Written by Jen Finn
September 27, 2012
Lobster boats break records; blown engines part of racing
At the end of July there were only three more Maine lobster boat races scheduled, and the big question was still hanging out there, is Underdog's engine going to be put back together in time to challenge Foolish Pleasure?
At the first race of the season in Rockland, the 30-foot Foolish Pleasure, running with an alcohol-powered engine that supposedly delivers between 2,000 and 2,500 horsepower, set the record in the Fastest Lobster Boat race at 68.1 mph.
Since then Foolish Pleasure hit 68 mph at the race in Harpswell, but without any one to push her, she's pretty much jogged through the races, running in the mid-50-mph range.
If any boat was going to catch Foolish Pleasure it was to be Underdog, but that hadn't happened — yet. "People are asking me, 'What's going on? Are you running scared?'" says the Underdog's Ellery Alley in Jonesport.
The Underdog had been running a 900-hp gasoline engine built on a Merlin block. Before the season started the engine went to an outfit in the South (Alley isn't saying where) to set it up for alcohol and get more horsepower out of it. But while the engine was being tested on a dynamometer, two cracks developed in the block.
"We were running a chiller and we had a heat exchanger. That might have been the problem. Between the chiller and the heat exchanger, they stressed the block out. I couldn't believe it when they said the block was cracked in two places," Alley says.
A block from Dart Machinery was substituted for the Merlin block, and the engine was being assembled and dyno-tested in July. Alley hoped the engine would get to Maine and in the Underdog in time for the Winter Harbor race on Aug. 14.
Foolish Pleasure wasn't the only one setting records. At the Stonington race, the Starlight Express, a Northern Bay 36 that had been running a 900-plus-hp Mack first hit 57.4 mph and then in the Jimmy Stevens Cup race for the fastest working lobster boat punched it up to 58.5 mph.
"That was a bit of a surprise because she had been maxed out for rpm at 57.4, but somewhere she got 500 more," says Jon Johansen president of the Maine Lobster Boat Racing Association. He adds that rumors are that some modifications have been done to the Mack to get a little more speed out of her.
If you're a lobsterman and you don't have a lot of competition in your race, you can afford to hold back a bit on the throttle, which goes a long way toward avoiding a blown engine. But running with boats you think are in your speed range, you've got no excuse but to hammer it down.
Over a long distance, that can take its toll, as it did along Friendship's mile-long racecourse. A couple of boats went out with engine-related problems. First Team, owned by Travis and Keith Otis of the boatshop Otis Enterprises Marine in Searsport, was one of those.
"I thought I had a little steeper competition than I did, and I gave it all of it. It was a little too much for that day," says Travis Otis, who was at the wheel as First Team headed down the Friendship course, its 410-hp Sisu diesel pushing for all it was worth, when, as Otis says, "We came undone.
"We cooked one piston, a second was well on its way and a third had a nice little crack in it," Otis says. "There was a lot of heat. It was an improper fuel ratio, too much fuel and not enough air, and on the really long racecourse you keep building up a thermal load inside the cylinders."
Still, First Team managed to limp back to Searsport under its own power. "We came home at half the speed we normally run at," Otis says.
From the town dock, First Team was hauled to the boatshop. The last week in July they were hauling the engine out of the boat and hoped to have it back on its engine mounts in time for the Winter Harbor races. — Michael Crowley
Shop builds its first crabbers; oyster boat tweaked for speed
Hard Drive Marine in Bellingham, Wash., delivered a pair of 28-foot Dungeness crabbers to a father-and-son team this spring. In early August, the boatyard was finishing its part of a 32-foot Bristol Bay stern picker, and it looks like two boats for the Prince William Sound salmon fishery are in line to be built.
The two 28' x 10' aluminum crabbers went to Dave and Chris Wichers from Oak Harbor, Wash., on Whidbey Island. "These were my first crab boats," says the boatshop's Tom Day. With offshore crab racks, the boats will carry about 50 pots each.
The boats have a three-sided wheelhouse forward and a single 225-hp Evinrude E-Tec outboard on the stern. That was all the power needed to get the boats up to 35-plus knots on sea trials, Day says.
The 32' x 16' 6" sternpicker is a design that merges the boat owner's ideas and those of Day's standard design. Hard Drive Marine is doing all the aluminum work, installing the engine, net reel and stern roller. Then a subcontractor will do the electrical wiring. The boat's owner, Randy Croeze of Camano Island, Wash., will also be working on the boat to get it ready for the 2011 salmon season.
The 32-footer will be powered by a single 650-hp Scania turbocharged diesel that's matched up with a Whitewater Marine water jet with an 18-inch impeller. These are jets out of New Westminster, British Columbia, that are gaining a following, and Day says, "We've been pushing them hard."
Whereas a number of Bristol Bay fishermen opt for twin-engine power, Day says Croeze went with a single engine and jet for simplicity and to save space for fish holds.
The boat has eight fish holds that pack a total of 20,000 pounds. The holds will have refrigerated seawater. "From what I understand, they are getting 30 cents more per pound with RSW. At 100,000 pounds, you're making an extra 30-grand and that pays for the refrigeration in one season," Day notes.
