Boat Prep: Getting in Shape for the Season
In today's fishing industry, to remain competitive and avoid unwanted breakdowns, it's more important than ever to keep your boat well maintained. Additionally, to comply with USGC safety regulations and insurance company requirements, vessels should be hauled out at least every two years for maintenance and inspection.
For this annual edition of boat preparation, we look at tips and advice for fishing vessel maintenance and also review some Alaskan-based services.
Leif Pedersen, General Manager of Seattle-based Fishing Vessel Owners Marine Ways has some great advice for an overall checklist for haul out and maintenance reminders:
All boats should be hauled out at least once every two years, sometimes more often for wood boats.
For wood boats, inspect the bottom, take a look at coatings and make sure they still work. Look at planking for evidence of fasteners becoming loose, and make sure the caulking seams are all tight.
Periodically go around and percussion-sound the planks for evidence of rotting planks.
For steel boats, pay attention to any pitting or deterioration you find. Inspect weld seams. This includes checking for grounding damage. Check that zinc or aluminum anodes are in good working order.
Whenever an owner acquires a new boat (or new to him), an ultrasound inspection should be done on the hull and house if not already provided at the time of sale.
Drop the sea chest screens, clean out sea chests and re-zinc if required. Check the sea valves and make sure they close positively. If they do not operate properly, they should be removed and serviced or replaced.
Propulsion and Steering
Make sure there are no signs of propeller damage. The stern bearing readings should be taken.
Inspect stuffing box packing, packing gland, or seals are working fine.
Inspect the rudder packing gland, tube and carrier bearing.
Steering gear parts should not have excessive play. Parts should be lubricated and functioning as intended.
Paint coatings should be checked for wear and reapplied if necessary.
Ensure that all door and hatch gaskets are working properly. Inspect hatch and door dogs. Can you effectively seal compartments?
Deck Machinery and Safety
Any moving parts need to be checked for wear. Blocks should be lubricated and not frozen. Make sure cables and equipment are in good shape and not at risk for breaking.
The dockside safety exam from the Coast Guard should be up-to-date.
Is the deck lighting adequate for working crews?
Timing is Everything
In regard to getting maintenance done in Alaska, Lon White of Kodiak Shipyard says plan ahead whenever possible. April through June is the yard's busiest time of year and customers need to book ahead to guarantee their spot. Other times of the year, the yard is usually able to accommodate short notice and emergency haul outs.
Kodiak Shipyard has a wide range of service providers to meet commercial fishing vessel needs, including a list of vendors via the yard's website. "Don't see a vendor you prefer, or have someone you want to work on your vessel?" says White. "No problem, it's easy to become a Kodiak Shipyard vendor." He also points out that Kodiak Shipyard requires vessels and vendors to provide proof of insurance. The City of Kodiak must be listed as additional insured on liability policies. Details for insurance requirements can be found on the yard's website.
For those needing help with hull coatings or painting, Highmark Marine is now providing ultra-high pressure water-blasting, he adds.
Kodiak Shipyard has the largest Travelift in Alaska. At 660 tons, it can haul vessels up to 180 feet in length and up to 42 feet wide. The state-of-the-art wash down area and yard are fully environmentally compliant. According to White, the City also provides forklift service, electric power up to 480 volt, three-phase, high-pressure wash down equipment, scaffolding and other much needed yard services and equipment.
Waste products can easily be dealt with as well, including fuels, lube oils, hydraulic fluid, used zincs, anti-freeze, waste paint, sewage, grey water and oily bilge waste. Sand blasting media can be disposed of at the local landfill once tested. Steel and other metal scraps can be disposed of at the local scrap yard.
In addition, Kodiak port and harbor facilities have several convenient locations for gear storage, whether large or small. Shelter decks and crab pots can be stored at Pier 2 Fishermen's Terminal, saving expensive hauling fees. Storage space is rented by the day, week or month at very competitive prices. Several private storage facilities are available as well.
For large vessels, Kodiak Shipyard is one of the only "do it yourself" open yards in Alaska. Owners can decide who works on vessels and are free to negotiate with suppliers and service providers as they see fit. "Currently approved vendors do all the work not done by owners and crews," says White. "Even though most users prefer the "do it yourself" open yard, there are some who would rather hire one company to handle their entire project turnkey. Project managers are available to assist vessel owners to coordinate with local vendors to get large projects done. The City of Kodiak is the owner of the yard and provides all lift, block and launch services."
Cummins recently opened a new facility in Alaska. The new space is strategically located on Near Island, one mile north of the Kodiak Shipyard at 158 Alimaq Drive Bay 2. This will serve as a service and support location for commercial marine applications, as well as for on-highway trucks and power generation customers.
Geoff Conrad, Pacific Region Marine Business Director at Cummins has some general engine maintenance tips. Conrad says if you want your engine to operate at a high degree of reliability, it's important to utilize the maintenance request schedules offered by manufacturers and really take them to heart, because they're there for a reason. There's nothing worse than unplanned down time, he cautions, which could mean missing a fishing window. Having a good understanding of how many hours the engine can operate to get the boat safely through another season is vital.
If the boat is used consistently week after week or month after month, make sure fuel filters are cleaned and there is no water in the fuel or oil. If the boat has been laid up for months and months and you want to take it out and go fishing right away, it would be prudent to make sure that things are checked; especially fuel filter maintenance and cleanliness. Also give yourself the added time to take it out on test runs and make sure everything is fine before just turning the keys to go out fishing.
Research your service options. For example, if you are used to working out of Newport in Oregon and now you'll be entering a fishery in Kaplan Bay, California, you may not have the same support bases. Contingency planning will help you ensure you can find what you need when you need it.
In general, Conrad says indicators that an engine requires attention are:
• the engine consumes oil and may be difficult to start.
• the exhaust may change from being clear or slightly smoky to blue smoke or black smoke.
• the water temperatures may be getting higher. You may be seeing cloudiness or discoloring of your engine cooling water and you may see leaks or seeps or other problems.
When it comes to both personal and operational safety, one area that doesn't get enough attention is the danger around onboard refrigeration, says Bill Gardner of Seattle-based Gardner Boat Repair.
"So many of our fleet in the last 20 years have been slowly converting over to having refrigeration on board. And a lot of these refrigeration systems are in a compartment that is nearby or has crew transiting in and out of it," he says.
A refrigeration leak can be deadly. The gases that emanate from Freon or Freon mixes displace oxygen and cannot be detected by smell.
Gardner knows too well the consequences of not understanding these risks. Besides losing a long-time colleague who was overcome by these gases while trying to identify a leak onboard a vessel, Gardner himself almost died inside a boat compartment. But because he knew the warning signs, he was able to narrowly escape a similar fate.
While the risk is high on all types of commercial fishing vessels, this scenario is especially dangerous on smaller sized boats because the entire interior can quickly be overcome. "If it happens to occur when you're anchored up and everybody's asleep, well, nobody's going to be getting up in the morning," he warns.
Gardner's advice for avoiding these life-threatening situations is to install Freon leak detection equipment that quickly alerts the crew of imminent danger. "There are a lot of safety concerns on these boats, but that's one that I feel has not had a whole lot of attention paid to it."
Fishing is already a dangerous occupation. Ensuring that vessels and equipment are running well can go a long way to having a safe and profitable season.