Written by Jen Finn
No wood for this 'glass boat;
it's lobster-boat racing season
If you're looking to hire a boatbuilder to finish off your fiberglass hull, you'll sleep a lot easier if you've had dealings with the guy and seen the boats he's built. It's even better if he's built a boat for you and you were pleased with the results. With a good history, it's a lot easier to trust the builder's instincts.
The Molly Hock, a 35-foot Mitchell Cove designed by Calvin Beal Jr. of Beals Island, Maine, is the result of such a relationship between owner and builder. The hull was built at the O'Hara Corp. in Rockland, Maine, and finished off by Vaughn Clark in Southwest Harbor, Maine, for local lobsterman Michael Collins.
Not only had Clark designed and built a 25-footer for Collins a number of years ago, the two went to grammar school together. So when Clark suggested that instead of going with the standard plywood and fiberglass platform it would be smarter to use high-density polyurethane-foam Coosa panels, Collins didn't have any trouble going along with that idea, even when Clark told him it would increase the deck's cost by $3,000 to $4,000.
"I don't like putting plywood decks in," Clark says. "There's no circulation under the deck and they'll rot out in 10 years." His case was helped by the fact that Collins had to replace the deck in his previous lobster boat. It cost $7,000 to tear out the old deck and build a new one.
There's no structural wood anywhere in the Molly Hock. Instead of 2x4s, the platform is bolted to upright Coosa panels with fiberglass angles on the side. The molded wheelhouse and cuddy top is foam core and fiberglass composite. "Wood is alright in a wooden boat, but wood's no good in a fiberglass boat," says Clark.
Beneath the deck is a fish hold that's mostly used for rope storage. Forward of that is a 265-hp John Deere matched up to a Twin Disc MG-5050 marine gear with a 2.5:1 reduction. On sea trials, the Molly Hock hit "21 in the corner," Clark says. The problem was she had a "mongrel wheel he had borrowed." When the new 28-inch-square, four-blade wheel goes on the end of the 2-inch shaft, Clark figures she'll do 26 to 27 knots wide open and cruise at 19 knots.
When the Molly Hock picks up her stem and runs, it's a nice sight, especially from a bow-quartering view. Part of the reason is the pleasant mix of colors: white boot top with blue hull above and a gray bottom below.
Collins wanted a black bottom. Clark suggested since there was a white boot top, "let's do a grayish bottom and see how that comes out. 'I'm all onboard,'" agreed Collins.
Well, it's lobster boat racing time in Maine and by the first week in July races had been held in Boothbay, Rockland, Moosabec Reach and Bass Harbor. That left eight races to go with the last one on Sept. 9 in Eastport.
Turnout was good for these races, especially at Bass Harbor and Moosabec Reach. Bass Harbor, which staged its first race in nearly 50 years in 2011, had 57 boats, 14 more than last year. Moosabec Reach saw 90 boats idling up to the starter's boat throughout the day.
That's the most boats for this race in some time. Many were local boats from Jonesport and Beals Island that didn't stand much of a chance of winning, but lobstermen around Jonesport and Beals Island, which is probably where lobster boat racing started — officially and unofficially — just plain get excited about a race, whether it's coming in from the grounds or at a sanctioned meet.
A couple of the faster boats hadn't shown up for any of the races. Alfred Osgood's Starlight Express, a 36-foot Northern Bay with a 900-hp Mack that hit 56.1 last year, had engine problems. Wes Shute's Daydreamer, a 30-foot South Shore, also has had mechanical problems. Shute has told people that his boat's gasoline engine isn't 2,000 horsepower, but as Jon Johansen, president of the Maine Lobster Boat Racing Association, says, "that could just mean it's 1,999 horsepower."
