Maine lobsterman plays it safe; revving up for next year's races
"I didn't know if there were any lobsters left," says John Ellis, sternman on the 38-foot lobster boat Rough Rider III, talking about the landings during the summer, when a day's catch barely filled a small barrel. But by the time October rolled around, the lobsters had moved in and the container on the stern that holds 1,000 pounds was being filled more often than not.
Fishermen know better than to take anything for granted, and that was certainly true for the Rough Rider III and her crew. Just after lobsters started piling into the traps, the boat developed an ominous rumbling at the stern, which was why she was hauled at Journey's End Marina in Rockland, Maine.
"It was vibration. It could have been the wheel. It could have been the cage," says Scott Frothingham, owner and captain of the Rough Rider III, which operates out of Owls Head, Maine.
Other fishermen might have kept fishing, taking advantage of the slug of lobsters that had shown up, hoping no more trouble would develop. But Frothingham brought the boat in as a precaution. He didn't want to risk a major repair job, instead of the couple of days he spent hauled out in Rockland.
The cage needed some repairs, and the cutlass bearing was examined. Despite carrying a cage around the wheel, the culprit was probably pot warp or some other type of line, as strands of line were found in the bearing and two of the prop's blades were slightly bent. "They were out about one-sixteenth of an inch," says Rick Lea, with Journey's End Marina.
Once repairs were made, the Rough Rider III was lowered back in the water, and after a run out into Rockland Harbor and back, it seemed that what little vibration remained wouldn't keep the boat from going back lobstering.
At the last race in Maine's lobster boat racing circuit in Searsport, the Underdog took its class and the fastest lobster boat race. Ellery Alley, the boat's owner, estimates he was going 46 to 48 mph. Galen Alley's Lorna R, the Underdog's primary competition, dropped out as a result of major engine and fuel problems.
This winter, Ellery is going to be doing a "little tweaking" to the boat to gain more speed. He will also be modifying the rudder because he found the boat hard to hold steady at high speeds.
While Ellery was busy getting his boat ready for winter storage, Richard Weaver of Weaver's Engines in Steuben, Maine, who built the Lorna R's engine, had ditched the engine's ruined cam and crank and was building a new engine, only this one is based on a 632-cubic-inch Merlin block instead of the previous Dart block.
At the same time, a rumor had been going around the docks that the Lorna R was going to go up against Alfred Osgood's Starlight Express in an off-season match at Stonington before winter. If bets were to be made, the money would probably be on the Starlight Express. She carries a 900-hp engine that was put together by an outfit that builds truck-pull engines in Pennsylvania.
Jon Johansen, publisher of Maine Coastal News says that with four turbos, the engine can put out 4,000 horsepower. But then Weaver killed the idea. He said, "No way." (Actually, he used other words, but the meaning is the same.)
Weaver says he's not going to be rushed into putting the engine together, and it will be done at his pace. So race lovers will have to wait until next summer to see if Galen's boat squares off against the Starlight Express.
As an interesting twist, if that race does happen, Weaver's engine will be in another boat. In December, the Lorna R will be hauled into the boatshop of Ernest Libby Jr., who is also the designer and builder of the Underdog.
Using the Lorna R as a plug, Libby will build a one-off fiberglass hull for Galen, and that's the boat Weaver's engine will go into.
Galen says the Lorna R sails well, but he thinks the weight of a wooden boat that's soaked up water was slowing him down.
"The new boat will be just as light as we can get. That wooden boat was heavy. Got to be able to save 3,000 to 4,000 pounds," Galen says.
A new boat for Galen Alley, a faster Underdog, and the possibility that Ernest Libby might build a lightweight Kevlar boat — it's no wonder that people are already starting to think of next year's lobster boat races.
— Michael Crowley
Alaska gillnetters get jet power; New 32-foot fiberglass crabber
Anchorage, Alaska's Sea State One Marine was getting ready to deliver an aluminum bowpicker the second week in October. The 32' 6" x 11' salmon boat is similar to another with the same measurements that was launched this past spring. That was the Scuttlebutt, and it was built for George Covel of Cordova, Alaska.
