Maine shop keeps Moonshine running;
granddaughter’s namesake may race
By Michael Crowley
What happens when a wooden Maine lobster boat is deemed too old to haul traps? In some cases, it ends up on the shore, slowly breaking down in the mud and tides. But now and then, someone who appreciates the sweet lines of a nicely crafted hull turns it into a pleasure boat.
That’s the case with a 36-foot ex-lobster boat now at Farrin’s Boatshop in Walpole, Maine. The boat bears the name Moonshine, but when she was launched in 1982 at Freddy Lenfesty’s boatshop in Jonesport, the name Black Diamond was across her transom and bow. She was known for speed. Powered by a big Oldsmobile V8, she maxed out at 36 mph in the lobster boat races.
Characteristic of a boat of that era, Moonshine still has nice tumblehome at the transom, and the open hauling station remains, so it hasn’t lost its lobster boat look. “It’s a typical Jonesporter,” says Farrin’s Boatshop’s Bruce Farrin.
One difference might be the engine box, which is larger than what was originally on the boat to accommodate the Crusader GM block with, says Farrin, “400 and some horsepower.” The engine went in the boat about six years ago.
Moonshine’s owner is from Massachusetts, but the boat is kept in South Bristol, Maine, where he has a summer home. Since 2009, Moonshine has been coming to Farrin’s Boatshop for annual maintenance work.
At the Walpole boatyard, Moonshine was repowered, the bottom planking refastened with bronze screws, the transom repaired, a new exhaust system installed and the top of the wheelhouse replaced. This year the hull was taken down to bare wood and the keel worked on. “When we hauled her out there was about a 3-inch U-shape in the keel from the bow to the stern,” says Farrin.
So a 10-foot stainless steel shoe was built to go along the bottom of the keel and up about 3 inches on each side of the keel to accept through-bolts. Though before the stainless steel shoe is fastened to the keel, Farrin says, “we’ll drill down through and put new keel bolts in.” Because of the hull’s bronze fastenings, the shoe will be heavily bonded.
On Feb. 1, Farrin’s Boatshop was due to finish off the first Calvin 42 from S.W. Boatworks in Lamoine, Maine. The Calvin 42, with a 15-foot beam, started out as a lengthened Calvin 38 that then served as a plug for the Calvin 42 mold. When the boat is finished, she’s going to a gillnetter in New York.
Back to Jonesport, where the Jonesport Shipyard was starting to work on lobster boats after the crew finished up repair jobs on scallop boats prior to the start of the scallop season in December.
A project that was “turning out to be a lot bigger than anyone imagined,” says the boatyard’s Sune Noreen is a 40-foot fiberglass Webber’s Cove lobster boat. Originally the top of the wheelhouse, which had developed a concave shape over probably 30 years, was to be replaced, windows installed and some deck work done.
But it turned out that a “totally new house, trunk cabin and working platform” are required, says Noreen. New 4x4 pressure-treated deck beams, with two uprights under each, support the new plywood and fiberglass platform. “Everything was pretty soft,” Noreen notes.
Once the 40-foot Webber’s Cove leaves the yard, a 40-foot Novi combination lobster boat and dragger is due in for what Noreen says, “is a similar job” to the Webber’s Cove lobster boat.
A 26-foot Duffy is having minor cosmetic and major engine work. But the more interesting project will be the Old Faithful. That’s a 30-foot wooden lobster boat built by the late Floyd Colbeth, who operated a small boatshop in nearby Machiasport. There he built a few lobster boats and a lot of skiffs, says Noreen.
Old Faithful is due to get a new stem, planking in the bow, caulking where needed, the work platform rebuilt, and a replacement for the 350-hp Chevy and its gear. Though the topsides might be a little rough, Noreen says, Old Faithful “has a very fair bottom with a nice straight keel that’s chamfered on the sides.”
Old Faithful is named after Colbeth’s granddaughter, Candace Craven. He called her Old Faithful because “she was always there helping him,” says Noreen. The boat was due to arrive at Jonesport Shipyard in February in large part because the yard has worked on a number of wooden lobster boats owned by the father of Jonesport’s Jesse Moody. Jesse is Craven’s fiancé, who now owns the boat, and, says Noreen, once the work is completed, “she really wants to race it.”
