Bristol Bay: More Than Ready

By Allan Haig-Brown

In late April of 2020, the Bristol Bay sockeye gillnet season was being eyed with much trepidation. Covid-19 had much of the US in lock down to one degree or another. The challenges of bringing hundreds of cannery workers and fishermen to Bristol Bay in time for the month of June sockeye-opener was being discussed in detail. In late April there were reports that some fishermen had decided not to risk the expense of getting their boats ready for the season.

One fisherman who had no such hesitation, was Olin Green whose company, OG Ventures, had just taken delivery of his brand-new boat. And what a boat it is! The aluminum welding was done by Velocity Marine & Fabrication in Sedro-Wooley, Washington and finishing was done by Rozema Boat Works of Mt. Vernon, Washington. Owner Olin Green’s exacting design ideas are built into the 32- by 17-foot boat. Much of Bristol Bay is shallow and boats like to follow the big tides and the sockeye up into the shallows. The new boat, named Not Guilty, has a draft of only 24 inches.

The shallow draft is made possible by the use of a pair of 340HT (High Thrust) UltraJet water jets. In addition to the ability to work in shallow waters, Green wanted to get his catch to the tender quickly so as to get back out on the fish. For this he needed power and speed both light boat and loaded. A pair of Cummins QSC8.3 engines each generating 600 hp at 2,800 RPM, with a Light Duty Commercial rating, gives him speed in both states. The engines turn the jets through ZF 305-3 gears with 1.22:1 ratio.

Cummins Commercial Marine Sales manger Mike Fourtner explains that the customer wanted a boat, “Specifically designed for the ultra-shallow, ultra-competitive Bristol Bay gillnet fishery with the boat designed and engineered to get 15,000 pounds of salmon on step at 20 knots with 12 inches of water or less under the keel.”

While getting the fish to the tender-boat quickly is important, it is equally important to get back out to the optimum fishing spot quickly. To do that the boat has a design speed of 40 knots, and it achieved a 45.6-mph top speed on sea trials. Speed is designed into every aspect of the boat. With the Kinematics gillnet drum set on a revolving pedestal, the net can be set or retrieved over the bow or the stern. Both bow and stern have powered rollers.

Quality is also important for optimum price in this highly competitive fishery. To that end the holds have capacity for up to 20,000 pounds in RSW supported by a ten-ton electric drive refrigerated seawater system supplied by Pacific West Refrigeration. A 21.5-kW Onan 120/208VAC generator, cooled and with wet-exhaust, provides power for the refrigeration system as well as 120VAC outlets throughout the boat to power the coffee pot, microwave, refrigerator and accessories.

The galley, along with accommodations for the crew of four are cleverly designed into a raised forecastle space. While the 32-foot limit for Bristol Bay gillnet boats may seem extreme to some, there is no question that it has led to some remarkable and innovative solutions by fishermen and builders. The F/V Not Guilty is another chapter in the saga, just as the 2020 season will add another twist to this exciting fishery.