32-year-old lobster boat gets upgrade;
Mainers looking north for larger boats
By Michael Crowley
At Lash Brothers Boatyard in Friendship, Maine, it’s been nonstop work since the day after Christmas. “It’s the first day we’ve had a break,” said Wesley Lash on Thursday, Aug. 6, the day after the Sea Turtle went in the water.
The Sea Turtle is a 37-foot Repco built in 1983 that Lash Brothers Boatyard pulled the engine out of, painted and rebuilt much of the deck and wheelhouse. Derek Ruybal, a local lobsterman, has owned the boat for 10 years.
The Sea Turtle was at the tail end of a bunch of post-Christmas projects that included repowering a Calvin 38 with a Cat C9, a Duffy 42 that also got a Cat C9 and a Holland 32 that had a new Volvo D6 bolted to its engine beds. There was also some repair work done on a 42 Wesmac.
The Sea Turtle’s Cat 3116 was rebuilt at Midcoast Diesel in nearby Warren. The Cat had 20,000 hours on it when it was lifted out of the Sea Turtle. “He did well,” says Lash Brothers’ Wesley Lash of the hours that Ruybal was able to get out of the Cat.
While the engine was at Midcoast Diesel, the hull was repainted with a two-part epoxy paint and repairs were made to the platform and wheelhouse.
Most of the plywood platform was replaced with a composite deck. Lash generally gives most plywood decks a lifetime of 10 years at most. “Ten years and you can be expecting bad spots,” he says. “It’s all how you prepare it. If you get airflow under [the platform] it’s a lot better than sealing it up tight.”
That also means it’s not a good idea to fiberglass the underside of the platform. “You want the plywood to be able to breathe. Some have learned that lesson,” he notes.
Lash favors composite materials over plywood, primarily Coosa board, a high-density polyurethane foam with layers of fiberglass, and Corecell, a high-density PVC foam. Lash fiberglasses both sides of the composite materials.
The Sea Turtle has a split wheelhouse, and much of the port side was rotten and had to be rebuilt. Repairs were also made to the hauling station, including replacing the 12-inch hauler with a larger 14-inch model. “And we replaced all the hoses and cleaned the cooling pipes,” says Lash. “We just went through it. He just wants another five or six years, and then he’ll upgrade.”
Down the coast and to the east is Milbridge and Sargent’s Custom Boats. There, Joe Sargent and his crew are laying up a 33-footer in molds that Sargent bought from Jimmy Beal, another Milbridge boatbuilder. She will be going out of the shop to be finished off by Stevie Johnson on Long Island, Maine, for a fisherman on Vinalhaven Island in Penobscot Bay.
However, the major project is finishing off a Dixon 45 from Dixon’s Marine Group 2000 in Lower Woods Harbor, Nova Scotia. The boat is going to Joe Bennett in nearby Sorrento.
Sargent says lobstermen are now crossing the border more to buy larger boats like the Dixon 45. “There’s such a demand for the bigger boats that the local builders are all backed up, so people are starting to go up to Canada.”
The hull came with a molded top but that is being modified. “It’s fairly low,” says Sargent, “so we are going to cut the whole house and trunk off at the washboard and raise it 6 inches.”
The Dixon 45 reminds Sargent of the Osmond Beal designed and built Corned Hake, a wooden lobster boat that had quite a following at one time in Maine’s lobster boat racing circuit. Though the fiberglass Dixon has a hard chine and a higher bow, “you can see the Osmond design in it,” he says.
Bennett’s boat will have a 700-hp MAN engine, but before that could be installed, the hull had to be stiffened up. “Dixons don’t come with hull stringers,” says Sargent. There were four “2x4s laid on the flat from the main bulkhead to the stern. That’s all they had.”
Sargent supported the 45-footer on eight poppets set up along the chine and had the keel barely sitting on a 6x6, so it wouldn’t push that up into the hull. “And then we glassed hull stringers in. Now it will hold its shape,” he says.
When the boat is finished, she’ll have a split wheelhouse with a bench and a helm station on the port side and the hauling station on the starboard. “It’s easier getting around that way,” says Sargent, “instead of having a center helm station.”
