It’s Maine’s lobster boat racing season;
first-time Canadians turn in fastest run
By Michael Crowley
Most everyone enjoys a Fourth of July fireworks show. This is certainly true along Maine’s Moosabec Reach, when locals get together at dusk for pyrotechnics from Perio Point.
But Roman candles and firecrackers aren’t the biggest Independence Day tradition in these parts.
The biggest draw of the day starts around 10 a.m., and it comes with combustion — the powerful, piercing whine of high-speed gasoline and diesel engines, and some occasional smoke.
Spectators are gathered along the shoreline — some in boats and some on land — as well as jammed up on the bridge arching over Moosabec Reach, which connects Jonesport and Beals Island. They are there for the Moosabec Reach lobster boat races, which pulled in 90 boats to race this year, as well as a special attraction: the Dodge It, a 30-foot Canadian boat from Cape Sable Island that came down to challenge the locals. It’s the first time a Canadian boat has showed up to race.
The Dodge It was a lobster boat on Prince Edward Island in the 1940s. Now, it’s nothing but a racing machine. She’s been cut off at about the waterline, decked over and has a 450-hp Dodge on her engine beds. Along the bottom of the boat, the skeg has been removed.
The Dodge It did have its detractors.
“They claimed it’s not a real working boat,” says Jon Johansen, president of the Maine Lobster Boat Racing Association, “but the people wanted it there, and Galen wanted it there.”
That would be Galen Alley, owner of the Foolish Pleasure with a 2,000-plus horsepower Ford that holds the lobster boat race record at 72.8 mph.
Alley wanted to run against Dodge It, figuring it would be a good race for the crowd. And it started out that way. Foolish Pleasure and Dodge It were running close to each other, though Dodge It seemed to be having a hard time as she pounded through the small chop, then the blower on the Foolish Pleasure cut loose, and that was it. She didn’t make it down the course. The Dodge It went across the finish line at 62 mph.
“Galen couldn’t run with him,” says Johansen. “He could run in the 50s [mph], but when he has to touch it off, that’s when he gets in trouble.”
The Wild, Wild, West, a West 28 with a 1,050-hp Isotta Fraschini, always garners a lot of attention at the races. At Jonesport, she was matched up against Miss Karlee, a new Mitchell Cove with a 1,000-hp Caterpillar C18. At the first race of the season in Boothbay Harbor on June 20, the Miss Karlee won two races, including the diesel free-for-all, hitting 42.9 mph, and she supposedly notched 50 mph on her sea trials. But at Moosabec Reach, the Miss Karlee “wasn’t going that well,” says Johansen, and Wild, Wild West easily took that race running in the high 40-mph range.
The next day was the rain date for the Mount Desert Island Bass Harbor races. The turnout was a less than expected with only 57 boats showing up to race. Without the likes of Dodge It and Foolish Pleasure at Bass Harbor, the working lobster boats were the ones providing all the entertainment.
In a couple of races, only a few feet separated the first and second place boats. That was the case with the Ms. Rose, a Mitchell Cove 35 with a 410-hp Sisu, which steamed up for the weekend’s races from New Hampshire, and Gramp’s Legacy, a Libby 34 with a 410-hp FPT. The Ms. Rose took that race.
Then there was a rematch with Miss Karlee and Wild, Wild West, though this time things weren’t going so well for Wild, Wild West. Like Foolish Pleasure, she had blower problems, and things must not have been quite right because Wild, Wild West was pushing out a lot of black smoke that day.
“Boy was she smoking,” says Johansen, “but they put on a show. That’s what everyone wanted.”
The contenders were within a boat’s length of each other in their races, with Wild, Wild West taking two and Miss Karlee one. But the fastest boat at Jonesport — other than Dodge It — Bass Harbor, Boothbay Harbor and Rockland (June 21) was the Little Girls, a 28-foot Calvin with a new Ford engine. She’s good most any time for a mid-40-mph run.
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Well-known crabber gets major overhaul;
Alaska yard powers up two seine skiffs
By Michael Crowley
You’d think it was just another older Bering Sea crabber that was hauled out at Seattle’s Northlake Shipyard if it weren’t for the aquamarine hull and “Cornelia Marie” painted in yellow across each side of the bow.
The 126-foot Cornelia Marie’s images and exploits — like those of the Wizard, Time Bandit and Maverick — have been cast far beyond Alaska’s fishing communities through the Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch,” giving her a certain invincible quality. But it doesn’t take many Bering Sea crabbing seasons for a boat and its equipment to turn old and tired.
Still, the Cornelia Marie has a couple of important things going for her. She packs a lot of crab for a boat her size — 215,000 pounds — and has a reputation as an incredible sea boat. So when Roger Thomas and Kari Toivola were looking to buy a 50 percent stake in her, they saw beyond the 26-year-old crabber’s age and the work she needed.
Make no mistake about it; she needed a lot of work, and there was not much time to do it. The boat showed up in Seattle on March 17 with a mid-June tendering contract in hand.
“It was a pretty short window of time,” says Roger Thomas. “Eleven weeks. It was pretty intense. A lot of people didn’t think it could happen.”
They had to replace both main engines, a couple of generators, bump up the electrical power and redo the decks. The two 650-hp Mitsubishi main engines were in rough shape.
“They’d had problems with them for years,” says Holmes. “They just rebuilt one last winter and they were still having problems with it.”
Out came the Mitsubishis and in went a pair of 750-hp Cummins QSK19-M diesels. The old engines had gears with different ratios, so they were replaced with Twin Disc gears with a 4.5:1 reduction. The shafts were pulled, machined and received new shaft brakes.
She also needed more steel work than the yard had anticipated. “We ended up gutting out the whole lower level,” Holmes says, “changing all the steel and rebuilding the galley and three staterooms.”
