Maine shop builds wood-glass hybrid; longtime builder goes commercial

By Michael Crowley

The vast majority of Maine’s lobstermen work out of fiberglass boats, while a small number have a wooden boat. Each is comfortable with their choice for a boatbuilding material.

The vast majority of Maine’s lobstermen work out of fiberglass boats, while a small number have a wooden boat. Each is comfortable with their choice for a boatbuilding material.

But for the past couple of years, Richard Stanley at Richard Stanley Custom Boats in Bass Harbor has been trying to get fishermen to look beyond their fiberglass or wood comfort zone. 

To Stanley, it makes sense to combine the two materials — a wood hull with a custom fiberglass top. He’ll tell you a wood boat goes through the water much better than a fiberglass hull, though a wood deck and cabin can suffer from extensive maintenance issues. But put a fiberglass top over the wood hull, and you can keep out fresh water while drastically reducing maintenance. 

That’s been a tough sell to fishermen, who generally are reluctant to change their way of doing things — anything. But this August, Stanley built the molds for the first hybrid wood and glass boat. The 38' x 15' boat will be used for tuna fishing, lobstering, six-pack charters and as a pleasure boat. 

The hull he is building is a built-down style, and the fiberglass top is being built at Edgerly Woodworking and Boat Storage in Surry, Maine. It will be composite foam construction with 3/4-inch Divinycell on the sides and 1 inch on the pilothouse and cabin top. 

It will sit on top of the hull’s shelf, sheer clamp and sheer plank, and go down over the sheer plank, where it will be glued to the wood and then fastened to the hull with screws through the toe rail and guardrail. 

Combining the fiberglass top with the wood hull makes construction “a lot less involved,” says Stanley, “because you don’t have to put any deck framing in.” 

Another difference has the sheer clamp and shelf flush with the top of the sheer, instead of being lower to take the deck frames. “We’ll fill in between the [hull] frames and the sheer,” said Stanley, “so it will be all solid wood on top.” That’s about the only construction difference from a normal wooden boat. “From a distance,” says Stanley, “it will look like a wood boat, though it won’t have wood trim.” The trim will be painted on.

When the wood and fiberglass boat leaves the shop sometime next spring, she’ll have an open wheelhouse with maybe a winter back. There will be V-berths up forward, an enclosed head and a 550-hp John Deere for power.

When not working on the hybrid boat, Stanley’s crew has been repairing the Sea Chimes, a wooden lobster boat built by Arno Day in 1964. The repairs include recaulking the garboard seams, refastening some planks, refastening the deck and side decks, patching some rot in the stem, and patching the skeg. 

“The skeg had gotten worn out because the propeller was too close to the skeg and washed the wood out on her,” explained Stanley. “We patched that in.” 

In Boothbay, Maine, a 100 percent fiberglass boat is being finished off at Matthew Sledge’s shop Samoset Boatworks. It’s a Wesmac 38 that was trucked down from Wesmac Custom Boats in Surry, Maine, as a molded top and hull with two bulkheads and four stringers. She’s being built for a tuna fisherman in Manchester, Mass.

The boat’s owner had been fishing “out of a 26-foot Regulator,” says Sledge, “Now he’s jumping up to the big boys.” 

When the 38-footer is launched in mid-September, she will go out the shop’s doors with a 500-hp Cat C9 and a 6-kW Northern Lights genset.

The platform is composite, with Coosa board as the core material. Coosa board was also used for the cabin sole. 

A 215-gallon fuel tank is under the deck along each side of the hull, while a 115-gallon live well is on the centerline, from the cockpit sole to the aft deck. 

The boat’s owner wants rod holders every 18 inches around the perimeter of the cockpit, which amounts to about $3,000 worth of rod holders. When Sledge prepares the side decks for the holders, the holes are routed out and backfilled. Then G10 compression tubes are installed. “G10 is a pressed fiberglass tube,” says Sledge, “so you’re not going to crush that when you tighten the bolts down, and it transmits the load right to the outer skin of the deck, which on the Wesmac is about 3/16 inch thick.”

Sledge has been a custom boatbuilder since the 1980s but except for some local lobster boats that he’s “refreshed,” it’s been all pleasure boats. This is the first kit boat he’s finished off. “I’m just gettin’ into the commercial work,” he says. 


