Written by Jen Finn
Two 50-footers are launched; Maine boat goes to California
A pair of 49-foot 11-inch lobster boats was launched in mid-November at Dixon's Marine Group 2000 in Woods Harbor, Nova Scotia. Both are out of the boatyard's new 50-foot mold.
The boats are 1 inch shy of 50 feet because in District 34, the area the boats will be fishing, a boat can't be longer than 49 feet 11 inches. That said, they are referred to as 50-footers.
The two lobster boats went to local fishermen, says the boatyard's Janine Goodwin. The major difference between the two is that the one for Todd Nickerson (the Lobster Stalker) has a 24-foot beam, and Rod Bain's boat (the Georgia Addison) has a 23-foot beam.
The Lobster Stalker and the Georgia Addison are both powered with 429-hp Mitsubishi diesels. Goodwin says Mitsubishi engines are popular in her area because "they have great longevity, are cheap to rebuild and require less maintenance than other engines, so the boys tend to go with them."
That does seem like a small engine for a 50-footer, but Nova Scotia lobstermen "aren't into speed. They want something that's easy on fuel." Goodwin notes.
She hadn't heard what the engines' fuel consumption is, but said that when fully loaded with 375 4-foot traps (the limit that can be fished in that part of Canada), bait and gear, the boats hit 10 1/2 knots. That's 1 knot less than their top speed.
On the four- to five-hour trip to the fishing grounds, "the boats cruise at 9 knots. That's better than the traditional Novi boat. Wide open they are lucky to get 9 knots. When [the Lobster Stalker and the Georgia Addison] went out, they went past all the other local boats, so they were pretty excited," Goodwin says.
The decks and wheelhouse are built of fiberglass over plywood, which the fishermen favor over solid fiberglass or fiberglass with a core material. (The boatyard is building a mold for the house.) Both boats have a 5-foot-deep fish hold that can be used to store lobsters or to ice fish when the boats longline for tuna, swordfish or halibut in the summer.
The 50-foot design is based on Dixon Marine Group's 45-foot semiplaning hull. "We used features that make [the 45-footer] go so well and incorporated them into a bigger, deeper boat. So you still have speed to a point. With more power you should easily be able to get 14 to 15 knots in the 50-foot boat," she said.
Dixon's Marine Group is currently building a 62' x 22' boat for Frank Reyno from Sambro, Nova Scotia. He will use the boat to fish for swordfish and halibut off Newfoundland.
In contrast to the 50-footers, this one will have more power, a 608-hp Caterpillar C18, and will not have any plywood and fiberglass construction. "The hull is solid fiberglass, but everything else is fiberglass with a core material. He wants the boat to last the rest of his life," Goodwin says.
Across the border in Steuben, Maine, RP Boat Shop has sent several of its fiberglass boats to California.
The latest one to go to the Golden State left Dec. 8 on the back of a trailer for San Diego.
Like the previous boats that went west, the Donna Gail will spend much of her time in the squid fishery, but she will also be going after tuna and crab, says RP's Richard Pinkham.
This boat is also longer than the other West Coast boats, which were 35 and 40 feet. The Willis Beal–designed Donna Gail came out of a 40-foot mold but was stretched to 42 feet 6 inches. She has a 15-foot 4-inch beam.
The Donna Gail has a 6-kW Northern Lights generator to power large deck lights, similar to those seen on crab boats. The light draws squid to the surface. When that happens, a purse seiner sets around the squid and the Donna Gail. Any squid left over after the seiner fills up go into the Donna Gail's fish hold.
The Donna Gail has an extended wheelhouse with a navigation station, galley and dinette. Down below are two V-berths, a head and a shower. The hull in that area is cored, "so the crew doesn't sweat while they are sleeping," Pinkham says.
