National Fisherman

The ivory watchtower

Precedent. I’ve come to learn that it can carry far more weight in our country than the word of law, even a massive, longstanding federal law.

The Magnuson Act is formed around 10 National Standards, but they don’t enjoy equal weight in practice. Federal fisheries are managed primarily by the first two standards — preventing overfishing and using the best available science. Though it’s all the way down the list as number 8, the act explicitly states that the importance of fisheries to their communities should be taken into account and quantified with the same science used to assess the fisheries themselves “in order to provide for the sustained participation of such communities, and to the extent practicable, minimize adverse economic impacts on such communities.”

16Oct NF EditorsLog

The expectation that the Northeast groundfish fleet (or any fleet, for that matter) — already on its knees as a result of managing to the best available (and in this case insufficient) science — pay for their own observer coverage strikes me as being in violation of almost every mandate in the Magnuson Act.

There is insurmountable evidence that piling on the burden of paying for onboard observers results in undue strain on the fleet and therefore the communities. Let’s not forget National Standard 7, “Conservation and management measures shall, where practicable, minimize costs.”

So you might ask, how are we so adept at ignoring National Standards 7 and 8? Precedent. It’s a bad habit formed over several decades.

And now the government wants to mandate observers but not pay for them, and a federal judge has ruled that it’s a fair mandate (read the story in Around the Coasts on p. 15). We’re also told that the groundfish fleet got lucky this year because a windfall of cash is available to cover observers for most of the year.

Where did that money come from? The company that contracted with the government to schedule observers for the fleet neglected to place observers on about a third of the trips it was supposed to. It’s a happy windfall, right? But what is the fate of that company? If fishermen failed to comply with the law or a federal contract 33 percent of the time, what would be their fate? How likely is it that the government would be touting the results as a lucky happenstance? I think it more likely that those fishermen would be fined into oblivion. That’s the precedent, anyway.

The Northeast Fisheries Science Center announced recently, in collaboration with several fisheries associations, that they will at long last transition their groundfish survey work from the overpowered Henry B. Bigelow to cooperative surveys using Northeast fishing boats. Bill Karp, the outgoing director of the center, is respected from coast to coast. He has made significant progress in improving the relationship between NOAA and the Northeast fleet.

While I will be very sad to see him retire this fall, I hope his dedication to fairness, transparency and data will serve as a lasting legacy that helps bring the Northeast groundfish fleet back from the brink.

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Don’t burn your bridge

A 108-foot steel crab boat was tied up alongside the dock for maintenance in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands chain. The deck had about 180 crab pots, stacked six high on the deck with a tunnel in the center to allow passage, fore and aft, into the main deck house. The skipper and one crewman were out on the main deck working on the crabber’s crane and crab block. One other crewman was in the galley working on dinner and the last was grabbing a quick nap on his bunk.

Consequences USCGreports

At 4 p.m., the skipper wanted to test the crane, so he called on the crewman in the galley to assist. Around 4:25, the crewman who was sleeping awoke to cracking and popping sounds. He sat up in his bunk and saw a glow of flame and smoke coming under the doorway of the berthing space. The crewman felt the door, which wasn’t hot, but more smoke was pouring into the space. He opened the door, and as he sprinted past the galley, he saw it was on fire. He continued onto the deck to tell the others. 

As the skipper and crewmen headed aft, they could see smoke coming from the main deck-level of the house. The skipper grabbed the first fire extinguisher he saw, which was at the top of the stairwell leading to the engine room. He made it about 10 feet toward the galley when he ran into flames and heat; he emptied the contents of the extinguisher toward the base of the flames. The skipper retreated aft and went down into the engine room to secure the power supply at the main breaker panel. He then grabbed a larger extinguisher from the bottom of the engine room stairwell, returned and emptied the big extinguisher into the fire, but still could not get into the galley.

