Lobstermen race for charity and raise
$5,000 for MS as season winds down
By Michael Crowley
Sixty-one boats came to the line on Sunday, Aug. 18, for the ninth and final race of Maine’s 2014 lobster-boat-racing circuit. As in past years, the event was held in Portland to benefit the Greater New England chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
At day’s end, the charity received $5,000, which included race entry fees, prize money that the winning lobstermen handed over and funds raised from T-shirt sales.
The boat owners were glad to do their part for charity, but they also were racing for pride — and for the adrenaline rush they get from slamming the throttle home and hearing the wild, penetrating sound of unleashed power as closely packed boats run hard toward the finish line a mile distant.
Diesel fuel gave lobstermen an added incentive to race. Global Partners in South Portland donated 1,600 gallons of diesel fuel, to be divided among 16 races. That’s 100 gallons for each race. You didn’t have to win to get the fuel, you just had to compete, and then a name was drawn from the contestants in each race.
Several of the faster boats, including Foolish Pleasure; Wild, Wild West; and Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot (better known as WTF), didn’t make the trip to Portland. That left it up to Whistlin’ Dixie, a Holland 40 with a 1,000-hp Cat; Thunderbolt, a South Shore 30 with a 496 Chevy (horsepower unknown); and Mojo Inc., a new Holland 32 with a 560-hp FPT diesel, to provide most of the high-speed entertainment.
Even before the fastest lobster boat race, Thunderbolt blew her transmission in a gasoline-class race. So at the end of the day, it was Whistlin’ Dixie winning top honors at 43.6 mph in the fastest lobster boat race with Mojo Inc. right behind her, followed by Lisa Marie, a Libby 34 with a 690-hp FTP, and 4 Girls, a Wesmac 46 with a 1,000-hp Caterpillar.
The day before the Portland race, 55 boats showed up at Long Island to race. The Long Island races were different in that they didn’t start until 3 p.m. Races normally begin in the morning, but with the races later in the day, lobstermen could haul their traps before racing.
One boat, Bailey & Bella, a 44 Calvin with a 1,000-hp Cat, took that morning off to enter a fishing tournament. She won first prize with a 795-pound tuna, then ran back to Long Island and raced in the afternoon.
Thunderbolt, at 47.9 mph, won the Fastest Lobster Boat Race that day, with Whistlin’ Dixie in second.
Among the fiberglass boats and a few newer wooden boats built by Peter Kass at John’s Bay Boat Co. was an old-timer, the Merganser. Jonesport’s Will Frost built the 34-footer in the late 1940s. She was powered with a 225-hp 318 Chrysler.
In the 2014 season, 634 boats showed up for the nine races. Obviously, some boats went to more than one race — say, Moosabec Reach and Stonington — but only one boat made it to all nine races. That was Black Diamond, a Holland 32 that Islesboro’s Randy Durkee owns.
The Black Diamond with a 454 Chevy usually won her races in Class C (376 to 525 cubic inches, 24 feet and over) running in the low 30-mph range.
If you’ve never raced but want to give it a try, Roger Kennedy’s Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot is for sale. The 28-foot Northern Bay with its 560-hp Iveco logged the fastest speed this year at 52 mph and reportedly can be had for $130,000.
A lower-speed option would be the Cry Baby at $25,000. The 25-footer, built by D&L Boatworks, has a “tuned-up” 292 Chevy and constantly runs in the 32- to 34-mph range.
It’s said that even if Kennedy does sell WTF, he’ll be back with something else that’s as fast or faster. And that’s good, says Jon Johansen, president of the Maine Lobster Boat Racing Association. “WTF really helped lobster boat racing this year, along with Wild, Wild West and Thunderbolt,” he says.
Hybrid seine skiff has unique features;
Calif. yard builds 66-foot combo boat
By Michael Crowley
Bay Welding Services’ Eric Engebretsen describes it as “a very unique design,” and you would be hard-pressed to find another seine skiff that resembles the one that left his shop for Chignik, Alaska, this past June.
A number of things differentiate this 23' x 9' 6" aluminum skiff from others, besides the after deck — the most visible departure from a typical seine-skiff.
The skiff is propeller driven, which would normally make it a rather low-speed displacement hull not suited for shallow water. Not this skiff.
“The goal of the project,” says Engebretsen, “was to make a high-speed, shallow-draft, highly maneuverable, propeller-driven seine skiff.”
To achieve the speed, the Homer, Alaska, yard based the hull on its jet skiff design, “because that’s our planing high-speed hull.” That brings us back to the hull extension, which stretches 4 feet aft of what would normally be the transom on a 19-foot seine skiff.
For shallow-draft capabilities, the hull had to be longer than usual to allow for a deep tunnel and a shallow shaft angle, which keeps the prop from hanging below the bottom. The extended hull allowed for that. “The skiff draws 30 inches,” Engebretsen says. “For a propeller skiff, that is very shallow.”
Designing the skiff to be used differently from most prop-driven skiffs meant that some bollard pull might be given up. To keep that number as small as possible, the tow point was lowered.
“The closer you can get the towing point to the thrust point, the flatter the skiff pulls,” says Engebretsen. “And that translates into more thrust.”
With a 414-hp FPT N67 diesel, the seine skiff has 5,500 pounds of bollard pull. It also hits 25 mph at 65 percent engine load.
Keeping the towing point low improved the bollard pull and increased stability when maneuvering, especially in a hard turn where all the thrust can be utilized. And, in tight corners, the skiff’s articulated rudder also helps.