For power the Donna Gail has 405-hp Cummins QSM11. — Michael Crowley
Builder returns to roots; yard has a corner on bulbous bows
Pat Pitsch started All American Marine in 1987 to build aluminum boats for Pacific Northwest and Alaska fishermen. In the next 15 years he turned out a good hundred boats, mostly for gillnetters. Then All American Marine discovered the world of fast catamaran workboats designed by naval architects from New Zealand with exotic notions of boatbuilding — at least by fishing boat standards — and sort of drifted away from commercial fishing.
Now Pitsch is back building aluminum boats for fishermen, and he's bringing some of that exotic stuff from the fast catamarans with him. Pitsch and his son, Rory, operate under the name Strongback Metal Boats in a shop behind Pat Pitsch's house in Bellingham, Wash. Their current project is a 32' x 15' Bristol Bay sternpicker that will have a 525-hp Scania hooked up to a Traktor Jet jet drive with a 24-inch impeller.
When all is said and done and the boat hits the water sometime in April, Pitsch hopes it won't weigh more than 18,000 pounds. Getting the weight down to that number means coming up with some scantlings not usually used for these boats.
"I learned from New Zealand architects that you don't have to have quarter-inch materials to be strong. Aluminum is pretty tough stuff. It will break down from vibration faster than it will break from being bashed into," Pitsch says. Three of his material selections point out what he is talking about.
The decks are extruded-aluminum planks that snap together, with longitudinals built into them. The planks are 0.10 inches thick.
The bulkheads are also lighter than normal. He had them corrugated to form stiffness into the metal. The metal is 0.160 inches thick (a little less than 3/16 of an inch).
For the frames, "instead of using quarter inch, we used 0.160 in some and 1/8 in others, and formed them into channels to spread the load. Anytime we have a bend it probably quadruples its stiffness," he says.
That doesn't mean all the metal in the boat is lighter than usual. The hull is constructed of 1/4-inch bottom plate with 3/16-inch side plating. "Guys still do like to run into each other," Pitsch notes.
The anticipated light weight of the boat and the thrust generated by the Traktor jet will enable the sternpicker to operate with only one engine. "That's the exciting part; you can do it with one engine," Pitsch says.
The engine is to be located in the stern, which frees up space in the forward part of the boat. "This way we are able to have the galley floor down at chine level. You'll step down a couple of steps into the galley, or a couple of steps up, and you are in the tophouse," Pitsch explains.
Pitsch figures on running an RSW system, hydraulics and lights off a genset. "We hope to keep it under 2,000 pounds," he says.
Platypus Marine in Port Angeles, Wash., had several fiberglass boats built by Delta Marine Industries in for bulbous bows. All of them were 58-footers except for the Orion, at 52 feet.
The Orion received the first bulb with a new design from Bruce Culver. The Orion's owners report fuel savings "anywhere from 9 percent to 17 percent," says Platypus Marine's Charlie Crane. The Orion also picked up a set of extended rolling chocks.
Also outfitted with a new bulb and extended rolling chocks was the Providence. There was plenty of underwater maintenance as well. That included replacing a shaft bearing and tuning the prop, pulling out and servicing the rudder, replacing zincs, and removing and servicing the keel cooler.
The Commander was another 58-footer in for a bulb, along with repairs to a damaged rudder, replacement of through-hulls and shafting, and pulling off and servicing the keel cooler.
In mid-December the Obsession was the last of the boats in for bulb work. She would also have her stainless steel hand railing extended and the pot guard modified.
Crane says the boatyard is now infusing all of its bulbous bows. That's a process where the fiberglass laminates are laid in the mold dry. A vacuum is applied and the resin introduced. Done properly, excess resin is removed, along with any air bubbles. The finished product is lighter and stronger than something laid up by hand. — Michael Crowley
Repo'd shrimper will scallop; 28-footers may be the ticket
Jemison Marine in Bayou La Batre, Ala., has finished converting a 95-foot shrimp boat to a scalloper for Warren Alexander of Atlantic Shellfish in Cape May, N.J.