He told the other crewmen to make for the dock and see if they could find fire hoses. Then he quickly returned to the engine room for his last big extinguisher. This time he managed to forge ahead to just inside the entrance of the galley. The bulkhead behind the stove and refrigerator was on fire. As he used the last of the extinguisher, the flames rolled across the overhead like a wave and began to creep behind him. The skipper knew he needed to get out, or he’d be trapped. He went forward, up the stairwell to the wheelhouse and grabbed another extinguisher, but by this time smoke was coming heavy up the wheelhouse stairwell. He was forced to exit through the portside hatch and make his way down onto the dock.

At 5:15 p.m. the local fire dispatcher was notified of a fire. The harbormaster had arrived with hoses in his pick-up truck. 

The fire chief took over firefighting operations 15 minutes later; he continued to cool the outside of the house and also attacked the fire from the main deck, through the tunnel in the stacked pots. Within a very short time the firefighters were able to contain the fire and stop it from spreading down into the engine room. The firefighters called it extinguished at about 6:05 p.m. and set a reflash watch.

Although the crabber’s house received extensive damage, the skipper and crew escaped with no injuries and did not need medical attention. The crabber was refitted, repaired and eventually returned to service. 

Lessons learned

An interview with the crewman who was doing the cooking that day revealed that he was heating up a pan of bacon grease on the stove. When he was called forward to help with work on deck, he left the stove top on under the pan. The fire marshal and Coast Guard inspector concluded the fire originated on the electric cook stove in the galley.

Know where it is safe to smoke on the vessel (away from flammable liquids, gases, and aerosols), carry out fire drills regularly, test your smoke detectors and never leave a stove unattended to help avoid these accidents.


Whether you’re underway or tied up, pay attention to what you are working on, don’t let your guard down, and fish safe!

This article is based on U.S. Coast Guard reporting and is intended to bring safety issues to the attention of our readers. It is not intended to judge or reach conclusions regarding the ability or capacity of any person, living or dead, or any boat or piece of equipment.

NF Oct16 CVR

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Drop the flag and... go!

Maine lobster boat racing leaves the playing field and the engines wide open

It was the July 24 lobster boat race in Friendship, Maine, that many fans had been waiting for. Class K (701 to 900 horsepower, 28 feet and over) featuring Jeff Eaton’s La Bella Vita, a Northern Bay 38 with a 750-hp FPT up against Gary Genthner’s Lisa Marie, a Libby 34 with a 690-hp FPT and Nick Page’s All Out, a Calvin Beal 38 with a 750-hp John Deere.

As the boats move slowly ahead with the starter’s boat, waiting for the flag to drop, it’s an adrenaline rush, says Eaton. “Some really push the flag boat and jump out in front of you. Gary is a good one. He likes to get the jump. You really got to watch him.”


Watch him he did, and once the flag slammed down, it was close all the way down the course between La Bella Vita and Lisa Marie. Near the finish line, there didn’t appear to be any separation between the two boats. In what would be seen as the best race of the day, four judges declared it a tie at 40.6 mph. 

The Friendship races were just one of 11 for 2016. One day’s individual races can be added to a string of thousands, dating back to when Maine lobstermen starting hauling traps, first with small sloops and then with gasoline powered lobster boats. 

Those early races were informal gatherings with few rules. Sometimes it was just a challenge to see who would be first from the grounds to the dock. It wasn’t until 1964 that Jonesport’s Bert Frost made an attempt to organize the races. But with few races or racers, not a lot of variation in boat sizes or horsepower, and with most everyone running gasoline engines, the rules were loosely structured. 

Not until the early 1990s when Brian Robbins with Commercial Fisheries News worked with the Maine Lobster Boat Racing Association was there an attempt to fashion rules that would work with racing’s increased popularity, changes in boat and engine design, and would be the same from port to port. 

“It’s like drag racing cars,” says Robbins. “You have rail cars, funny cars, different street classes. You could take your mother’s station wagon with groceries in the back and race. There’d be a class for it. We tried to apply that to lobster boat racing, so a guy with a 34-foot wooden boat with a 453 GM had a class he could race in.”

