Written by Jen Finn
Finishing high school pays off; make a plan, don't get shafted
On May 14, a 40-foot kit boat left Wayne Beal's Boat Shop in Jonesport, Maine, on the back of a boat trailer for a 35-mile trip to Cutler, where its owner, Patrick Feeney, was to finish it off.
There was just the hull and top. No engine. No shafting. No bulkheads. And there wasn't any time to waste, because Feeney intended to enter his new lobster boat, the Fraid Knot, in the Jonesport and Beals Island lobster-boat races on July 2.
"We beat it by one day. We threw it overboard July 1st, noontime or 1 o'clock. Had to hook up all the electronics once I got it in the water. The next morning at 7 o'clock we headed to the races," Feeney says. A run of a little more than an hour got him to Moosabec Reach in time for the 9 a.m. registration.
Even with an undersized 34" x 36" prop that Wayne Beal loaned him for the races, Feeney, with an 850-hp Caterpillar C15 matched up to a ZF360 marine gear with a 2:1 reduction, took his class — 40 feet and over, 750 horsepower and over.
His fastest run down the course was 36.2 mph. Since then he's put a 34" x 36" wheel on, which added another mile per hour. "That's still not enough wheel," says Feeney. With the right prop he's hoping to get 38 mph. "That's good for a heavy boat, and Wayne builds a good rugged boat," he notes.
There's no dispute that Beal builds a good hull, and it certainly is apparent that Feeney knows how to finish off a boat. It's something he learned in high school at Washington Academy in East Machias, Maine. Besides subjects like math, English and history, a student could forgo elective courses, such as art and physical education, and take three periods a day of boatbuilding.
There were lessons in wood and fiberglass boatbuilding and some extra stuff, such as how to get into a survival suit. At one point, Feeney helped build an 18-foot fiberglass Eastporter.
"[The class] was great. They still have it today and it keeps a lot of people going to school," he says.
Since then, Feeney helped finish off a couple of fiberglass lobster boats, but for him, it all started back in high school.
The completed Fraid Knot has a 15-foot beam, measures 15 feet across the transom and has a winter back. She fits right into the scene at Cutler Harbor, which Feeney describes as "A nice little town. People do well and work hard at it. It pays off. Everyone has a nice boat."
Down at Clark Island Boat Works in St. George, Maine, it wasn't a new boat that Dan MacCaffray's crew was working on, but a 10-year-old South Shore 38. Vinalhaven, Maine, lobsterman Jeffrey Peterson brought the boat to MacCaffray to have it repowered.
The boat came in with a 375-hp Volvo bolted down to its engine beds and was due to leave the last week in July with a 400-hp Iveco.
MacCaffray says Peterson got rid of the Volvo "because he had all sorts of problems starting it when it was cold. And he was nervous about this lobstering season."
This is one of those cases where thinking ahead pays off.
Eleven years ago when Clark Island Boat Works finished off the South Shore 30 they installed a 2 1/4-inch shaft instead of the standard 2-inch shaft.
"We always put a 2 1/4-inch shaft in to cover our base five, six, seven, eight years down the line when they put a new motor in," MacCaffray says. "You do something 10 years ago, and every so often it comes back and rewards you."
Installing the new engine didn't require a lot of modifications. The boatshop crew fabricated an exhaust elbow, which allowed the original exhaust pipe and muffler to be retained. And only the transmission required new engine mounts.
The next project for Clark Island Boat Works is finishing off a 55-foot Wesmac for lobstering and research. — Michael Crowley
Optimism leads to new boats; crabber gets needed repairs
Eric Engebretsen of Bay Welding Services in Homer, Alaska, says "across the board guys are investing in both new boats and seine skiffs and in older boats to make them competitive with new stuff."
As an example, take the salmon gillnet fleet in Alaska's Cook Inlet, which hasn't done much in the way of upgrades for boats and equipment in a number of years, but last year fishermen had good prices and "guys are optimistic," says Engebretsen.
One Cook Inlet gillnetter told Engebretsen he "hadn't run his engine wide open for five years, because he was afraid it would come apart." But last winter he brought his 34-footer to Bay Welding Services to be repowered.
The boat was built in the 1980s and had the original engine, a 280-hp Volvo. Its replacement was a 330-hp John Deere 6081 with a Twin Disc 6065A marine gear. The boat also got new hydraulics; the yard crew went over the shafting and updated the reel and level wind.
Now instead of cruising at 9 knots, she cruises at 14 and tops out at 17 knots.
Another 1980s-built boat that now has a new engine is an aluminum Bristol Bay gillnetter built by Hydraulic Fishing Supply. Its 300-hp Caterpillar 3208 was exchanged for a 330-hp John Deere 6081.
Bay Welding Services also installed a 7.5-ton Integrated Marine Systems' RSW system and an 8-inch Wesmar bow thruster. Engebretsen says the bow thruster should make the older boat as maneuverable as some newer water-jet-powered boats.
Besides repairs, Bay Welding Services built several boats this past winter: five seine skiffs and a Prince William Sound bowpicker. The two largest seine skiffs — 21' x 10' 6" — went to Kodiak; the rest went to Prince William Sound. Two measured 20' x 9' 6" and one was 19' 6" x 9'. All five have Traktor jets from North American Marine Jet.
