Sponsons Keep Northwest Yards Busy

By Peter Marsh

The F/V Collier Brothers is one of many boats that began life on the Gulf Coast in the 1970s as a shrimper and were brought out to the Pacific Northwest after the Magnuson Act became law in 1977. It was built in Bayou La Batre, Alabama by Gulf Coast Marine Builders in 1978 and was their thirteenth newbuild. It had a typical shrimper-type bow with a long overhang that gave it a L.O.A. of 84 feet on a beam of 24.5 feet and a draft of 12 feet. It was powered by a 1,000 hp Caterpillar turning a five-bladed 72-inch propeller in a nozzle.

The two fish holds held approximately 290,000 pounds, but it never fished in the gulf, because a Portland, Oregon fisherman was in the area looking for a well-built boat at a fair price to take back to the West Coast. His son who is now the owner, remembers they found the boat looking brand new, already named “Collier Brothers,” and sitting at the dock after its first trial runs. It was presumably built on spec for shrimping, although the story behind the name has been forgotten. His father took a good look at it, and showed some interest; the builders gave the Oregonians a good demonstration along the coast to test everything out.
The price was agreed, and the boat departed with the original name, which the family has retained ever since as a part of the boat’s history. It was delivered through the Panama Canal without mishap and eventually reached its new homeport on the Columbia River. The F/V Collier Brothers trawled on the West Coast and in Alaska over the next 40 years, and the owners have given the boat several upgrades, beginning with the removal of that traditional bow and its replacement with a near vertical stem and bulb that added buoyancy and waterline length within the original perpendiculars.

The house was intended for use in warmer weather, so was replaced with a design more suitable for the Pacific Northwest climate with more space for crew and amenities.

However, the owner still wanted a wider boat, having seen how the new wider boats were performing at sea. He reckoned he could add about 12 feet of beam to gain more stability in a seaway, safer footing for the crew, and a little more comfort. Giddings Boat Works in Coos Bay, Oregon has worked on many of these veteran boats with good results, so he contacted Ray Cox, the company’s president in August, 2019, to find if they were interested.

He had one condition: the yard had to complete the job by early 2020, so he could have the boat back in Alaska early in the new year for the pollock A-season that runs through April. Giddings’ general manager Wayne Garcia didn’t have any major work booked for the winter, and quickly prepared a bid, which the owner accepted. They immediately began drawing up a contract and recommended Bruce Culver, a naval architect and marine engineer in Seattle who has worked with them in several previous jobs. The owner talked to Culver and he agreed to do the necessary engineering and prepare plans for a pair of 6-foot sponsons

Garcia stressed that there were no accurate plans for the trawler’s modified hull, and there was not enough time or budget to use all the new technology to do the work electronically. That would have included a complete scan of the hull to re-create the shape using lofting software, then the addition of the virtual sponsons on the computer, and measuring all the offsets to then have the parts CNC-cut and trucked to the yard.

While this will theoretically produce a perfect fit to a fraction of an inch, boatyards have learned the hard way that it is not guaranteed, because an old hull changes shape over the years in unpredictable ways that don’t show up on the scan.

The Collier Brothers arrived in Coos Bay in September and was hauled out into the shed on the yard’s well-used marine railway for sponsons that would be shaped and fitted by hand using the traditional methods. “We hauled the vessel out, cut off the old bulwarks, removed the deck fittings and lifted off the winches and gantry. Since the boat’s hold size is part of the permit, the holds would not be extended, which meant they could leave the topsides in place. So the crew pulled out the longest battens and tape measures, and set up the outline for six-foot sponsons.

One big advantage to this method is the ability to easily make changes on the fly. When they found the addition wasn’t going to fair in properly, they checked with Culver, who agreed they could reduce the width. “It was no big deal to re-set the battens at five feet from the topsides. With the inverted (reverse) chine that seemed to work out a lot better, but it takes a talented and seasoned workforce to pull it off,” Garcia explained.

Now the battens were carefully adjusted until the owner and the crew were satisfied with the final shape. The next step was to cut and notch every frame by hand to fair in well below the waterline. Within two weeks, they were able to sand-blast and prime the old hull and start welding the sponson frames onto the topsides. It takes good judgement and a lot of shaping to pull the sponson into the bow, and Garcia reckons this is as hard as building a new boat from scratch – maybe even harder – without having full engineering plans to work from.

A new gantry was fabricated and installed, and fitted with a new aft net reel. New fuel piping and manifolds were plumbed in to match the new fuel tanks in the sponsons. The wooden false deck was raised at the owner’s request, with six feet of added space either side of the trawl alley for bigger pens passageways.

New Rapp trawl winches were installed on the extended main deck, while the Gilson winches were overhauled and set on the upper deck. The added beam forward resulted in a large forepeak locker with extra storage space for spares, supplies and additional gear.
The fuel capacity increased from a pair of 5,500-gallon engine-room tanks to about 23,000 gallons with the addition of two smaller tanks amidships and forward in each sponson, plus one at the aft end of each sponson each with a 3,000-gallon capacity. The propeller was given a little more pitch as the re-built engine still had plenty of power in reserve. There are also two large removable ballast tanks that can be used to trim the hull when lightly loaded.

The work on the Collier Brothers was structurally complete by January and even the 4.7 magnitude earthquake 130 miles off the coast in February didn’t cause any delays. The boat was re-launched with 34 feet of beam on February 20 and completed its sea trials on time and budget. The owners reported that the sponsons have made a considerable difference to the boat’s motion. They are very pleased with the new look and are getting many compliments at the dockside.

