The 101-footer's main engine is a 1,050-hp Caterpillar 3508; the Twin Disc marine gear has a 6:1 reduction that turns a four-blade prop. In mid-March, the 101-footer, the Alaska, was in the water, and decks were being installed on the 90-foot scalloper.
The log boat, F.D. Crockett, owned by the Deltaville Maritime Museum, is on the rails at Chesapeake Marine Railway in Deltaville, Va., getting a new fantail stern installed.
The F.D. Crockett, was built in 1924 and hauled freight on the bay and worked as a crab dredger. She is one of only two log boats built specifically for power that are still afloat. Most large log boats relied on sails and wind for power.
Motorized low-sided log boats made a comeback in the 1920s because they were easier to work aboard than the high-sided, planked deck boats in the oyster and crab-dredge fisheries.
John England, project manager of the F.D. Crockett, says log-hull boats did well with low-powered gasoline engines because they were easy to drive. "People who remember the Crockett say she would go up the creek going 6 or 7 knots and there wasn't a ripple on the water," he says.
The stave-planked fantail stern is longleaf Georgia pine. A new laminated horn timber is also Georgia pine, as is the stern's new sheer plank.
The stern is shaped very much like those on launches built at the beginning of the 20th century, to keep them from dragging when underway. — Larry Chowning
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