The Red Baron may be back to racing; boat demand could challenge builders
By Michael Crowley
The center of attention at Holland’s Boat Shop in Belfast, Maine, is back in a corner of the shop. It’s the Red Baron.
That’s an iconic name to Maine lobstermen, whether or not they ever took part in Maine’s lobster boat racing circuit. The 32-foot Red Baron, built in 1979, along with the Young Brothers Sopwith Camel and Richard Duffy’s Voop, put lobster boat racing on the map.
For a racing machine, the Red Baron now looks out of shape, it’s name pretty well worn away, perhaps from age, perhaps from work in the shop. But Glenn Holland says, “With a little bit of luck, she might go racing next year.”
That “luck” means getting time away from the income generating part of running the boatshop — building 32- and 38-foot hulls for fishermen and pleasure boat owners. When he has the time, Holland is tearing out the old 3/4-inch plywood platform and its 2 x 4 deck beams. “We’ll put everything back pretty light — composite panels,” says Holland. “All the old wood will be gone” but basically nothing else will change.
It’s an experiment on Holland’s part to see “what extra speed I can get out of her by getting rid of all that weight.” The Red Baron has topped out at 57.8 mph. Holland’s goal is breaking 60 mph. “It’s kind of a personal goal to get that boat to break 60 mph by getting rid of some extra weight, without changing anything else — same engine, same wheel, same everything.”
On paper he figures the Red Baron should break 60 based on what happened when he substituted composite materials for the plywood seats and supports in the skiff the shop builds, the Holland 14. “In a 14-foot skiff it made quite a difference,” says Holland. He won’t say what the difference was, only that with a 30-hp Yamaha outboard the Baby Baron “just tickled 34 mph” at the lobster boat races.
For the time being, Holland isn’t going to do anything to the engine, a 600-cubic-inch Ford with a blower, in his quest to hit 60 mph. He will partially take it apart “to check things on it and give it a little once over” but that’s it. However, if the Red Baron can blow through that 60-mph mark just by being a bit lighter, then Holland will “start playing, see if I can get more” speed.
In the meantime, Holland’s Boatshop has a slew of 32-foot hulls to build. All but one are for pleasure boat owners. (Those boats Holland frequently refers to as “toy boats.”) The one commercial boat is for a tuna fisherman.
A year or so ago, the breakdown between pleasure and commercial boats was the other way around. Holland admits he can’t explain the change, other than to say, “It’s weird. It always goes in cycles like that.”
Like at Holland’s Boat Shop, all the building bays at Clark Island Boat Works in St. George are full. But in the case of Clark Island Boat Works it’s mostly commercial boats. “We were doing 50-50 pleasure and lobster boats,” says Andrew MacCaffray. “Now it’s eight commercial to one pleasure.”
Among the boats being finished off are two 46-foot Wesmac hulls going to lobstermen in Portland and Deer Isle. Both will have 1,000-hp Caterpillar main engines. “750 to 1,000 horsepower seems to be popular right now,” says MacCaffray.
The two lobster boats with split wheelhouses and open transoms are getting composite decks. Below deck, one 46-footer will have a 10-crate center tank and a loose tanks on each side. It’s three tanks for loose lobsters in the second boat. They should hold a total of about 2,000 pounds.
Due in after the first of the year are 44-foot and a 44-foot 6-inch Mussel Ridge hulls, “and several more after that,” says MacCaffray.
He doesn’t anticipate a slowdown at his shop or other boatshops. Though he anticipates possible future problems for owners of new lobster boats getting a timely delivery of a completed boat.
That’s the downside of the strong landings and high prices that lobstermen have been enjoying. The majority of fishermen coming into Clark Island Boat Works are “guys that have been thinking about new commercial boat for the past two or three seasons. And the past two seasons they are doing awesome, and this season the price doubled what it was last year, and the price of fuel was half what it was last year.”
