Dory schooner gets $3m rebuild; wooden lobster boat may race
America — unlike countries such as England, Norway and France — has a miserable record when it comes to preserving the historical craft used in its fisheries. You can't bring back what has been lost, but you can preserve what you still have.
That's what is being done at Rose Marine in Gloucester, Mass., where the dory fishing schooner Adventure is going through an extensive rebuilding under the guidance of Gloucester Adventure, a non-profit group created to preserve the boat.
Now a National Historical Landmark, the 121' 6" x 24' 5" x 14' Adventure was designed by Thomas McManus and built in 1926 at the John F. James & Son Shipyard in Essex, Mass. She was built as an auxiliary schooner with a 120-hp Cooper-Bessemer diesel and four sails.
The schooner fished until 1953. When the dories and trawls were taken off of her, she was the last American dory schooner fishing in the North Atlantic, says Martin Krugman, president of Gloucester Adventure. After that, she spent 32 years carrying passengers along the Maine coast.
Repairs have been made to her over the years, but nothing like the $3 million restoration work that's now being done on the boat. (She cost $16,000 to build in 1926.)
The hull has been nearly completely rebuilt. The keel, keelson, many floor timbers and lower parts of the frames were good, as was the ceiling planking. But the outer planking, most of the frames above the waterline and all the deck has been replaced, as has the main trunk cabin.
"This is a historical restoration," Krugman says. "We are using like materials and like methods" in accordance with historical vessel projects. "It will be restored as a 1926 dory fishing schooner. We are making every effort to be historically accurate."
However, the project requires compromises in order to get Coast Guard approval to carry passengers. Those include a collision bulkhead and watertight bulkheads. It will also have a modern diesel. But the captain's cabin, the galley, fish hold and fo'c'sle are being restored to the original design. In the fish hold, instead of cod and haddock will be a history of Gloucester's fisheries.
The Adventure will carry her schooner rig and sail out of Gloucester. "We hope the boat will be an ambassador for the fishing community of Gloucester to other fishing communities," Krugman says.
Assuming Gloucester Adventure can get the needed funding, the schooner should be sailing by summer 2008. To donate to the cause, contact Gloucester Adventure, P.O. Box 1306, Gloucester, MA 01931.
On Maine's Beals Island, another tradition is being kept alive: the building of wooden lobster boats. Beals Island is the home of the Down East lobster boat, and until the island's builders were taken over by fiberglass, it was always a wooden boat.
It has probably been 15 years — at least — since a wooden lobster boat was built on the island, but at this year's July 4th lobster boat races, Calvin Beal Jr.'s Little Girl just might be running down the Moosabec Reach, between Beals Island and Jonesport.
The 28-footer is the first wooden boat Beal has built in 20 years, and in case anyone recognizes the name, it's the same as was carried on another 28-footer that Beal built in 1981.
Beal says he wanted to build the boat pretty much like the boats he built as a younger boatbuilder, so there's no fiberglass or plywood on the boat. It's all oak and cedar with a caulked cedar platform and decks.
For power, the Little Girl will have a Cummins diesel that was in a truck and was being rebuilt in June. Beal, like most fishermen and boatbuilders that race, doesn't want to talk about horsepower. He does say that it will be between 300 and 400 hp and then tacks on the word "plus," adding that everyone who races "enhances" the horsepower a bit.
Beal says this definitely will be the last wooden boat he builds. It's not easy building a boat by yourself, which is basically what he did, and good wood is getting hard to come by. Beal says a 28-foot lobster boat shouldn't require more than 1,500 feet of cedar. But for this one, he bought 2,700 feet of cedar, and much of that had to be thrown away because of poor quality.
— Michael Crowley
Crabber finally finds a railway; 58-footer takes Wash. pit stop
On March 1, Dennis Deaver, owner of the 126-foot Pacific Sun, which at various times of the year can be found crabbing, halibut longlining, salmon tendering and cod potting, started making calls to have his boat hauled after it left Alaska.
At 36 feet wide, the boat is too big to go on a lot of marine railways, but that leaves plenty of boatyards with big enough railways, or so Deaver thought. After calling two yards in Canada, nine in the Seattle and Bellingham area, a yard in Portland, Ore., and Fred Wahl in Reedsport, Ore., the Pacific Sun came up empty. "There was no boatyard available between Canada and here," Deaver says. "Here" means inside of San Francisco Bay at Bay Ship & Yacht in Alameda, Calif.
It meant extra fuel and time running down the West Coast to Alameda, but the boat wasn't entirely out of place. Deaver lives only 20 minutes from the boatyard, and the Pacific Sun carries San Francisco as a hailing port, though Deaver admits, "the boat rarely ever sees San Francisco."
On its way down to Bay Ship & Yacht, the Pacific Sun tied up at Stabbert Maritime in Ballard to have its main engine overhauled. A major overhaul was due, as the 1,060-hp Cummins diesel had just over 40,000 hours on it. Stabbert Maritime also built a hatch cover on the boat's stern.
The Pacific Sun was hauled at Bay Ship & Yacht to have bearing work done, but once the boat was hauled, "everything was fine, and we didn't have to do anything to the running gear," Deaver says. Though it was fortunate the boat was hauled, because after the bottom was painted, yard workers found "a little bubbling [in the bottom pant] where water was coming out," Deaver says.
Flexing of internal baffles caused leaks in the water tank, day tank and hull plating. The tanks have been fixed, and plating in the bottom has been replaced. In addition, new sea chest valves have been installed.
