By Peter Marsh
Robert Wakefield began fishing out of Crescent City on the northern California coast in 1977 and soon decided he wanted a boat of his own. By 1979, he had become the owner of a small wooden boat, and has worked his way through several more over the last 40 years. His son Troy started fishing with him in 2007, and went full time in 2009. Since then, they’ve fished primarily for Dungeness crab and prawn and trolled for salmon on an older wooden trawler.
Robert still appreciates the lines of a traditional design, but he has done his fair share of maintenance and repairs on wooden hulls and was ready to upgrade to a new fiberglass boat for the rest of his career. He was looking for a good-looking combo hull with a bit more beam, a lot more capacity, a modern pilothouse and cabin, and clean lines. He finally settled on the 45- to 49-foot hull built in La Conner in northern Washington by the experienced fiberglass shop at Maritime Fabrications.
This has a fairly traditional appearance that he knew would stand out against the typical conversions and backyard projects in the crabbing fleet, most which have seen better days. La Conner is almost 600 miles from Crescent City, but quality fiberglass builders are few and far between these days, so skippers who appreciate the virtues of a laminated hull are prepared to go the distance to get what they want. Maritime Fabrications was established 40 years ago in La Conner, which is still home to several fiberglass shops building full-displacement hulls for commercial and recreational use.
The Oczkewicz (pronounced Ozkaweez) family has been producing a range of durable all-purpose fishing boats for coastal waters, originally drawn in the 1990’s by well-known naval architect Lynn Senour. More than half the space in their large factory is devoted to boat building, with a full fiberglass molding shop set up alongside the aluminum fabrication department, which produces their popular brand of deck gear. Two separate molds cover lengths of 32 to 39 feet with up to 14 feet of beam and 40 to 49 feet with up to 18 feet of beam. Wakefield chose the bigger mold for his 49- by 18-foot combo boat, the F/V Jennifer Anne.
Maritime Fab boats feature all-composite construction with a solid glass hull. The bulkheads, decks and structural components are all composite cored using either closed cell foam or honeycomb, and the systems are well-engineered and easy to access. Bulkheads, decks and all structural components are composite cored using either closed cell foam or honeycomb sandwich (no wood). A tunnel hull option is available for those owners who want shallow-draft capability and there is a substantial 1- by 4-inch stainless steel keel shoe.
The 49-foot version features a raised pilothouse for improved visibility and comfort, with a sensible layout for operations and crew quarters with three bunks, electric heaters in the lower cabin and pilothouse. There is a 7-cubic foot refrigerator and electric range, and a 200-gallon fresh water tank is standard. This arrangement leaves a lot of hull volume aft of the mast, resulting in a long deck with two floodable holds that have a combined crab capacity of 30,000 lbs., with an additional bait hold. The three circular deck hatches are supplied by Freeman Marine. Like most fiberglass boats, there is a UHMW pad below the pot hauler to absorb the knocks and bumps, and keep the topsides looking good.
The aluminum mast, crosstrees and struts have been engineered to save weight and reduce windage, and have been tested over many years. The trolling rig will enable the crew to start trolling for tuna and provide another opportunity to keep the boat fishing between unpredictable salmon and Dungeness seasons. It includes a light cargo boom over the aft deck to help with moving gear or totes. The rig is topped by a set of Sonaray Epsilon LED crab lights, a Furuno radar, and a Garmin GPS antenna.
The most popular engine for the 49-foot hull is a John Deere, supplied by Cascade Engine. Wakefield chose the 6135 AFM 85, which puts out 575 hp at 2,100 RPM. The installation is cooled with a Fernstrum Gridcooler, the exhaust is dry and the reduction gear is a ZF 360 2:1. The standard spec includes a 2-1/2-inch stainless steel shaft and a 36- by 24-inch four-blade bronze propeller from the Prop Shop in Mukilteo. The articulating rudder is made by Maritime Fab, as is the anchor winch, davit and dump box. Two aluminum fuel tanks also built in the shop hold 830 gallons each.
The 4.58 and 6.7 CID hydraulic pumps and the 40-gallon reservoir are driven off PTOs and run the Warren Junes crab block, bait chopper and line coiler, plus Maritime Fab direct-drive hydraulic anchor winch, davit and dump box. The majority of the hydraulic package is supplied by Berendsen Fluid Power. The genset is a 22-kw MER Bollard, built in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. Doors and windows are by Diamond Sea Glaze, Shift and throttle controls are ZF electronic, and Comnav supplied the autopilot.
The builders can justifiably claim that their fiberglass boats provide years of dependable service, because many have been out there working hard for 20 to 30 years. These commercial grade craft can be customized to any specification and desired stage of completion – most are sold in kit form for owner completion at about one third the cost of the fully finished boat – and have kept their value on the used market with only the occasional need for hull maintenance or minor repairs.
“Our preference for fiberglass has to do with its comfort. It’s much quieter, easier to insulate, and aesthetically it just looks better.” Isaac Oczkewicz explained. On the trials, the boat cruised economically at around 9-10 knots with very little fuss. Whether under power or at the dock, everyone who has seen the Jennifer Anne agrees she will attract plenty of attention and positive comments in the Crescent City area.