38-footer can get up and go; free hull at lobster boat races

In Addison, Maine, just across the town line from Jonesport, Guptill Custom Marine finished off and launched a Northern Bay 38 from Downeast Boats and Composites in Penobscot, Maine, on April 2.

Powered with a flex-mounted 330-hp Volvo Penta D6 that is bolted to a ZF marine gear with a 2.5:1 reduction and turning a 26 x 22 prop, the Miss Jayne hit 28 mph on her initial sea trials. That was a pleasant surprise to the builders and the boat's owner, Scott Herzog from Cohasset, Mass.

"This is the first Northern Bay we've built without lifting rails. We were quite concerned that the boat would be substantially slower without them," says the boatyard's Ira Guptill. "We couldn't believe the speed. The owner was grinning from ear to ear."

Guptill says the Volvo was selected with fuel economy in mind. "I think he will get the economy with this engine," he adds.

There's no wood in the boat. The trunk cabin, wheelhouse and wash rails are balsa cored and the rest of the boat features Nida-Core composite construction. "We build all composite boats and try to keep the weight to a minimum. It helps with speed and performance," Guptill says.

The deck is made up of 1-inch Nida-Core with two layers each of 3610 cloth and mat on top, and a layer of 3610 on the bottom. Full-height Nida-Core stringers and bulkheads support the deck. Across the transom is a 3-foot-wide stern deck.

"The owner almost went with an open stern, but he couldn't tear himself away from how he had been doing things," says Guptill.

If you are a Maine lobsterman, what are your odds of winning a free 28-foot hull? Naturally that depends on how many people you are competing with, but for every one of this year's eight lobster-boat races a fisherman enters, he gets one chance. Race all eight and that's eight chances. The winning ticket will be drawn at the end of the season awards banquet in Rockland.

For the hull, James West of Sorrento offered the use of his mold — the same one that produced the Wild Wild West. The Maine Lobster Boat Racing Association is putting up about $3,000 for materials, and a couple of boatbuilders have donated their time to build the hull.

By giving anyone who races a chance to win the hull, "we are trying to up the ante so people in each harbor that the races are held at will come out and race. The whole bottom line is to get more people to all of the events," says Jon Johansen, president of the Maine Lobster Boat Racing Association.

Every year there are always a couple of unknowns floating around prior to the start of the racing season. This year it's if the Underdog will make it into the water. She has a super light, Ernest Libby Jr.-built luan hull but in the past the boat hasn't had the power to match up with Galen Alley's Foolish Pleasure.

And will Alford Osgood be putting anything new in the Starlight Express, a Northern Bay 36 that had been running a 900-plus-hp Mack? At the last race in 2008, at Pemaquid, Osgood had some engine guys up from a Pennsylvania race shop that specializes in tractor-pull engines. The word is they didn't seem too concerned about matching their engines up with what they saw as Osgood's competition.

Last year Alley's Foolish Pleasure was the first boat to officially break the 60-mph mark, hitting 64.1 mph. Alley's problem was that he should have held off until the end of the season because anybody who breaks the record at Pemaquid — the last race of the season — gets $1,000. Alley thought just because he broke the record earlier in the year he would get the money. He didn't.

It's generally assumed Alley is shooting for the 70-mph mark this year and by adding a blower to an engine being built at Butler & MacMaster Automotive in Hallowell, he just might do it.

But check it out for yourself. Here's the racing schedule for 2009 (note there is not a race at Portland this year): Boothbay, June 20; Rockland, June 21; Moosabec Reach, Beals Island and Jonesport, July 4; Searsport, July 11; Stonington, July 12; Harpswell, July 26; Winter Harbor, Aug. 8; Pemaquid, Aug. 16; Awards Banquet, Trade Winds in Rockland, Sept. 26. — Michael Crowley


Fishermen like new boatshop; this builder loves 'makeovers'

Charlie Reynolds spent 20-some years building aluminum boats in Anchorage, Alaska, at Grayling Boats and Peregrine Marine. When Peregrine Marine shut down in 2008, Reynolds didn't waste much time before starting Reynolds Marine and using the old Peregrine Marine building.

In the past two decades, Reynolds has built numerous types of aluminum boats, but for now he's sticking with gillnetters. At the end of March he had four bowpickers on the shop floor that were nearly finished, and plenty of potential customers were in the wings. "There are 15 customers serious about building boats," Reynolds says.

The four 32' 6" x 11' gillnetters Reynolds designed are being built for Cordova, Alaska, salmon fishermen. All the boats have twin Marine Power gasoline engines and Hamilton water jets. Four of the engines are 315-hp 5.7-liter models with Hamilton 213s and four are 350-hp 6.0-liter engines also with Hamilton 213 jets. Reynolds says the boats should have a top-end speed of 37 to 40 knots.

All the boats' owners were originally going with diesel engines, but they decided on gasoline power because of the lower initial cost. Reynolds says the fishermen who selected the 350-hp engines did so because they figure they can save on fuel by throttling back.

The flush-decked gillnetters have six fish holds and power bow rollers from Webber Marine & Manufacturing in Cordova. Webber Marine also provided two net reels. The other two came from Petrzelka Bros. in Mount Vernon, Wash.

At the end of March, Bill Webber hung a "For Sale" sign outside of Webber Marine & Manufacturing — which also builds aluminum gillnetters.

Webber says, "I'm probably going to close the boatbuilding chapter in my life." He will still manufacture equipment such as bow rollers, herring shakers, water-jet controls and processing equipment. And he intends to expand his salmon marketing business.

In Eureka, Calif., boat carpenter David Peterson's greatest joy in repairing wooden boats is what he calls the "makeover." He takes what anybody who appreciates a nice looking boat would consider an "ugly duckling, and I will turn it into something where people can walk by the boat and not even recognize it."

