Maine shop delivers a pearl of a boat;
brothers build on an American legacy

By Michael Crowley

If you are off the Down East Maine shoreline — especially in the vicinity of Bar Harbor — you won’t have a problem recognizing Phil Black’s lobster boat. Though there was a time when if you came out of a fog bank and the first thing you saw was the boat’s transom, you might have been a bit uneasy.

There, across a shiny black stern are crossed swords beneath the name Black Pearl. You wouldn’t be amiss to momentarily think it be Dixie Bull, the wily English pirate who raided the Maine coast in the 1600s.

Nope. It’s just Bar Harbor’s Phil Black hauling lobster traps in his new 36 Calvin build by S.W. Boatworks in Lamoine, Maine.

The Black Pearl, with a 13-foot 9-inch beam, replaces a 34-foot South Shore lobster boat, built in 2000 that Black has owned for the past eight years. “The engine had a lot of hours,” he says. “It was at the point that I’d have to put a lot of hours into it to keep it up. Then you’ve got a boat that’s not worth any more money.”

It was his wife’s idea to check out new boats, and since he’s always liked the looks of the Calvin Beal designed boats he sees on the fishing grounds, Black ended up at S.W. Boatworks, which builds a number of Calvin Beal models.

For power the Black Pearl has a 405-hp Cummins QSL9 matched up to a ZF marine gear with a 2:1 reduction that turns a 28" x 32" prop. S.W. Boatworks’ Stewart Workman estimates the Black Pearl should hit 23 to 24 knots. She was due to be launched at the end of April.

Beneath a deck made of 3/4-inch Coosa board with three layers of fiberglass is a live-well tank capable of holding five lobster crates. Up on deck, Black has a tank that holds another 1,200 pounds.

The wheelhouse is foam-core construction with 3/4-inch Divinycell on the sides and 3/4-inch on the top.

As for the boat’s name, Black isn’t aware of any pirates lurking among his ancestors. It’s just that his name is Black; he’s always liked black-hulled boats, and the boat, he says, “is a pearl.”

And the paint job on the stern? Renée Trust did that. She operates out of Franklin, Maine, and specializes in painting boats.

In Yarmouth, Maine, the Lowell brothers, Jamie and Joe, operating Even Keel Marine Specialties, were finishing up a fiberglass Lowell 43 for a fisherman in Gloucester, Mass.

Jamie and Joe’s boatbuilding lineage goes way. On one side of the family are six generations of the boatbuilding Frosts, including Will Frost, a Canadian who moved to Beals Island, Maine, and was instrumental in developing the Jonesport lobster boat.

On the Lowell side, the family line traces down to the Lowells of Amesbury, Mass., which is said to be the birthplace of the New England fishing dory. “We are the oldest boatbuilding family in America,” says Jamie.

Carroll Lowell, Jamie’s father, designed the 43-footer going to Gloucester in 1997. “It was one of the last boats my dad designed,” says Jamie.

It’s proven to be a popular model, with — just in Maine — three in Harpswell, three in Mount Desert and two or three in Rockland. The Lowell 43 in the boatshop has a 750-hp FPT diesel over the engine beds. It’s bolted to a ZF marine gear with a 2.19:1 reduction that spins a 32" x 36" wheel. Jamie figures the boat should make around 26 knots.

The deck is 1-1/2-inch Divinycell foam. A rope locker at the hauling station keeps line off the deck. Below the deck is a live-well hold for nine crates. Up forward there’s a workbench and berth. In the main bulkhead a door to the engine room “gives you access to all the electrical equipment, and you can scootch down along either side of the engine,” says Jamie.

Despite the fact the Lowells come from a long line of builders of wooden fishing boats, Jamie says, “there’s not a stitch of wood in her.”

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00 ATYicon WestCalif. fishermen stay with wooden boats;
boatyard ends 18-year gillnetter drought

By Michael Crowley

Northern California fishing fleets still boast a number of older wooden boats. David Peterson, a boat carpenter working out of Trinidad, is tasked with making sure a lot of them are still seaworthy.

Peterson recently put several planks and 13 ribs in the 48-foot troller Sea Pride, built in 1919. She fishes out of Crescent City and originally carried the name Smith Brothers No. 1. “She’s a heavily framed boat, so she’s held up well,” says Peterson. Those are 3 1/2" x 3 1/2" bent oak frames.

15jun NF ATYwest 230pxWidePeterson admits he’d never try bending frames of that size, so he replaced them with double-sawn frames of ipe, a hardwood from Brazil. The planks are 1-5/8-inch Alaska yellow cedar.

The boat’s owner “takes really good care of the boat,” Peterson says, mentioning that there are carpets in the engine room and chrome valve covers on the Detroit 6-71.

He is currently finishing up work on the 50-foot troller and crabber Elin Lane (ex-Viking), built in 1946 at Bryant’s Marina in Seattle. It’s such a large job that Peterson, who basically works by himself with help now and then from a boat’s skipper, says, “I’ve never done anything like this in my life.”

He refastened the bottom, gutted and rebuilt the pilothouse and fo’c’sle, removed the Detroit 6-71 so he could detail the engine room, and installed all new hydraulics, wiring and water tanks. Basically it was “new everything,” says Peterson. Add to that list 90 frames that were sistered from the deck up, a dozen planks replaced on each side of the hull, reworking and fiberglassing the foredeck and side decks, and rebuilding the bulwarks up forward with redwood.

