Future Fishermen

At press time, the country is
enveloped in a heat wave that’s reaching all the way to Alaska, where the
youngest Philips learned all about picking fish from a gillnet on Bristol Bay
this season. She reports a couple of 80-plus degree days in Egegik, and several
very busy days, but lots of slow days as well. At 14, she hasn’t yet decided
what she wants to do with her life, and she’ll most likely not make a career of
fishing, but we’re glad she had the opportunity to experience a little of what
our faithful readers do.

Short of sending kids to work
in Alaska, how will the industry replace all the fishermen who are retiring?
The average West Coast fisherman is in his late 50s, and the industry
desperately needs a new group of committed individuals with boat-handling
skills and the temperament to work long hours under difficult conditions. Those
kids are out there… how does one introduce them to the industry?

One way is through the
outreach of the local fishermen’s festivals, including the Commercial
Fishermen’s Festival in Astoria, Oregon (www.commercialfishermensfestival.com)
on September 14th and 15th, where this year’s event will include the model
boats of Canadian model builder Ron Burchett.

Ron is well known around the
maritime community as the guy with the big pool and the remote-control boats.
The display draws kids of all ages, and for years he could be found at
commercial maritime shows along the West Coast. His models are amazing in their
level of detail and craftsmanship.

But to dismiss him as a toy
builder is to miss several layers of Ron Burchett’s character. Ron grew up with
tugs, workboats and fishing boats, and has extensive experience as both a
seafarer and shipyard engineer. The boats he builds aren’t actually toys –
they’re working models built to test seakeeping, efficiency and stability, and
his “day job” is to build these boats as tank-test models for very big
international companies that spend millions of dollars on fishing and work
boats. His models have working scale model drive systems, controllable pitch
propellers and Kort and Nautican systems. Ron’s talents are used by major
tugboat companies and seafarer training institutions worldwide, and his
knowledge of the industry, inside and out, is encyclopedic.

This year, Ron is providing
resources to show the kids in attendance how the fishing industry works. He’ll
have around 20 fishing boat models on hand, including a seiner that launches a
remote-controlled seine skiff, deploys a net in a circle, closes the purse and
then retrieves the net, all by remote control. Also on hand will be models of
crab boats, including some famous TV boats, that can launch and retrieve crab
pots. Ron says he’ll even have a US Coast Guard enforcement vessel on hand with
lights and loudhailer.

Ron hopes other model builders
will participate as well, and is offering space in the pool to show off your
vessel to the future fishermen. He can be reached via email at
ronburchett@shaw.ca or call him at 778-987-4201 if you have a model fishing
boat you’d like to show off. It’s for the kids.