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85-footer from lost cause to new boat; Calif.
boat carpenter does things his way
By Michael Crowley
J & H Boatworks in Astoria, Ore., hauled the Lady Rosemary in the spring of 2013 because the 85-footer had a serious leak. But it quickly became obvious that the boat “was one of those that would never go back in the water again,” says J & H Boatworks’ Tim Hill.
The boat sat outside J & H Boatworks until early 2014 with little or no work being done on it because the then owner “didn’t have the means,” says Hill.
“It was a lack of care that got it in the condition it was in,” Hill adds. “The bottom had massive corrosion. In places you could hammer right through the bottom. It was the worse we’ve ever seen.”
Then Bill Terry and his wife, Lisa, who is executive director of the Alaska Independent Tenderman’s Association, bought the boat and things began to change. The Terrys, who already owned two tenders, and a crew worked on the Lady Rosemary for another 18 months.
“They’ve replaced virtually every piece of metal except the keel and skeg,” says Hill. “All the frames, all the bulkheads, all the plating, all the deck.” In the process, the Lady Rosemary was getting a new look, more West Coast and Alaska than the Gulf of Mexico shrimper that she was originally built as.
Eventually the Terrys reached what Hill refers to as an “impasse.” That’s when they turned to J & H Boatworks to help complete the project, and in December moved the Lady Rosemary into one of the boatyard’s buildings.
In January, Hill said the steel work was about 90 percent done. What remains is work on the stern, handrails, hydraulic tanks and the keel. However, there’s no wiring, plumbing, refrigeration, and the interior has to be completed.
Hill figures the work might take six months. The goal is to get the Lady Rosemary up to Alaska by June 23 to start tendering. If the boat is not completely finished, that’s all right. “All it has to be is operational,” says Hill. It doesn’t have to be finished as far as accommodations. It just has to be mechanically operational.
Tullio Celano with Crescere Marine Engineering in Saint Helens, Ore., is involved in the engineering and will do the stability tests.
Another long-term project is taking place in northern California, where David Peterson, a boat carpenter out of Trinidad, is involved in what he calls “probably the biggest rebuild I’ve ever done in my life. It’s from the keel up.”
The boat is the Elin Lane (ex-Viking), a 50-foot troller and crabber built in 1946 at Bryant’s Marina in Seattle. Peterson started the project about two years ago and figures it will be completed in time for California’s 2017 crab season. In that time period, he hasn’t just worked on the Elin Lane. “I’ve had to peel off several times” to work on other boats,” he says. Peterson rebuilt the Elin Lane’s wheelhouse and fo’c’sle, refastened the bottom, removed the Detroit 6-71 so the engine room could be cleaned up and painted, installed new hydraulics, wiring and water tanks, sistered 90 frames, put in a number of new planks and rebuilt the bulwarks.
Peterson doesn’t hesitate to say he does things a bit different than other boatbuilders. For one thing, he never uses Douglas fir. “You can’t trust it,” he says. “There are guys getting so caught with their pants down on this Doug fir thing. I can’t believe it.”
To that point, another one of Peterson’s projects has him rebuilding the stern of a 65-foot boat. The problem: In the 1990s the stern was rebuilt with Douglas fir and just hasn’t held up.
On the Elin Lane, Peterson used Alaska yellow cedar for the planking and redwood for the new bulwarks. Redwood was used because it doesn’t rot, is durable and relatively lightweight.
Peterson doesn’t hesitate to use epoxy; probably 75 gallons have gone into the Elin Lane. “I use epoxy with everything. That’s another controversial thing,” he says. “All the hippies will be screaming, ‘you got to have soft bedding because then it can move.’”
He says soft beddings don’t hold up, mentioning Dolfinite and polysulfide bedding compounds for a tendency to “wither away” and “get funky.” He doesn’t paint over wood. It’s Ameron 235 that goes over resin-coated wood. Then he might paint over the Ameron. “That makes a bomb proof, durable finish,” he says. “235 really sticks, is hard and goes over something really well that you’ve epoxied together.”
