Written by Jen Finn
Upkeep is part of the deal; where to go for a wider boat
Jake Wiscott says, "My father has always said to me to maintain a boat is a lifetime job in itself." Wiscott is engineer and deckhand on the 95-foot steel scalloper Susan L, which in early November was hauled out at the Dorchester Shipyard in Dorchester, N.J. His father, David Wiscott, skippers the boat and is part owner.
If you've been hanging out at the Dorchester Shipyard the past few weeks you'd be keenly aware that the elder Wiscott means what he says.
In the past six years, the Susan L has been repowered with an 805-hp Detroit Diesel 12-149 main engine and a pair of Detroit Diesel 3-71-powered 30-kW gensets. Using the fish hold as a way to get the engines in and out resulted in rebuilding the hold. That was in 2003.
A year later, the working deck was cut out and 3/4-inch plating welded down over new deck beams. And the waist was raised 10 inches and new gallows installed.
This year the Susan L, which was built in 1979 by Bruce Harris in Arapahoe, N.C., picked up a new set of outriggers in April. Now that the scalloper is out of the water in Dorchester, she is having a lot more work done.
Harris built the boat with channel iron welded to the bottom for keel coolers. These have been cut off and new Fernstrum keel coolers installed.
"Channels are not an efficient way to cool the engine," notes Jake Wiscott. He says the Fernstrum keel coolers take up "substantially less space and the main will run cooler."
The shipyard pulled the main shaft, and since it showed minor cracks, they reconditioned it and the prop. Inside the Kort nozzle, the yard crew installed a new 12-inch stainless steel ring.
The rudder shaft, which was mild steel, has been replaced with a stainless steel shaft. The original shaft "would rust, and the rust would eat away the packing" in the stuffing box, Jake Wiscott says. Both the rudder shaft and main shaft got new cutlass bearings.
Before sandblasting the bottom and sides of the boat, the crew welded to the hull new sea chests with doubler plates.
That should do the Susan L for a while, but then again — as David Wiscott knows — you can never be sure what a boat will need next.
In Addison, Maine, Guptill Custom Marine is getting a name as a place to go if you want to add some beam to your lobster boat.
Of course, Guptill's isn't the only boatshop doing that sort of work. Any good shop can take a fiberglass hull and stretch out its width. But Guptill Custom Marine has added a feature. When the boat goes out of the shop the hull has a chine; whereas before it had a traditional round-bottom shape.
The boatyard has done that on a 38-foot Libby, and is due to widen and add a chine to a 46 Jarvis Newman this winter.
Far more radical is what Guptill Custom Marine does to wooden lobster boats that are having the beam pushed out. "I tell the customer that it will scare him. He doesn't want to be around when we take the chainsaw out," says the boatshop's Ira Guptill.
The process starts where the boat is widest, cutting from the washboard down to about the bilge line and then back to the stern, removing planks, frames — everything. "We chop the whole top half of the boat off. We've done it to three wooden boats that have had narrow sterns," Guptill says.
The most recent was a 36-footer in June. "The owner needed to have it fiberglassed anyway because it was real leaky. Then he said, 'When you are doing this can you widen the stern out?' I said, sure," Guptill says.
The remaining bottom half of the boat gives Guptill a shape to work with. He first builds a transom of Nida-Core foam, fiberglasses it on one side and screws it to what's left of the bottom of the boat. "The stern gives us the width and tells us what we need for extra bottom around the stern area," he says.
Next he builds the sides of fiberglass and Nida-Core and screws them to the hull. Eventually everything gets fiberglassed. "It's like a composite boat when it's done," Guptill says. — Michael Crowley
64-footers cranked up and out; S. Calif. boat nets job in Alaska
"We're cranking them out." That's what Stewart Everest says of the 64-foot aluminum boats his shop, Everest Marine & Equipment, in Burlington, Wash., has been building, along with its partner, Penn Cove Shellfish in Coupeville, Wash. The boats are for Coast Seafoods of Bellevue, Wash.
Six boats have been built, five oyster dredges and one mussel processor. "Coast Seafoods is replacing all the boats in their fleet," Everest says. By early October, Everest was setting up the keel for a seventh boat, another oyster dredge.
All of the boats have Traktor Jets from North American Marine Jet, though the new boat will have the latest model Traktor Jet and a bigger engine.
Instead of a John Deere 330-hp diesel, the boat that's being built is getting a 455-hp John Deere 6125 that will be hooked up to a TJ-457HT Traktor Jet. "They changed the impeller design and it handles more horsepower," Everest says of the jet. "We're hoping to plug in at 17 knots. The others run 12 to 13 knots," he adds.
With the new Traktor Jet — along with the bigger John Deere engine — Everest was a little concerned about underwater appendages tracking air into the jet's intake. "So I moved around some things on the bottom of the hull," he said. "At a slower speed it didn't matter, but at higher speeds I was worried it would suck up air."
One of the things Everest did to get solid water coming into the jet's intake was mount the intake so the front of the screen is 4 inches below the hull and the back of the intake is 5 1/2 inches below the hull. "It is angled so it is facing the water coming along the bottom of the boat, which is forced up into the jet," Everest explains.
The oyster dredge's work deck will be made of stainless steel sheathing over aluminum. The stainless is more durable than aluminum, but matched together it's a good opportunity for corrosion. To reduce the possibility of corrosion, the aluminum will be isolated by sealing its surface with a two-part epoxy bottom paint.