You don’t often hear of redwood used in a fishing boat, but Peterson thinks it’s a good choice. “It’s durable, doesn’t rot and is light.” However, it’s not that stable, so the 2 x 6 and 2 x 8 redwood timbers are bedded in epoxy as they are stacked and then screwed together. The bulwarks are finished off with a layer of cedar, so fastenings through the rail cap will have a good grip.

When asked why the owner didn’t just build a new boat, Peterson replied, “You can’t buy a new 1946 wooden boat.” In the past five years, “something’s really happened in this industry. From cutting up all these boats, the [wooden boat] resource has been depleted, and the ones that are left are worth some real money.”

Fishermen aren’t looking to use their older wooden boats for a while and then junking them, “but fixing them up and rebuilding them.” Peterson estimates it would cost about $500,000 to replace the Elin Lane with a fiberglass boat, but the rebuilding work is much less.

Up in Seattle, Kvichak Marine Industries, has always put out aluminum gillnetters. Though it’s been about 18 years since the last one was built. But by mid-May, three 32' x 16' 1" x 25" (light, 35 inches loaded) gillnetters will be on barges headed to Bristol Bay.

There are some major differences between these gillnetters and those built in the 1990s. The earlier boats were 13 feet 6 inches wide and had a single engine, says Kvichak’s Tim Kolb. And except for the Tanjent, built in 1995 and powered with twin water jets, the gillnetters each had a single engine with the traditional shaft and prop.

In contrast, a pair of Volvo D11 EVEC-E engines, each rated at 510-hp and matched up to ZF 305-3 marine gears turning Hamilton HJ364 waterjets, power the new gillnetters.

“They wanted to go with jets and a lot of power,” Kolb says, “so we chose the Hamiltons for the maneuverability and the thrust.”

The new, bigger gillnetters pack more fish, and with the power of the twin jets should be able to get on step and do 25 to 30 knots with 8,500 to 10,000 pounds of salmon onboard. The Tanjent, with smaller waterjets, was limited to 3,500 pounds if she wanted to plane.

The gillnetters pack 20,500 pounds, and the salmon will be chilled with a 7.5-ton RSW system from Pacific West Refrigeration.

*  *  *

00 ATYicon SouthGulf yard builds purse boats for Virginia;
fixing a classic deck boat chunk stern

By Larry Chowning

Omega Shipyard of Moss Point, Miss., delivered two new 40' x 10' aluminum menhaden purse boats to the Omega Protein plant in Reedville, Va., in February. They will be rigged to work in Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

Omega Protein is the largest harvester of menhaden in the world and produces fish oil rich in omega-3 protein, oils for food supplements, as well as high-protein fishmeal for animal feed. 

15jun NF ATYsouth 230pxWideOmega has two fleets of large fish steamers. One works Chesapeake Bay and the other the Gulf of Mexico. The steamers carry fish to plants in Reedville and Moss Point. The reference to “steamers” goes back to when menhaden fishing was done from boats powered by steam engines.

Each steamer requires the use of two purse boats and every year Omega Shipyard builds about three replacement purse boats.

Purse boats haul in nets full of fish and position them so the menhaden can be pumped into the steamer’s fish hold. Until 1958 menhaden purse boats were built of wood. That year an aluminum purse boat was introduced to the fishery and has been the building material of choice ever since.

Boats built for Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico are identical when they leave the Moss Point yard. However, the Virginia purse boats are modified once they reach Reedville. Harvey Hamm, Omega’s Virginia vessel manager, says, “The Moss Point yard builds the boats to run, and we modify the boats to go fishing.”

The Virginia boats, says Hamm, are modified to work in deeper water than in the Gulf of Mexico and to work with older steamers that use davits to haul the boats to and from fishing grounds. Most of the gulf purse boats and a few of the newer Chesapeake Bay boats are carried on a slide-style stern platform that carries two fully rigged purse boats. When ready to go fishing, the boats slide, side-by-side, off the stern.

Hamm says Virginia’s deepwater purse nets are heavier than Gulf of Mexico purse nets and require a shorter, sturdier boom to hold the power block and net. The boom height on gulf boats is 10 feet, while Chesapeake boats have an 8-foot boom. “At our facility we manufacture the boom and modify and install the hydraulics to handle the larger nets,” says Hamm. Larger cleats are used in the Virginia fishery to handle the lines and net, and the use of davits requires stronger lifting eyes. Modifying the boats takes about six weeks.

The Reedville boats have 265-hp John Deere 6.8L engines. The engines are installed in Moss Point, while the Virginia plant installs radios, depth finders, hydraulics and the power block.

Moving over to Virginia’s York River, Richard Green of Guinea Neck in Gloucester County, Va., has been working on the deck boat Mobjack, so it can haul shell and seed on his private oyster grounds on the James River.

The Mobjack, at 72' x 24' 6", is one of the largest wooden deadrise boats still alive on the bay. Linwood Price of Deltaville, Va., built the boat in 1946 for J.H. Miles Co., of Norfolk, Va., then one of the largest oyster firms in the United States.

Green’s father, Herman, built wooden deadrise boats, and his uncle, Frank Smith, built oceangoing trawlers across the creek. Green knows wooden boats and comes from a boatbuilding heritage, and it is a good thing, as the Mobjack needs a great deal of work.

Green built a new rounded wood stern, installed deck beams and will soon replace the rotten deck wood. The stern is a classic Chesapeake Bay round stern made of chunks, which are blocks of wood stacked so that the vertical seams from one layer to the next don’t overlap. Green used pine blocks for chunks. He was unable to find chunks as large as the ones he took out, so there are more chunks in the stern than when it was installed in 1946, he says.

Green plans to have the boat ready for this year’s James River oyster seed- and shell-planting season.


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