Like most of the bowpickers built at Sea State One Marine, the Scuttlebutt came with a gull-wing hull that carries out 8 to 10 inches.
For power, the Scuttlebutt has a 503-hp Caterpillar hooked up to an UltraJet 340 water jet through a Twin Disc gear. Propelled by that power package, the bowpicker cruises at 26 knots, tops out at 33 and can pack 3,000 pounds of salmon without diminishing the boat's performance.
The bowpicker being delivered in October also has a water jet for power, but she has a 400-hp Lugger diesel turning a 14-inch Doen jet. The Lugger is a used engine that was remanufactured.
On sea trials, the boat "got 28 knots, but it wasn't up to its full turbo boost. We're still fine tuning it," says Sea State One Marine's Mike "Quincy" Quintieri.
Because the Lugger is a heavier engine than the Caterpillar that went into the Scuttlebutt, it was mounted about 14 inches farther forward in the boat, and the jet came out of the hull in a tunnel in the bottom of the hull.
Sea State One Marine is building two more bowpickers, only these are 30 feet long, and the water jets will be powered with gasoline engines. The boats will be delivered in the spring.
Down in the Lower 48, Buffalo Boats in Bellingham, Wash., launched a 32' x 11' 6" Dungeness crabber for Hank Feenstra of Blaine, Wash.
The hull design of the hard-chine, house-forward fiberglass boat hasn't changed in 29 years, says Roger Allard, the boatyard's owner. Though this is the first commercial boat he has put a molded cabin on. He had been stick-building the cabins, but for the crabber, he used the mold he'd made for a charter boat cabin but blocked some of the mold off to shorten the cabin. Decreasing the cabin's length gives the boat enough deck space to carry 80 to 100 36-inch crab pots.
For power, the 32-footer has a 225-hp Volvo Penta D4 inboard-outboard diesel. Allard says the planing hull cruises at 23 knots and has a 28-knot wide-open speed.
Allard's crab boats have gone as far to the south as Crescent City, Calif., and southeastern Alaska to the north.
Before launching Feenstra's crabber, a 36' x 11' 6" bowpicker for salmon and crab fishing was completed for another Blaine fisherman. Allard says he's built about 100 bowpickers for salmon fishermen.
The boat has the same Volvo Penta diesel as the crabber. It also has a fish hold that packs 3 tons of salmon.
The 36-footer was built out of the 32-foot mold and lengthened. Buffalo Boats also builds 26-foot and 17-foot boats.
Since 1966, when Ron Radon Sr. started building boats in the 20-foot range first for abalone and then urchin divers in Santa Barbara, Calif., a Radon-built hull has been known for being able to carry weight and move rapidly through the inshore waters along the West Coast and Hawaii.
Radon's sons have carried on the boatbuilding business with periodic breaks. One of them, Ron Radon Jr., who operates Ron Radon Jr. Custom Boats in Myrtle Creek, Ore., is looking to start building commercial boats again, after a period of concentrating on sportfishing and pleasure boats.
The basic design hasn't changed much since abalone divers started skimming across 3- and 4-foot swells, cresting with a couple of feet of chop at over 20 knots.
You've got a semideep-V hull that holds its full width from the transom most of the way to a heavily flared bow, Radon says. The V-shaped hull flattens out from abo
ut 23 degrees in the bow area to 16 degrees at the transom.
"That allows the boat to be real stable while it's running or sitting. It also allows it to carry a lot of weight," Radon says.
Radon builds 25-foot and 29-foot hulls with 9-foot beams. These are semicustom boats, so there are a lot of power options, but a 315-hp engine will give a cruising speed of 23 knots with 29 knots top end.