Today, it takes about four pages to list all the rules and classifications for lobster boat racing. The rules, as laid down by the Maine Lobster Boat Racing Association, are quite specific. You need a conventional lobster boat that’s 24 feet or greater with a full keel. Anything under 24 feet falls into what is basically the skiff category. Boats 24 feet and over are put in a class based on a boat’s length and horsepower. 

There are three classes for skiffs, five for gasoline-powered boats, 14 for diesel-powered boats, two for wood boats (though a wood boat can race in other classes) and at the end of each race day, there’s the Gasoline Free-For-All and the Fastest Lobster Boat Race.

(Some ports, such as Jonesport and Stonington, separate the working lobster boats from what are basically race boats — lobstermen often call them “toy boats” — with a Fastest Lobster Boat and a Fastest Recreational Lobster Boat race.)

Whatever class you are in, the rules say only a single engine is allowed, and don’t even try running nitrous oxide or propane, unless you are in the Gasoline Class E for modified racers. 

Does that mean no one is breaking the rules? Jon Johansen, who heads up the Maine Lobster Boat Racing Association, says one of the hard parts of his job “is dealing with cheating.” It’s not prevalent, he adds, but unless “you hear it through the grapevine, you can’t do anything about them because you aren’t going to dyno them.”

To a certain extent, it’s been an ongoing problem. In the early 1980s, some ports had a rule limiting an engine to 400 horsepower, yet “you’d have to be an idiot not to realize those guys were playing with their engines,” says Glenn Holland of Holland’s Boat Shop in Belfast, Maine, referring to lobstermen in the Jonesport and Beals Island area. (In 2000 Holland’s 32-foot Red Baron set the world’s fastest record of 57.8 mph until Galen Alley’s Foolish Pleasure hit 72.8 mph at Stonington in 2011.) 

Make no mistake about it, everyone taking part in the lobster boat races loves speed, and some of those with the fastest boats love to strut it. There’s the story of the Young brothers, Vid and Vin, whose 33-foot Sopwith Camel and then the Camel 2 were always at or near the head of the pack in the 1980s and ’90s.

They were walking down a dock in Stonington prior to a race, says Robbins. Each was carrying helmets and goggles when they were asked, “What’s with the goggles?” One of the Young brothers replied, “As fast as we are going, if you don’t wear goggles when you open her up, the eyeballs will be sucked right out of your head.”

Another rule requires all boats to have a kill switch. There’s a good reason for that switch, like the time Ellery Alley was at the helm of the Underdog at the Searsport races when “He touched her off, she hit a chop or whatever,” says Robbins and “it flipped him out over the rail.” There were at least two times Johansen can think of when boats lost their steering in the middle of a race. In all those cases, a kill switch comes in handy. In Alley’s case, the sternman could hit it. 

There are times when a kill switch won’t solve the problem, such as a 2001 race at Searsport. Joe Sargent of Sargent’s Custom Boats in Milbridge was at the wheel of Wild, Wild West. “It was blowing probably 25 and they were racing side to the seas,” says Johansen. “Everything was wrong.” So wrong that midway down the course, Wild, Wild West hit a swell and rolled completely over. Sargent swam out from underneath the overturned boat and...

Read full article in our October issue page 24.

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NF Northeast ATY Icon 16

Shop builds for Maine brothers; Jersey gillnetter goes for the stretch

By Michael Crowley & Kirk Moore

If two out of three brothers think the boat you build is the best one around, then there’s a pretty good chance you can eventually rope in the third brother. 

Down in Friendship, Maine, Greg and Andrew Simmons have been fishing with 40-footers from Wayne Beal’s Boat Shop in Jonesport, Maine. Their brother Keith was the lone holdout with a 45-foot Young Brothers. But now all three have signed up for new Wayne Beal’s Boat Shop 46' x 17' 10" hulls that will be finished off as lobster boats. 

Greg’s was the first out of the shop, going to Friendship to be completed. She’ll have a 900-hp Scania on her engine stringers, says Wayne Beal. 

The remaining two hulls are spaced out among other fishermen who have also signed up for a Wayne Beal-built boat. “Brother Keith is two boats back,” says Beal, “and Andrew is after that.”