Asked what the difference is between commercial fishermen and pleasure-boat owners, Sledge says: “The commercial guys know exactly what they want. Pleasure guys kind of.” 


Wash. yard building two 58-footers; 70-year-old should turn some heads

 By Michael Crowley

In November 2013, Northern Marine, which was known for high-end yachts and had not built a commercial fishing boat, launched the 58-foot seiner Optimus for John Barry of Silver Bay, Alaska. (see ATY West, NF Feb. ’14, p. 37) Then this September, Northern Marine, a division of Concorde Marine in Burlington, Wash., was building its second and third 58-footers. All three boats are to the design of George Roddan of Roddan Engineering in Vancouver, British Columbia. 

Both 58' x 25' 6" boats are going to Alaska and “will be used primarily as seiners,” says Stuart Archer with Concorde Marine, “but they can do crab, shrimp and squid.”

The 58-foot design does not appear that different from other 58-foot seiners above the waterline. But below the waterline, a major difference is the shape of the bulbous bow. Instead of a cylindrical shape extending straight out from the bow, the bulb sweeps up from the forefoot to about the waterline, doesn’t go out very far and has a slight pear shape. 

“There’s been an evolution of bulbs,” says Archer, “going from a round dome-like form to one that’s pear shaped, to one that’s not only pear shaped but starts to angle upwards. This one angles fairly severely upwards, probably close to 45 degrees.”

One benefit of the bulb design is the boat is able to reach “some fairly good speeds. Fully loaded that’s a little over 10.5 knots,” says Archer, and packing “about 240,000 pounds.”

Both boats that are currently being built will have Cummins QSK19 main engines rated at 660 hp. There will be three Northern Lights generators: two 99-kW gensets and one 12-kW genset for when the boat is tied up at the dock. 

As of late August, one of the 58-footers had the wheelhouse in place, the engine and generators installed and work was about to begin on the electrical systems. The second 58-foot hull was laid up and work was starting on the bulkheads and pilothouse. 

It was the start of September and David Peterson, a boat carpenter out of Trinidad, Calif., was very aware of the deadline looming in front of him, the Elin Lane and the Elin Lane’s owner, Brian Kelley (see ATY West, NF March ’16, p. 37).

The Elin Lane is a crabber and troller built in 1946 at Bryant’s Marina in Seattle; that deadline would be Nov. 15 for central California’s Dungeness season. 

When the 70-year-old Elin Lane leaves the dock it will mark the close of what Peterson refers to as an epic journey. That’s 2 1/2 years of working on the 50-foot Elin Lane, with some breaks to repair other boats. That work includes refastening and caulking the bottom, some new planks, rebuilding the bulwarks, 99 deck frames, installing new hydraulics and wiring, and rebuilding the wheelhouse and fo’c’sle. The latter two projects Peterson was completing in September. 

Sapele, a wood from tropical Africa is being used throughout the wheelhouse, galley and fo’c’sle. “It’s a real nutty brown and ends up looking like Honduras mahogany,” says Peterson. The fo’c’sle will also have some Hydrotek plywood, which Peterson says, “has a mahogany skin, and is the only plywood that’s insured by Lloyd’s of London.” It will be trimmed with Sapele. Both the trim work and the Hydrotek will be finished off with four coats of Varathane. 

Interiors on older boats were often painted and then trimmed out with mahogany. Newer boats might use plywood covered with Formica. A downside to that is everything has to be fit twice, which adds to the coast. Or there’s the option of prefit Formica panels, which are durable, can be installed fairly quickly and can be trimmed with wood. Generally Peterson sees a trend “getting away from using wood altogether.” In the end it’s a compromise between durability, cost and looks. 

But as Peterson will tell you, “there hasn’t been any compromises on this boat. He’s gone all the way. It’s his personality. Coupled with my personality, it’s kind of deadly. He wants to go all in and I’m willing to go for it. It’s proven out on this boat.”

There are a number of 70-year-old boats fishing the West Coast. But Peterson says, “many of them act like they are 70 years old [and] they kind of look like it.” The Elin Lane, however, is “different. Was a real solid hull, really well built.”

The planking in the bottom of the Elin Lane is Douglas fir, which Peterson describes as stiff and strong. (He makes a distinction between the Douglas fir used on older boats and what’s available to boatbuilders now, which he feels is inferior.) Above the Douglas fir is Alaskan yellow cedar for its durability. Above that it’s Port Orford cedar for the first four strakes down from the sheer, where there’s more shape and curve to the hull and the planks are under a lot of stress. 


