Written by Jen Finn
Cat decision frustrates builder; museum rebuilds side-trawler
At Wesmac in Surry, Maine, Steve Wessel is both glad and frustrated. He's glad that a boat is being built in each of the boatshop's six bays. Five of those are commercial fishing boats, and one is a pleasure boat.
He's frustrated with Caterpillar because they've pulled the engine a lot of fishermen want.
"I've got the last two C15 Cats in existence. I was very upset to hear I couldn't get a C15 anymore," Wessel says.
That, he says, forces fishermen and sometime boatbuilders who want to stick with a Caterpillar engine to spent "$18,000 to $20,000 more for an engine," which is usually a C18.
"I've got a lot of boats sold and now have to pay a lot more for engines. Somebody has got to take the hit, and in some cases it could be me," he points out.
Two of the lobster boats being built are getting the C18. An 825-hp model is in a 42-foot Wesmac with a split wheelhouse that's going to Mark McColl in West Bath, Maine.
The other is a 1,000-hp engine that's going in a 55-foot Wesmac for Josh Goodwin in Hull, Mass. This will be for offshore lobstering and oceangraphic mapping. Wessel describes the boat as "a full live-aboard."
Both lobster boats have a solid fiberglass hull, while the house and platform are built with an Airex-foam core.
In 2003, the 60-foot eastern-rigged dragger Roann was hauled out at Mystic Seaport Museum's Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard in Mystic, Conn., prior to being completely rebuilt.
Designed by Albert Condon and built in 1947 at the Newbert & Wallace Shipyard in Thomaston, Maine, the Roann fished until 1997, first out of Vineyard Haven, Mass., and then Point Judith, R.I.
As would be expected of a wooden boat that had been fishing for 50 years without any rebuilding, the Roann had broken frames and problems with the oak planking and backbone. And many of her iron fastenings had wasted away.
The hull was rebuilt with white oak and is bronze fastened. The Roann's Detroit Diesel 12V-71 is back on its mounts. The original pilothouse is bolted down to a new deck, and the Hathaway chain-drive winch was rebuilt.
The museum's shipyard crew is reassembling the galley and the mechanical systems. The rigging needs to be completed and ballast has to go in, says Quentin Snediker, director of the shipyard.
Volunteers have supplemented the museum's shipwrights and helped keep the rebuilding project going. "All of us," says Snediker, "grew up knowing these as fishing boats, so [the Roann] has an emotional connection to a lot of people."
Four volunteers — Dick Wing (who recently died), Wayne Whalen, Jim Collins and Dick Burke — were with the project from the very beginning. Jim Fox — who, Snediker says, used to own a small boatyard — is a recent addition to the group. The time each volunteer spends working on the Roann varies, but for Whalen it's four days a month he's in Mystic, driving 300 miles from his home in Cape May, N.J. When he returns home he often brings things like deck ventilators, fuel tanks and deck blocks to be repaired or rebuilt at his shop, Custom Sheet Metal.
"I've got 4,000 hours easy on the project," Whalen says.
Whalen's Cape May connections came in handy when the shipyard determined the Roann's Detroit 12V-71 needed a new block. This was after the volunteers had rebuilt the engine. It was an unanticipated expense that could have put an indefinite hold on the project.
But Whalen had a friend back in Cape May, Buddy Eckel of Eckel's Diesel Service. "He works on commercial fishing boats and said, 'We've got a block. We'll do it for nothing. Just buy the parts,'" Whalen says.
Once the work is completed, the Roann won't be spending all her time tied to a museum dock. The idea is to use her for a traveling exhibit. Whalen hopes she is able to go to the Working Waterfront Festival in New Bedford, Mass., Sept. 24–25.
Snediker thinks that's a "little optimistic." But he admits the volunteers are a potent force — so who knows? — Michael Crowley
Seine skiff has lots of thrust; yard building three 58-footers
Talk about rapid expansion, Tyler Boats in Sedro-Woolley, Wash., has moved three times in the past year. The first move was from what was basically a boatshop in a garage to a 4,000-square-foot shop. Next was a building with double the square footage. And as of Jan. 1, 2011, Tyler Boats has a boatshop with 11,000 square feet of floor space.
"We found our niche," says Tyler Boats' Fred Crothamel. That niche is building the Husky line of aluminum seine skiffs, Bristol Bay gillnetters and setnet skiffs, with a majority of the effort currently going to building seine skiffs.
The most recently launched seine skiff measured 22' x 11' and was powered by a 375-hp John Deere 6081. The prop is spinning inside a 32-inch steering nozzle that sits inside a tunnel. The thrust coming from the nozzle "is huge," says Crothamel, "giving 9,500 pounds of bollard pull."
That's too much power for a single steering ram. "We broke one already with a single ram, so we doubled it up," he says.
The skiff has a self-bailing deck that sits about 10 inches above the waterline.
This was the second 22-foot seine skiff built by Tyler Boats. They have six more seine skiffs under construction: two 20' x 10', two 21' x 11' and two 23' x 12'.
The skiffs will spend the salmon season on seiners in Alaska's Prince William Sound, Southeast, or False Pass. Part of the rest of the year, some of them will be running out nets in the West Coast squid fishery. "There's big money in the squid fishery in the last couple of years," Crothamel notes.
At the end of February, Tyler Boats had 11 boats on the shop floor. There were two Bristol Bay sternpickers, six seine skiffs, one combination crabber and gillnetter, a setnet skiff, and a small crabber.