In early August, a 46-footer had been pulled from its mold for Jeff Libby of Beals Island, while a 42-footer for Ben Heanssler of Deer Isle was about halfway completed. He’ll use the boat for lobstering and scalloping. (They are the two boats before Andrew’s 46-footer.)

Heanssler’s boat has a C18 Cat detuned to 800 hp. Under the platform are three lobster tanks and two fuel tanks. Heavy 4x4 framing supports the platform, “so he can bolt his winch down,” says Beal. 

The platform is 3/4-inch Penske board and fiberglass on both sides with a little extra glass on top “to give extra structure in case he drops any rocks on it,” Beal says, “they won’t punch through.”

Forward of the split wheelhouse will be V-berths with hatches for storing. 

Andrew, as well as two or three other fishermen, talked about pushing the 46-footer they had signed up for out to 50 feet. But Beal discouraged that “because everybody behind them would probably drop out because I’d be so far behind.”

He’d have to lengthen the 46-foot hull by cutting it in the middle and stretching it out to 50 feet. He thinks that’s a lot better than adding the length at the stern, where the addition could end up “hog bottom,” he says, if the hull lines don’t stay fair. And if the rudderpost isn’t moved aft where the length is added at the stern, it can affect the boat’s ability to track. 

Still, he says, “the way the market is going now, I could build some 50-footers if I had the mold.” He figures he’d build that mold if he “had a few in line to make it worth my while.” 

Boats with extended hulls have become common along the Mid-Atlantic coast, especially as fishermen moved into multiple fisheries and seasons. Chesapeake Bay watermen did it to adapt for dayboat scalloping to better handle dredges and working offshore.

For gillnet captain Mike Karch, stretching his boat Eliza — a 40-foot Maine-built 1982 Young Brothers — by 4 feet will bring him better performance while fishing for monkfish, bluefish and other species out of Barnegat Light, N.J.

“It makes the boat a little more stable, with more buoyancy. Some people pick up a little bit of speed, too,” says Karch, who expects the improved boat will cruise at 12 to 13 knots with its Sisu 400-hp engine turning a 27" x 29" wheel.

“I thought about these lobster boats — they run around empty. We’re coming in, we’ve got 3,000 or 4,000 pounds, and they tend to squat,” Karch said.

Previously redone by Karch in 2004-2005, the Eliza is getting a new 4-foot aft section at Grant Boat Works in Forked River, N.J., a yard on the river off Barnegat Bay known for commercial and wooden vessels. Karch brought on Lindsey Pirie, a respected fiberglass and composites fabricator on Long Beach Island, and yard owner and boatbuilder Greg Grant.

“Greg’s really good. He’s done a lot of work for us. Lindsey is the glass man,” Karch said. “It’s mostly all fiberglass work. We laid a skim mold off the stern.”

 Grant agrees with Karch’s assessment of adding buoyancy to the stern. He recalls a few conversions like that with wooden boats years ago, to cure squatting tendencies when propeller wash “would be going up in the air” astern and slowing the boat. 

NF West ATY Icon 16

Gillnetter built in 1891 is still fishing; boatyard has 39-footer as a spec boat


By Michael Crowley

Most fishermen thinking about buying a first boat won’t have made enough working as a deckhand to purchase a new one. They’ll have to settle for something that’s been around for a while. But 125 years? That’s how far back Peter Stein’s the Reba-H goes. 

Stein figures his 25' x 8' x 3' wooden troller has been carrying the name Reba-H for at least 10 years. He’s a lot surer about when she was built, with documentation showing it to be 1891, as a sailing Columbia River gillnetter. 

This summer the Reba-H was hauled out in Petersburg, Alaska, at Petersburg Marine, better known as Scow Bay Boatyard, while Stein and his brother, Tom, made repairs before the season. 

“She’s a really seaworthy boat, surprisingly for her size,” says Stein. But if it weren’t for an outboard motor, she would probably be a broken-up wreck. 

