According to Justin Fontes, owner of Integrity Machining in Seattle, Kolstrand has been manufacturing its 24-inch crab block since the 1980s. In 2008, Fontes acquired Kolstrand, Nordic, JKFab, and Forfjord. Until three years ago, he continued to build the crab blocks using the same Vickers 35M motor and Fairfield 18:1 or 24:1 gearbox that had always been used. “Things changed when the lead times for gearboxes extended to 16 months,” says Fontes. “We’ve since switched to the KYB rotary piston motor, which eliminates the need for a gearbox.”

The KYB radial piston motor, manufactured in Japan, boast infinitely variable speed and constant torque over the entire speed range, excellent efficiency allows precise positioning of driven equipment, and rapid acceleration, deceleration and reversing, among other features.

Integrity offers three versions of the Kolstrand 24-inch hauler. “For king crabbers or guys fishing pot cod, we have the 95 cubic inch displacement motor, or they can go to the 135,” says Brad Tibbs, sales engineer at Integrity.  “For black cod fishermen fishing strings of pots, we recommend the 190 cubic inch displacement.”

Tibbs notes that the motors require from 40 to 80 gallons per minute at 2000 psi. “The 95 needs about 50 hp,” he says. “The 195 needs 110-hp. Some guys are switching to electric motors to drive their hydraulic pumps. If you have a good strong main, you can run off that.”

Another option on the Kolstrand block is the sheave material. “We offer stainless steel, bronze, or cast iron,” says Tibbs. “I like the bronze, but it’s gotten so expensive. In my opinion the best bang for your buck is the cast iron, as long as your crew takes it off and hoses it down after the season.”

While the machining of many of the components and construction of the blocks takes place at Integrity Machining’s facility in Marysville, WA, the sheaves are cast at nearby foundries. “We do all the machining, waterjet cutting, and welding here,” says Fontes. “But not the casting,” Fontes recommends the stainless sheaves for crabbers. “They use that hard-laid crab line—which can be hard on the sheaves—and the stainless steel is longer-wearing.” 

Kolstrand also makes a 44-inch horizontal block with a 540 cubic inch radial piston motor. “We haven’t sold any of those in the U.S.,” says Fontes. “Only five vessels are fishing this style hauler in Alaska. Lately our best customer is a company called Motus over in Norway. They are fishing what they call ‘Stalin’s Crab.’ We’ve sold them packages for nine boats so far. We sell them the 44-in horizontal hauler, the 24-inch hauler, pot launcher, and coiler, as well as some of the hydraulics.”

According to Tibbs, the Norwegians build boats like the 70-meter (229-foot) by 17-meter (55.7-foot) F/V Froyanes, which will haul 7 by 7 traps through a moon pool. “As I understand it, they fish singles for scouting and use the 24-inch block to haul those,” says Tibbs. “When they find crab, they set strings of 20 traps and haul those with the 44-inch hauler.”

From shifting to radial piston hydraulic motors to finding new markets, Fontes and Tibbs are keeping Kolstrand gear on the decks of fishing vessels around the world.

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Paul Molyneaux is the Boats & Gear editor for National Fisherman.

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