58-Foot Seiner Sponsoned
The F/V Tradition, a veteran 58-foot Alaska seiner and tender, was given a complete makeover late last year by WCT Marine at the Tongue Point, Astoria shipyard, including sponsons, new bulbous bow, and new wheelhouse.

Present owner Rod Miller lives in his Ilwaco, and has used the Tradition for crabbing on the Northwest coast in the winter and tendering in Alaska in the summer. When he began considering adding capacity to the boat, Willie Toristoja, the co-owner of WCT Marine, recommended he meet naval architect Tulio Cesare to discuss the design and engineering.

Cesare was able to obtain the original lines of the Tradition, which enabled him to draw up plans and cutting files for the work, including a reverse (inverted V) chine at the stern that is faired into the standard bottom plating amidships for maximum additional buoyancy.

The boat is based in Ilwaco, in south east Washington, and is now back at work in the Washington crab fishery with around 8 feet of additional beam and a vastly increased capacity.

A Full Makeover at the Fashion Blacksmith
Captain Benjamin Platt bought the 50-foot Miss Heidi in 2018 after a lifetime of fishing out of Bodega Bay, north of San Francisco in his 47-foot wooden troller, Sea Star, which he also used for longlining black cod and crabbing. He is nearing 60 and is still active in several fishing organizations and boards and wanted a bigger boat to give him more versatility to handle the changing rules and conditions on the West Coast. So he wanted a multi-purpose boat that could carry all 400 of the Dungeness pots on his permit – and have the hold space to take advantage of any other new opportunities that turned up, including shrimp and albacore.
That meant a visit to Ted Long at the Fashion Blacksmith in Crescent City, on the Oregon border was on the top of his to-do list for his last boat. Long is the go-to guy for anyone in that region wanting a sponson or a lengthening, because he personally runs the yard, orders the materials and supervises the work.

Platt was able to reserve a spot in the yard’s busy schedule and arrived in the summer of 2019 for a full makeover – a sponson and a lengthening to give the 50-year old boat a whole lot more capacity and stability.

By November Long and his expert crew had added 8 feet to the length, with an extended stern, a new bulbous bow, and increased the beam from around 15 feet to 24.5 feet, and draft to 8 feet. This allowed it stay within the 58-foot size limit for seining in Alaska, where he may do some tendering in the Panhandle.

With the upgrade, the hold capacity increased to 60,000 pounds live in the main hold and four wells, with the fuel capacity now 8,000 gallons and freshwater 3,000 gallons. The original house was retained, but the galley was expanded because there was enough extra space below the foredeck to expand the accommodations. This will give the skipper the ability to spend more time on the water, he reckons.

Ironically, the new Miss Heidi, named after his wife and partner, was too wide for a berth in Bodega Bay, California so they decided to base her in Crescent City. The boat’s engine is a well-used Cummins N-14 400-hp turning a four-blade 40-inch by 34-inch propeller.

The F/V Widgeon was also re-launched in November. This was a 53-foot “project boat” in Lake Union in Seattle that was left unfinished when the builder died. The next owner managed to run it down the coast to his homeport of Newport, Oregon in 2018. He quickly hauled it out at the Port of Toledo boatyard to add some fittings below the waterline while the yard added more new equipment on deck and fabricated a new top house. The owner managed to get through a season of albacore fishing without major mishaps, but was already planning a complete rebuild and sponson in 2019, after the crab season.

Then they headed south to Crescent City, California where they had a slot with Ted Long, and were relying on his years of experience in hull extensions to bring the boat up to date. The yard crew went to work by cutting off the transom while the boat was still on the lift platform, then hauled the boat inside to begin opening up the forward topsides, prior to adding the framework to raise the deck 16 inches, adding nine feet to the beam, and fabricating a new stem and bulbous bow.

The finished boat measures 57.5 by 24 feet with enough volume to double the hold capacity and stack twice as many pots.

Crab Boat Gets 13 Feet
Spirit of America is a shrimp and crab fishing vessel also homeported in Crescent City. It was built in 1979 by Sea Steel with a length of 54.7 feet and a beam of 20.7 feet and it travelled north to the Columbia River then 100 miles upstream to Vancouver, Washington for a hull extension at JT Marine, located opposite the Portland Airport. The boat was lifted into JT’s 200-ton dry dock, where the hull was cut apart for the insertion of a 13 foot mid-body section.

JT Marine added about 16,000 lb. of steel, including the shaft extension. The new fish hold added about 52,000 pounds of total capacity, so probably 44-45,000 lb. of net fish, plus seawater. The hull measured close to 68 feet before the re-launch in November, utilizing the yard’s 240 ton crane-barge.

Fred Wahl Sponsons Trawler
The Fred Wahl yard in Reedsport, Oregon continued to attract a variety of repair and maintenance work in addition to the major upgrade to the 131-foot F/V Providence and the latest project, the sponsoning of the 88-foot B.J. Thomas. This trawl/crab/shrimp boat came in with a length of 88 feet and beam of 22 feet. It will depart with two feet less length and seven feet more beam, measuring 86.2 feet by 29 feet, and a new name, the F/V Dauntless.

A company spokesman also provided information on the yard’s new boat lifter from the Italian company ASCOM, expected to arrive this summer. It will have a capacity of 815 tons, compared to their existing 660-ton ASCOM machine. This will allow the yard to lift mid-size fishing vessels under 800 tons light ship, and lighter boats in the 130-150 foot range without having to pump out the fuel and remove heavy deck gear.