When I got the call from Kevin Wark about his new boat, I could tell from the excitement in his voice that he had gotten something special.
"It's all composite. There's not a stick of wood," Wark told me. That got my attention. Like the other gillnet captains from Barnegat Light, N.J., he came up in the fleet on traditional hulls from long-established Maine builders, like the 38-foot Bruno that I rode on with him on my first monkfish trip more than 20 years ago.
In the January issue you can read about the building of Wark's new boat, the Dana Christine II, a Mussel Ridge 46 from master builder Albert Hutchinson of Hutchinson Composites in Cushing, Maine. The story begins on page 28.
The Hutchinson boats have won a following with their ability for seakeeping, load carrying and good speed with fuel efficiency. The secret is the hard-chine hull, Hutchinson says.
A stretched version of the Mussel Ridge 42, Dana Christine II carries its wheel and rudder four feet farther forward and its engine and drivetrain lower in the hull. That makes for remarkable handling says Wark, a 2012 NF Highliner Award winner.
"The boat just follows the gear around because the rudder's so far ahead. It's like having a thruster," he says.
That's a big help when retrieving a gathered net over the stern. But the boat is also designed for Wark's monster fishing: federally permitted tag-and-release of endangered Atlantic sturgeon with a research team from Delaware State University. Come April, they will be doing it again off the Delaware beach on the new boat.