It’s Maine lobster boat racing season; N.J. hook and line boat gets extended

By Michael Crowley

It’s summer in Maine, and lobstermen have been hard at it hauling traps during the week. But come the weekend, the focus for many of them is racing. Starting on June 18 in Boothbay and finishing on Aug. 21 in Portland, there are 10 races on Maine’s lobster boat racing circuit.

Some lobstermen know they don’t stand much of a chance, they just love racing; it’s the noise, camaraderie and adrenaline rush. For others, it’s time to put a winter’s worth of bragging and boasting on the line when the starter’s flag drops, the throttle is slammed forward, and your boat and others are sent hurtling down the course.

The first three races were in Boothbay (June 18), Rockland (June 19) and Bass Harbor (June 26). The biggest story of those races was Cameron Crawford’s 28-foot Wild, Wild West, which set a new diesel speed record at Bass Harbor. 

The 28-foot Wild, Wild West with a 1,050-hp Isotta Fraschini for power was caught on the radar gun at 51.8 mph on her first race at Bass Harbor, though Crawford evidently held back on the throttle as a couple of boats had run across the race course, causing large wakes, says Jon Johansen, president of the Maine Lobster Boat Racing Association.

For the last race of the day, the Fastest Lobster Boat Race, conditions must have been perfect. The Wild, Wild West hit 60.6 mph. That broke the record of 58.9 mph set in Portland in 2010 by Alfred Osgood’s Starlight Express with a 900-hp Mack. “When he came flying by, you knew he was moving,” says Johansen. 

A number of first-time entries showed up at Bass Harbor, including the 42-foot Kimberly Ann, a new boat with a 750-hp FPT that had been launched just the day before the race. But the lack of running time didn’t slow her down. Racing in class M(B) (40 feet and over, 501 to 750 hp) the Kimberly Ann hit 34.1 mph and won by a boat length over the 51, a 40-footer with the same power as the Kimberly Ann, a 750-hp FPT.

The next race was on July 3 along Moosabec Reach, which separates Jonesport from Beals Island, with 79 boats signing up. That was better than the 60 boats at Bass Harbor, the previous high number. Among the mix at Moosabec Reach was one Canadian entry from Pictou, Nova Scotia, the 30-foot Strait Ahead with a 547-hp 454 Chevy. 

Strait Ahead is like a number of other Canada race boats that start off as a regular boat. After their fishing career is over, they are cut off at the waterline, decked over and get a lot of power dropped in.

There was a bit of wind the day of the race, which caused problems for Wild, Wild West. She couldn’t run at full throttle because the wind-blown chop caused the engine to move about ever so slightly. That kept her second behind Strait Ahead in one race and second to Little Girls, a wooden 28-footer with a 514-hp Ford engine, in another race. 

Moosabec Reach was the first race for Little Girls this season, and she won all her races, including the World’s Fastest Recreational Lobster Boat race at 38 mph, while LaBella Vita, a Northern Bay 38 with a 750-hp FPT won the World’s Fastest Working Lobster Boat race at 40.8 mph. 

Down in Point Judith, R.I., far from Maine’s racing circuit, the Edna B, built in 2005 at Flower’s Boatworks in Walpole, Maine, was hauled at Harborside Boat Repair. She came out of the water as a 33-footer, and when the Edna B goes back in, she’ll be 2 feet longer. 

The Edna B’s owner, who fishes out of Forked River, N.J., “wanted more deck room,” says Harborside Boat Repair’s Rich Fuka. “He’s a hook and line guy after fluke, and the whole boat’s lined up with rod holders. Seven rod holders on the port and seven on starboard sides.”

Fuka and the boatyard’s Steve Perkins took a mold off the bottom of the boat to get the additional 2 feet, extended the deck and bulwarks, and built a new transom with three more rod holders.

Besides the additional deck space, Fuka expects the Edna B to pick up a little speed and stability. That’s been his experience in the past. Prior to extending the Edna B, Harborside Boat Repair added 4 feet to an older 42-foot MDI hull. “That picked up almost 2 knots, and it became more stable in the water,” says Fuka. The same thing happened to a 36 H&H hull that was extended 4 feet at the stern. “It ended up getting 2 more knots. It’s amazing. I don’t know why more people don’t do it.”

