Written by Jen Finn
Maine tuna boat goes to Mass.;
41-foot lobster boat is finished
In early April, the Jessie-Lin had just returned from sea trials and was tied up to Atlantic Boat Co.'s dock in Brooklin, Maine. The 33-footer is a stretched out version of Atlantic Boat's Duffy 31 and was built as a rod-and-reel tuna boat for Dave Wilson of New Bedford, Mass. He will use the boat for commercial and recreational fishing, says Atlantic Boat's Nate Hopkins. Wilson, he says, wanted a "simple boat with a high level of finish and construction and wanted it to go fast."
Speed is what Wilson got from the 480-hp Cummins QSB5.9 that's soft-mounted in the engine compartment. The Cummins is matched up to a ZF marine gear with a 2:1 reduction that turns a 23" x 26" prop on a 2-inch shaft. On sea trials the Jessie-Lin was hitting 29 knots wide open, says Hopkins. Pull the throttle back so she's running at 26 knots and that's 75 percent engine load while burning 16 gallons an hour.
For a finish, the hull and deck are coated with Awlgrip, which shows colors off very well without fading, and it's easy to clean.
Accommodations are sparse with a V-berth, head and shelves up forward. The cabin has two helm seats, Furuno electronics and a soft back.
The boat picked up its additional 2 feet at the stern. "That's for deck space, and the lengthening gives a little more hull efficiency and speed because you have more planing area. It's not a big increase, but it does make a little bit of difference," Hopkins says.
Atlantic Boat is due to lengthen another tuna boat. This is a 42-foot Duffy that will gain a 300-gallon fuel tank in the new space. "The owner wants more capacity because he's been fishing at Georges. A lot of people are interested in this job because when making long runs in the tuna fishery they've been carrying bladder tanks on deck," Hopkins says.
A couple of hours to the eastward at Norman Libby & Sons in Jonesport, a 41-foot fiberglass lobster boat was being finished up for John Polk of Machias. The only things left to be done were hooking up the exhaust, some engine wiring and hydraulics. Topping's Diesel in nearby Columbia is doing that work.
The Libby 41 is based on a 38-foot hull designed by Norman Libby's father, the late Ernest Libby Jr., which was used as a plug (see "Remembering a Beals Island boatbuilder known for speed," NF May '12, p. 38). Though first the Libbys had to cut the 38-foot plug in half athwartships and then pull it apart to get the extra 3 feet.
Once the center section was filled in, they cut down both sides of the keel to spread the beam out from 13 feet to 15 feet 8 inches. (She's 15 feet across the transom.)
Libby has built 12 of the 41-footers and says they "are not a lot slower than the 38." Though he's not sure how fast Polk's boat, the Nor'easter, will be. With a 425-hp John Deere, he's hoping for 22 to 22.5 knots. Slowing the boat down a bit might be the fact that "she's built quite heavy. He may use her for scalloping in another year or two. He may use her. He may not."
Beyond the normal support for the 3/4-inch plywood and fiberglass platform the Nor'easter has additional 2 x 10s and 2 x 4s that Polk can bolt the scallop winch to. Adding to the weight is a lobster tank under the deck.
The washboards and forward deck are solid fiberglass. The stern is cut out. Libby says Polk might later add an aluminum tailgate at the stern. That would close off the transom when weather gets snotty and when lowered would allow Polk to carry another tier of traps outside the boat.
Libby builds one boat a winter and, like other Maine boatbuilders, goes lobstering in the summer and fall. Though before he sets his own traps, he'll be bringing his 38-footer, Gigi's Boy, in for some gel-coating and wiring work. "She's 13 years old. Things got to be done," he says. — Michael Crowley
Wash. yard back in the game;
gillnetter loads up on extras
When it comes to building commercial fishing boats, things have been pretty quiet at Maritime Fabrications in LaConner, Wash. The boatyard last built an aluminum boat for a commercial fisherman in 1997 and its last fiberglass boat was completed in 1993.
That's about to change, according to Maritime Fabrications' Ed Oczkewicz. "The first one is in the hopper, the second one is in the mold, and the third, and fourth are on the way. And I've got a good conversation going for a 50-foot seiner," he says of the two fiberglass Bristol Bay gillnetters and two fiberglass Dungeness crabbers the boatyard will be building.
Maritime Fabrications is the beneficiary of rebounding West Coast fisheries. "You can't buy a boat unless you're making money and the fisheries have come back." Oczkewicz says. "Crabbing has been robust the last three years, and the price of salmon has come back from the 2000 period."
The first 32-foot gillnetter is for Oczkewicz. The second gillnetter's owner, Mike Morgan of Langley, Wash., will finish off the boat himself.
One of the crabbers measures 41' x 16' and was designed by the late Lynn Senour, of Seattle. It is going to Wes Taylor of Crescent City, Calif.
The other crabber is also 41-feet but has a 5-foot extension in the middle, which pushes the hull out to 46' x 16'. The boat is for Joe Speir of Brookings, Ore., who had Oczkewicz build him a boat in 1989.
Oczkewicz describes Senour's boats as having a hard chine with a little rocker in the bottom. "It's a full-body design. Some boats have a certain beam and then narrow up quite a bit at the chine, and they rock and roll. These are very stable, excellent sea boats."