A number of years ago, the Reba-H, which at the time was in a sinking condition, says Stein, was rafted up with several other boats off Bainbridge Island, Wash. She had an outboard that Port Townsend shipwright Dave Thompson wanted. He was offered the boat at no cost, towed it to Port Townsend, took the outboard, and sold the Reba-H to a guy with the moniker “Logger Bill” for about $100, says Stein. 

Logger Bill did some work on the boat while living on it and then sold the Reba-H to Eric “Ozzie” Anderson for $500. “Ozzie did quite a bit of work on it and turned it into a hand troller,” Stein says. The work included rebuilding the 18-hp, two-cycle Saab; adding a new aft deck; refastening the hull; replacing some planks and frames; and rigging it for hand trolling. The latter addition consists of two Kolstrand had gurdies and 25-foot trolling poles.

Ozzie fished the Reba-H for two years before buying a gillnetter. In exchange for helping him work on the gillnetter at Scow Bay Boatyard, Ozzie gave the Reba-H to Stein, who when he’s not fishing, works at Cunningham Ship Carpentry in Port Townsend. 

In the four years since, Stein has had some pretty good fishing, with a best day of 136 cohos. He slush-ices the cohos in a below-deck 4' x 3' x 4' 6" fiberglass fish box. “Slushing the fish limits me to three-day trips,” Stein says, adding that he figures to be finishing out the season in Southeast Alaska’s Cross Sound. 

After that he’s looking to sell the Reba-H and move up to a 40- to 45-foot wood boat with power trolling. “I like wood boats, but I want something more than a 5-knot boat and something I can run down back to Washington in every September.” 

So if you’re looking for a 25-foot hand troller, here’s a possibility. On the other hand, if you are in the market for something larger, like a new 39' x 14' fiberglass crabber, check out the one Maritime Fabrications in La Conner, Wash., is building on spec. In early August, she was about 40 percent completed.

The 39-footer will be a near sister ship to the Shirley Rae, completed last fall for a Santa Cruz, Calif., Dungeness crabber (“Stacking the decks,” NF Dec. ’15, p. 42). She’ll have a four-bunk fo’c’sle arrangement, pack 16,000 pounds of crab and carry 150 pots on deck. The choice of engine will be up to the boat’s owner, says the boatyard’s Isaac Oczkewicz. 

Maritime Fabrications also has a 32-foot Bristol Bay kit boat with hull, house and deck. Though Maritime Fabrications builds mostly fiberglass boats, they occasionally construct aluminum boats. In early August, the yard crew was finishing up a 25' x 8' aluminum skiff for a local sea-cucumber diver. She’ll have a three-sided cabin and be outboard powered.

Though Oczkewicz says the market for new boats is “not like it was two years ago,” partially because of California’s poor Dungeness crab season in 2015, he says, “the interest level is still there.” 

One thing helping fuel that interest, which wasn’t there two years ago, is the rescinding of the rule requiring boats 50 feet and over to be built to standards determined by a classification society. 

 In fact, two fishermen have been talking with Maritime Fabrications about building 56' x 18' boats. One is a crabber in Washington, the other a seiner in Alaska. Both boats would use a lengthened 49-foot Maritime Fabrications hull. 

NF South ATY Icon 16

Competition buoys builder after fire; Fla. clammer gets 225,000-lb capacity 


By Larry Chowning

David Mason of Chesapeake Boats of Crisfield, Md., experienced a massive fire at his boatshop on June 27 and lost a 10,000-square-foot boatbuilding shop. His estimated losses were at $10 million.

It took nearly 70 firefighters from Somerset County, Md., Worcester County, Md., and Accomack County, Va., two and a half hours to bring the fire under control. No injuries were reported, but one fire fighter was sent to the hospital for heat exhaustion.

Chesapeake Boats lost two nearly completed boats, a 46-foot classic deadrise headed to Seattle, and a 36-foot deadrise bound for Florida. However, Mason was able to save two of his molds, the bread and butter of any fiberglass operation. With the molds, he can keep on building boats.

