48-footer lures Maine lobstermen; 

shop restoring 1903 oyster sloop


By Michael Crowley

The first week in May, the plug was being polished and glassed. By the second week, work was starting on the mold. Custom Coatings in Thomaston, Maine, was doing the finish work on Hutchinson Composites’ plug and mold for the new Mussel Ridge 48' x 17' 6" hull. 

By the second week in June, the first hull is scheduled to be out of the mold. Before that hull was laid up, they had “seven hulls sold,” says the boatyard’s Albert Hutchinson.

Hutchinson Composites will finish off the first 48-footer for Donald Simmons, a lobsterman in nearby town of Friendship. It should be going out the doors of the Cushing, Maine, boatshop in January or February. 

Hutchinson elected to build a new design because lobstermen are looking for bigger boats to carry more traps and go farther offshore. Fishermen like the Mussel Ridge 46-footer Hutchinson Composites builds and had been asking Hutchinson to “widen the boat out… I just didn’t want to mess the design up, so asked Tom [Bernardi] to design me a new boat.” 

This is a big boat, and with seven orders before the first is built, it’s obviously created a lot of interest. Hutchinson isn’t sure how the Mussel Ridge 48 will perform, “but the designer says with 1,000 horses in, it will perform similar to the 42 and 46 with 750 horses in it.”

That engine will be an 815-hp Moteurs Baudouin detuned to 750 hp. The French engine is new to New England. In Maine, it’s available through Journey’s End Marina in Rockland. 

While the Mussel Ridge 48 mold was being completed, the crew at Hutchinson Composites had finished a Mussel Ridge 46' x 15' hull and top for Jim Minott, the owner of Minott’s Diesel Service in Brunswick, Maine. This is a spec boat for Minott, who will finish it off. 

A Mussel Ridge 46 was in the mold for Ed Smith of Gloucester, Mass., that will be finished off by Clark Island Boat Works in St. George, Maine. There are more boats to build after these. “We are backed up for two years,” says Hutchinson, “with 14 more 46s and seven 48s on order.”

Not every Maine lobsterman needs a new boat or one as big as a 48. In Stonington, Peter Buxton at Buxton Boats sold a 30-foot Holland that was built in about 1978 to a local fisherman. 

A lobsterman on Vinalhaven Island owned the boat when the engine seized up. He bought a new boat and put the 30-footer on a mooring. Last summer, Buxton bought the 30-footer, quickly sold it and got the job of turning it into a fishing boat over the winter. A new 210-hp Cummins replaced the seized-up 210-hp Cummins, and the Twin Disc gear, which Buxton describes as “so rusty you wouldn’t know what it was,” came out for a ZF with a 1.5:1 ratio. 

All the hydraulics, wiring, plumbing and electronics were replaced. The hull, cabin, platform and wheelhouse required very little repair work, though Buxton says he did “sand and refinish every surface inside and out.”

The 30-foot fiberglass Holland was an unusual project for Buxton, as he prefers building and repairing wooden boats. “I’ve been avoiding fiberglass work for 10 or 12 years,” he says. So when the 30-foot Holland went back in the water at the end of April, Buxton turned his attention to an oyster sloop built in 1903 in the village of Northport on Long Island, New York. He’s worked on the project on and off for seven years. 

The 37' x 13' sloop was dragging oysters until 1910 when it was turned into a yawl and used as a pleasure boat until it arrived at Buxton Boats a few years ago. An Englishman now owns it and wants it restored to how it looked in 1903. Buxton is using old photos of the boat and plans for Mystic Seaport museum’s oyster sloop.

Buxton has replaced the keel, all the timbers, all the planks and the deck. This summer the interior should be completed, and next summer the rigging. He hopes to build another wooden lobster boat. “It’s what I’d love to do again,” he says. The last one was the 38' x 13' Sea Song built in 2013. (See Around the Yards Northeast, NF Oct. ’13, p. 38.)

Trawler built for 60-foot extension; 

Wash.yard sends crabbers to Alaska


By Michael Crowley

highly unusual — and successful — example of the old adage that it never hurts to plan ahead is the Starbound, a 240-foot factory trawler built in 1989 for Aleutian Spray Fisheries at Dakota Creek Industries in Anacortes, Wash. In March, the Starbound had its second launching at Dakota Creek. This time she went into the water as a 300-footer, following a 60-foot midbody extension.

It made sense to spend the money on lengthening instead of building a new boat, because she “had been maintained very well and had been originally designed to allow for an extension like this,” says Stefan Wolczko with Seattle’s Guido Perla & Associates, which designed the Starbound in 1989 and then again for its recent lengthening. 

The Starbound’s original design called for a boat similar in size to what she is now. But at some point a decision was made to scale back the design. So “a parallel midbody was removed [from the design], leaving a tangential section where the boat would be relatively easily split to add that mid-body,” says Wolczko. 

In addition, the vessel’s interior was laid out so the midbody section would start at the aft end of the freezer hold. Thus, the hold wouldn’t have to be cut into. The hull’s scantlings were also designed to accommodate a lengthened hull. “The owner,” says Wolczko, “had the foresight to understand and plan for that, in corroboration with the design and building team.”

Twenty-six years later, the Starbound was limited in how much it could catch, having gone from a general quota to a more specific quota. It made sense to “utilize as much from the products as they could,” says Wolczko. That meant adding a fishmeal plant to process the fish waste and turn it into fish oil and fish meal, and increasing the size of the factory, which brought back that 60-foot section. The additional space would also accommodate a fishmeal cargo hold and fish oil storage tanks. 

