Fishermen's News - The Advocate for the Commercial Fisherman

Little Hoquiam Builds First 49.9-Foot Seiner

Peter Marsh


With a strong current and holds filled with water, Skipper Ken Jones tries out the handling of his new 49.9-foot F/V Serenity on the Hoquiam River. Photo by Peter Marsh.

Howard Moe's Little Hoquiam Shipyard has been building fiberglass boats on Grays Harbor on the mid-Washington coast since 1971, and has launched hundreds of durable hulls from 40 to 120 feet. The majority of them were for commercial and charter fishing and are still working the coast from California to Alaska. Having ridden the highs and lows of the fishing business for more than four decades, Howard has learned not to predict future trends. But he does allow that the US Coast Guard rule requiring all commercial boats over 50 feet to be classed "looks like the biggest news since the Boldt Decision"– the court case 40 years ago that gave half the total Washington catch to Native American fishermen.

The Coast Guard rule has also caused a few waves in the industry, but the result was predictable: a new class of beamy multi-purpose boats that squeeze under 50 feet overall. This is easier to accept for some fisheries like the Alaska shallow-draft Seiner fleet, which has traditionally stayed under the existing 58-foot limit. These boats range from about 40 feet up to 56 feet with less freeboard than the deepwater seiners, for faster handling and maneuvering.

Ken Jones is a 23-year old skipper who fishes out of Cordova, Alaska, and has run his own 42-foot LeClercq/Delta for 7 years. By 2013, he was planning to move up to one of Howard's popular 56-foot hulls. However, the summer deadline had passed before he could commit to a new boat, so when he came to Hoquiam in November, 2013, he was the first owner to order a new boat an inch under 50 feet. The official engine test and sea trial of the F/V Serenity took place on a sunny day at the end of January.

"I wanted to pack between 80 and 90,000 lbs. capacity under the hatches, so we settled on 18.3 feet of beam to achieve that capacity," he explained. "In order to get that many fish onboard, it was important that we put the engine as far forward as possible, under the house," Ken pointed out, as we talked at the company dock on the Little Hoquiam River.

The plans Howard drew up showed the 49.9-foot F/V Serenity with a displacement of 99,000 lbs. lightship and a draft of 4.5 feet. Fully laden, the new boat would displace 195,000 lbs. with the draft increasing to 7 feet. The load is divided between a large main hold with a smaller tank aft. He designs the whole structure and details himself on his CAD system, but has naval architect Jonathan Moore check all the numbers.

For the trial, the main hold was filled with water and a strong current was running in the river. This gave the skipper his first chance to see how the boat handled, as we waited for the highway bridge to open. As we headed into Grays Harbor, Howard talked about the various molds he has built or acquired, and keeps stored around the grounds of the yard, originally a furniture factory. The company's 56-foot by 17-foot shallow-draft mold has a long and successful history, having started at Ed Beck's yard in Marysville, Washington, where it produced many successful Chignik-type seiners 52 to 56 feet long.

A New Boat From An Old Mold

Surprisingly, it was not difficult to change its dimensions to add beam and reduce length. This mold is a "split-hull" type that opens up to remove the finished product, so it is easily opened up along the centerline to increase the beam aft 1 to 2 feet. For the Serenity, the addition of a temporary transom six feet forward of the stern created an entirely new hull shape.

The first step in the fiberglass lamination process is the application of a wax release coat, followed by the white gelcoat finish that should keep its gloss for many years. "We laid up our usual schedule: 1.5 to 2 inches of solid fiberglass in the keel, 3/4-inch on the bottom, and 1/2-inch in the sides, with an overlap at the chines," Howard told me. "The stringers and bulkheads are all sized to meet ABS standards," he added. The method changes for the house and decks, which have a foam core and are vacuum-bagged to ensure good adhesion and a lighter laminate.

Ken said he chose a fiberglass boat over metal for the ease of maintenance and insulation, but he also appreciates the feel and look of a well-built molded hull. That is reflected in the nicely finished wheelhouse, and galley with plenty of natural light. The boat has all the comforts that crews expect: a spacious galley area, washer and dryer, stainless steel appliances supplied by 300 gallons of water in a stainless tank. When they aren't fishing or sleeping, the skipper and three crew have three flat-screen TVs for entertainment.

Roomy Engine Room

Thanks to extra-thick insulation below the floor, I found there was little extra sound or vibration from the engine room directly below, which is entered via an insulated door and a vertical ladder. There is less-than-standing headroom, but the wide beam does offer sufficient space to move around the 575-HP John Deere engine. This was supplied by Cascade Engine Center, who had sent Robert Gobright, their application review technician, to check the installation.

