This past winter and spring Gilbert Simmons and his son, Jason, operating as Simmons Boatworks in Friendship, Maine, finished off one lobster boat, instead of the usual two boats they’ve done in years past. Reducing the output by one was to create more time for them to be lobstering in the summer. The boat they launched in June is the Salt Shaker, a 42' x 15' Mussel Ridge for local fisherman Eugene Harrington.
It’s finished off using all composite construction. There’s a split wheelhouse, two lobster tanks underneath the platform, and V-bunks and shelving up forward. A small door is built into the transom. “The Mussel Ridge is pretty high sided,” says Gilbert. The door makes “it much easier to get aboard.”
The Salt Shaker is the second boat Simmons Boatworks has built for Harrington. The lobster boat it replaces is also a 42 Mussel Ridge. Horsepower is the major difference between the two boats; the new lobster boat comes with a 1,000-hp MAN, as opposed to Harrington’s previous 42 Mussel Ridge with a 700-hp Caterpillar C12. “He wanted more power. He wants to go fast,” says Simmons, adding, “He probably will be racing.”
Most boatbuilders have experienced delays in obtaining equipment for new boats and repair work, and Simmons Boatworks is no different, primarily when it comes to windows.
“Been able to get everything but windows,” says Simmons. Bomar windows for the Salt Shaker “were ordered months ago.” Thus the Salt Shaker went in the water with temporary windows. “When we get the Bomar windows, we’ll have to change them out — it’ll be expensive.”
Now that the Salt Shaker has been launched, it’s hard to say how many lobster traps the Simmonses will be hauling this summer. “The season doesn’t look good for lobstering,” says Simmons. “Between the [covid-19] virus and the whales, I don’t know,” he notes, referring to proposed federal rulings to protect the North American right whale by restricting the use of lobster traps.
Just in case Gilbert’s worst fears come to fruition and Maine’s lobster season isn’t as lucrative as it has been in the past, the Simmonses have a fallback option, a 38 Calvin hull with a 476-hp Caterpillar C9 that’s been sitting in the yard to be finished off as a spec boat. “I haven’t got to it,” says Simmons, “but I might work on it some in the summer and launch it in the fall.”
After a fire and explosion destroyed the R.P. Boatshop in Steuben, Maine, on March 1, 2010, along with all its Willis Beal designed R.P. molds, most fishermen assumed that was the end of the R.P. boat line. But they didn’t figure on Peter Taylor of Taylored Boats in Addison, Maine, who worked at R.P. Boats early in his career. Taylor, with the help of Willis Beal, has been creating the next generation of the Willis Beal designs by using existing R.P. hulls as a plug to create a mold and by lengthening and expanding hulls to make larger sizes.