Classic buy boat fitted for worm shoe; maritime artifacts found in post office

 By Larry Chowning

At Cape Charles on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, Jerry Pruitt had his 57.8' x 18.3' x 5.4' oyster buy boat Delvin K up on the blocks in August at Cape Charles Yacht Center.

The Delvin K is one of the last commercial buy boats on Chesapeake Bay being used specifically to purchase oysters. The term buy boat has long been applied to a boat used by seafood buyers to purchase seafood from commercial watermen at sea, then used to haul payload back to seafood processing houses. A Tangier Island, Va., native, Pruitt buys oysters in Tangier Sound and elsewhere and delivers to market in Reedville, Va. 

The Delvin K was there for annual maintenance, which will include painting the bottom with antifouling paint and replacing the worm shoe that has been compromised by Gould’s shipworms.

A commercial waterman-friendly yard like the Cape Charles Yacht Center allows Pruitt to do his own work on the boat and is essential to the survival of the bay watermen’s culture.

A celebration of that culture took place at the 12th annual Chesapeake Bay Buyboat Reunion in Cape Charles, where the 1931-built Linda Carol, originally named Croaker, made its first appearance on Sunday, Aug. 6., after a complete restoration. Some enthusiasts drove hundreds of miles to see the newly restored buy boat.

A three-year restoration has brought the boat back to her old glory. Bill Mullis of B&C Seafood of Newport News, Va., had the boat towed to Gloucester County, Va., from a Long Island salvage yard in New York Harbor in August 2013. She had been used to dredge ocean clams in northeast Atlantic Ocean until 2008, when she was placed at the salvage yard. 

Mullis rescued her and hired Poquoson, Va., boatbuilder David Rollins, and his son Dan, a metal fabricator, and Sid Ensley, a retired clammer and an all-around handyman, to bring her back to life. They restored her at York Haven Marina in Poquoson and replaced about 95 percent of the wood in the boat. 

She arrived at Cape Charles right before the workboat docking contest. The 85-year-old Linda Carol shined like a new penny and turned every head there.

On a historical note, the April 2016 issue of NF, featured the C.H. Rice and Son Boatyard of Reedville, Va., in the Classic Yards section (p. 40). In that story, Ed Rice, the son in C.H. Rice and Son, recalled the assembly-line methods he and his father used in the 1950s to build wooden menhaden purse boats.

The Rices built purse boats in Reedville on Cockrell Creek. Prior to that, C.H. had built boats for J. Howard Smith Co., who owned a fleet of menhaden steamers. Ed Rice recalled, “The oak keel was laid first right side up and then an oak stem and stem liner were fastened at the ends. Then we installed wooden patterns at specific intervals, which gave us shape and helped hold it together as we completed the hull.”

In August, owners of Ocean Products Research of Diggs, Va., queried two Mid-Atlantic small craft historians in an attempt to identify wooden patterns, the shape of a round bilge 30-foot craft.

A good student of bay small craft quickly identified the patterns as those used to build round-bilge purse boats, like the Rices built. There are few wooden purse boats still in existence, as steel and aluminum replaced wood in the 1950s and 60s, and there are even fewer wooden patterns.  

The story thickened when it was learned that the late Robert Hutson, founder of Ocean Products Research, in 1964 had purchased the contents of an old storage building once owned by J. Howard Smith Co.

Hutson purchased hundreds of oars, bailing hoops and other related menhaden fishing items. He stored them in the closed down Beaverlett Post Office building in Mathews County, Va. Over the years, he sold or gave away most of the oars, but the boat patterns stayed right there until the building was recently cleaned out to be sold.


Hats off to the Robert Hutson family for saving these rare maritime artifacts. The family has donated them to the Mathews Maritime Foundation, where they will be protected and displayed to further educate the public on the history and traditions of wood boat construction in the Mid-Atlantic region.

» Read more Around the Yards here. 

NF Nov16 CVR

» Read more articles in our November issue.

» Fish eNews offers the latestindustry news.

» Like us on Facebook

Copyright © 2016 National Fisherman. All rights reserved.

A collection of stories from guest authors.

Join the Conversation