The hawse-type hole in the transom is where the towing line passes through to a tow point, further setting this skiff apart. The tow line pulls off a winch, so when the skiff is being used, “you can adjust the tow line based on a given situation. That’s never been done before. It’s quite an advantage,” Engebretsen says. “I think it’s worked quite well.”
In the bow is another winch, allowing the skiff’s operator to selfattach and detach from the seiner.
In northern California, Van Peer Boat Works in Fort Bragg started building a 66' x 24' 6" combination dragger/crabber in September. A design from Seattle’s Jensen Maritime Consultants, it’s similar to a 63-footer Van Peer Boat Works has built, only with an additional 3 feet.
This 66-footer won’t have to be built to class rules for boats 50 feet and over (see story on page 32), as the boatyard had built two keels prior to the July 1, 2013, deadline, thus circumventing classification society rules.
The second keel has been purchased and construction should start on that boat before the 66-footer is finished, says the boatyard’s Chris Van Peer.
In August 2013, Van Peer launched the Anita, a 57-foot Jensen Maritime Consultants designed longliner/crabber. That was the 32nd boat Van Peer has launched in the 41 years he’s been building boats in Fort Bragg.
In between launching the Anita and starting the 66-foot dragger/crabber, Van Peer repaired some fishing boats and put an aluminum top house on
the 57-foot Scandia, which fishes for crab, tuna and blackcod.
However, Van Peer didn’t have to build the top house. He installed one from a 4-year-old boat that was being sponsoned and thus required a bigger top house. So the Scandia’s owner purchased the top house and had Van Peer put it on his boat.
The buy-boat clan gathers in Virginia;
Tangier Island deadrise gets a face-lift
By Larry Chowning
This year’s annual Chesapeake Bay Buy Boat Rendezvous started on Aug. 2 with 11 boats tied up at the Leonardtown, Md., waterfront.
The term “buy boat” comes from the vessels’ function in the oyster, finfish and blue-crab fisheries. They were anchored on fishing grounds while their crews purchased the catch of watermen working nearby in smaller boats.
Buy boats also freighted bulk products such as fertilizer, lumber, watermelons, and canned products for the bay’s vegetable canning industry.
Today, the working buy boats that are left are limited to planting oyster shells for cultch and seed oysters and dredging up oysters on private oyster grounds.
The boats attending the rendezvous were the Nellie Crockett, Muriel Eileen, F. D. Crockett, Elsie Louise, Iva W., 55th Virginia, Prop Wash, P. E. Pruitt, Emmett H., Samuel M. Bailey and Poppa Francis.
Many were built in the 1920s, though the Elsie Louise had a 1914 building date in Irvington, Va. All but one of the boats at the rendezvous have been converted into yachts or are used by museums and non-profits for educational purposes.
The exception, the Poppa Francis, is owned and was built by the legendary Francis Goddard, 83, of Piney Point, Md. Goddard used the Poppa Francis this year in Maryland’s shell-planting program but indicated he was hired to haul only a few loads of shell — not near enough work to support his boat, which he now has up for sale.
Goddard recently felled a spruce tree, which he has aging on the ground in a nearby forest. He plans to shape the log into a keel for a 42-foot deadrise workboat. With natural strikes of oysters occurring throughout Maryland and Virginia, he wants a sturdy new boat to work in that fishery.
“You are never to old to build a boat,” Goddard says. “And I still feel like I can go out there on the bay and work.”
On a related note, the comeback of Virginia’s oyster fishery is extending the working life of many boats in the bay’s wooden deadrise fleet. The 37' x 11' Miss Marilyn of Tangier Island is a good example. York River oysterman Ronnie Howlett of Saluda, Va., bought the boat from retired island waterman Don Bowden.
“I needed a new boat to dredge oysters with, and I remembered when [Tangier Island boatbuilder] Jerry Pruitt finished her,” says Howlett. “I recalled then thinking she was a mighty pretty boat.”
His new, used boat has a 4-53 Detroit Diesel. “I was thinking about putting a new engine in her, but I only burned 8 gallons of fuel running from Tangier to [Virginia’s] western shore, and I’m not going to get much better on fuel than that.”
The Miss Marilyn is presently at Sunset Point Marina in Urbanna, Va., where Howlett is replacing the flooring. After stripping paint off the back of the cabin and anywhere else that had been varnished, he’ll give those areas a fresh coat of varnish. “She is going to work, but I want her to look just as shiny as when she was first launched,” he says.
The buy boat Peggy, owned by the Mathews Maritime Foundation in Mathews County, Va., is up on blocks at the Deltaville Boat Yard in Deltaville, Va. Some side and bottom planking is being caulked and general maintenance work is being done. The Peggy is locally called a “trap boat.”
She was built by Harry A. Hudgins of Peary, Va., in 1925 for Walter Burroughs of New Point, Va., and named for Burroughs’ daughter. The Peggy was built as an open trap boat and later decked over.
Edward O. Grinnells owned her after Burroughs and dredged for crabs in the winter. He sold her to Kim and Gretchen Granberry, who converted her into a pleasure boat. When the Granberrys owned the boat, she was awarded first place in 2007 for the Best Owner Restored Power Boat at the WoodenBoat Show Concourse d’Elegance at Mystic Seaport. The Granberrys donated the Peggy to the maritime foundation when they moved out of the area in 2008.