From the whimsical to the practical, lobster boat races draw them all

By Michael Crowley

At any of the Maine lobster boat races, you’ll find a collection of characters. There’s the fisherman racing a strictly working lobster boat. There’s nothing special about the engine; it’s got power enough to go to the grounds and back, and in between haul as many traps as necessary. Even though he knows he probably won’t win, he’s like most Maine lobstermen and just loves boats, engines, the noise of a race and a general good time. 

Then there’s the fisherman pushing the envelop a little bit by dumping a lot of money into a big engine; I mean, who needs a 1,000 horsepower engine to haul traps? Well, you need that horsepower if you crave racing and everything that goes with it — the nervousness, the noise, the speed and the excitement. He knows he has to use that engine every working day, but it’s sized with racing in mind, not hauling traps.

There are those who fudge the numbers in their desire to win. They claim one horsepower rating, yet it doesn’t seem possible they are staying up with or beating boats with engines acknowledged to be much more powerful.
What’s common to all is that, for an afternoon in the spotlight, they risk destroying the engine that they earn their daily living with. And that’s all right — well maybe not after they send a piston out the side of a block, but in the moment, it’s fine.

You also have the so-called play boats. They look like lobster boats but never haul traps. There’s no attempt to disguise the fact that what looks like a stock engine on the outside is anything but on the inside. The engine might run alcohol, propane, nitrous oxide or have been sent to a speed shop and returned with components most lobstermen couldn’t afford and many have never heard of.

Then there’s Stevie Johnson, a Long Island, Maine, boatbuilder whose whimsical take on racing always gets attention. Back in 2009, Johnson had the “cah-boat” — eliminating the “r” in Maine-speak — which was a 26-foot cabin cruiser with its top cut off and replaced with a deck. A 1994 Pontiac Sunbird convertible was chained down to the deck. A couple of 200-hp outboards hung from the transom and Johnson steered from the Pontiac’s front seat.

He also has shown up at races in the Tiki Bar, which is, as the name suggests, basically a Caribbean bar powered by outboards. “He tried to race it,” says Jon Johansen, president of the Maine Lobster Boat Racing Association. “But it only does about 8 mph.” Johansen adds that the Tiki Bar “is always being boarded by the Coast Guard.”

One year Johnson tried to race a seaplane that he and his buddy arrived in. The race committee let the seaplane race; the stipulation being the plane had to stay on the water and couldn’t take off. The plane did take off and was disqualified.

Then at the Aug. 15 races held at Long Island, Johnson entered his latest creation, the Wild Woman, a “sailing” race boat. Sailing is in quotations because it’s not really a sailboat. It’s a 28-foot O’Day sailboat, cut off at the waterline and then fiberglassed down to what was the platform for the cah-boat. A pair of 200-hp Yamahas hangs off the stern.

Another way you know Wild Woman — skippered, mind you by a woman, Sandie Moran — is not your typical O’Day sailboat is that in one race it was up against the Miss Karlee, a Mitchell Cove 32 with a 1,000-hp Caterpillar C18. The two boats were bow-and-bow at the head of the pack — in the mid-40 mph range — throughout most of the race, with Wild Woman finally taking it at the end. No wonder that race was called the wildest race of the day.
The rest of the Long Island races and the next day at Pemaquid and Portland, the last two races of the season, there were plenty of traditional looking lobster boats lining up to race.

At Long Island, the Miss Karlee did prove herself in the Diesel Free for All, coming in half a length ahead of Whistlin’ Dixie, a Holland 40 with a 1,000-hp Cat, at 41.8 mph. Third place went to La Bella Vita, a Northern Bay 38 with a 750-hp FPT.

A boat that hadn’t made a lot of races this year was Thunderbolt, a South shore 30 with a 496-cubic-inch Chevy (horsepower unknown), that took her gasoline class race at Pemaquid and the Fastest Lobster Boat Afloat race, as well, at 55.1 mph. Second place went to Lisa Maria, a Libby 34 with a 690 FTP, and third to Wild, Wild West, a West 28 with a 1,050 Isotta Fraschini. Neither Thunderbolt nor Wild, Wild West is a working lobster boat, but Lisa Marie is.