Galen Alley's Foolish Pleasure, with 2,000-plus in its turbocharged Dart block, hasn't been pushed this season, which is good, because she's had some problems. She set the speed record last year at 72.8 mph, but in her first run this year at Rockland, she won at 57.7 mph. In the second race a blower belt let go 100 feet from the finish line, but she managed to coast across the line just ahead of the Black Diamond, a 32-foot Holland with a Chevy gasoline engine. And at Bass Harbor Foolish Pleasure had battery problems. "If someone decides to push Galen, I don't think the engine will hold up," says Johansen.
The big winner at Moosabec Reach was Gary Genthner's Lisa Marie, a 32-foot Libby with a 690-hp Iveco. "He won the whole thing," Johansen says, winning his class race at 40.2 mph and the World's Fastest Working Boat Race at 38 mph. — Michael Crowley
New boat has builder pumped;
boom keeps Calif. yard booked
In March, Pat Pitsch at Strongback Metal Boats in Bellingham, Wash., says he completed "a monster" of a boat. And now he's "got another one on the horizon. I've been keeping this one under my hat."
That first boat was the 32' x 18' 6" Bristol Bay gillnetter Okuma for Robert Buchmayer of Seattle.
"It's the biggest Bristol Bay gillnetter. No one has tried to get that big," Pitsch says. Nic de Waal with Teknicraft Designs in Auckland, New Zealand, designed the boat.
The Okuma has a pair of 500-hp Volvo diesels in the engine room that are matched up with 322 Hamilton jets. A 12-ton refrigerated seawater unit from Integrated Marine System chills the fish. The Okuma needed to be more than 18 feet wide in order to carry the weight of the chilled water and get up into shallow water, which is where Buchmayer likes to set his nets.
Lately, it's that boat "on the horizon" that has Pitsch pumped up. It's a 46' x 16' aluminum seiner. "I'm trying to put out something that's affordable, shallow draft, fast and with RSW," he says.
Pitsch started the boat on spec. "It's just something I wanted to do. If you don't do something yourself, it's hard to get someone to pay for it. I just did it out of my own pocket."
He figures the boat should draw 2 feet and maybe less, depending on what the engine is. Pitsch was planning to drop a 425-hp John Deere in the engine room and hook it up to a V-drive gear. "But if I get someone who wants a macho, cool, shallow-draft, fast seiner, I'd put a 24-inch Traktor in."
The 46-footer will have a top house, a freestanding mast with three booms, a flybridge above the top house, and 27 feet of deck space in which to work.
"This thing has me all fired up again," says Pitsch.
In Crescent City, Calif., Fashion Blacksmith is booked for work until 2015. That includes seven sponsoning jobs, six bulbous bows and building a 58-footer. The boatyard's Ted Long attributes the amount of work to healthy fisheries off the West Coast and Alaska. "Those fisheries are on a high," he says.
Fashion Blacksmith is well known for the fishing boats it has sponsoned and that's the work Long seems to favor. "You are taking something that was OK and giving it a whole new platform. Essentially it's a whole new vessel, and the stability is so much better."
A recent favorite among fishing boats that have been sponsoned is the Mistasea, a Dungeness crabber and shrimper, owned by local fisherman Randy Smith. The Mistasea, which was built in the 1980s, came into Fashion Blacksmith at 60' x 18' and went out the door measuring 60' x 24', along with a new bulbous bow.
Besides width, the Mistasea picked up speed, stability and now can utilize her full hold capacity. The boat "gained as much as a knot and a half," in speed Long says. He attributes that to the addition of the bulbous bow and dropping the stern down 30 inches in the sponsoning process. "It's a little flatter in the stern and not pushing as much wetted surface. Considerable attention was given to maintaining an incline at the stern extension to allow the release of water."
Before the boat was sponsoned, Smith could never fill the hold. "The boat wouldn't pack it, and if the weather was a little iffy, he could only take half the capacity," Long says. Now with the boat's increased stability, "weather is not a factor, capacity is not a factor."
The increased stability also meant the Mistasea's crew "has had to relearn how to fish, because the boat doesn't give the same indications as before when the gear hangs up."