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1918 Chesapeake deadrise still running;
31-footer can haul 19,000 pounds
By Larry Chowning
Brothers Nathan, Tim and Jamie Smith are the sixth generation of Smiths to own and operate Smith’s Marine Railway along Chisman Creek in Yorktown, Va.
The Smith family, originally from Mathews County, spread out over the Tidewater region, and many are boatbuilders to this day. Peter B. Smith was one of those, moving to Yorktown in 1840, in need of waterfront property with a good stand of trees for boatbuilding. He started the boatyard in 1842.
The 49.3' x 14.1' x 4.1' Ella K. is currently on the rails at Smith’s Marine railway. The late James “Big Jim” Smith of Perrin, a relative of the Smiths, built her in 1918. The Ella K. was recently purchased by a James River oysterman and will be used to dredge oysters in the river. “We are painting the bottom, doing routine maintenance, and repairing some decking,” says Tim Smith.
The Ella K.’s stern is spoon shaped, which is seen on Chesapeake Bay wooden deadrise boats built prior to the 1920s. As builders perfected the round-stern style and increased the beam in the boats, boatbuilders made the sterns rounder rather than spoon shaped.
The Ella K. was the last “drudge” boat that worked from the sides in Virginia’s winter crab dredge fishery. It was a fishery that for years had been exclusively worked by deck boats, like the Ella K., pulling a dredg off each side of the boat. In the 1960s, watermen began to modify 42- to 45-foot traditional deadrise workboats and shifted to hauling two dredges off the stern. Virginia’s winter crab dredge fishery was closed for conservation reasons in 2008 and has remained so.
Another old-time Virginia boatyard is Cockrell’s Marine Railway in Heathsville, which has just finished a 31' x 11.6' x 8" garvey-style flat-bottom boat that was mentioned in the NF December issue Around the Yards South column. Cockrell’s Marine Railway and the Oyster Company of Virginia from North, Va., have partnered and are using the new boat in their cage growing oyster aquaculture business. The cage business caters mainly to the nation’s half-shell market and is sold by the piece to high-end restaurants in big cities.
When ready to harvest, a cage weighs about 500 pounds. On Dec. 17, Myles Cockrell and crew hauled 38 cages on the Little Wicomico River. That’s 19,000 pounds on the boat. The 31-footer handled that weight with relative ease. “We can put more on it, but we are taking it slow so we can see exactly what she will hold,” says Cockrell. The boat holds 100 empty cages.
The 4' x 3' cages are placed in shallow water on a longline with two anchors at each end. The cages are hauled into the boat with a stainless steel hydraulic winder, fabricated by Cockrell’s Marine Railway. A 20-foot aluminum mast and an 18-foot gaff help to hoist the cages.
A 250-hp Suzuki outboard powers the boat. The boatyard fabricated a 5-foot-wide stern bracket that sits 36 inches off the stern. This frees up space inside the boat when hauling cages. The bracket also raises the outboard 6 inches above the stern gunwale, which allows the boat to work in thin water.
Cockrell’s Marine Railway is a fourth-generation boatyard known for its diversification. Boats are built in the yard, and boats are hauled on the railway and repaired. The crew works in the oyster fishery and installs piers and pilings. An unusual feature of the boatyard is that it has its own sawmill for cutting large lumber for Chesapeake Bay’s aging wooden workboat fleet.
Many large wooden workboats on the bay were built with 3-inch-thick bottom planks. “We can’t get 3-inch-thick lumber anywhere,” says Andy Cockrell. “Now we don’t use the mill very much. But when we need a piece of wood that we can’t get anywhere else, we have the capability to make it right here.” The Cockrells keep large pieces of white oak and spruce pine in stock.
Another southern boatbuilder with good news to share is Joey Miller of Sinepuxent Boatworks in Berlin, Md. He just delivered a 23-foot fiberglass over wood deadrise skiff to commercial crabber and fishermen Dean Bowie of southern Maryland.
Miller says Bowie has religiously read National Fisherman for over 30 years and decided on Miller’s style of boat after reading about his boatshop in one of the Around the Yards columns.
» Read more Around the Yards here.