Looking forward to next year, the willingness of some lobstermen to jack up their horsepower on the day of a race might result in a rule change. “We know they are turning their engines up,” says Johansen. “They are electronic, and some can go from 400 to 700 horsepower. We are thinking if you have a 400 horsepower engine and it can be pushed to 700 then you are in the 700 horsepower class. The sad thing is that there are a few that are legit, but there’s quite a few that aren’t.”

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00 ATYicon WestCrabber departs Calif. yard a lot safer; Wash. builder sea trials 39-foot model

By Michael Crowley

The Big Wave wasn’t the nicest looking boat when she pulled into Crescent City, Calif., but when she left the harbor this August, she had picked up a lot in looks and stability. It was all thanks to a sponson and rebuild at Fashion Blacksmith.

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The Big Wave wasn’t the nicest looking boat when she pulled into Crescent City, Calif., but when she left the harbor this August, she had picked up a lot in looks and stability. It was all thanks to a sponson and rebuild at Fashion Blacksmith.

When the Big Wave (previously the Seasick 2) out of Coos Bay, Ore., was hauled she was 54' x 15'. Going back in the water the combination shrimp and crab boat measured 58' x 26'. “It was a huge sponson job,” says Fashion Blacksmith’s Ted Long. Actually, it was a lot more than just a sponsoning job for the steel boat. Just about everything that could be removed was taken off the boat, including the pilothouse, deck gear and mast. “We pretty much started from scratch,” says Long.

In building the sponsons, all the bow plating was removed above the chine, and the last 10 feet of the stern was cut off. Removing the stern is not uncommon with a Fashion Blacksmith sponsoning. Long will tell you that getting the stern lower in the water is a way to provide buoyancy for a boat that carries a deckload of pots or that shrimps with a double rig. It was doubly important to do that with the Big Wave, since some of the steel wasn’t in good shape. Fuel tanks went into the corners of the new stern and a water tank in the center.

A major issue with the Big Wave was poor stability. “Big-time stability,” says Long. “The boat was pretty dangerous.” That’s why one of the previous owners put a couple of feet of foam insulation in the bottom of the fish hold and made the walls very thick. That was to improve the stability by eliminating space in the hold otherwise taken up by crab or shrimp.

The crew at Fashion Blacksmith gutted the fish hold, put in new circulation plumbing and refoamed and glassed the hold, gaining, says Long, “600 to 700 cubic feet.”

The boat’s owners had Fred Wahl Marine Construction in Reedsport, Ore., build the new pilothouse and mast and then trucked them to Fashion Blacksmith as precut kits. “It saved us a lot of time,” acknowledges Long. The Big Wave was previously repowered with a 450-hp Cummins QSK19 in anticipation of being sponsoned and lengthened.

Before the yard crew completed the Big Wave, they got started on the next boat, the 54' x 15' Dena, a crabber and tuna boat out of Bodega Bay, Calif. She is being sponsoned to increase fish hold capacity and stability. The Dena will go out of Fashion Blacksmith at 58' x 23' 6".

Up in La Conner, Wash., Maritime Fabrication was sea trialing its new 39' x14' fiberglass coastal crab boat design the second week in September. It’s described as the “first of the second generation” by the boatyard’s Isaac Oczkewicz. “The goal is simplicity and affordability,” he adds.

The first generation coastal crabber measured 34' x 13'. Besides being wider and longer, the new model was built “more square. It gives the boat more capacity for product,” says Oczkewicz, while at the same time provides more stability and deck space for stacking pots. Though Oczkewicz describes the first model “as really successful,” the new boat was “an attempt to refresh the design and optimize what the fisherman needs.”

Oczkewicz speculates it should carry close to 170 pots. The 34-footer packed 100 pots on deck. The deck is 2 3/8-inch honeycomb composite cored. The bulkheads are 2-inch honeycomb composite cored. In the engine room for propulsion is a 330-hp John Deere along with a 13-kW generator for running crab lights and circulation plumbing. The boat will accommodate four crewmen with space for bunks, a head and a small galley, though those features aren’t present in the first boat to leave La Conner. The crabber’s hull was designed by the late Seattle architect Lynn Senour. Maritime Fabrication designed the wheelhouse. She will be fishing out of Santa Cruz, Calif.

Maritime Fabrication is also building a 39' x 14' combination boat for Kodiak that should be delivered in November.