Another addition is a main engine. A 5,000-hp Bergan BRM-9 came out of the Starbound and a 6,235-hp MaK replaced it. Since the Starbound was launched in 1989, trawl nets have gotten a lot bigger, and that requires more power to tow them. The new MaK will provide the propulsion to tow the trawls with enough power left over to run a shaft generator that had “fallen into disuse,” says Wolczko. “The extra power was all being sent to the wheel because of the size of the new nets.”

On a much smaller scale, Hard Drive Marine in Bellingham, Wash., delivered two 31' x 12' aluminum crabbers in May. The first one went on the ferry going to Alaska on May 8, and the second headed north on May 13. Both are for Petersburg fishermen.

One of the boat owners “ran into a previous customer of mine that we build a small crabber for five years ago,” says Hard Drive Marine’s Tom Day. He liked the boat, and its owner said, “’You should call Tom.’ He did, and we got that contract and then a friend of his called and said he wanted to get in line.” 

Both fishermen liked the 31-footer because they figured they could put enough horsepower on it to be able to carry a lot of crab and gear, while still being able to get up on step. One of the 31-footers is powered by twin 200-hp Yamaha outboards. There’s also a 13-hp Honda hydraulic power unit. That’s for running a crab block and davit and a reversible hydraulic washdown pump. 

It’s the more sparsely outfitted of the two crabbers with an open three-sided cabin. Up forward is an enclosed V-berth area. Below deck is hold space for about 1,200 pounds of crab. 

The second gillnetter has a bit more power with a pair of 300-hp Yamaha outboards. In part the extra power is needed because the boat is heavier with an enclosed wheelhouse that has a dinette that folds down as a bunk, and there’s a V-berth up forward. Day says this fisherman might use the boat for halibut charters when he’s not crabbing. 

Both boats should be able to carry 80 to 90 pots, and with 1,200 pounds of crab in the hold hit 18 to 20 knots. With the crabbers headed north, Hard Drive Marine was building a 27-foot sport boat with two Puget Sound crabbers waiting to be built. They will be similar to the two that were just completed.

NF South ATY Icon 1642-foot oyster boat known for its speed; OSVs converted to menhaden steamers


By Larry Chowning

For most of his life, Bill Keeling has worked the water and built and repaired boats in Eclipse, Va. In March, he sold his boatshop and home in Eclipse and purchased a house and boatshop in Bohannon, Va., where he plans to continue to work on wooden boats.

Keeling’s passion for wooden boats goes back to his youth. He learned boatbuilding from his father and great-uncle, who were boat carpenters, and from craftsmen at area boatyards. Eclipse is just a few miles down the road from Crittenden, Va., once a major boatbuilding center of the lower Chesapeake Bay.

Keeling, a master builder and restorer of wooden boats, is noted for restoring classic yachts. He honed his skills during the mid-1990s, restoring a 1939 44-foot Elco Cruisette and the Hiawatha, a 1937 53-foot Elco Commuter. He recently restored the Nymph, a 75-foot double-ender motor yacht built in 1913 by Matthews Boat Co. in Port Clinton, Ohio. 

Yacht restoration is just a part of Keeling’s boatbuilding career; he is just as well known as a builder of Chesapeake Bay workboats. In April, Travis Hall of Mathews County, Va., had the Kerry Shannon, his Keeling 42 deadrise oyster boat, on the blocks at Rivertime Marina in Deltaville, Va. Keeling has built a dozen or so of these deadrise boats. 

Hall was doing routine springtime maintenance on the 42' x 12' Kerry Shannon that Keeling built in the mid-1980s. He used the boat in Virginia’s patent tong hard-clam fishery.

The Kerry Shannon’s sides and stern are strip-planked with North Carolina juniper. The frames, bottom planks and keel are fir, and the stem is white oak, says Keeling. “Juniper makes her a light boat, and she will fly with that 430-hp Cummins engine. He [Hall] has been winning some workboat races with her.”

Keeling built the boat for himself. “I worked her hard in the Chesapeake Bay, and I sold her to a waterman who worked her hard in [Virginia’s] winter crab-dredge fishery. She has seen some hard work in her life and has held up good. I’m glad to know she is still out there working.”

The Kerry Shannon “is a great boat, and Bill Keeling knows how to build a good boat — one that will last,” says Hall who uses his boat in Virginia’s winter oyster fishery.

Moving down to the Gulf of Mexico, the Omega Shipyard in Moss Point, Miss., is converting two 180-foot steel Gulf of Mexico offshore oil supply vessels to menhaden steamers for the Omega Protein plant in Reedville, Va. They will harvest menhaden in Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic. 

“We bought them last year and started the conversion in March,” says Monty Deihl, general manager of the Reedville plant. “We plan to have them in service by the start of the 2017 season.” The menhaden season starts in May.

The steamers will use two purse boats on the fishing grounds. Traditionally steamers have carried menhaden purse boats to and from the fishing grounds hanging from davits. However, the new style, which will be used on these steamers, features a wide stern deck to carry the two purse boats, side by side.

The deck slants down to the water, allowing the two boats to slide off the stern together and into the sea. Going to the grounds and back, the purse boats are held in place with a hook and cable that runs from the deck to a U-shaped bolt at the top of each purse boat’s stem.

The steamers will be similar to the Rappahannock and the Fleeton, the two newest menhaden steamers in Omega’s Chesapeake Bay fleet. They were also OSV platforms that were rebuilt at the Mississippi yard in 2013. “We are in the process of upgrading our fleet to steamers that will all have a stern slide system,” says Deihl. “Compared to the old steamers that used davits to haul the boats, our new steamers are much safer and faster.” 

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