That leads to a “pretty big commercial [boatbuilding] boom, but eventually there won’t be anywhere to finish them.” MacCaffray says a hull can be built in a month, but it takes four to five months to finish that hull.
“A hull manufacturer in a year can pump out 12 boats. I can’t finish 12 boats. I don’t know how they will get finished fast enough to keep up with the demand.”
* * *
Skiff design works for different fisheries; improved facility brings in new projects
By Michael Crowley
Stewart Everest at Everest Marine & Equipment in Burlington, Wash., recently finished up a run of 14 aluminum 64-foot oyster dredges that he started in 2004. However, it’s not the longest run of boats Everest has been involved with.
The latest in that line is being built on the shop floor. It’s a 32' x 11' aluminum work skiff for Penn Cove Shellfish in Coupeville, Wash. It has a self-bailing deck, an open steering console and a 200-hp John Deere with an outdrive. The John Deer should give the 32-footer a top speed of about 25 knots with 7,000 pounds of mussels on deck. Everest has built upward of 50 boats based on the 32-foot design, starting back in 1982. They’ve been used in the salmon, herring and shellfish fisheries. The design has basically stayed the same, though the length and width might change depending on what the boat is to be used for.
One thing that doesn’t change is the rolled bow plating, which gives the hull a rounded forward shape, and is also why the design is called the Round Bow. That shape allows a very full beam to be carried all the way forward.
In the beginning, they were used in the Bristol Bay salmon and herring fisheries. “They had outboards on a lift bracket,” Everest says. “As the hull submerges from a load, you could lift the outboard up.”
Some had a house forward, others a house aft with a net reel in front of it and a power roller in the bow. “We experimented with setting over the side with a drum on one side,” Everest says.
On boats designed for the herring fishery, the sides rose 5 feet above the chine, giving a 3-foot 6-inch depth to the fish hole. “All the customers want something a little different, but the design is useful for a lot of different uses,” says Everest.
This past summer, the Port Townsend Shipwrights Co-op added four new buildings to its operation in Port Townsend, Wash. The buildings provide inside space to work on boats up to 150 feet long and 60 feet tall. They are popular with boat owners and the co-op’s crew.
“Any time you can work under cover, it’s a plus for efficiency,” says the co-op’s Chris Chase. Boat owners like it, too. The buildings have “brought in a lot more business. There’s a real value to the [customer’s boat] being under cover.”
The owner of the 87-foot Lynda wanted to take advantage of the new buildings. He brought his steel-hulled tender down from Ketchikan, Alaska, and “was excited to go in a building with his rig up,” says Chase.
The Lynda, built in 1947, was having work done on about 20 percent of her bottom plating. That included redoing a lot of frames and stringers and shaft alley work as well. Topsides new aluminum bulwarks were installed.
Inside the 58-foot wood-hulled Defiance out of Cordova, Alaska, a new 350-hp Cummins 855 was going down on the seiner’s engine beds. It replaced a Detroit 6-71 that might have been in the boat since it was built in 1947. Not much work was required to get the new engine in place, “a little wood work, and the iron parts needed some modifications,” says the co-op’s Todd Lee.
The tail shaft and the intermediate shaft were replaced, as was the gear. In place of the old Capital gear, a new Twin Disc MG5114 with a 3.43:1 reduction was matched up to the Cummins.
Another wood boat in the yard was the 82-foot tender Saturn. Compared to the last time the Saturn showed up in Port Townsend — in October of 2013 — this haul-out is relatively uneventful. The first visit required a new forefoot, parts of the stem, and planking and frames in the bow area.
This time, the Saturn showed up for “propeller and shaft work,” says Chase, “balancing it all and doing intermediate bearings,” including balancing the prop.
The Port Townsend Shipwrights Co-op gets a lot of repeat customers. Besides the Saturn, the 66-foot halibut boat St. John II, built in 1942, came down from Ballard, Wash., to have several planks replaced and for refastening and recaulking parts of the hull.
