STONINGTON, Maine — There are two major, recurring expenditures for the lobstermen who work Maine’s coast: fuel and bait.
Bait is the more expensive of the two, but that’s a bit misleading, as fuel is a factor in bait costs. It’s caught on boats that use diesel, and often shipped by the same before it gets to the lobstermen who will use it.
So it’s the price of fuel that’s on the forefront of most fishermen’s minds when they consider ways they could save money — an ever-present question, especially with lobster prices staying low this year despite supply returning to normal after last summer’s record glut.
“If fuel prices get much higher, we’re gonna have to go to sailboats,” said Mark Brewer, a lobsterman in Boothbay. “If there was an electric boat I could plug in at night, then go lobstering all day, I’d go for that.”
Electric it’s not, but a team from Penobscot East Resource Center and Maine Maritime Academy have successfully tested a new boat design they say will increase fuel efficiency by 20 to 25 percent.
The boat utilizes a three-hull, or “trimaran,” design to cut down on drag. There’s a lot of physics and naval engineering at play here, but Doug Read — a naval architect and professor at Maine Maritime Academy, who was contracted by PERC to design and test the boat — said it can be understood pretty simply by imagining a boat’s wake.
“If you picture the wake a boat leaves, the waves trailing behind it, up to half of your engine is dedicated to the energy to make those waves,” he said. “The way the trimaran saves fuel is by drastically reducing the proportion of energy your spending on making those waves.”
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