Back to basics
Oregon's Fred Wahl turns out a no-frills 48-footer
By Michael Crowley
Most everyone has probably had the experience of going out to buy a simple, basic item — nothing fancy mind you, just basic. It might be an entry-level computer or a no-frills minivan to haul the kids around and run errands with.
But somewhere between the original idea and finalizing the deal, you lose it. Whether it's the salesman's pitch or your own uncontrolled inner urges, you come home carrying a laptop with more gigabytes on your hard drive than all your friend's computers combined, or instead of that affordable little Subaru, you drive out of the dealer's lot in a $65,000 BMW SUV and suddenly you start thinking about rationing food. And you know what hurts? You know full well you should have stuck with the basic model.
Minus the food rationing, that's kind of what happened to Fred Wahl at Fred Wahl Marine Construction in Reedsport, Ore. Wahl set out to build a simple 48-foot combination boat a few years ago, but ended up with something very different — the Renard. "That little Renard — 50-by-20 — was probably the baddest 50 ever built, with a bulbous bow and a couple of 65-kW generators. It was like the old Thunderbird that started out as a little car and ended up being a big old, luxury car. That's what happened to me."
The boatyard built the Renard in 2004 as a Dungeness crabber and tuna troller for Wahl and his son, Mike. "She was built to almost the same level of the really monster high-tech Alaska boats." Wahl says. That included a full apitong deck, stainless steel just about everywhere imaginable, and bolted down over her keel was a 440-hp Cummins diesel. "She was huge and heavy duty. It was a good boat," Wahl adds. (The Wahls have since sold the Renard.)
The problem, he says, was that the Renard ended up costing "a little more than the local boys (Oregon, Washington and California) could expect to pay. It probably was my own fault because my initial plan was to build a smaller, lower-budget boat for this coast. Well, I got carried away with the Alaska mind-set. I just figured bigger and heavier duty was better." It seems it was a case of wanting to put so much stuff in the original 48-footer that the concept was forced into the longer, wider and deeper Renard.
Now, after building another 50-footer and a run of 58-footers, or "super 8's," as they are sometimes called because so much boat and carrying capacity is packed into 58 feet, Wahl has done what he originally set out to do. He's gone back and built that low-budget boat. "No apitong deck, no poop deck, no bulb. The new boat was designed to try and get a new boat out of here in the $400,000 range." (The Renard would be priced around $800,000.)
What Wahl now calls a "basic, plain boat" is the 48' x 18' Cascade, a steel Dungeness crab and tuna boat launched early this summer for Fred and Mike Wahl, who also own the 98-foot crabber Vixen and the Arctic Fox, a 58-foot combination boat.
National Fisherman Live: 7/29/14
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