Ethan Whitaker’s Carpe Diem is built to fish the deep waters of the Gulf of Maine through the late fall and into winter. The 60-foot Dixon hull, powered with a 1,200-hp MAN, can cruise at 13 knots. Fishing out of Winter Harbor, Maine, the Carpe Diem is designed for overnight trips as far out as Jordan Basin.
“The fall fishing is when we make most of our money,” Whitaker says of his decision to build an offshore-style boat. “If you get a week when the wind’s blowing, it can have a substantial impact on your paycheck.”
So Whitaker decided to build a boat that could follow the lobsters to the limit of Lobster Conservation Management Area 1, about 40 miles offshore. If he wanted to go farther, Whitaker would need to buy an Area 3 permit.
“Later in the season, we fish right out to the line,” says Whitaker. “I’ve always like fishing offshore. I had a 45 Dixon, she’s been a hell of a seaboat, but it was hard to get everything you need on a boat that size. With the 60-foot we can carry the bait and everything we need to haul through everything in a couple of days.” Around 2017, Whitaker started looking at bigger boats and how they were set up.
“I like Dixon. My father has one, and so does my brother. Dixon’s had a two- or three-year waiting list, so I took some time and went over to Grand Manan [New Brunswick] and looked at a 60-foot Dixon there. I went down [to New Hampshire] to look at the Shafmaster boats and how they were set up.”
Jonathan Shafmaster’s offshore boats have become well-known in New England. They have the hauler set up aft of the wheelhouse so crewmen don’t have to lift the traps onto the rail. “It lifts it up, so it just drops onto the table,” says Whitaker.
Whitaker took his collection of ideas over to Gary Dixon at Dixon’s Marine Group in Lower Woods Harbor, Nova Scotia, and the veteran boatbuilder began crafting the Carpe Diem.
Beginning in the early 1990s, Dixon had developed a series of hull designs culminating in the Dixon offshore 50, which he lengthened by 10 feet for Whitaker.
“We started off with a 42-foot Osmond Beal mold that we bought from H&H in Steuben, Maine, in 1993,” says Jeanine Dixon, Gary’s daughter. “We built about 60 hulls with that. Then we wanted something bigger, so we built our 45 mold.” According to Jeanine, they built a model of the 45' x 16' 8" hull and tested it in a flume tank in Halifax.
When they went even bigger with their 50' x 20' mold, Gary pretty much eyeballed it.
“Dad just knows,” Jeanine says of how her father built the company’s latest mold. “I don’t know how he does it.”