The Ocean Prowler left Jemison Marine in early November. She was a repossessed three-year-old shrimp boat that Alexander purchased with the idea of turning her into a scalloper. This is the third repossessed shrimp boat Alexander has converted. The boat will be scalloping out of Fairhaven, Mass.
Jemison Marine's president, Tim Jemison, says the boat was in excellent condition when she came into the boatyard. He also notes this was one of the last repossessed boats available. "There are no more repo's," he says.
Jemison Marine built a new aluminum house and shucking station on the Ocean Prowler. The boatyard also altered the rigging by taking off the old outriggers and installing new "lamppost" outriggers. These are tapered, cold-processed steel tubes from Monotube Pile Corp., in Canton, Ohio, that resemble lampposts.
What made all three boats that Alexander bought for conversion so attractive was that each one had low hours on a 3508 Caterpillar engine, as well as relatively new generators, Jemison says.
Atlantic Shellfish owns 17 commercial fishing boats and three 135-foot offshore supply vessels that service the oil industry in the Gulf of Mexico, Alexander says.
Jemison is currently building a 93-foot scallop boat for another Cape May owner. The boat will have a bulbous bow and be rigged with a net reel so the crew has the option of going after scallops or finfish. Jemison says this job will keep his boatyard busy through the summer.
The current difficult economy has cost several Chesapeake Bay builders of fiberglass boats their businesses and has forced others to re-evaluate their markets.
In the 1970s, builders of fiberglass boats started setting up shops on the western and eastern shores of Maryland and Virginia. These boatbuilders sold to customers on the idea that fiberglass required less maintenance than a wooden boat and lasted longer.
The longevity sales pitch that sold fiberglass commercial fishing, charter and recreational boats in the 1970s, '80s and '90s is now hurting the business. People are hanging on to their old boats, and guess what — old fiberglass boats are durable and require less maintenance than wooden boats.
On the other side of the coin, boatyards with marine railways catering to commercial fishermen working out of wooden boats are fairly busy. During a recession, maintenance becomes more practical than purchasing a new boat of any kind.
However, there has also been downsizing of boats by commercial crabbers and oystermen who have replaced their 42-foot wooden deadrise boats with smaller fiberglass boats.
That trend brought at least one hard-core recreational boatbuilder to consider diversifying into the commercial fishing market. Martin Hardy of Composite Yacht in Trappe, Md., has made a living building recreational boats. Recently, boat designer Jim Thimsen of Dagmar out of Deltaville, Va., bought Hardy a design for a 28-footer both men think will make a good commercial fishing boat.
The 28' x 9' 3" x 3' 3" fiberglass design has a classic Chesapeake Bay deadrise hull. "The hull form has evolved on workboats on the lower bay, providing a safe, seaworthy, sea-kindly boat, small enough to be comfortably handled by a lone fisherman and capable of moderate speed at an efficient rate of fuel consumption," Thimsen says. "A 28-footer is a good size for what Chesapeake Bay watermen need today," he adds.
One of the Dagmar T-28s has been launched for recreational use, but Thimsen has designed a workboat-style house for the 28-foot hull and is attempting to market the boats to commercial fishermen.
"We have not been heavy into building commercial fishing boats," Hardy says. "We have built some for the Maryland commercial [crab] trotline fishery and for offshore and bay hook-and-line commercial fisherman. Yet, we see where there may be more of a market there."
The boatyard currently has a contract to take a 38-foot Maine-built lobster boat hull and custom build the house and topsides for a Maryland commercial hook and liner to fish for striped bass in Chesapeake Bay. — Larry Chowning
The Downeast Salmon Federation has received a major grant from the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities to ensure and improve the water quality of eastern Maine’s most important rivers, according to the Ellsworth American.
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La. crabbers face management changes
Louisiana crab fishermen and their catch are feeling the pressure of a downturn in the state economy, and a resulting upturn of people entering the fishery.
“It’s a crazy business right now,” said Pete Gerica, the New Orleans fisherman who now serves as president or the Louisiana Crab Task Force, a legislatively-created board of industry voices that makes recommendations to state government.