New Yorker gets Maine netter; lobster boat racing looks wild

Earlier this year, Farrin's Boatshop in Walpole, Maine, started finishing off a 36-foot Wayne Beal hull as a spec boat. Well, it didn't take long before word got around and Rich Larocca, a Long Island, N.Y., fisherman bought the boat and had it finished off as a gillnetter.

Except for the reel on the back deck and the extended wheelhouse, the boatshop's Bruce Farrin says the boat was built pretty much the same way he'd built a boat for lobstering and dragging.

The reel spans most of the aft deck. A stainless steel roller extends beyond the transom to guide the net to the reel. On the reel there are engine and steering controls, and a foot operated spring-loaded valve stops and starts the reel. "One man can pick fish and control the boat," Farrin notes.

The extended cabin allows Larocca to store his fish under the overhead and out of the sun in the summer.

The working deck is made up of 4 x 4 pressure-treated spruce framing supporting 3/4-inch plywood that's covered with fiberglass and then gelcoated with a non-skid surface.

In the engine room is a Caterpillar C9 diesel that's bolted to a Twin Disc marine gear with a 1.77:1 ratio that turns a four-bladed 26" x 25" prop. Farrin says in a loaded condition, the boat makes 14 to 15 knots.

This was the first boat Farrin's Boatshop has finished off as a gillnetter, but Farrin has received several phone calls from gillnetters in Alaska inquiring about having a boat built.

The boat was launched April 3, trucked to New York, and was fishing by April 10.

In Beals Island, Maine, no one knows that Maine's lobster boat racing season is approaching more than Galen Alley, who is working to get his new boat, Foolish Pleasure, under control.

For the past two racing seasons, Alley has been running the wooden 30-foot Lorna R. As long as Alley and the builder of the Lorna R's 632 Dart Machinery engine, Richard Weaver, could keep everything together, the Lorna R nearly always scorched her opponents. But age caught up with the 35-year-old boat and at the last race of 2007 in Pemaquid, Alley said he had "two bilge pumps going steady to keep her afloat."

So this past winter, Alley had Beals Island's Ernest Libby Jr. use the Lorna R's hull to build a one-off fiberglass hull. Alley and his crew finished off the boat, complete with a 632 Merlin put together by Weaver. This is an engine designed for dragsters, only it's normally powering four tires down a stretch of pavement, not turning a prop that's sending a boat slicing across a Maine harbor at an ungodly — for a boat — rate of speed.

Alley admits the Foolish Pleasure's sea trials haven't gone that well. He describes Foolish Pleasure as "a wild thing," which sounds like an understatement, based on his description of the initial trials.

"We get up to 50 miles plus. I don't want to tell too many people what we are doing, so I'll just say 50 plus, and then all of a sudden, she will take a hard turn. She'll cut sideways just like a knife edge. Threw me to the floor. Not good," he said.

Alley first put rails on the boat to try to solve the problem. They made the boat more stable, but sailing at 5,700 rpm, Alley says, "I could tell she was gonna do it, and sure enough, she took off on me — sideways again."

The boat had a small rudder and is extremely light at 2,380 pounds with the motor. A larger rudder was added, and Alley figures the problem could be the steering ram, which might not be large enough to handle the boat's horsepower.

"The boat sails clean and fast. If I can just keep her in the water going straight," he says.

You can see for yourself how well Foolish Pleasure — or any of the other boats — does this summer by spending a day at the races. The schedule for the 2008 Maine Lobster Boat Racing season is: Boothbay Harbor, June 21; Rockland, June 22; Moosabec Reach (Jonesport and Beals Island), July 4; Searsport, July 12; Stonington, July 13; Friendship, July 26; Harpswell, July 27; Winter Harbor, Aug. 9; Pemaquid, Aug. 10. The races start at 10 a.m. — Michael Crowley


Boat carpenter is well traveled;
Oregon yard builds squid seiner

If a fisherman operates a wooden fishing boat anywhere off the coast of northern California or Oregon, there's a pretty good chance he's heard that the place to go for repairs to the hull, deck, wheelhouse, bulwarks — anything wood — is Eureka, Calif., and the guy to see is David Peterson.

Peterson, a boat carpenter (and sometimes National Fisherman contributor) has spent the past 25 to 30 years basically operating out of his truck, going from one marina or boatyard in Eureka to another, repairing fishing boats.

Some of the boats he's had a long-term relationship with, like the ex-lampara boat West Coast, built in the late 1930s in Sausalito, Calif. It now is a tuna troller, and this winter Peterson rebuilt the outside of the wheelhouse. In past years, he's sistered ribs, built new bulwarks, and installed a new deck.

Another winter job was putting a new stem and an anchor chafing guard, also called a billboard, into the Ruth R, a 45-foot double-ended troller. Peterson removed about three-quarters of the stem and replaced it with one fashioned from purpleheart, a wood from Central and South America.

He favors purpleheart because it is durable, rot resistant and strong. And he doesn't trust fir. "You can do more damage by putting fir in a boat than just letting the boat go," Peterson says.

He had to cut off the rotten plank ends under the chafing boards. He bedded the purpleheart in roofing cement. It's a petroleum product, so it helps prevent rot.

A larger winter job for Peterson was the double-ender troller Melissa Jo, which was built in 1940. Last fall, after finishing up the fishing season between Coos Bay, Ore., and Crescent City, Calif., the boat's owner left the Melissa Jo in Eureka, instead of continuing on to her home port in Oakland. "He wintered it here after he heard I worked on boats," Peterson says.

