Written by Jen Finn
Sea trial turns into at-sea rescue; N.H. builder has new 21-footer
The 38-foot wooden lobster boat Sea Song was tied to the dock at Billings Diesel & Marine in Stonington, Maine, for what was expected to be an engine sea trial, says Peter Buxton, the boat's builder.
Things shifted rapidly when a mayday call came over the boat's VHF radio. "No one responded. We said we would go out," Buxton remembers. Stonington is on the edge of East Penobscot Bay, where a strong easterly had suddenly developed. It was blowing a group of kayakers out into the bay.
"One had fallen overboard" from his kayak, says Buxton. When the Sea Song reached the kayakers, the one who had gone overboard was draped across two kayaks. "They weren't able to paddle and were getting blown out into the bay.
"The young man was fairly hypothermic by the time I got there. It was easterly. It was cold." The crew on the Sea Song got the kayakers aboard, and there was an ambulance waiting for them when the boat got back to Billings Diesel."
Buxton built the 38' x 13' Sea Song at his shop, Buxton Boats, in Stonington for local lobsterman Frank Gotwals. He describes the hull as a semibuilt-down. "It's built-down two-thirds of the way back and then transitions into a skeg."
Stonington is in the transition area between skeg-built boats where the hull, after rounding at the bilge, goes flat into the hull, and built-down boats, where the hull curves down into the keel. Designers of built-down hulls are generally to the southwest and skeg-built to the east.
"Where I come from, the most famous builder is Arno Day, and he did a lot of semibuilt-down-style lobster boats," Buxton says. "I'm sure his influence is there in my design." Day hailed from nearby Sedgwick.
Beyond that, Buxton says he "kinda took what I liked from what I saw from everyone." Something he favors is tumblehome in the stern. "In my mind if you are going to build a Maine lobster boat, you've got to have tumblehome."
The Sea Song is cedar planked on steamed white-oak frames. The pilothouse is also cedar planked over white oak. The decks are glassed-over plywood. "That keeps freshwater out. It's the most important thing in preserving a wooden boat," says Buxton.
For power there's a 405-hp Cummins QSL9 that pushes the Sea Song to 21 knots.
Up forward, the cabin ceiling planking is bright finished. There's a V-berth with an insert, an enclosed head with mahogany trim and a small galley. "The owner likes a few amenities," Buxton explains.
After the Sea Song was finished, he started his next project. That's a full restoration of the Nellie H, a 37-foot oyster sloop built in 1903 in Northport, N.Y., on Long Island.
In early July, New Hampshire-based Surfside Boats conducted sea trials on its new 21-foot fiberglass lobster boat. It is neither an open boat nor does it have a center console, as does an earlier model from Surfside Boats. This 21-footer has a lobster-boat-style cabin and house.
"The cabin and windshield are one solid, molded piece," says Surfside Boats' Carmen Carbone. "The only thing that was added was the roof and wood struts for support." The three windows across the front of the house are custom made by an outfit in Oregon and cost $1,500.
Behind the wheelhouse is 11 feet of open deck, which is plywood, covered with fiberglass. Beneath it there's a 63-gallon fuel tank and tubes for the cables running from the engine to the wheelhouse dash.
Carbone has been running his new 21-footer with a 115-hp Mercury four-stroke outboard, but he says, "I think it will run with as little as a 90 horsepower and be fine." He's also thinking of setting it up with an "inboard-outboard because it has all the space for it."
With an 8-foot beam, the boat can easily be hauled around on a trailer. In 1981, Carbone started Eastern Boats in East Rochester, N.H., which is where Surfside Boats is located. "I designed the Eastern 22, and this has better looks and lines and will go through the water even better." — Michael Crowley
Oregon yard has plenty of repair work;
replacement houses a boatyard specialty
It's been a busy spring and summer at Giddings Boat Works in Charleston, Ore., says the boatyard's Mike Lee. Two boats are being built for Oregon fishermen and several have been in for major repairs and renovations.
Giddings Boat Works has a pretty good relationship with Pacific Choice Seafood in Eureka, Calif. Last November the dragger Calamari came in to have a bulkhead installed to create an additional fish hold.
More recently, Pacific Choice Seafood brought in two more of their boats. One was the 80-foot dragger Pacific Future. "This turned into a fair-size project," Lee says.
The yard crew hauled out the Pacific Future to replace steel bow plating, and then sandblast and paint. They pulled and rebuilt shafting, and installed a cutlass bearing. She also got a new 65-kW John Deere genset.
The 83-foot Swell Rider, a Pacific Choice Seafood dragger out of Garibaldi, Ore., had some "rotten plating" replaced, says Lee. They added an ice belt along the hull, and sandblasted and painted the entire boat.
The dragger had some of her deck hydraulics replaced, got a new shaft alley cover, and had some of the fiberglass and foam in the fish hold torn out and replaced. She also picked up a new 65-kW genset.
The Marcy J, a pollock and cod trawler out of Kodiak was headed back to Alaska on June 14 with a new house. She had been sponsoned some 10 years ago and the originally house left on her. But visibility was not good over the now-widened hull, so owner Harold Jones brought the Marcy J to Giddings Boat Works and came away with a new house.
The two boats under construction are the 67' x 25' Patriot for Mike Pettis of Newport and the 72' x 28' Miss Emily for Todd Whaley of Brookings. Both boats will go shrimping, crabbing and tendering.