— Michael Crowley
Second new scalloper for N.J.; boatyard builds boat for raffle
The 70' x 23' steel scalloper Pride & Joy was launched in August at Jemison Marine & Shipbuilding in Bayou La Batre, Ala., for T & S Fisheries out of Cape May, N.J. Dale Williams of Williams Fabrication in Coden, Ala., designed the boat.
Pride & Joy has just completed its first scallop trip to Georges Bank, says Tom McNulty Sr., who, along with his son Tom McNulty Jr., owns T & S Fisheries. On the trip, the younger McNulty was skippering the Pride & Joy and caught the tail end of tropical storm Ernesto. "He didn't get the storm like we got it down here [New Jersey], but he got a little bit of weather," says the elder McNulty. "The boat did fine. We are very, very happy with the way the boat handled."
Pride & Joy is powered by a single 300-hp Caterpillar C18, which works through a Twin Disc marine gear with a 5:1 reduction. The boat's insulated ice hold packs 25,000 pounds of scallop meats.
The Pride & Joy is equipped with two 30-kW generators and a bow thruster. There's not a shortage of electronics in the wheelhouse. "There is double of everything [electronic] on the boat," McNulty says. "You name it, we've got it. We even have closed-circuit television for monitoring the engine rooms. We didn't scrimp on anything."
The boat features a stern dredge ramp. When the dredge is hauled back, it is pulled up the ramp, and a boom picks the bag up and dumps the scallops on the deck. The dredge is then lowered back down the ramp and into the water.
The scalloper has 3/8-inch steel plating on the bottom and the bulwarks' after sections. There's 5/16-inch steel plating in the rest of the hull and 1/4-inch plating in the forward bulwarks.
The younger McNulty, who is 25 years old, named the Pride & Joy. The Pride is because he is proud to be a fisherman and the Joy is for his fiancée, says his father.
This is the second boat Jemison Marine & Shipbuilding has built for T & S Fisheries. "This one is bigger because the permit allowed us to go with a larger boat," McNulty says.
Jemison Marine & Shipbuilding launched T & S Fisheries' first boat, a 60-footer, last year, just one week after Hurricane Katrina hit.
Jemison Marine & Shipbuilding is a full-service yard that can build boats up to 250 feet and do conversion, overhaul and repair work to steel boats.
Evans Boats of Crisfield, Md., has recovered from a fire this past Thanksgiving that destroyed the primary building used for building boats and their 38-foot fiberglass mold.
Evans Boats is busy building 38- to 43-foot deadrise fiberglass boats. One of the 38-footers will be raffled off by the Maryland Watermen's Association.
This is the sixth year the association has raffled off a Chesapeake Bay–built deadrise boat at its annual East Coast Commercial Fishermen's & Aquaculture Trade Exposition at the Ocean City Convention Center in Ocean City, Md., as a means to raise funds.
The 33rd annual watermen's show will be Jan. 26-28, 2007. For the raffle, 2,000 tickets are available at a cost of $200 per ticket. The drawing will take place on Jan. 28. Raffle tickets can be purchased at the show, at the Maryland Watermen's Association office in Annapolis, Md., or on the association's Web site: www.marylandwatermen.com.
"We are moving right along on the boat," says David Evans, vice president of the boatyard. "We are looking forward to the show and providing a good boat for the raffle."
The 38' x 14' 6" x 4' boat will be powered by a 490-hp Cummins MerCruiser QSC8.3 diesel from Cummins Power Systems of Glen Burnie, Md. The ZF marine gear will have a 1.75:1 marine gear.
The boatyard also is building a fifth 43-footer as a patrol boat for the U.S. Army's Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Aberdeen, Md. Four similar boats have been completed, and all of them are powered by a pair of 450-hp Cummins MerCruiser QSM11 diesels.
Jemison and Evans are good examples of two yards that have rebounded from adversity. Hurricane Katrina smashed through the Gulf of Mexico region and a fire stalled production at the Crisfield yard, but disaster couldn't keep these two yards down.
— Larry Chowning