This John Deere PowerTech™ is a six-cylinder, 13.5 liter turbo-charged diesel producing 575 HP (429kW) at 2,100 rpm. It is cooled by an oversized Fernstrum keel cooler and meets EPA Tier 3 with electronically-controlled unit injectors, and a water-cooled exhaust manifold. The reduction gear is a ZF360, 2.48:1, with the 3-inch Aquamet high strength shaft turning a 34-inch by 32-inch four-blade stainless steel propeller from Hang Shien. The bow thruster–"useful in many situations," says Ken – is a hydraulic Wesmar 12 inch.

"I had a Deere in my last boat, and loved it," said Ken as we set out into Grays Harbor for the three-hour engine trial "Having a marine mechanic in Cordova who services John Deere's was also a huge consideration in my decision to pick that motor," he added. Gobright had the engine's sensors wired up to his laptop, which collected all the performance data including coolant temperature at several points. They estimated fuel consumption will be about 5.3 gph at 1,200 rpm fully loaded doing 7.5 knots, but would double at 1,500 rpm fully loaded doing 8.5 knots. Cruising speed empty is 9 knots at 1,400 burning 8-9 gph.

Wide Decks Ease Seine Stowage

The extra beam results in a wide clear stern deck that will ease the stowing of the 225-foot seine, especially compared to Ken's 42-footer with only 13.9 feet of beam. He tows the skiff during openers, and hauls it on deck for longer trips. Ken has carefully chosen the deck gear for longevity and reliability with all corrosion-resistant materials. Hand rails, ladders, exhaust stack and A-frame parts are aluminum, built by the yard. UHMW-PE is used for the cap rail, rubbing strips on the topsides and other high-wear spots, the planking on the false-flush deck is recycled plastic boards. The anchor drum winch, purse davits and deck winch were made by J.K. Fabrication of Seattle.

The three aluminum seine booms were built by A.M. Services of Shelton, Washington. Each boom is fitted with two Pullmaster hydraulic winches. Lines are all high-strength synthetic rope (spectra). The Seine block on a sliding track is a Marco 26-inch Powerblock with two-speeds, gripper wheel and swivel. All the gear is operated by a well-engineered hydraulic control system built by the yard.

The crow's nest is fully equipped with duplicate helm controls including steering, bow thruster toggle, remote auto pilot with full follow-up, rudder angle indicator, hydraulics on/off controls and emergency engine stop. For navigation, the space has its own Garmin 6208 navigation system and screen with plotter, radar and sounder, plus two radios and a two-way hailer to the work deck.

A six-cylinder, 13.5 liter turbo-charged John Deere diesel main engine provides 575-HP to a 34-inch by 32-inch four-blade stainless steel propeller. Photo by Peter Marsh.

In the pilothouse, all the engine instruments are below the dash to make space for the Garmin 6212 screen and navigation computer. Manual wheel steering is by Kobelt, the jog sticks port and starboard and the autopilot are Com Nav. Four ICOM VHF's, two Standard Horizon VHF's, and a Uniden CB are available, plus a Mitsubishi Sat phone. The engine room is protected by a Sea-Fire H series automatic fire suppression system with a discharge alarm, automatic bilge pumps, high-water alarms, heat/smoke alarm and TV cameras. Electric panels were supplied by Blue Seas (12 volt), and Square D (208 volt/3 phase). Lighting is LED throughout the boat. The Serenity's main hold has a volume of 1,250 cubic feet, filled via a sliding aluminum flush hatch. The smaller tank aft is 460 cubic feet filled by a 24-inch square Freeman hatch for a total load of 80 to 90,000 lbs. The custom 30-ton RSW chiller was assembled by Lundli Enterprises of Cordova with parts sourced from Washington manufacturers. An MER 40-kW genset is installed on the centerline, forward of the steering assembly. The lazarette is entered via a second Freeman hatch, and monitored by a TV camera. The two aluminum 750-gallon fuel tanks are also located well aft to help balance the weight of the engine room when the hold is empty.

Cordova's Seiner Fleet

Ken began fishing with his father in Prince William Sound as a young boy, both seining and gillnetting. He expects the new boat to be tendering for Inlet Fish Producers, buying fish from Copper River gillnetters in May, while he gillnets on his other vessel, the F/V Second Wind. Seining inside the Sound is scheduled to begin in June. His existing 21-foot jet skiff has a 300-HP Cummins 6BT and 11-inch Doen jet. "I planned the build so we would have plenty of time to sea trial and work out any of the "new boat" bugs," he told me. "If the 50-foot rule remains in place, I don't see it as far-fetched that we will see future (50-foot) seiners with 20 feet of beam," he predicted.


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