In Bellingham, Wash., Next Gen Fab is building a 32’ x 17’ aluminum Bristol Bay stern picker, designed by Bellingham’s John DiGaetano for Mark Nicholson of Anchorage, Alaska. “Kinda keeping it small this time around,” says the boatyard’s Hayden Pitsch.
He’s not referring to a boat’s size, but to the fact that Next Gen Fab is basically a two-man, father-and-son-team boatyard and has been since it was founded in 2019 by Hayden’s father, Pat Pitsch, who also founded All American Marine in 1987 and Strongback Metal Boats in Bellingham, Wash., in 2008 – which have been anything but two-man boatyards.
“My dad’s done this a few times,” acknowledges Hayden, referring to his father’s boat-building history. “He decided to give me a new way of living and give me something. He’s been teaching me all these new skills. It’s been quite an experience,” which consists of building two to three boats a year. The only exception was year one when only a single boat was built.
At the end of September, the sternpicker was about two-thirds completed. The hull was welded out, work had started on the fish hold and “we’re ready to move forward to the cabin,” says Hayden.
He described the hull as “bomb proof, got a lot of structure going through it,” including stringers on 11-inch centers. There might be more metal than necessary, but when the 32-footer is launched with what Hayden describes “as a lot of planing surface” and a pair of 600-hp Cummins powering Hill Hi400 jets, he feels “it will fly.”
The previous boat was the 30’ x 10’ Blue Jay, a Dungeness crabber fishing out of Petersburg, Alaska, with a single Yamaha 425-hp outboard. There’s not an enclosed cabin and the house is “pushed forward so he’s able to stack a lot of pots,” over the 16 feet of open deck space. The Pitsch’s designed the Blue Jay as a day boat, “to be efficient, not to be cozy and go long distances but for getting out there turning pots over and seeing what they got.”
Prior to the Blue Jay, it was the Arctic Blonde, a 33’ x 12’ halibut longliner out of Valdez, Alaska. This is an overnight boat with a head and V-berths in the enclosed forward cabin, along with a dinette that can be converted into a bunk. A 4’x8’x30” fish hold is down the middle of the deck with two Freeman hatches outboard for bycatch.
The Pitschs don’t outfit the boats they built, leaving that to the boat’s owner. “We prefer doing it that way,” says Hayden. “We have done turnkey boats, but they’ve been relatively barebones.”
While Hayden says Next Gen Fab has been “just the two of us for four years,” a small change is coming: “in the past few months, we have a guy who helps out a little bit, so dad doesn’t have to do so much heavy lifting.” Looking back on Next Gen Fab’s four years of boatbuilding, Hayden describes it as “pretty fun to be doing this with my pop. Something I never expected to be doing but pretty proud to be doing it.”