Bender Shipbuilding & Repair in Mobile, Ala., built the Pacific Sun in 1979 as a 101' x 24' crabber. In 1996, the boat was rebuilt at Fred Wahl Marine Construction in Reedsport, Ore., to design work by Jensen Maritime Consultants in Seattle that resulted in her current dimensions.
"We cut off the boat in back of the engine room, cut off the bow and cut off the wheelhouse. We built a whole new boat around the engine room. It was the most expensive job anyone had done on a Bering Sea crabber," Deaver says.
In Port Townsend, Wash., the 58-foot longliner and troller, Ocean Oasis, left Haven Boatworks in early June. When Mark Hofmann bought the boat in California, he figured on fishing her for a season before heading to a boatyard for repowering. But steaming up from California, the Detroit Diesel 8V-71 was losing oil pressure, and it quickly became apparent that it was time to pull the engine.
That's why the Ocean Oasis was hauled out at Haven Boatworks, where Walt Trisdale, a local independent contractor, oversaw the engine work.
In the place of the 300-hp Detroit went a 330-hp John Deere. For the Ocean Oasis to make her season, "a lot of things had to fall in place to make it happen and in a short period of time," Trisdale says. The John Deere had to come from its factory in South Carolina to a dealer in Seattle, where the engine was programmed, and then be trucked down to Haven Boatworks. And a new generator had to come from Florida. The repowering required new engine mounts and a portion of the exhaust redone. The generator required a new cooling system.
In addition, Integrated Marine Systems, also in Port Townsend, installed a new refrigeration system.
All the work had to be done within about a month, and notes Trisdale, the owner and his helper did a lot of the work. "They worke
d fishermen's hours to get this thing going," Trisdale says.
Earlier in the year, the wooden longliner Alrita was in to have work done on the foredeck and front of the house. The Alrita, built in 1945 in Seattle at the Prothero Brothers Yard, has come into Haven Boatworks for a number of years for repairs and maintenance.
Haven Boatworks repaired the deck's break beam, after it was determined the beam was solid enough to last another year before it needed to be replaced.
— Michael Crowley
Va. watermen haul their own; log deck boat will be restored
Guinea Neck in Gloucester County, Va., still has a large group of traditional commercial fishermen living and working there.
Throughout the Chesapeake Bay region, fishermen from here are known as guineamen. As the story goes, they got the name because the locals' Hessian ancestors were paid with guineas to serve as mercenaries for the British during the Revolutionary War. Today, guineamen are better known for being among the best watermen on the bay and watermen that have always taken care of their own boats.
That was apparent this spring on the Severn River, at Holiday Marina in Achilles, Va., where the blocked-up workboats of crab potters and haul seiners were lined up or on the railways, outnumbering yachts and sportfishing boats.
A typical boat up on the blocks was the 12-year-old Melissa Ann, a 38' x 10' 6" wooden deadrise workboat owned by William Smith of Perrin, Va.
The Melissa Ann was built by Kenneth Hall, who lived and built boats in Guinea Neck most of his life. In the past, a hardcore commercial fishing community usually had several types of boatbuilders. In Guinea Neck, guys like Hall and Smiley Jenkins were blue-collar builders and always available to repair and build a boat for local fishermen. Then there was the well-known Smith family, who built boats for charter and commercial fishermen up and down the East Coast.
Today, there are fewer boatbuilders, and watermen like Smith are left to maintain and work on their own boats. He was repairing the boat's stern, a section of the bilge clamp and several bottom planks in the Melissa Ann. Last year, he replaced the horn-timber and one-third of the bottom.
"As things go bad, I fix it in the spring so I can hopefully work all year," Smith says. He oysters and haul seines in the York River and Mobjack Bay.
"I went to work awhile back for a company trimming trees, but I couldn't stand it," Smith says. "I've been a working the water all my life. It gets in your blood, and you can't do nothing else."
"We do all the work ourselves on our boats, and we've got plenty of help," says Smith, referring to a group of nearby older, semiretired watermen who wouldn't hesitate to offer advice on how best to repair a boat.
Smith, in his late 30s, is a youngster in the commercial fishing business. "These old guys help us a lot when we hit a snag and need some help," he says. "None of the men were professional boatbuilders, but all were either fishermen or had been trained in woodworking by other older fishermen as they worked on their own boats."
The Deltaville Maritime Museum in Deltaville, Va., is applying for historic status for the logged deck boat F.D. Crockett with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources for possible listing with the state's Landmarks Register and eventually the national Register of Historic Places.
Log-canoe builder Alexander Gaines built the F.D. Crockett in 1924 in Seaford, Va., where it was used in the crab and oyster fisheries. The boat was donated to the museum in 2005, and the museum is in the process of restoring the 62-footer.
The Crockett is one of only two existing deck boats built with logs and designed for engine power. The other one is the Old Point, owned by the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, Md.
Project manager John D. England says the boat was hauled to determine if it was worth restoring. The main seven logs in the hull were sound, so the museum proceeded with the restoration process. This past winter, wood chunks in the bow were replaced with new longleaf pine chunks from Georgia. (Chunk logs were used to lengthen out the bilge log to the stem.) Instead of replacing the solid 6-inch-thick wood with like material, the new chunks are made of glued 2-inch-thick strip-planking.
A 6" x 6" white oak inner stem was installed to fasten side planking to. Under the main deck are new white oak deck beams to help maintain the hull's shape. "We will complete the structural part of the boat, which includes floor timbers, side frames and deck beams, before we start side planking," England says. Also, the boat has new floor timbers and frames.
The stern still needs a lot of work, which will be done next fall when the Crockett is scheduled to go back on the railway at the Chesapeake Marine Railway in Deltaville.
— Larry Chowning