Written by Michael Crowley and Larry Chowning
Lobster boat races off to roaring start;
Canadian yard opens on Maine border
By Michael Crowley
Friday, June 13, was a day of torrential rains along the Maine coast, but that didn't stop about 50 lobstermen from showing up Saturday morning in Boothbay Harbor for the start of the 2014 Maine Lobster Boat Racing season. It was the first of two races that weekend.
Everybody was looking forward to seeing the new boat on the racing circuit, Roger Kennedy's Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, better known as WTF, a 28-foot Northern Bay with a 560-hp engine. She ran a good race but Shawn Alley's Little Girls, a 28-foot wooden lobster boat with a 675-hp gasoline engine was faster at just under 50 mph.
The race for the fastest working lobster boat went to Andrew Taylor's Blue Eyed Girl at 36.5 mph.
On Sunday everyone steamed up to Rockland harbor, where there was a great race between Little Girls and Thunderbolt, a South Shore 30, until about 50 yards from the finish when a rod went through the side of the Little Girls engine at a speed of nearly 48 mph.
"Both were pushing it. Both were right at the max," says Jon Johansen, president of the Maine Lobster Boat Racing Association. "You could hear them screaming all the way up the course." But Thunderbolt was also finished for the day with gear problems.
The following Sunday the boys were at it again at Bass Harbor, with 73 boats racing. Joining Thunderbolt and WTF were Uncle's UFO, a Northern Bay 36 with a 900-hp Mack, and Wild, Wild West, a West 28 with a 1,050-hp Isotta Fraschini.
At the end of the day, all four went up against one another in the fastest lobster boat race with WTF crossing the line first at 47 mph.
If you want a boat, for racing or not, from the Canadian boatbuilder Millennium Marine, it just got a whole lot easier. Millennium Marine has moved to the States. Well, not entirely. Owner Cory Guimond says they will still be finishing off boats in his shop in Escuiminac, New Brunswick, for Canadian fishermen, but for U.S. fishermen, Millennium Marine is now operating out of a 35,000-square-foot building in Eastport, Maine.
Guimond set up shop in Eastport for several reasons: He can build for American fishermen without worrying about Jones Act restrictions; the harbor is ice free, whereas the bay in Escuiminac ices over four months of the year, and Eastport is a deepwater port with containerships that can deliver Millennium Marine-built boats to Europe, South America and the Pacific.
"We can build 10 boats there. No problem," says Guimond. Building starts in the fiberglass shop at the back of the 300-foot-long structure, the hull moves ahead to the assembly shop, then to the finish shop and finally to the cosmetic bay before going out the doors. "It's a real production line," Guimond notes.
In July, two 50' x 16' boats (actually it's 49' 11" so it doesn't have to be classed) and one 46' x 18' hull were under construction for American fishermen and a 43-footer for a Canadian fisherman.
One 50-footer is for a squid and tuna fisherman in Morro Bay, Calif. The engine, a 610-hp Cummins, is in the back of the boat. Forward of it is a 700-cubic-foot insulated fish hold.
"He wants to carry a lot of squid," says Guimond, "and the problem with a Down East lobster boat or a Northumberland-style boat is they don't carry a lot of weight aft. They squat in the stern."
Moving the engine aft and loading fish in the middle of the hull means trim issues aren't a concern. The boat will be delivered at the end of the year.
The second 50-footer is going to a Dungeness crabber in Washington state. It will have a 610-hp John Deere.
The 46-footer is for a crabber and eel fisherman in northern California. The normal 16-foot beam was pushed out to "18 feet to allow him to carry more pots," says Guimond. There's a 550-hp Scania for power.
Besides its own hulls, Millennium Marine owns the Donelle molds. The Eastport shop is building a Donelle 43 for a Canadian fisherman in the Bay of Chaleur.
Seattle builder returns to fishing boats;
boatyard ends run of 15 oyster dredges
By Michael Crowley
The Kvichak is back!" That's the proclamation from Kvichak Marine, and if you drop down to the Seattle boatshop, you'll see what they mean. There's the nearly completed aluminum hull of boat number 1 and the early stages of boat number 2 under construction.
These are the first two of an order for four gillnetters, the first Bristol Bay boats Kvichak has built since 1997. In the 1980s and the late '90s, Kvichak delivered more than 40 gillnetters for the Alaska fisheries. It's how Kvichak got into building aluminum boats. But with a downturn in salmon landings, the demand for boats dropped off. Kvichak turned to the workboat market, constructing oil spill boats, pilot boats, passenger boats, patrol boats and others.
Then this past year four Bristol Bay fishermen — a couple of them had fished Kvichak gillnetters — offered a deal to Kvichak. They were all thinking of building new boats and "didn't know if Kvichak wanted to get back into it, but if we do it as a group would [Kvichak] be interested?" says the boatyard's Tim Kolb.
Turns out the company was interested. The fishermen "wanted Kvichak quality, but they also wanted as wide a bay boat as possible and as shallow as possible without sacrificing the ride too much," says Kolb. "They wanted to be able to get up on step and plane with 10,000 pounds onboard."
That takes a bit of power, so all four 32' x 16' 1" x 25" (light, 35 inches loaded) gillnetters will be powered by a pair of Volvo D11 EVEC-E engines rated at 510-hp each, matched up with ZF 305-3 marine gears turning Hamilton HJ364 water jets.