Peterson built new bulwarks, using purpleheart for the framing. He built a new cockpit coaming, as well as a wheelhouse door, the tracks for it to slide on, and a hatch cover for the skylight.

The Melissa Jo is also having a new Teknotherm 7-ton spray brine system installed.

"The boat's owner was going to step up to a 60-foot steel boat. Instead he invested a bunch of money in his boat because it is more fuel efficient. I've seen the trend going this way: keeping a smaller boat that's more efficient fuel-wise," says Peterson.

The boat's main engine is a 90-hp Caterpillar 330 that burns about 3 gallons per hour.

Fred Wahl Marine Construction in Reedsport, Ore., has built a number of boats in the past few years for the Alaska fisheries, and now they are pulling in fishermen from Southern California. Currently the boatyard is constructing a 68' x 23' steel boat for Steve Greyshock, who will fish the boat out of Newport Beach, Calif., for sardines, squid and live bait.

The boat resembles one of the boatyard's 58-foot designs, only longer and with an extended stern ramp that spans the width of the stern, looking like stern ramps found on large tuna seiners.

Sardines and squid will be chilled with a refrigerated seawater system powered by a 50-hp motor that runs off a 100-kW generator set. Greyshock will run a 40-kW generator when the boat is fishing for live bait, which doesn't require the RSW system.

The boatyard's Mike Wahl says fishermen are talking about having more squid seiners built; only they would be about 70 feet long.

On May 6, the St. Paul was launched. This is the third 58' x 26' boat designed and built at the Reedsport boatyard. Using tub-trawl gear, the boat will be fishing for halibut and Pacific cod in the Bering Sea.

Wahl says there is a demand for these boats, as the ex-vessel price for halibut and Pacific cod is up. "Boats are wearing out, and these days, you can build a boat under 60 feet that does what a 70-foot boat used to do,"
he says.

After the St. Paul went in the water, the boatyard had three more 58-footers to build. One is a salmon seiner for a fisherman in Sandpoint, Alaska. The two other 58-footers will be for the halibut fishery in the Bering Sea. — Michael Crowley


38-footer going to Delaware; a netter likes his little Jimmy

Evans Boats of Crisfield, Md., continues to build fiberglass commercial fishing boats, but most of them are not going to Chesapeake Bay watermen.

And there might be fewer new boats going to watermen as a result of recently approved regulations by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission.

The regulations don't just affect watermen; they have a serious effect on boatshops. For instance, the commission in April approved the elimination of the winter crab-dredge fishery. There are 53 commercial fishing boats in that fleet.

Evans Boats and other Chesapeake Bay boatbuilders can forget building new boats that are over 45 feet for commercial crab dredgers. This was one of the few fisheries that required boats of that size.

In the 1970s and '80s, the bay's commercial crab-dredge fleet worked exclusively from 55-foot-plus boats with dredges hauled over the side. As fuel prices rose and expenses for maintaining the boats escalated, watermen started using smaller deadrise boats with stern-mounted dredges. In the 1990s, Evans and other bay boatbuilders had a run on 45- to 50-foot hulls to accommodate that fishery.

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission's stand on winter crab dredging ends a tradition that goes back more than 100 years.

In March, Evans Boats launched a 38-footer for Lee Thomas of Smyrna, Del., for the Delaware Bay crab-pot fishery. The 38' x 14' 6" x 3' 6" crabber is powered by a 275-hp John Deere diesel. David Evans, the boatyard's general manager, says he installed a shorter commercial cabin on the boat to provide more room for hauling, carrying pots and crab.

The boatyard also has a line of fiberglass boats that range from 25 to 50 feet; the newest model is a 36' x 12' hull. The 38-footer and the new 36-footer are a good size for the commercial crab pot fishery, says Evans. The boats have enough beam to allow a platform to be built off the back of the stern to carry extra pots.

Evans has just about completed a 50-footer for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. The boat will be used for educational purposes and will be replacing a wooden boat. A 230-hp Cummins, which is a very small engine for the boat, will power it, says Evans. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation wants a "green" boat that doesn't burn a great deal of fuel, he adds. The boat will be used in the Washington area.

Holiday Marina in Hayes, Va., operates a railway that's waterman friendly. Every spring the yard is filled with deadrise workboats, with Chesapeake Bay watermen doing their own work. The railway is located in the heart of Guinea Neck in Gloucester County, Va., where traditional watermen still live in large numbers.

Holiday Marina also draws watermen from outside of the area. Commercial gillnetter Randal Painter from Norfolk, Va., was at the yard working on his 40' x 12' wooden boat named Big Boy. He does all his own work on the boat.

"I bring my boat up here because if I were to run into a problem, there are people here that are willing to help me," he says. "You go to other marinas, people are too busy to help you, but not here."

Painter has installed three spruce bottom planks and is fashioning a stem from a 12" x 12" pressure-treated pine timber. He is also reworking the rudder assembly.

"I have hydraulic steering and the rudder has been turning too far, so I'm adjusting it," he explains.

A Detroit Diesel 4-53 that he rebuilt last year powers the Big Boy. "Everybody has these big engines, but with the price of fuel, I like my Detroit Diesel," he says. Painter indicated it is very good on diesel fuel.

The vessel was built in 1957, and last year Painter tore out the stern and a portion of the bow. He installed several staves in the deadrise bow and used steam so the staves could be twisted to fit.

"There are still a lot of wooden commercial fishing boats on the bay, and fewer and fewer people who know how to work on them," he says. "The reason so many of us have stuck with wood is that we can figure out how to fix it. You take a fiberglass boat, when there's a problem not [just] anybody can fix one of those boats," Painter says. — Larry Chowning

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