There were no plans drawn up for this project. The crew at Fashion Blacksmith "just started doing it," Long says. "You are always hoping for the best, but if you get something really good it validates the thinking about how wide you should go, how deep, the size of the bulb."
— Michael Crowley
Patience gets buy boat a home;
oyster, crab feast marks launch
The 85' x 22' wooden scalloper Miss Stevie B was on the rails in June at Chesapeake Marine Railway in Deltaville, Va., for repairs and annual maintenance.
"We are doing multiple planking repairs to the port and starboard sides," says Jon Farinholt of Chesapeake Marine Railway. The boatyard will also be replacing steel plating on the sides of the boat that protect the planking when the dredges are hauled aboard. "The steel is very thin in places and has rusted through in other places," Farinholt says.
The propeller was pulled off and renewed. When the planking and plating work is finished, the Miss Stevie B will be painted from the rub rails to the keel. The scalloper belongs to Andy Benavidez of Seaford, Va.
Chesapeake Marine Railway also had a crew down to Smith's Marine Railway in Seaford, Va., to work on the engine of the Mobjack, a Chesapeake Bay buy boat. The Mobjack's new owner, Jonathan Westbrook of Williamsburg, Va., purchased the boat in May from Tim Smith of Smith's Marine Railway.
Smith's Marine Railway ended up with the Mobjack when its previous owner refused to pay a repair bill and left the boat at the railway's dock. The Smiths then went through expensive court proceedings to obtain ownership of the boat.
It is one of the oldest railways on Chesapeake Bay and is known for its quality work on wooden boats and its mission to preserve Chesapeake Bay's older wooden commercial fishing boats.
The boatyard could have gotten its money back quickly by demolishing the Mobjack and selling the metal and other onboard materials to a salvage company. Instead, the Smiths took several years to find an owner and then took less money than they could have gotten by salvaging her. Hats off to them!
Westbrook has the woodworking skills to do some work on the boat. "I've been working on the pilothouse, fo'c'sle, and I have reinstalled the boom," he says. "We've been making steady progress in getting her back together."
The Mobjack measures 72' 2" x 24' 6", making it one of the largest buy boats on the bay.
Westbrook will use the Mobjack to carry passengers on sightseeing cruises in the summer and for hauling and planting oyster seed in the winter.
After the Mobjack leaves Seaford, it will go to Chesapeake Marine Railway for additional work. "We plan on getting the boat in seaworthy condition and then taking on any major problems one at a time. By the middle of July, I plan on having her up and running," Westbrook said.
The Mobjack was built by Deltaville's Linwood Price in 1946 and is the sistership to the Ocean View. Both boats were built for Rufus Miles of Norfolk Va. Most Chesapeake Bay deadrise oyster buy boats were built by rake of eye —without plans — and Price built them that way for years. However, the Mobjack, Ocean View and a third boat, the Marie, built for the Abbott family of Water View, Va., were designed by New York naval architect C.T. Forsberg of Freeport, Long Island.
Just a few miles down the road from Seaford in Newport News, Va., David and Mark Moore will soon be launching a wooden 30' x 11' x 1' 10" deadrise oyster boat they have been working on for several years.
They planned to launch the boat in July with an oyster and crab feast to mark the celebration. The Moores have several hundred acres of leased oyster grounds on James River and built the 30-footer to dredge for oysters on their own grounds.
The boat is framed out with 2 1/2" x 3 1/2" pressure-treated spruce pine. The spruce-pine stem is also pressure treated and cut from a 6" x 6" timber.
The horn-timber and keel are spruce pine and cut from an 8" x 8" timber and fastened with stainless steel bolts.
The sides of the hull are strip-planked juniper and are fastened to the frames with 2 1/2-inch stainless steel square-head screws. The hull is finished off with West System epoxy and a layer of fiberglass. The main engine is a 400-cubic-inch 300-hp Chrysler hooked up to a Velvet Drive marine gear with a 1:1.5 reduction. — Larry Chowning
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