Almost before the smoke cleared, Mason got a phone call of support from competitors and boatbuilders Eugene and David Evans of Evans Boat Repair in Crisfield. They offered and ended up providing Mason with a shop location on their yard so he could keep building boats.

Eugene Evans and his son David understand first-hand Mason’s plight. On Thanksgiving Day in 2005, the elder Evans lost his molds, several buildings and seven boats to fire.

“A lot of people reached out and helped us when we had our fire,” he says. “We’ve got a building here that we are not using, and it will be just right for David. Rebuilding is going to be slow, and he needs a place to work now.”

Mason was a commercial waterman for 20 years before he founded Chesapeake Boats in 1997. He custom builds boats from 35 to 75 feet long for both commercial fishermen and cruising yacht customers. Interestingly, he is one of just a few Maryland fiberglass builders who models his style after the classic Deltaville, Va. deadrise style, with a high stem line and very little flair in the bow. His boats are built from AA and AB plywood, and he sheathes the hulls with glass set in polyester resin.

Evans has a new 50-footer about completed on the yard that is going to a recreational buyer in Connecticut. The firm has, however, been moving more into repair and boat restoration as the market seems to be moving in that direction, says David Evans Sr.

The firm is refurbishing a 29-foot fiberglass deadrise boat for blue crab trot-liner, Mark Lotz of Baltimore. Lotz is getting a complete house/pilothouse restoration. Evans also has a 26-foot fiberglass boat under major restoration for a pleasure boat owner.

Patti Marine Enterprises of Pensacola, Fla., is making headway on the Sea Watcher II, a 152' x 36' clam vessel for Truex Enterprises, a company that clams in the Atlantic out of Easton, Md. 

The Sea Watcher II represents the fourth project Patti has had with the Truex Family. The clam hold module on the new vessel will be 68' x 36' and weighs 225,000 pounds. It is designed to carry nearly 200 cages of fresh clams from Georges Bank. 

The keel supports are in place for the first midship module, which is almost complete, says Ashley Stone, Patti’s project manager. Prefabrication and erection of the stern components are moving ahead as steel continues to arrive for the remaining hull.

In July, oysterman and boatbuilder Richard Green of Hayes, Va., had the oyster dredge boat Mobjack on the rails at Smith’s Marine Railway in Dare, Va. The Mobjack, 72' x 46' x 5.5', is one of the largest wooden deadrise commercial fishing boats on Chesapeake Bay.

Originally built in 1946 in Deltaville, Va., Green bought the boat in 2014 and has been replacing the top work and deck beams at his dock in Hayes. He plans to use her to dredge for oyster and plant spat on James River. 

He has progressed enough on the topwork to need the railway for bottom work on the Mobjack. “The plan is to refasten the bottom, replace any bad wood where need be and to paint the bottom,” says Tim Smith of Smith Marine Railway. “There are some (leaking) issues coming from the boat’s five-piece horn timber that we are going to study.”

 The horn timber in the Mobjack is composed of five massive pieces of wood. In wooden boat construction, the horn timber ties the keel and transom together, with the propeller shaft running down through the timber from the reverse gear. A reverse curve in the Mobjack’s horn timber gives the boat a concave bottom at the stern. Historically, five pieced horn timbers have had a tendency to leak in areas where it was pieced together and have been the Achilles heel of many a wooden deadrise boat. Later boats were built with solid-pieced horn timbers, which are much less prone to leaks.

» Read more Around the Yards here. 

NF Oct16 CVR

» Read more articles in our October issue.

» Fish eNews offers the latestindustry news.

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Copyright © 2016 National Fisherman. All rights reserved.

Inside the Industry

Governor Bill Walker has officially requested that the federal government declare a disaster for four Alaska regions hurt by one of the poorest pink salmon returns in decades.

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The New England Fishery Management Council recently elected Dr. John F. Quinn of Massachusetts and E. F. “Terry” Stockwell III of Maine to serve respectively as chairman and vice chairman in the year ahead. The two have led the Council since 2014 but reversed roles this year. 

Read more ...
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