The Edna B’s wash rails were plywood and 2 x 4s covered with fiberglass that “were badly compromised,” says Fuka. He figures the damage started when the fishing pole holders were installed in the wash rails. 

The wash rails from the stern to the foredeck were torn out and replaced with solid Nida-Core rails. Though before the wash rails were installed, seven 2-inch Nida-Core knees were glassed along each side of the hull. Then the new Nida-Core wash rails were laminated to the knees. 

66-footer will be builder’s last boat; first steel sponsoning for Wash. yard 

By Michael Crowley

In northern California, Van Peer Boatworks in Fort Bragg is closing in on finishing a 66' x 24' 6" combination boat, which should be in the water by September. 

Jensen Maritime Consultants in Seattle designed the steel dragger and crabber, named the Noyo Dawn, after the Noyo River in Fort Bragg. Except for an additional 3 feet of length, it’s the same design that Van Peer Boatworks used for the Jes An in 2005 and the Fierce Leader in 2007. “Those were both 63 feet,” says the boatyard’s Chris Van Peer. The boat under construction is “the same plan, just stretched out three feet for deck space.”

The Jes An was built for Tim Estes, while the 66-footer is being built for his father, Tom Estes, and Tom Estes Jr. will skipper the Noyo Dawn out of Fort Bragg, which is also where the Jes An ties up. 

Power for the new boat will come from a 750-hp Cummins QSK19 matched up with a Twin Disc marine gear with a 6:1 reduction. There will also be a Kort nozzle.

A pair of used hydraulic trawl winches is on the deck. Yaquina Boat Equipment in Toledo, Ore., built both winches. The winches “had been on a research vessel and were used very little,” says Van Peer.

The catch will be kept in a stainless steel fish hold, which, Van Peer says, will hold about the same as the Jes An — nearly 100 tons. 

This will be more than just another boat that Chris Van Peer will have built. It’s his last boat. Van Peer has been building boats since 1973. That’s 43 years, and in that time Van Peer Boatworks launched 31 boats. The 66-footer will be number 32. All but two of the boats have been for commercial fishing. 

But Van Peer Boatworks, which is the last of maybe five boatyards in the area, isn’t going away. Jason Malsom, who has worked for Van Peer for three years, will be taking over the boatyard. While he hasn’t settled on a name for the new yard, it already has a boat on the schedule.

“As soon as this one is done,” says Van Peer, “there will be steel showing up in the yard in November to start the next boat, a 60' x 27' Jensen Maritime Consultants-designed crabber and longliner.”

Platypus Marine appears to be expanding the offerings of its Port Angeles, Wash., shipyard. In 2015, Platypus Marine sponsoned its first fiberglass hull. That was the seiner Freedom out of Petersburg, Alaska. The Delta Marine-built seiner came into the yard measuring 54' x 15' and left Platypus Marine stretched out to 56' x 20'. 

This summer, Platypus Marine is finishing up another first, the sponsoning of a steel hull. That would be the 58' x 19' Michael Lisa, which was built in 1972 in Newport, Ore., and works as a shrimper and crabber out of Westport, Wash. 

The Michael Lisa measured 58' x 19' when she showed up at Platypus Marine. When the boats leaves, probably in September, the length will be the same, but the beam will have been pushed out to 26 feet. 

“We basically chopped the bow off at the forward bulkhead, saved the engine room space, built around that and took everything else apart,” says Platypus Marine’s Marty Marchant. That included building a new fo’c’sle, pilothouse and mast.

“The wheelhouse will be setting up higher and give a lot better visibility,” says the owner, Bruce Arnsdorf. Increased deck and fish hold space were priorities when Arnsdorf signed on with Platypus Marine.

The sponsoning is outside the Michael Lisa’s original hull plating, except at the fish hold. There the fish hold was expanded out to the sponson plating. 

The Michael Lisa also picked up a new bulbous bow as part of the sponsoning project. “That should make it easier going through the seas,” says Arnsdorf. “That’s what we were hoping for, a better ride, larger hold capacity and more deck space.”

At Platypus Marine, Marchant says that as a result of the Freedom’s sponsoning, he’s talked with several fishermen about having their fiberglass boats sponsoned. So perhaps once the Michael Lisa is back fishing, he’ll be getting calls for sponsoning another steel fishing boat. 