The Bristol Bay gillnetters measure 32' x 15'. One has a 525-hp John Deere that's matched up with an Ultrajet 17.7-inch water jet. The second boat will have a 28-inch prop that's powered by a 435-hp Cummins.
Down in Reedsport, Ore., Fred Wahl Marine Construction has the 67' x 21' Dynamik in to have her accommodations area rebuilt. On a previous visit to the Reedsport boatyard, the Dynamik, which had been having a problem with green water coming aboard, had the bulwarks raised and the flying bridge converted to a tophouse.
To prevent the new metal from increasing the boat's draft, the Dynamik's owners, Brian Nolte and Todd Whaley of Brookings, Ore., added a bulbous bow at the same time the other work was being done.
This time, the work focuses on the crew's living space. "They gutted out everything but the tophouse and are redoing the whole joinery package," says the boatyard's Mike Lee.
The rebuilding includes two new staterooms, a new head, galley, and mess area. "They'd been thinking about doing this for a long time," Lee notes.
Several boats were due in for repairs. One of them is the Progress, a 115' x 31' dragger, which will be getting a new shelter deck, a muffler for the main engine, and a new generator.
The king crabber Pacific Sun is also expected. She measured 98' x 24' when launched at Bender Shipbuilding & Repair in Mobile, Ala. Then a number of years ago, the crew at Fred Wahl's lengthened and sponsoned her. "They cut the bow and stern off, threw them away and salvaged part of the house area," says Lee. When she left the yard, the crabber measured 122' x 36'.
Nothing so dramatic is scheduled for this visit. Two deck cranes will be overhauled, a new apitong deck installed, and "there will be lots of sandblasting and painting," says Lee.
In the meantime, there are three 58' x 26' longliners to build for the Bering Sea cod fishery that's for boats under 60 feet. One 58-footer will be delivered June 1, another in August, and the third in December. — Michael Crowley
Snapper rig gets new plating; wooden boat is nearly built
Chesapeake Boat Works in Deltaville, Va., has the Hush Puppy, a steel 80' x 20' menhaden snapper-rig on the rails. Another snapper-rig, the 88' x 21' Osprey is arriving as soon as the Hush Puppy goes back in the water. (A menhaden snapper-rig is an independently owned purse seiner that usually caters to the commercial hard-crab bait and recreational bait markets.)
Menhaden fisherman Frederick Rogers, who fishes out of Reedville, Va., is having the boatyard replace a portion of the Hush Puppy's steel bottom, running from the mast forward to the bow's stem. The boatyard will also install new zincs and do annual bottom-maintenance work.
The bottom plating was originally a quarter-inch thick, though Rodgers says, "I think she was really 1/16 inches thick. You could drive your fist through her if you really tried." The old plating will be replaced with 5/16-inch steel.
Rogers' company Reedville Menhaden has owned the Hush Puppy since 1989. "Over the years, we have been patching and patching her," he says. "We replaced the bottom from the mast aft a while back, and now we are doing the bow."
The Osprey will receive its normal yearly maintenance, unless repairs are warranted. "There is nothing scheduled for any major repairs on the Osprey," says Jon Farinholt, of Chesapeake Boat Works. "But you never know until you get the boat out of the water and are able to see what's under there."
The Hush Puppy was built in 1974 in Beaufort, N.C. The Osprey was launched in 1997 in Louisiana and is owned by Chesapeake Bait Company in Reedville, whose principals are Rogers and Ronnie Bevins.
David and Mark Moore of Newport News, Va., hope to have a wooden 30' x 11' x 1' 10" oyster boat completed by summer. The brothers have been working on the boat part-time for several years, and David Moore says he expects the boat to be finished by July.
The brothers lease oyster grounds on the James River from the state of Virginia and plan to use the boat to dredge for oysters on the leased bottom. The 30-footer is framed out with 2 1/2" x 3 1/2" pressure-treated pine. The pine stem is also pressure treated and cut from a 6" x 6" timber. The pressure-treated horn timber and keel were cut from an 8" x 8" timber and fastened with stainless steel bolts.
The hull is strip-planked with juniper, fastened with 2 1/2-inch stainless steel square-head screws, and finished off with West System epoxy.
David says the oyster business is improving on the James River, and their new boat is evidence that they see a future in the fishery. The two brothers are the latest in a long family tradition that has been involved in the James River oyster business and in building commercial wooden fishing boats in the Newport News area.
Over on Virginia's Northern Neck, pound-net fishermen are setting pound poles for the upcoming spring season. George Butler of Reedville Marine Railway in Reedville, Va., services many of the pound-net boats that work the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay.
"Right now, they are setting their nets and we won't see them here at the railway until they are finished," says Butler.
Chip Williams and Stan O'Bier, both of Reedville, are two fishermen who have signed up to use Butler's railway. They fish 40-foot wooden box-stern — also called square-stern — boats.
Depending on the part of the Chesapeake you are in, the boats are referred to as pound-net or trap boats. Either way, they work a stationary net having a crib with a netting floor and at least one heart-shaped funnel leading into the crib.
When trap boats are hauled, most fishermen do their own routine maintenance. Butler provides service and advice when major repairs are necessary.
Over the winter, Butler replaced a wooden cradle on his railway, which has been operating since 1977. Butler used white oak for the cradle and fastened it with galvanized bolts. He also installed new nylon bearings.
Butler has an order to build a wooden 15-foot flat-bottom crab skiff. The yard specializes in deadrise and flat-bottom skiffs for commercial crabbers and gillnetters. — Larry Chowning
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