Below the plywood and fiberglass deck will be tanks to hold 20 crates of lobsters. “These boats are really deep, so it makes it easier,” Sargent notes.
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Multiboat contract for Strongback;
upgrades galore out of Oregon yard
By Michael Crowley
At the end of August, Strongback Metal Boats in Bellingham, Wash., was scheduled to load a new Bristol Bay gillnetter on a barge going to Alaska. “It’s a prototype Bristol Bay boat,” says the boatyard’s Pat Pitsch.
If you are thinking “prototype” as being a cutting-edge design, loaded with technology breaking electronic gizmos, this isn’t it. These designs are based on boats that Pitsch “worked on as a kid, 40 years ago.”
Pitsch says the idea behind the boat is to get back to the basics using gillnetter designs of the 1970s, before the advent of the superfast, extremely fancy gillnetters, some of which cost close to $1 million.
The driver behind that concept is the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. in Dillingham, Alaska.
The BBEDC’s task is promoting economic growth for members of its 17 communities, all of which are along the Bering Sea.
“They wanted a really inexpensive but turnkey refrigerated deck boat to get some of their residents back on their feet,” says Pitsch. “They wanted a ready to fish boat for 300 grand. We came up with something at 330 [thousand] and were awarded the contract.”
The contract could represent upward of 50 boats. BBEDC will help people with down payments for the boat and to get financing.
Pitsch describes the hull of the 32-footer as not much different than boats currently fishing Bristol Bay, though at 13 feet 10 inches, there’s a little less beam.
Getting back to basics means there’s a conventional fly bridge but not a top house. There’s no wood in the boat; its all aluminum in the interior, though-sprayed with Raptor Liner so it’s easy to clean. Down below there’s nothing fancy, just a small diesel stove for heat, and no shower.
There is a refrigerated seawater system from Integrated Marine Systems and a 425-hp John Deer 6089 that powers an 18-inch Traktor Jet. Initially the BBEDC wanted a conventional prop drive, but Pitsch convinced them “that props was a mistake in this day and age. You can’t be competitive, and [with a water jet] you can go high and dry without busting props and bending shafts.”
To help get the price down, Pitsch went to all his vendors telling them: “This is huge. Potentially talking 50 boats” and to sign on if they wanted in on it. “I don’t know if there will be 50 boats in my lifetime,” admits Pitsch. “But it’s exciting.”
The 75-foot dragger Nicole is due back to Giddings Boat Works in Charleston, Ore., for a sponsoning job and lengthening. When the Nicole was at Giddings at the beginning of the year, they talked about sponsoning her, but there wasn’t time before she had to leave to go fishing in Kodiak, Alaska.
Before heading north, a net reel was installed and the fish hold changed, allowing it to be flooded. That meant adding a couple of flotation tanks — 6 feet wide and deep, and 28 feet long — beneath the port and starboard stern quarters to provide buoyancy for the flooded fish hold. This time around, besides being sponsoned and having the flotation tanks removed, the Nicole will be lengthened, changing her dimensions from 78' x 24' to 90' x 34'. She’ll also get a new aft gantry that Giddings was building in preparation for her arrival.
When the Nicole is hauled, she’ll most likely be next to the Deliverance, a pot fishing boat out of Homer, Alaska, that will also be in for a sponsoning job, says Giddings Boat Works’ Mike Lee, going from 58' x 18' to 57' 11" x 25' 10".
The 85' x 29' Dusk, which had come down from Kodiak where it had been pollock fishing, left in June. The crew at Giddings sand blasted the boat and then removed all the deck gear and then outfitted her for shrimping. That included installing winches, net reels and shrimp poles. Deck-loading chutes were added and the fish hold was cleaned out.
Joe Hamm and Mike Lynch own both the Dusk and the Nicole as well as a third boat, the Dawn, which is due into Giddings in November. She will also be set up for shrimping. The Nicole’s old gantry and net reel will go on the Dawn. “There’s a lot of stuff moving around on these boats,” notes Lee.