That power package should put Kvichak's new gillnetters up and planing at about 25 knots with 10,000 pounds of salmon aboard. "Up there, having fish aboard and being able to get back to the line quickly is important," says Kolb.
The boat will pack 20,500 pounds of salmon that will be chilled with a 7.5-ton RSW system from Pacific West Refrigeration.
The gillnetters also have a new house design. "They wanted to have a tophouse with maximum visibility and as much space below as possible," says Kolb. Thus there are accommodations for five below and a dinette up top where another person can sleep.
The first of the four bay boats should be delivered in early October. And by early summer, Kvichak was getting inquiries from other fishermen. "We are looking forward to keeping this production line going," says Kolb.
Another production run is coming to a close in Burlington, Wash., where Everest Marine & Equipment and Penn Cove Shellfish in Coupeville, Wash., are finishing up a series of 15 aluminum oyster dredges that they started in 2004.
The last oyster dredge that Stewart Everest and his crew are building measures 64' x 18' x 18", has a 24-inch TraktorJet powered by a 425-hp John Deere and is going to Grays Harbor, Wash. Like the previous boat, she'll have a conveyor down the middle of the stainless steel deck. On each side of the conveyor, the deck is hinged. Hydraulic rams push the deck up, dumping oysters into the conveyor.
Everest Marine & Equipment is also building a 58' x 16' service boat for Penn Cove Shellfish's mussel operations that can be used for harvesting and seeding mussel grounds. Three aluminum pontoons support the new 58-footer's flat-decks A 200-hp John Deere matched up with 30-inch thrusters powers the boat. On deck there's an elevated wheelhouse, a crane and mussel harvesting equipment, all of which is built at Everest Marine & Equipment, which is why Everest describes the project "as a fairly massive job."
The equipment Everest is designing and building for the boat includes a machine to strip mussels off the lines they grow on, some elevators, a brush machine that separates and cleans the mussels, another machine to strip off the beards and a packaging system that weighs and bags the mussels.
Old oyster boat gets another chance;
capsizing leads to larger and safer skiff
By Larry Chowning
Virginia's oyster business has become the savior of several longtime wooden oyster boats, some of which were at the doorstep of Davy Jones's locker. One of them is the Mobjack, one of Chesapeake Bay's largest deadrise oyster-seed planting boats.
For several years she was tied to the dock at Smith's Marine Railway in Dare, Va., entangled in a lawsuit over unpaid hauling and maintenance bills. The legal system had no regard for the damage that's done when a wooden boat like the Mobjack is not maintained while being left unprotected from the weather, year in and year out. After a while, she was kept afloat with the aid of several electric pumps.
But Richard Green's purchase of the Mobjack elicited a sigh of relief from many Chesapeake Bay lovers of wooden deadrise boats. The 72' x 46' x 5' 6" oyster boat was built by Linwood Price of Deltaville, Va., in 1946 for the J.H. Miles Co., of Norfolk, Va., then one of the largest oyster firms in the United States.
Green, of Hayes, Va., comes from a long line of Chesapeake Bay boatbuilders. He lives in Guinea Neck, one of the few areas in Virginia where commercial fishing and wooden boatbuilding are still very much alive. Green has been holding on to leased oyster grounds from the state of Virginia for years in hopes the oyster harvest would strengthen. Well, it has happened. Oysters are coming back, and so Green needed a boat — the Mobjack — to haul shell and seed oysters.
"I'm going to work her," he says. "These large wooden boats have gotten too expensive for the ordinary person to fix. I know about them because I worked with my father building boats right here in this yard."
His father, Herman Green, built wooden deadrise boats, and his uncle Frank Smith built oceangoing trawlers. "Most everyone is dead and gone, but I learned from them how to work with wood.
"I'm going to bring the Mobjack back to life and let her do what she was built to do — haul shell and seed. She's a nice old boat and believe it or not there is a lot of good wood still in her."
Jerry Lambertson of Snow Hill, Md., had Joey Miller of Sinepuxent Boatworks in Berlin, Md., build him a 20' x 7' skiff; but quite frankly, the reason he had it built is as interesting a story as the skiff itself. At the end of April, Lambertson was gillnetting for bunker from a 16-foot fiberglass skiff in Chincoteague Bay. This past spring was unusually cold as Lambertson found out. He was fishing 1,000 yards of net when a sea came over the stern and swamped the skiff, causing it to capsize.
Miller says Lambertson rode the overturned hull and tried to paddle her to shore. However, the top of the outboard was dragging on the bottom, and he was only able to get to about 500 yards from a small marshy island. By this time it was dark, the temperature in the 30s, and he was wet and cold. So Lambertson walked through extremely shallow water until he reached the island, where he gathered and mounded wet marsh grass to make a place to hunker down for the night.
About 4 a.m. his family mounted a search and rescue mission. His father and another watermen found him at 8 a.m., cold and wet, but alive. Lambertson had had enough of that and very shortly after contacted Miller to build him a sturdy skiff with "big" self-bailing scuppers.
Miller constructed a skiff with a 3" x 6" keel and stem and 2" x 6" frames, all of fir. Planking is half-inch fir plywood covered with fiberglass and epoxy resin. The fasteners are stainless steel. The deck and washboards are 3/4-inch fir plywood, with a layer of fiberglass that was then gel coated. The outside is painted with Awlgrip. The skiff is powered by a new 40-hp Honda with power tilt.
"He needed the skiff in a hurry, so I built her in about five weeks and he is now fishing 1,000 to 1,500 yards of net in her," says Miller.
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