Five years ago, the St. John II got a new generator and main engine at the Port Townsend yard, as well as new refrigeration and fish hold work. Since then the boat has come back every year for off-season maintenance.
The 52-foot steel longliner Silver Lady, a local Port Townsend boat, was having general maintenance work and repairs to the engine.
* * *
Gulf boatshop builds 152-foot clammer; boatyard’s fishermen are few but valued
By Larry Chowning
Patti Marine Enterprises of Pensacola, Fla., is building a 152' x 36' clam dredger for Truex Enterprises, a company that clams out of Easton, Md.
The Sea Watcher II is not the first clammer Patti has built for Truex Enterprises. That was the Sea Watcher I, built in 2004. The Sea Watcher I is 134' x 34' and holds 132 clam cages. Gilbert Associates of Braintree, Mass., designed both clammers.
Patti’s project manager, Ashley Stone, says the Sea Watcher II will be the first clam vessel built at Patti with an American Bureau of Shipping load line assignment. “Depending on the progress of a bill working its way through Congress, the vessel may also receive an ABS classification certificate,” he says. “In either case, the Sea Watcher II will be a step above in complexity its predecessor, or any other clam vessel built to date.”
ABS load line standards focus on the watertight integrity of hull penetrations and superstructure openings, adequate reserve buoyancy, rapid drainage of water on deck, and modifications that do not compromise seaworthiness. There are periodic inspections.
The Sea Watcher II will be powered with a 1,810-hp Caterpillar 3512C. The boat also has two Cummins QSB7 150-kW generators and one 1,000-hp Cummins QSK38 engine to run the clam pumps.
The Sea Watcher II will hold 200 4' x 3' x 5' clam cages. It will store 158 cages in the fish hold and another 42 cages on the main deck. The clams are dredged off the bottom, pumped into cages on deck and delivered to Truex Enterprises’ processing houses, for shucking and packaging.
Truex Enterprises is owned by Martin Truex Sr., a former racecar driver for Busch North Series and father to Martin Truex Jr., who drove the No. 78 Chevrolet SS for Furniture Row Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. The company has 35 boats and 700 employees operating out of Easton. Martin Jr. got his first taste of work aboard one of his father’s clam boats, and his story on racing and clamming was featured in the Nov. 11 USA Today.
Moving up to Virginia and the Chesapeake Bay, although 90 percent of the work done at Deltaville Boatyard in Deltaville, Va., is for recreational boaters, owner Keith Ruse appreciates the other 10 percent that comes from commercial fishing boats and museum-owned wooden boats.
The yard recently hauled the Miss Delaney, a steel hulled barge owned by Shores and Ruark of Urbanna, Va. The Miss Delaney hauls and plants oyster shell and spat on grounds in the Rappahannock River. The boat has also been used to haul seed in Virginia’s oyster planting program. At Deltaville Boatyard, the Miss Delaney was in for routine maintenance, including new zincs and bottom painting.
Ruse’s contributions to maintaining the bay’s wooden boat heritage was recognized in November when The Mathews Maritime Foundation presented Ruse with a half model of the Peggy of New Point, a 55' x 12.2' x 4.3' Chesapeake Bay buy boat owned by the foundation. This was in appreciation of Ruse’s annual hauling of the boat at no cost to the foundation.
The Deltaville Maritime Museum owns the 55.8' x 15.7' x 4.6' log boat the F.D. Crockett. The boat’s captain, John England, expressed his thanks to Ruse for not only annually hauling the boat at no cost but also donating bottom paint.
“Keith has an understanding and an appreciation for old boats of the bay,” says England. “He also has a longtime track record of finding ways to help our museum keep the F.D. Crockett and our other boats afloat and viable.”
The F.D. Crockett is used as an education vessel and an ambassador for the museum. When it is not tied at the museum’s dock in Deltaville, its captain and crew travel to various festivals and events on Chesapeake Bay, educating the public on cultural aspects of bay life.