The yard crew removed the apitong deck along with its supports. They cleaned up the steel deck, welded down new angle iron, bolted treated 4x4s to the angle iron and fastened a new apitong deck to the 4x4s. Then they rebuilt the main crane.
“We knew it needed work, but it’s more than you expect,” Holmes says. “But it’s a huge part of the operation, and you can’t afford downtime in the Bering Sea.”
In mid-July, the Cornelia Marie was salmon tendering in Bristol Bay, and Holmes says her fuel consumption was about 20 percent better.
Bay Welding Services in Homer, Alaska, delivered two 22' x 11' 6" seine skiffs to a pair of salmon fishermen in Kodiak. What makes the skiffs different from others that have come out of the Homer boatyard is their power package and enhanced creature comforts.
Previously, the most horsepower put into a Bay Welding skiff was 425, but when Cummins introduced its new QSC 8.3L engine with 500 horsepower at last year’s Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle, the skiffs’ owners jumped on it.
“We got the first two engines,” says Bay Welding’s Eric Engebretsen.
According to Engebretsen, the additional 75 horsepower means the maximum pulling power of the skiff with 425 horsepower is now the regular pulling power at 500 horsepower.
“The name of the game is to get as much power in the water as you can,” he says.
The keel-cooled Cummins, matched up with a NamJet TJ431HH through a ZF 286 reduction gear, develops 4,700 pounds of bollard pull and a top speed of 37 mph. There’s a 260-gallon fuel capacity because Engebretsen says a lot of fishermen want to fish longer periods without having to refuel.
Almost no modifications were required to handle the additional horsepower, other than increasing the keel cooler capacity and strengthening the towing post. However, the steering console was redesigned. Skiff operators want to be able to operate the skiff from any position around the console.
Then heaters were added to the console to blow warm air on the operator when he’s sitting down. LED lighting was put in the engine room, which Engebretsen says is a first at Bay Welding, as well as around the deck.
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New skiff works well in Gulf of Mexico;
Va. yard has an answer for old railways
By Larry Chowning
Commercial fishermen working in the Gulf of Mexico and its tributaries have found a new skiff that seems to meet their needs. It’s the 30' x 8' 9" x 8" fiberglass Slayer Skiff, built by Diversified Composite Products in Perry, Fla., and introduced this year.
Commercial blue crab fishermen say they like the skiff’s design because it can carry a large number of pots. This enables them to quickly move pots when following the runs of crabs. Mike Vernese, the boat’s builder, says the 30-foot Slayer Skiff holds 200 pots stacked inside the boat and on a stern platform.
Add an overhead platform that runs the length of the boat, which is what one Louisiana blue-crab fisherman did when he had a skiff built, and you can pack 300 pots.
Slayer Skiffs are built out of fiberglass and core composites with “no wood anywhere in the boat,” says Vernese. The hull has a squared-off bow with a V-shape built into the bow’s forward portion, similar to a garvey style.
A Porta hydraulic transom bracket on the stern has 5,000 pounds of lift and can raise and lower an outboard 15 inches. That range of movement and a shallow tunnel built into the transom means the 30-foot skiff can float in just eight inches of water. The shallow draft is particularly important in Florida’s rivers, where haul seines are used to fish close to the shore for mullet and menhaden.
Seine net and crab trap fisherman David Shugart of St. Augustine, Fla., has been working the water since he was a teenager and has fished from several styles of skiffs over the years. He fishes for mullet, menhaden and blue crabs, and bought the second 30-foot Slayer Skiff.
“It is the best skiff I’ve ever had,” he says. “I’ve got a 225-hp Honda on mine, and she will run 43 miles per hour. It gives me a fast, safe and stable platform to work from.”
The Slayer Skiff was designed for the Gulf Coast oyster hand-tong fishery, based on lines that were worked up from a 24-foot working skiff.
“An Apalachicola River oysterman designed this skiff for commercial oystering, and we enlarged it to 30 feet,” says Vernese. “We have sold 17 skiffs since we started building the hull, and we are getting more and more inquiries.”
Vernese is currently building a Slayer Skiff for Sea Tow, which will use it in the firm’s towing business on the Steinhatchee River and in the Gulf of Mexico.
On Chesapeake Bay and along the East Coast, small marine railways are closing. Part of the reason is that travel lifts are replacing the traditional railway, with its set of two rails and a cradle for bringing a boat out of the water or launching it.
Two of the oldest marine railways on Chesapeake Bay were at Winegar’s Marine Railway in White Stone, Va. The owners, Cathy Winegar Davenport and her husband, Ray, have closed both of them, but could not give up entirely the business of repairing small boats. So in place of the marine railways, they have built a stationery lift to work on small craft.
Cathy’s grandfather, John Joseph Winegar, founded the railway in 1911 on Dymer Creek. Cathy’s father, Joseph David Winegar, operated the railway in 1939. When he died in 1982, she took over its ownership and management.
Cathy and Ray also operate Dymer Creek Seafood, and Cathy is the Virginia governor’s appointee to the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, as well as president of the Virginia Seafood Council.
The growth of their seafood business prompted the Davenports to build a new net house for storing and mending nets for their pound-net business. The footprint of the net house interfered with the railways, and the railways needed major repairs. When considering the cost of repairs and the declining railway business, the Davenports have, at least for now, opted to close the railways.
The stationary lift is for working on small commercial and recreational boats. A boat is hauled out of the water on a trailer and carried to the lift, where slings and boat jacks hold it up as it is being repaired.
Virginia oystermen have been shifting away from 42-foot deadrise boats and going toward skiffs in the 22 to 30-foot range for the state’s hand-dredge fishery. These are the customers the Davenports hope to keep serving.