Down at Everest Marine & Equipment in Burlington, Wash., Stewart Everest, along with Penn Cove Shellfish in Coupeville, Wash., just launched the seventh 64-foot aluminum boat for Coast Seafoods in Bellevue, Wash. And Everest Marine & Equipment is getting ready to build another one.
One of the seven was a mussel processor and the other six were oyster dredges. Each of the seven involved some tinkering with the design to carry weight better in a loaded condition and gain a little speed.
On hull number six, Everest figured things were as good as they were going to get. "That was it. That was optimal," he says. "Then it was decided to change the jet and the engine."
Putting a different engine in the boat that was just launched meant a jump in horsepower from 330 to 455 in a John Deere 6125. The John Deere is hooked up to a Traktor Jet TJ-610HT water jet with a 24-inch impeller.
Everest was hoping to pull 17 knots out of that power package, but on the sea trials, he said the oyster dredge hit 20.2 knots. The previous boats were only making 12 to 13 knots. Loaded down with a 50-ton cargo of freshly dredged oyster, she makes 10 knots.
Those 50 tons of oysters are landed on a stainless steel deck that overlays aluminum decking. There's a coating of two-part epoxy paint and 3M 5200 between the metals to prevent corrosion.
Just before he was set to start work on the next dredge, Everest was crawling over, in and around the just finished oyster boat. Thinking the next 64-footer can be a little faster, Everest was moving weights.
"Took the fuel out and moved it around. We're deciding where we want weights in the next one. I may move the engine bulkhead and engine forward 1 foot. We are talking small amounts. We are trying to achieve the perfect load, to get more speed out of the loaded and the unloaded scenarios. It's tough. The loaded characteristics are perfect. They are the best I've ever achieved. Now we are trying to tweak more speed out and still maintain that load," Everest explains. — Michael Crowley
45-footer gets major repairs; museums are aiding watermen
Myles and Andy Cockrell of Cockrell's Marine Railway in Heathsville, Va., are repairing the Miss Karen, a 45-foot wooden deadrise workboat. Recently they completed a 24-foot skiff built of polyvinylchloride panels on speculation.
T.O. Nutt of Reedville, Va., purchased the Miss Karen from a Mappsville, Va., waterman on Virginia's Eastern Shore. The boat was working out of Saxis, Va., in a number of fisheries, including clamming, crab dredging, gillnetting and crab potting. Nutt will use the boat for oystering.
The Cockrells are replacing the stern deck, and putting in white-oak deck beams and juniper decking, says Myles Cockrell. They are also installing a collar board (known as a coaming in other parts of the country) of juniper and a white-oak rail along the top of the collar board.
Most of the fir bottom planking has been replaced with juniper, and there is some new juniper side planking, as well.
Other work includes rebolting the horn timber, installing oak sister keelsons that run the length of the boat on each side of the keel, setting a fiberglass tube into the shaft log, and putting in a white-oak chine log.
The new PVC skiff measures 24' x 9' x 12". The Cockrells have been innovators in the Chesapeake Bay region for building boats out of PVC.
The boats are built with 1-inch-thick PVC on the bottom and sides, except in high-stress areas where it's 1 1/4-inch thick. The parts are cut out of 4-foot-wide panels that are 20 feet long.
The skiff has a 90-hp Yamaha outboard, which gets the boat up to 40 mph. The outboard is easy on fuel, using just three gallons to go 16 miles at full throttle.
"Old buy boat finds new home" (NF Oct. '08, p. 42) mentioned that the Mathews Maritime Foundation in Mathews County, Va., had obtained the wooden buy boat Peggy and were having the engine replaced at Ampro Shipyard in Weems, Va. Now the foundation's troubles in getting access to marine railways could be a boon to local watermen.
Harry A. Hudgins of Peary, Va., built the Peggy in 1925 as an open pound-net boat. She was later converted into a deck boat. Peary is in Mathews County, and previous owners Kim and Gretchen Granberry donated it to the Mathews Maritime Foundation.
Since then, the 55-foot Peggy has kept the foundation busy with maintenance and repair projects. What's made things difficult is that the foundation has the same problem gaining access to marine railways as Chesapeake Bay watermen are experiencing.
As outside corporations have purchased railways and marinas, hauling costs have escalated to the point of being unreasonable, and the haul-out facilities are primarily catering to recreational boats.
The Mathews Maritime Foundation has taken a proactive approach to stemming this tide. They have leased the old Pulley's Marine railway on Gwynn's Island in Mathews County, along with several slips. This provides them with a railway to haul the Peggy and may end up benefiting local watermen.
A type of partnership between the foundation-owned railway and commercial fishermen seems to be developing. The railway at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, Md., was a forerunner in partnering with watermen to preserve the bay's commercial fishing culture. Because the museum allowed some watermen to use their railway, skipjack owners and other fishermen with large wooden boats have been able to continue working.
In Virginia, no marine railways have been owned by museums. Several Virginia museums with large boats have close associations with private railways, but the leasing of the railway by the Mathews Maritime Foundation is a first. Hopefully, it will help preserve the bay's wooden commercial fishing fleet and keeping commercial fishermen on the water. — Larry Chowning
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