Following that, 3M's 5200 compound will seal off the edges and where the stainless steel is through-bolted to the aluminum. That should keep saltwater from getting between the two metals. The boat is scheduled to be finished in late spring or early summer.
In the last week in October, Susan Bierria was in the Gulf of Alaska, probably somewhere off Yakutat fishing for halibut, but not in her boat. Her 58-foot Redemption was hundreds of miles to the south in Long Beach, Calif., and 95 percent complete.
After being out of Alaska's fisheries for about 12 years, Bierria and her husband, Albert, decided they wanted back in. They had salmon permits and halibut shares; all they needed was a boat. They picked a 58-foot design from Jensen Maritime Consultants in Seattle and hired Miguel Aceves to gather a crew together and build the steel boat.
Construction started in December 2008, and the Redemption was due to go in the water in December 2009.
The 58' x 24' 6" Redemption has a refrigerated seawater system and two fish holds that combine to accommodate 150,000 pounds of fish, Susan says. There is also a 302-cubic-foot bait hold.
In the engine room is a 600-hp Caterpillar C18. Up forward, the bulbous bow comes with a 16-inch, 60-hp bow thruster from Wesmar. Along with the main engine are two John Deere gensets; one is rated at 65 kW, and the other puts out 100 kW.
"We didn't want this expensive of a boat when we went back into the industry, but we knew it was our only option," Susan says. "There are some pretty old boats out there, and a retrofit would have gotten the price up ridiculously high."
In fact, the boat cost more than they expected, so the Redemption is for sale. If it doesn't sell, they will take it to Alaska next spring and fish it themselves. If it does sell, "we will build two more. The third one we will keep and take the proceeds [of the first two boats] to work the debt down for the one that we own," Susan says.
In the meantime, the Bierrias will head back to Alaska and fish their quota on boats owned by other fishermen. — Michael Crowley
Barcats hauled for the winter; rack of eye determines length
Since the first English settlers occupied it 350 years ago, Tangier Island has been one of Virginia's commercial fishing strongholds.
Crockett, Pruitt, Parks, Dize and Wheatley are names that have been part of Tangier's heritage for generations. When a son was born to these families there was little doubt he would grow up to work the water.
For the past several years, however, the island has seen a movement away from fishing as restrictions on the fisheries and Virginia's ban on winter crab dredging has pushed islanders into other jobs.
In the past three years, more than 70 Tangier Island fishermen switched to working on tugboats out of New Jersey and New York ports.
That said, Pruitt's Boatyard, which is on the island, was busy getting oyster dredge boats ready for the winter fishery that opened in September. Some fiberglass boats are up on blocks and being stored in case working on tugboats doesn't appeal to the boats' owners. (Several local watermen have given up on tugboats and returned to the island.)
Numerous fiberglass barcats are among the boats that have been hauled out. A barcat is a low-sided deadrise boat used exclusively in Tangier Sound's spring and summer crab scrape fishery. The boats are pulled out of the water in the winter and launched in time for the crab season.
The barcat Joan Marie is owned by Barry Parks, who hired out on New York tugboats but came home and is back working the water. Parks will be working on his boat over the winter.
In to Pruitt's Boatyard for some general maintenance work was the 42-foot Amber Leigh, owned by oysterman Larry Dize. The fiberglass-over-plywood boat had plywood installed on the starboard side to protect the hull where the oyster dredge hits it. The Amber Leigh was then painted from top to bottom.
Also on the railway for painting and routine maintenance was the Miss Sandra. Wayne Wheatley owns the crab potter but worked her sparingly this crab season. Wheatley and other watermen are cutting expenses by going as crewmen, instead of working their own boats.
Francis Goddard of Piney Point, Md., is building himself a 30' x 10' x 10" boat to dredge his private oyster grounds on St. Mary's River near the mouth of the Potomac River.
Goddard has oysters growing on bottom that is about a foot deep. Consequently, he built a tunnel in the boat's stern section. The tunnel moves most of the prop above the bottom of the boat — thus reducing the draft while protecting the shaft and prop.
Goddard also installed sister keelsons, rather than the traditional centerline keelson that's over the keel. The keelsons run from stem to stern, and the distance between them is a little more than the width of the boat's Chrysler inboard engine. This allows the engine to be mounted between the keelsons and lower in the boat. Placing the engine a few inches lower decreases the shaft angle, which allows a flatter ride at slow speed when dredging in shoal water.
Goddard's wooden boat is built of spruce pine that he selected and milled himself. Most of the lumber was left over from a lifetime of building commercial fishing boats for watermen.
"I didn't have to go out and buy any lumber," he says. "I've got a boatyard full of scraps left over."
Goddard is one of only a few old-time southern Maryland boatbuilders still building boats. He doesn't use boatbuilding plans for a design but relies totally on what he sees; "rack of eye," they call it. When asked the dimensions of his boat he says, "I'm not sure to the inch how long she is or how wide she is. I do know she's as long and as wide as I need."
Goddard has built boats as small as 12-foot skiffs and as big as a 55-foot sailing skipjack, or the 65-foot buy boat Poppa Francis, which he uses to plant seed oyster for the states of Maryland and Virginia.
When asked how many commercial fishing boats he has built over the years he says, "I have no idea. I never kept count, but I would think I've surely built over 150 wooden boats for watermen." — Larry Chowning
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