NF South ATY Icon 16

Builders have source for quality wood; buy boat rendezvous draws classic crowd

By Larry Chowning

Throughout Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina are pockets of wooden boatbuilding that maintain a fairly large fleet of fishing boats.

These states have inshore fisheries that lend themselves to 25- to 50-foot wooden boats, which historically have been the choice for the area’s commercial fishermen.

It’s fair to say that not many new wooden fishing boats are being built, but maintenance of the fleet is ongoing. One of the main concerns is the availability of good wood to keep the fleet alive.

Good Girl Industries in Locust Hill, Va., opened its doors in May selling “specialty and exotic” boat lumber. Locust Hill is a prime location for the sale of boat lumber, as Deltaville, Va., is right down the road with the Northern Neck of Virginia a little farther away, two primary areas where commercial fishing boats are located.

Willard Norris of Deltaville, Va., is building a 25-foot deadrise blue crab boat in his shop. For the boat, he got juniper from Good Girl Industries. “They have good boat lumber,” says Norris. “I can’t believe we are going to have access to this quality of lumber right here in our backyard.” Norris, 90, says, “I wish he had been here 20 years ago.”

Norris is speaking of Lewis “Buddy” Carter, owner of Good Girl Industries. Carter made his fortune in the medical equipment field and now at 65 years old decided to invest in the watermen’s culture that he feels is an important part of our nation’s heritage.

Carter owns two commercial fishing boats. One is the Good Girl, which his business is named after. The second boat is the Miss Carolyn, a 42-foot wooden, round-stern deadrise boat he recently purchased from 87-year-old haul seine and gillnet fisherman Allie Walton of Hartfield, Va. Carter bought the boat and turned it back over to Walton to maintain and work as a gillnetter.

In June, Walton hauled the Miss Carolyn for routine maintenance and some minor wood repairs. “I can’t believe I’m getting paid to paint the bottom of the Miss Carolyn,” says Walton. “I’ve had this boat for years. She was getting to be to much for me, but now without the expense of maintaining her I can keep going.”

Carter says, “Who better to maintain and work my boat than Allie, who has worked it and knows every inch of it? He will know if there is a problem and we have the wood to fix it.”

Good Girl Industries’ wood lineup is extensive. It includes juniper, spruce pine, cypress, fir, maple, red and white oak, cedar, walnut, cherry, genuine mahogany, Burmese teak, African mahogany, Rhodesian teak, sapele, purpleheart, cocobolo, and African cherry, which is also known as makore.

Carter hired wood specialist Stoney Moser who holds an industrial engineering degree from North Carolina State University in furniture manufacturing and management. “Stoney knows wood,” says Carter. “But when we have questions about boat lumber that we don’t know, we can get in the car and drive down to Willard Norris’ boatshop where we can get an education from him.”

In June, owners of wooden buy boats were sprucing up for the 12th annual Buy Boat Rendezvous, Aug. 3-15. The event, sponsored by the Chesapeake Bay Buyboat Association, will be held in Virginia at Tangier Island and Cape Charles, and in Maryland at the Solomons and St. Michaels.

The term “buy boat” indicates these large, decked-over boats have been used extensively to purchase a watermen’s catch of fish, oysters and crabs on the fishing grounds, starting in 1900 with sailing buy boats and continuing today with mechanical power. The 1920s was the decade most of the boats were built.

At the Deltaville Boatyard in Deltaville, Va., the buy boat Peggy, owned by the Mathews Maritime Foundation, was hauled in June for routine maintenance for the summer season. The Peggy is just one of about 30 of these large wooden boats remaining on Chesapeake Bay. Harry A. Hudgins of Peary in Mathews County, Va., built the Peggy in 1929. She is 49.9' x 12.2' x 4.3' and was originally an open boat used in the pound net fishery by Walter Burroughs, of New Point, Va. He named her after his daughter. 

The Peggy was called a trap boat as pound nets were often referred to as trap nets. Later, decking and an aft pilothouse were installed and the boat was used to buy seafood. Today, the Peggy is the flagship of the Mathews Maritime Foundation and an important part of the mission to preserve Mathews County’s maritime heritage and the “ways of the water.” 

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