All the boats have solid fiberglass hulls and either Nida-Core panels or 6-pound foam for the decks, cabin and bulkheads. No wood is used in the boats. "We built boats like this in 1990 and they are preserved very well," Oczkewicz says.
When he's not in the boatshop, Oczkewicz is busy talking to fishermen who want a boat built.
"There's a guy in False Pass [Alaska]. I got to call him back. Lots of phone calls got to respond to."
Things are also busy over at Petrzelka Bros. in Mount Vernon, Wash., where a bowpicker for Alaska's Copper River fishery is being rebuilt, Petrzelka's crew is helping the owner of a sternpicker finish off his boat, and an aluminum hull from All Points Marine is being finished off for Randy Jones of Tukwila, Wash.
Jones' sternpicker gets most of the attention. The 32' x 14' Net Income "is about as deluxe as you can get. It's going to have every bell and whistle known to man," says the boatyard's Jon Petrzelka.
To start with, the boat is going to get a 1,000-hp MAN diesel. "That's the upper end of what anybody does these days," notes Petrzelka. Jones' son, Jacob Imholt, who will be fishing the boat with his dad, figures they will be able to hit 35 knots. He notes that instead of the normal 400-gallon fuel capacity, there's only tankage for 200 gallons, which reduces weight and should make the boat faster.
According to Petrzelka, the sternpicker will not be lacking in modern equipment.
"It has new LED floodlights, diesel furnace for heat, oil stove, full compliment of electronics, refrigerated sea water, and as much hydraulics as anybody would ever want to put on one."
That's about 10 cubic inches of hydraulic pumps. "It will give them more power to pull the net faster," Petrzelka says. And the hydraulic piping is all stainless steel.
Mounting the MAN farther back provides space for another room under the cabin floor. No wonder Imholt says, "The boat is really designed nice. It's got three TVs and the biggest refrigerator we could put in there."
— Michael Crowley
'Big Shrimpin'' gets new boat;
85 years old and still building
Williams Fabrication in Coden, Ala., is building a steel 105' x 27' x 13' shrimp boat for Dominick Ficarino of Dominick's Seafood in nearby Bayou La Batre.
The boat will fish in the Gulf of Mexico and be part of the History Channel's series "Big Shrimpin'." The program follows three captains of shrimp boats and their crews who work Ficarino's boats as they compete for larger catches. The new boat will have extra berths to accommodate a film crew.
A Caterpillar 3508 rated at 1,000 horsepower is the main engine. It will work through a Twin Disc 540 marine gear. There is also a 299-kW generator for electrical needs and a 375-hp John Deere diesel to power the hydraulics.
"Dominick is a repeat customer who has been satisfied with our work," says Lane Williams of Williams Fabrication. "It's great to be building a shrimp boat again. It's real unusual in this economy."
Most of Bayou La Batre's boatyards are building workboats as the market for commercial fishing boats has waned. "The cost of materials has gone up so much," says Williams, listing one reason the market is sluggish. "A boat today will cost $2.5 to $3 million compared to 10 years ago when you could build the same boat for $1 million."
In a deal that might bring in more business, Williams Fabrication recently converted the mechanically driven winch system on a deepwater Mexican shrimp boat to hydraulic power.
The shrimper had older winches from McElroy Machine & Manufacturing and Douglas Winch Co. Those were replaced with Pullmaster hydraulic winches, says Williams. "The old mechanical systems have a lot of moving parts that can go bad, and if they break a chain in that deepwater, $50,000 worth of chain, doors and nets could be lost."
The Mexican shrimp fishery is a 200-fathom-deep ocean fishery where boats use 3,600 feet of cable to tow the net. Recently a NMFS representative in Mississippi sent several Mexican fishermen to Williams Fabrication for a conversation on hydraulics.
"We've done one, and I think we are going to do six more," Williams says. "It's right much work to converting it over, but it's work and we can do it."
Up in Chesapeake Bay, Willard Norris of Deltaville, Va., continues to build wooden boats for commercial fishermen. He is now building a 26' x 8' wooden deadrise skiff on spec.
Norris says unlike when he started building boats 50 years ago, now he has to search for reasonably priced quality wood. The pine stem in his boat came out of a 100-year-old warehouse that was being torn down in Richmond.
The 26' x 5 1/2" x 7 1/4" spruce-pine keel was cut by Wesley Sanger of New Point, Va., who owns a small custom-cut sawmill. Sanger is also a builder of wooden deadrise boats and has worked the water.
Norris' boat is 26 feet long because the keel was cut that long. "I wanted to go at least 25 feet with the length but when he cut it 26 feet I just went ahead and made her 26," he says.
"I was lucky to get a good pine keel. A fir keel cost a barrel of money. I called Wesley and he said he had a just right tree that he could cut a nice keel from."
Norris used older spruce pine for the side and bottom planks, which were hand picked from another mill in Gloucester County. All fasteners are stainless steel nails.
Norris will coat the boat with West System epoxy. He says the 26-footer will be ideal for crabbing and oystering. "She will handle a 22-inch-wide oyster dredge very nicely."
At 85 years old, Norris is not only still building boats, he also maintains a charter-boat license. This March, he had 67 parties booked for the upcoming fishing season that starts May 6. "I keep busy doing what I like to do," he says. "I guess I'm lucky that way." — Larry Chowning
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