By Peter Marsh
The Maritime Fabrications company was established 40 years ago by “Maritime Ed” Oczkewicz (pronounced Ozkaweez) and has been supplying its popular brand of deck gear to fishermen on the Northwest Coast and Alaska ever since. Although the company name has become synonymous with its successful gillnet equipment, there is far more to the business: more than half the space in their factory in La Conner, Washington is devoted to boat building and repairs, with a full fiberglass molding set up and the aluminum fabrication shop, which also produces parts for the deck machinery.
Ed began fishing in Alaska in the 1980’s, but his interest in hull shape and construction really began with the purchase of the tooling for his first gillnetter – a 32-foot fiberglass Westbrook boat – that he brought back to his shop in 1985. He used that boat for several seasons before becoming interested in a more powerful jet design.
In 1997, Oczkewicz commissioned naval architect Rick Etsell of Anacortes, Washington to draw the first Daddy O – a 32-foot by 14-foot aluminum boat with twin engines. This design brought a big step up in performance and handling with twin 425-hp Cummins’ that could push the boat to 30 knots without load and 20 knots carrying 5,000 to 10,000 lbs. However, with the falling salmon prices to fishermen, he focused more on the full service boatyard business in La Conner, and spent summer months cruising the inside passage.
In 2008 wild salmon markets improved and in 2009 Ed got back into the fishery with his son, fishing the Lucky Strike. In 2011 Oczkewicz built the second Daddy O himself from fiberglass, using a new set of molds based on a design by the late Lyn Senour, which he fished through the 2019 season, and sold in preparation for either retiring from fishing or building another boat. Last year, he decided it was time he re-visited the twin-engine type, which would give him a chance to try out their latest deck gear and asked Etsell to update the old design.
Rick is now retired from his professional architecture practice, but still skippers a 100-foot 1926 motor yacht based in Seattle. He agreed to help Ed, who wanted more beam, of course, and some small changes to enhance functionality and crew efficiency.
The third Daddy O is a typical aluminum jet-boat hull, says Ed’s son, Isaac, and was built by the shop crew in La Conner last winter from a CNC kit of parts. This was supplied by Alaskan Copper and Brass, with some parts coming off the shop’s own CNC router. The new boat has a 16-foot beam, which gives it a large capacity of 24,000 lbs and room for a pair of Volvo D8 engines from Pacific Power Group in Kent, Washington, producing 550 hp each at 2,900 RPM. The installation is keel cooled, with a dry exhaust through the transom. The engines turn Hamilton HTX 30 jets for a top speed unladen of 40 knots and a cruise speed of 15 knots with a load of 10,000 lbs.
Considering the experience with his first jet boat, fitted with twin 425-hp Cummins, they expect the new boat with the extra power and less weight in the Volvos, will improve on those numbers when they tested the boat in early May before putting it on a barge north. The RSW is a 10-ton Pacific West model driven by a hydraulic motor. Simplicity and weight savings, without compromising strength, are big factors in this build, as they were in the 1997 build.
Coincidentally, the first Daddy O was back in the shop last winter after 22 years in Alaska under the name F/V Rockin. The second owner, Matt Rockness, still likes the boat.
Now he has boosted the power by having the shop replace the original 425-hp Cummins 8.7 liter engines and keel coolers with the new Tier 3 Cummins 8.3 liter QSC engines rated at 600 hp with heat exchangers. The Hamiltons were rebuilt and in recent trials she recorded better than 40 knots on the Swinomish Channel.
The shop also provides refits and repowers for other Bristol Bay boats, and vessels from other fisheries, in both fiberglass and aluminum, and two aluminum hulls were barged down last fall for an upgrade to flush decks. One had had an old 6V92 Detroit that was probably putting out about 300 hp and burning a lot of fuel; it was also replaced with a 450-hp Cummins 8.3 liter.
The fiberglass shop has also been busy, finishing one of their 32- by 14-foot Bristol Bay models. The latest version has a capacity of 18,000 lbs. and some new features that add safety and comfort including improved visibility, better access to the engine room and greater stability. This boat has been fitted with another popular engine, the 550-hp John Deere 6090 keel-cooled main, but the propulsion is an unusual departure for the builders – a high-volume NAMJet TJ 431HH. “This is the second one of our hulls to be fitted with this style jet,” said Isaac. “We have made some modifications to the hull to improve the jet’s performance.”
All these boats will be delivered to the owners with an assortment of new Maritime Fabrications deck equipment, including their newest product – the Big Bay 16-inch diameter Power Roller. “This is the third-generation roller design that we introduced two years ago. We’ve sold more than we expected and have had a lot of compliments,” Isaac added. “We are also moving toward aluminum as our primary Bristol Bay model material,” he added.
A Family Business
Ed’s sons are also fishermen. Alex Oczkewicz runs the Lucky Strike which is a fiberglass boat built by American Commercial Marine. Miles Oczkewicz was fishing the Nancy O II – named after their mother, but sold the boat last winter and purchased his dad’s previous boat the fiberglass Daddy O (#2).
The family boats are all on their way to Naknek, where the business has a small repair shop and boatyard, and will make sure these and other boats are ready to fish.