Pacific Marine Expo is just the place to find something new and make a deal

This year’s Pacific Marine Expo (Nov. 16-18 at Seattle’s Century Link) will have all the vendors and new products you expect, but it will also be the flashpoint of conversation — heated and otherwise — around Pebble Mine, fish farms, marine monuments, climate change and Magnuson. If these topics are important to you, be ready to have your own say during downtime browsing the aisles or at the fishermen’s happy hour in the beer garden at the end of every day at the show.

If you had a good salmon season — and there aren’t many Alaska fishermen who didn’t — there will be plenty of boatbuilders at the show to woo you into a new or refitted boat. Among them is Bay Weld Boats (booth 4134), making the trip down from Homer, Alaska. On the smaller side of the salmon fleet, their 22 x 11.5 jet powered seine skiff is a standout. With a 500-hp Cummins QSC and an 18-inch Namjet, the boat pulls hard and can handle a serious load.

Another interesting boat design is out of Port Angles, Wash., shipyard Platypus Marine (booth 632). The 58-foot long-range trawler/seiner Adamant was designed by Hockema & Whalen Associates with fuel savings front and center. Traveling and burning at the same rate empty or laden, Platypus claims the boat reduces fuel consumption by 15 percent, or saving up to $30,000 from an average $200,000 annual fuel bill. The steel-hulled Adamant draws nearly 12 feet to accommodate three big fish holds, while the QSK19 Cummins rated at 660 hp pushes the boat at a modest 8 knots at 1,400 rpm, keeping the burn low at 10 gph.

At last year’s Expo, the crew at Giddings Boatworks (booth 905) unveiled their new “load-line limit” trawler, destined for Kodiak, Alaska. What was just a few concept drawings and profile images has matured into a mass of steel using a very clever type of modular construction. Wayne Garcia, general manager at Giddings, said the 79' x 35' 4" Evie Grace is scheduled for launch in June of 2018.

If you are thinking of something even bigger, but maybe haven’t decided where you’ll turn, stop by the Main Stage in the Alaska Hall at 1 p.m. Saturday for “Myth vs. Reality: Modern Fishing Vessel Design.” Veteran naval architects Guido Perla of Guido Perla & Associates and Jim Towers of Elliot Bay Design Group will lead a spirited discussion on how to improve vessel designs for modern fleets. They’ll touch on common problems with propulsion and hull form, and the most difficult hurdle of them all, affordability. 

If you are in the marketplace for a maritime industry job, the seminar, “A Pipeline for the Maritime Workforce,” led by boatbuilder Seth Muir in the Fisherman’s Lounge might be for you. Just about everyone who has tried to place an order for a boat has found long waiting lists. While that’s the result of strong sales, another factor is that the yards just can’t get the help they need. In this discussion, Muir will talk about the challenges of finding qualified help for the yards.

Of course, if you are looking to outfit your boat, electronics vendors will be there in spades, including those in our recent VHF and radar buyers guides. In particular, Furuno (booth 1515) will be showing their solid-state Doppler radar and NXT series. If you haven’t tried touch-screen navigation with Doppler storm info overlaid, you should check it out. It’s a kick, and no matter which brand you are loyal to, you will see that it’s a whole new way to interact with navigation. 

Last year, Grundйns (booth 721) made a splash with the introduction of their Deck Boss boot. But with only few prototype pairs on display, fishermen left eager to get on the order list once they were available. This year, the fishermen’s outfitter will have the new Super Watch jacket and bib. These are an upgraded version of the popular Weather Watch series. The garments get their name from Superfabric, a tough ceramic epoxy-impregnated material resistant to cuts and wear. That tough stuff is used in areas that need it most, and the remaining jacket is breathable and waterproof, as you would expect. One caveat though: just like the boots, these won’t be available for purchase at the show, but will become available in the spring of 2018.

One of the educational seminars at Expo is titled, “Fisheries Get Ready for a Close-up.” With strong catches on both coasts and boatbuilding booms just about everywhere, the fishing industry is strong in America and gaining national attention, in part because of public policy decisions that ultimately will decide whether the streak continues.

At 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, the last day of the show, a panel of fishermen and scientists will discuss the CamTrawl, a trawl-mounted stereo camera that can identify species, size and density of fish as they enter the net. Panelists will share research from several Gulf of Alaska locations. It’s a fascinating technology that might one day eliminate onboard observers.

During the past year, the move toward of electronic monitoring has been dramatic, and the government isn’t alone in being curious about what fishermen are catching. The good news, if you want to turn that type of data collection in its head, is that several companies on the floor will be showcasing instruments and devices that collect all sorts of information — from location-based tracking to high-water alarms and security alerts for unauthorized openings of hatches and doors. 

A new exhibitor this year is Zunibal (booth 105), a Spanish-based company that makes monitoring and oceanography products. Of particular interest is their Tuna8 Explorer Buoy, which is a solar-powered echosounder capable of 1,440 pings per day. As you might expect, there’s a whole suite of software that interprets the data, based on which decisions to catch — or conserve — tuna can be determined.

Another new company is ioCurrents (booth 1149), a Seattle-based startup offering fleet management and engine data solutions. Several big boats based on the West Coast are running the system that uses algorithms to predict engine trouble or failures. The crew of one of those boats credits the software with the preventing the destruction of a main engine. 

Should you be in the market for an engine, Caterpillar Marine distributors will be on the show floor no doubt talking about a new drivetrain system the company has developed. This proprietary propulsion system is called a marine advanced variable drive (AVD) and is based on a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The system adjusts not just the mains but also auxiliary engines, and allows the different engines to be used together to propel the vessel. The system is scalable and designed, as a hybrid, to boost maneuverability while reducing fuel costs.

You can bet if one company introduces something new that works, others will follow. The AVD system could lead to a driveline revolution.

Last but not least is the keynote presentation (Thursday, Nov. 16 at 3 p.m. on the Main Stage in the Alaska Hall) with Chris Oliver, the newly appointed assistant administrator for NMFS. Of all the Trump administration appointments this year, his is arguably the least controversial. Don’t miss your chance to ask questions at the end of his presentation, which will focus on the agency’s national priorities and their importance to the Alaska and Pacific Northwest fisheries. With livelihoods and resources on the line, the stakes are high.

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