Peterson's latest makeover is the West Coast, a 45-footer built in 1944 by the Nunes Brothers in Sausalito, Calif., as a lampara boat, but now trolls for tuna.

In any makeover, the pilothouse is the key to improving a boat's looks. "A pilothouse makes or breaks a boat. You can take a boat that's fairly homely and do a nice enough job with the house and bring it up. The opposite is true, too. You'll have a nice looking hull and just destroy the thing with the cabin," Peterson says.

Peterson says the boat's owner, Gilbert Groszmann, "was unhappy with the aesthetics of the cabin."

The previous owner had rebuilt the cabin and "didn't do a tremendous job aesthetically. It's a little too big," Peterson notes.

Peterson started by tearing off all the cabin's plywood except for what was on the backside. Then he did "everything I could to make the cabin look smaller." That included enlarging the windows and using wider trim. The old windows were round with rubber gaskets. The replacement windows were hardwood framed. "Now it has the traditional style of northern troller windows," says Peterson. (He thinks Pacific Northwest trollers built in the 1940s are "the pinnacle of good-looking boats.")

Besides rebuilding the pilothouse, Peterson replaced all the stub ribs coming through the after deck, rebuilt the bulwarks, resheathed and glassed the deck and gave it a non-skid covering.

Peterson has used walnut shells before as a non-skid surface. "You can still buy 30-pound bags of walnut shells. Wal
nut shells are good to use if you think you might have to sand it back down and reapply resin. Walnut shells will sand. Grinding on sand doesn't work very well," he notes.

However, a sand non-skid deck lasts longer and that's what went on the West Coast. Peterson uses 24-grit sandblasting sand, covering a resin-coated deck with about a quarter inch of sand.

"It's just like a beach. That's the best way to get a real even coat. When the resin has gone off, vacuum up any excess, broom it down real good and put a resin coat over that. It gives a good surface to walk on and doesn't wear down the glass," Peterson says. — Michael Crowley


Railway may take workboats; watermen change to outboards

Chesapeake Marine Railway and Dry Dock Co. was a cornerstone of the Baltimore waterfront in the 1800s. Baltimore was a center of commerce for the entire Chesapeake region, and the marine railway was an important part of the waterfront's infrastructure, with hundreds of boats docking there.

After the Civil War, the railway was owned by a group of free blacks. One of them, Isaac Myers, who was freeborn, had apprenticed there as a ship caulker in 1851.

Prior to that a slave named Frederick Bailey spent part of his younger years working on the Baltimore docks. In 1838, Bailey escaped slavery by running away to New York. There he changed his name to Frederick Douglass and became a national figure in the abolitionist movement.

The old railway and dry dock have been gone for over 100 years, but a modern railway was recently built on the Frederick Douglass Isaac Myers Maritime Park in downtown Baltimore, near the site of the old Chesapeake Marine Railway and Dry Dock Co.

The new railway is owned by the Living Classrooms Foundation, a Baltimore-based group charged with teaching job skills and workforce development programs to disadvantaged youth and young adults. The foundation manages the National Historic Seaport of Baltimore, which includes the park and new railway.

Peter Bolster, the foundation's director of shipboard operations says the railway was built to service the foundation's five wooden boats. The boats — all were previously used in the bay's fisheries — make daylong trips in the spring and fall and weeklong trips in the summer teaching students about the bay's heritage and cultures, including how watermen made a living in the past and how they make a living today.

The railway started operating last fall and has hauled three of the foundation's boats. The skipjack and oyster dredger the Minnie V and the Half Shell, an ex-crab dredger and buy boat, were the first two boats on the rails. The Half Shell's stern and part of the shaft log were rebuilt. About one-third of the yellow pine bottom planking was replaced, and the boat was repowered with a Cummins diesel.

In March, the Mildred Belle, which was previously a buy boat and dredged for crabs and oysters, was on the rails. Bolster said the Mildred Belle was in for some sanding, scraping and a little bit of caulking.

Currently the railway is used solely by the foundation. "Right now, we are just so glad to have it for our own boats," Bolster says, "but I think we will open it up to privately owned boats sometime in the future."

That would be good, because there is a shortage of haul-out facilities. It would be especially welcome for the 13 or so skipjacks that are still fishing in the area.

In Georgia, with a weak economy and state and federal regulations limiting commercial catches, many inshore commercial fishermen are turning to smaller outboard powered boats like the Carolina Skiff.

Robert Sass, marketing director of Carolina Skiff in Waycross, Ga., says gillnetters, oystermen, and crab and lobster potters from Maine to Florida are using the skiff.

A favorite Carolina Skiff used by Virginia oystermen is the DLX series that goes up to 27 feet in length. The firm introduced the 27-footer several years ago when commercial fishermen were requesting a boat with more payload capacity. This skiff has a 12-foot beam and draws 6 inches. The boat can carry a 225-hp outboard motor.

All sizes can be pulled behind a trailer, and East Coast soft-shell blue crab fishermen often trailer their skiffs to and from the fishing grounds. The 27-footer has the same draft and beam as the 24-footer.

Crab potters who work the bay's inshore rivers and creeks of the bay like the 19- and 20-foot skiffs. The 19-footer has a 3-inch to 6-inch draft with a 7' 9" beam. A 115-hp outboard is about the biggest the boat can carry. The 20-footer has the same draft and beam but can handle a 135-hp outboard.

Environmental groups like the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and some private oyster growers are also using a Carolina Skiff to plant seed oysters on private and public grounds close to shore. Oyster spat are placed in baskets and hauled out to the grounds in the skiffs and dumped overboard by hand. — Larry Chowning

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