At the beginning of August, the boatyard's crew was putting the house, mast and breakwater on the Patriot. The Miss Emily's hull was plated up, and the yard was installing piping.
Up the Pacific coast from Giddings Boat Works, Yaquina Boat Equipment, in Toledo, Ore., is a boatyard known for retrofitting older hulls with new pilothouses. Though lately they've had to slow things down a bit. "We've sold so many pilothouses — five in the calendar year — that now we are spacing them out more," says Yaquina Boat Equipment's Doug Alldridge.
The 190-foot dragger Seeker, owned by Jim Seavers, left in July with a new pilothouse. She operates out of Newport, and after departing Giddings was headed out to do some shoreside hake fishing before going to Alaska for cod and pollock.
The 23-year-old boat came to the Toledo boatyard with a steel pilothouse that had a lot of troubles. "There were holes rusted in the pilothouse that caused water damage down below," says Alldridge. "We tore out down below, but no sense in redoing down below until you fix the real problem." That meant removing the steel pilothouse and building a new aluminum house.
Yaquina Boat Equipment usually modifies the design of the pilothouse that is being replaced, but "this was about the only one we copied the same footprint," says Alldridge. Though they did add a stateroom for the captain and increase the pilothouse height by 3 feet. The additional height provided room for electronics, but it was mostly done because the owner intends to sponson the boat in the near future.
"If you stay at the lower level and make the boat wider then you can't see over the edge," Alldridge points out. Besides the new pilothouse, the Seeker also received a new exhaust for future engine upgrades and a new mast.
Another boat that recently went away from Yaquina Boat Equipment with a new pilothouse was the dragger Miss Sue. "We took the original footprint and built our style of house," Alldridge says. "It has our windows, a brow and a different mast, which is considerably shorter." — Michael Crowley
Va. builder continues skiff tradition;
gillnetter is built with PVC panels
Pride of Virginia Seafood Products has several boats and cold-storage bait operations on Virginia's Northern Neck. Their Reedville plant is on a wharf along Cockrell Creek, just up from George M. Butler's Reedville Marine Railway.
Talk about being convenient, when work needs to be done on Pride of Virginia's numerous pound-net skiffs — also known as trap boats — or any of their other wooden boats, Butler's railway is close by.
Butler allows watermen to work on their boats and charges by the haul. "We haul right many work skiffs because they are not on the rails long, and I can schedule a skiff in between larger boats," he says. "They are in and out in a hurry. It makes it easy on the watermen, and I get some income from the haul."
A Pride of Virginia crew caulked one of their 20-foot trap boats and then gave it a coat of white Interlux, along with red Pettit Seamate antifouling paint on the bottom.
Butler specializes in building deadrise skiffs and seems to always have at least one under construction. Currently he's building an 18-footer for crab potting. "I build a whole lot of skiffs for grown men whose fathers and grandfathers worked the water," he says.
"That 18-footer will go to a son of a former crabber. He wants a skiff like his father had [that] my father built him when he was a boy." Butler's father, George P. Butler, ran the Reedville yard from the 1930s until his death in 1976 when George M. took over.
The skiff has cedar planking with a pine stem and stern. The stringers and ribs are white oak. The sides, bottom and stern will be fiberglassed. "He wants to keep it out of the water so she needs to be 'glassed," Butler says.
A few miles from Reedville is Cockrell's Marine Railway at Heathsville, where Myles Cockrell and his father, Andy, have been busy of late.
The Cockrells recently completed two skiffs, a 20-footer built from PVC panels for a Rappahannock River crab potter and gillnetter, and a 16-footer using juniper and oak for a Northern Neck crab potter.
On the PVC skiff, the Cockrells used 1-inch PVC panels for the bottoms and sides, and 1 1/4-inch panels in areas that receive high stress, such as the washboards and transom. All the PVC panels were cut from 4' x 20' sheets.
The PVC skiff has many of the same structural features as a standard wooden skiff, such as a 1" x 3" PVC bilge clamp at the chine, which helps stiffen the hull, and a 1" x 3" sheer clamp under the 6-inch-wide washboards.
The Cockrell family is also in the oyster business and trades under the name Little Wicomico Oyster Co. They recently had two of their boats hauled out on the rails. One was the wooden Lillie Ann, a 42-foot round-stern deadrise built in 1941 by the late Herbert Rice of Reedville. The Lillie Ann's sides, decks and bow staving were fiberglassed.
The 30-foot Pookapooka also got a covering of fiberglass. "We fiberglassed her sides and interior to get her ready for the oyster season," Myles says. The Pookapooka is a flat-bottom skiff with a sterndrive that was built by the late Frances Haynie. The boat's unusual name is the nickname of Myles' 1-year-old daughter.
"The Pookapooka is a dredge boat with a great big skeg on the bottom," Myles says. "We work oyster cages with her and grow oysters by spat-on-shell. We are also in the winter going to use both boats to take up seed on the Great Wicomico [River]."
In July a 30-foot deadrise gillnetting and crab potting skiff that belongs to Thomas Gaskins of Ophelia, Va., was on the rails. "We put a PVC toe rail on her, and I've done a lot of fiberglass work to her. We reinforced one of the corners where crab-pot lines are chafing the wood. We also put some stainless steel on her in places that take a lot of wear. She's a monster skiff. She's got 4-foot-high sides on her," says Myles.
— Larry Chowning
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