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Virginia netters on maintenance break;
engine recycled from 70-year-old boat
By Larry Chowning
Most Chesapeake Bay commercial fishing boats get a facelift in the spring, but for gillnetters in Mathews County, Va., July is usually the month for maintenance.
“We stop about this time every year and do routine and major maintenance to our boats,” says Charles Buchanan of Cobbs Creek. “When the water gets real hot, the fish just stop moving, and we don’t catch enough to make it worth our while. That’s the time we bring the boats ashore.”
At the beginning of July, four gillnetters were at the Deltaville Boatyard where fishermen usually work on their own boats. Buchanan and his son, Charles, have their boat, the Morgan’s Pride, hauled for bottom paint, shaft and prop work. “We annually put new bushings in the shaft and have the wheel taken off and worked on,” says Buchanan.
Morgan’s Pride is a father and son partnership, trading under the name “Miss Phyllis’ Partnership.” (Phyllis Buchanan is the wife of the senior Buchanan.) Their previous gillnetter was a wooden boat built by Grover Lee Owens. It was named after his wife, but when they got their new boat, he named it Morgan’s Pride after his granddaughter. “I wanted to make sure my wife’s name was still part of our business, so we named the partnership for her,” says Buchanan.
Morgan’s Pride is a 1979 Torres fiberglass hull built in Key West, Fla. It measures 43' x 16' 2" and is powered by a 375-hp John Deere. “I grew up using Detroit Diesels and that’s why I’m half deaf today,” says Buchanan. “The John Deere is the quietest, most efficient of engines.”
Provincial Boat & Marine in Kensington, on Canada’s Prince Edward Island, built the other three gillnetters in the boatyard. They are the Island Pride II owned by Lee Smith, the Hannah Carol owned by his brother, Todd, and cousin Tracey Smith’s the Deborah C.
“They are all up here for the same reason we are,” says Buchanan. “When fishing gets slow we have three or four weeks where we can get the boats ready for the next season.”
The Hannah Carol is having an engine replaced. Deltaville Boatyard will set the Caterpillar 3406 in the boat, and the Smiths will hook it up.
Most anytime one travels to the end of the long dirt road leading to Best Boatyard at Christchurch, Va., they will likely run into some type of maritime cultural experience.
Side-by-side was the Hillary Ann, a 70-year-old, 42-foot wooden deadrise, being prepared for a burn pile; the 55th Virginia, a 55-foot Chesapeake Bay buy boat getting spruced up for the annual Chesapeake Bay Buy Boat Association rendezvous in Poquoson, Va., in August; the 28-foot Capt. Jack, a Tangier Island barcat owned by Shores and Ruark Seafood Co. of Urbanna, Va; and a classic fiberglass Deltaville garvey, also owned by Shores and Ruark.
Buddy Forrest of Gwynn’s Island, Va., bought the Hillary Ann for the boat’s 225-hp John Deere and her hardware. The engine is going in a 40' x 12' fiberglass workboat the Navy had used as a launch. Forrest converted it to a workboat for crabbing and oystering.
William C. (Bill) Hight of Urbanna, Va., owns the 55th Virginia. She was in Virginia’s pound-net fishery before Hight rigged her for pleasure use. The 55th Virginia is one of the youngest buy boats on the bay, having been built in 1972. At one time, there were more than 2,000 buy boats on the bay with the majority built in the 1920s. The rendezvous will start at Poquoson and travel down the ditch, or Intracoastal Waterway as it is called, stopping at North Carolina towns and communities along the way where the boats once purchased watermelons for the Washington, D.C., and Baltimore watermelon trade.
The Capt. Jack is a classic barcat, used to scrape for crabs on Tangier Sound. Rufus Ruark of Shores and Ruark converted the 28-footer for crabbing and oystering. The boat is getting a fresh coat of top and bottom paint.
The 26-foot Deltaville garvey was built and designed by the now defunct Hulls Unlimited East of Deltaville. The late naval architect Harry Bulifant designed the boat for John Collamore in the late 1970s.
Shores and Ruark had the garvey rebuilt in 2010 at Crown Marine in Wake, Va., and uses the boat to move oyster cages. The boat is also getting top paint and bottom antifouling paint.