The 21-footers "tow hard and move easy at 30 mph," Engebretsen notes.
The 34' x 11' Prince William Sound bow picker has twin 251 UltraJets from Ultra Dynamics that are matched up with 320-hp gasoline engines from Marine Power.
Turning to a much larger boat, the 125-foot king crabber Ocean Fury left Hansen Boat Co. in Everett, Wash., in June after some extensive repairs. That included fixing an exhaust leak in the stack and rebuilding the hatch covers.
The hatch covers' fiberglass-over-foam insulation was torn up. So they were "reskinned with steel and injected with foam. They can bounce them across the deck and not hurt them," says the boatyard's Rick Hansen.
On older crab boats you often find cracked deck plating around the pot launcher. That's where pots are lifted up, shaken to get the crabs out and then dropped on the deck. "Over the years it just rips the deck apart and water leaks into the wing tanks," Hansen says.
The Ocean Fury, which was built in the 1970s at Marco Seattle, certainly qualifies as an older boat, so it's not surprising that she needed the fuel tanks repaired and new deck plating.
"We pulled the deck out and put in heavy plate — 1-inch plate. That will give them another 10 years of shaking 1,000-pound pots," Hansen says.
The boatyard is also doing a major overhaul on a 69-foot drum seiner that was built in Canada but recently bought by an American fisherman. It required the welding of "tonnage" frames to bring the boat under the Jones Act's 5-net ton ruling.
Since the boat hadn't been used as a seiner for, Hansen estimates, 10 years, much of the equipment — net drum, fairleads, anchor winch and bow thruster — didn't work. At the end of July, those items were being repaired.
The 69-footer also received a new name. She came in as the Jennifer Gayle and is going out as the Kelly Anne.
Scheduled for a launching sometime this winter is a 58' x 28' combination boat — pot fishing, dragging, seining — for a Kodiak, Alaska, fisherman. — Michael Crowley
Yard is drawing in watermen; backyard builder reclaims skiff
Wayne Hudgins of New Point, Va., has his 45' x 12' 8" deadrise workboat, the Miss Violet, hauled out at Deltaville Boatyard in Deltaville, Va., to do his own maintenance work.
Hudgins is a casualty of the 2008 Virginia Marine Resources Commission's decision to ban winter crab-dredge fishing for conservation reasons. Hudgins owned a 55-foot boat that he used in that fishery. When it was shut down, he downsized to the Miss Violet. As he says, "there's nothing much I can do on the water now to justify working a 55-foot boat."
The Miss Violet was built in 1972 by Deltaville's Grover Lee Owens and has a classic round stern and an unusual house with a rounded front. Many watermen in the 1970s were more than willing to foot the extra cost for a round stern instead of a square stern, but few were willing to spend the extra $250 in cash for a rounded front on their wheelhouse.
Hudgins worked the Miss Violet in the spring crab-pot fishery and plans to dredge oysters with her this winter. This is his first year at Deltaville Boatyard, but the word has gotten around that it is commercial fishermen friendly.
"We've had 30 deadrises in here this season," says Keith Ruse, the boatyard's owner. "I'm charging them $5 a foot to haul, no daily fees and encouraging them to do their own work."
Deltaville Boatyard is near the mouth of Jackson Creek, which empties into Chesapeake Bay. It is a busy spot for commercial and recreational boats, but this year the yard experienced some loss of work from larger boats because Jackson Creek's channel silted in.
Jackson Creek is a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredged creek that has been maintained through a partnership between the Army Corps of Engineers and Middlesex County, the jurisdiction the boatyard is located in. However, that partnership is no longer viable, as federal funds for dredging navigational channels in small creeks was eliminated.
Fortunately for Ruse, Middlesex County received a grant for a portion of the dredge project. Private funds will make up the difference needed to dredge a portion of the channel that's now 4 feet deep and needs to be 9 feet.
"This is not just a Virginia problem. This is a problem for every state with shallow-draft creeks that periodically need to be dredged," Ruse says.
Moving over to Lover's Lane in Deltaville, 84-year-old backyard boatbuilder Willard Norris rebuilt a 23' x 7' 6" deadrise skiff that he built 20 years ago for the late Bubba Kennard. Kennard was a longtime commercial fisherman in the Deltaville area and used the skiff mainly in the spring peeler-crab fishery. When he died the boat was neglected.
When Norris got the skiff back, she had a lot of rot. "The boat stayed on the ground for five or six years with not even a block under it to keep it off the ground," he says.
"A lot of the wood was rotten, particularly in the bottom where I had to pull out most of the bottom boards, keelson and replace the transom. I originally built her with silicone bronze nails and those nails in that boat were just as good as the day I put them in her."
Juniper was used for the sides. The bottom was rebuilt with knot-free No. 1 spruce pine. Norris also laminated up a 7" x 5" pine keelson. The outside of the hull was covered with fiberglass.
Norris named the boat Mom Mom, as that's what his grandchildren and great-grandchildren call Shirley, his wife of 66 years.
Even at his advanced age, Norris runs fishing parties in a 42-foot deadrise and plans to work gillnets out of his new skiff. "She's just right for working gillnets," he says. — Larry Chowning
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