If you are looking for a new 58-foot fiberglass seiner that doesn’t fall under the Coast Guard’s class rules, try Little Hoquiam Shipyard in Hoquiam, Wash. The owner backed out of the deal when the 58' x 23' 9" seiner was half completed, and the boatshop’s Howard Moe is looking for a buyer. Shafting, steering, bulbous bow, bow thruster and sonar tube are in the boat. A pair of 425-hp John Deere 6090 main engines is on the shop floor waiting to go in the boat, once a new owner steps forward.

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00 ATYicon SouthAraho launch a milestone for fisheries; menhaden boat is intentionally sunk 

By Larry Chowning

The 194-foot Araho was launched July 31 at the Eastern Shipbuilding Group in Panama City, Fla., for the O’Hara Corp., of Rockland, Maine. Delivery, however, won’t be until the spring of 2016, when she will go though the Panama Canal and to the Bering Sea. 

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The Det Norske Veritas-classed freezer trawler is the first U.S. built factory processor in over 25 years and will be the most technologically advanced catcher-processor in the Bering Sea, says Steve Berthold, vice president of marketing for Eastern Shipbuilding.

Skipsteknisk AS of Alesund, Norway, designed the Araho.

The Araho will be fully equipped with state of the art systems for bottom and pelagic trawling. The electric trawl winches are from Rapp Marine and can be controlled from the wheelhouse or remotely. Each will hold 9,186 feet of 1-17/64-inch cable. There are three deck cranes. An aft-mounted deck crane will be used during fishing operation. It has a telescopic boom with lifting capacity of 6,400 pounds. The freezer hold is 38,500 cubic feet.

The processing area and the selection of its equipment was done with the intention of having the largest amount of automation possible to assist the processing crew, says Berthold.
Noise reduction and privacy were two considerations in designing the boat. There will be bunks for 50 with mostly two-man staterooms and some one-man staterooms. Each will have its own head and shower.

The Araho measures 194' x 49' x 19' 4". She’s powered by a 4,000-hp at 900-rpm EMD MEL16-710G7. That is matched up with a vertical offset Lufkin gear with a 7.20:1 reduction. Electrical power comes from two 550-kW Caterpillar C18 generator sets, while one 95-kW Caterpillar C4.4 provides emergency power.

Working on a much smaller scale, waterman Alvin Lionel of Maryus. Va., is replacing the horn timber and eight feet of bottom planking in his 42' x 12' wooden deadrise, the Helen J.

Replacing a horn timber is serious surgery on a wooden deadrise boat.

The horn timber’s curved shape forms a concave bottom from the end of the skeg to the transom. The propeller shaft goes through the horn timber and skeg. It’s got to be just right. Jenkins is cutting the horn timber from a 12" x 12" piece of juniper and using a curved plywood template to make the cut.

The Helen J was hauled at Crown Pointe Marina in Hayes, Vir., which is a boatyard for pleasure boats that has set aside areas for commercial fishermen to work on their own boats.

“When I started having trouble finding boatbuilders to fix my boat I took some time and started helping Kenny Carpenter, a boatbuilder in [Gloucester County],” says Lionel. “The handwriting is on the wall when it comes to wooden boats. The boatbuilders who worked on these boats are gone, so I felt I needed to learn the craft if I was going to keep my boats going.”

Jenkins has two wooden deadrise boats that he uses during the warm weather haul seine fishery and the winter for oystering. “Fishing was so bad this year that we did not put our haul seine nets in the water but we will be working both boats during the oyster season,” he says.

Virginia’s public oyster season starts in October and Jenkins will work the Rappahannock and James rivers and in Tangier Sound near Saxis, as the Virginia Marine Resources Commission opens up the grounds to oystermen.

In the Gulf of Mexico, Omega Protein’s retired fishing vessel Barataria Bay began its next life as an artificial reef. In June, the menhaden boat, built in 1967, was sunk off the coast of Mississippi, approximately 20 miles from the mouth of the Pascagoula River. It will benefit ecosystems and sport fishermen alike there.

It is the latest collaboration between Omega Protein, the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources and nonprofit organization Mississippi Gulf Fishing Banks to create new marine habitats in the Gulf. This is the third retired boat to be sunk in the Gulf. In November 2009, another Omege Protein fishing boat, the Great Wicomico, was sunk and before that the Von Rosenberg in May 2000.

 

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