Written by Jen Finn
At the top of his game
A Nova Scotia fisherman designs himself a double-decker of a lobster boat
By Carla Allen
Trucks slow to a crawl and a steady flow of men climb out to have a gander at the Papa Russ, Curtis Rodgerson's new double-decker lobster boat tied up at the Sandford (Yarmouth County) wharf in Nova Scotia.
The battleship-gray painted boat appears too short for its height and has a bow that towers over the conventional lobster boats that are tied alongside. There is much discussion about the odd-shaped wheelhouse, which has a large see-through section above the hauler, on the starboard side.
"I've been fishing 14 years and I've never seen anything like that," says one fisherman as he peers into the multi-angled pilothouse that's 20 feet above the waterline.
Built from "eight years of doodling" as ideas came to him, Rodgerson says he designed Papa Russ specifically for safety and comfort and a need to get "up and over" the work being done on deck.
"The ideas came mostly from a desire to resolve small problems with certain aspects of the way a conventional lobster boat worked," he says.
One of the biggest problems was being in front of the men as they worked and having to continually turn around or step aft to monitor the crew. Thus the raised fiberglass and plywood wheelhouse is designed with two identical helm stations: the one on the port side is for steaming and docking, while the helm station on the starboard side is directly above the pot hauler and used when the boat is fishing.
From the fishing station, Rodgerson can look down through large, angled windows below his feet at the pot hauler, which he controls, as well as at the hydraulic boom with a hauling block that helps bring the traps aboard. All the crew has to do is gaff the buoy and put the line in the hauler.
Rodgerson has an unobstructed view of the most dangerous equipment and easy access to the hydraulic kill switch, an arm's length from his seat. From this high vantage point, he can easily watch other boats and monitor the crew as they work on deck.
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