Fishermen's News - The Advocate for the Commercial Fisherman

Shallow Draft and a Traktor Jet for 49-foot F/V Royal Fortune


A new 49er seiner built in Bellingham for Prince William Sound is capable of better than 20 knots with Traktor Jet propulsion. Photo courtesy of Strongback Boats.

The F/V Royal Fortune is the second Prince William Sound 49-foot Seiner that we've reviewed this year and shows that NW fishermen have already begun pushing the boundaries of what can be done in the "49er"' category. Owner Rick Corazza of Anchorage has operated a 42-foot LeClerc fiberglass boat for the last few years, fishing in Prince William Sound. He decided his new boat should focus on performance rather than maximum hold capacity. His goal was to have a lightweight boat with enough power to plane at more than 20 knots under a light load, and return fully loaded at displacement speed.

To turn that idea into reality, he approached Strongback Metal Boats in Bellingham, Washington, where owner Pat Pitsch has been building custom aluminum fishing vessels for 35 years. Pat was the founder of All American Marine in 1987 and specialized in aluminum bow pickers until 1999, when the company formed a partnership with Teknicraft of New Zealand to build its line of advanced aluminum catamarans.

But Pat's real passion was for smaller fish and work boats, so he quit in 2003 and took a break. In 2008, he opened Strongback with his son Rory, with the goal of bringing some modern ideas to Bristol Bay boats. (Their motto is "Reinventing fishing vessels to accommodate the ever-changing fisheries of the West Coast.") In 2010, Strongback installed a Traktor Jet in a new 32-footer for a local fisherman. The results cemented the yard's belief that the drive system was a good solution for shallow draft, maneuverability and reliability.

In 2012, Strongback wanted to build a bigger version, and consulted Nick deWaal, the architect behind the Teknicraft range. Although deWaal specializes in high speed catamarans, he occasionally turns out a fast monohull. "He came over to see us and I asked him how much beam a 45 footer really needed. He told me one third beam/length was a good guide – and he thinks our NW boats are getting far too wide," Pat told me with a laugh.

He reckoned the new hull would be a good multi-purpose jet-powered boat and started it on spec. It could have become a Dungeness crabber or longliner, but John Love of Girdwood, Alaska saw it and decided it would make a great shallow-draft Seiner for Prince William Sound. The 46-foot "pocket" Seiner F/V Steadfast was launched with a 650-HP Scania running a 24-inch diameter Traktorjet, and really turned heads in 2013 when it showed up in Alaska running at 18 knots unloaded with no fuss.

Of course, that was before the "numbers game" dropped the bar at 50 feet and left everyone wondering what you could and couldn't do under that new limit. Suddenly, handy-size high-speed seiners looked to be in the sweet spot. For the F/V Royal Fortune, Pitsch went back to deWaal, who kept the 15-foot, 6-inch beam but stretched the hull a yard to keep the light-load draft under 2 feet and pack about 60,000 lbs. of catch.

The stem is a solid 3/4-inch thick, the keel 1/2 inch. The hull and transom plating is 1/4 inch, decreasing to 3/16 on the topsides and deck and 1/6 on the house. All the plate was CNC router cut by K & K Industries in Bellingham. Four lengths of half pipe stiffen the topsides and take the wear when alongside. The overall result is a very fair hull that doesn't kick up much wake and spins on a dime.

Corazza's choice of engine is the 700hp Volvo D13, a 12.8-liter inline six suitable for high-performance workboats. With twin turbos and high torque at low rpm's, it meets EPA Tier 3 emission requirements. It was supplied by Coastal Marine in Seattle with a 2.25:1 reduction gear and dropped in under the mast at the front of the main hold. Strongback finished the installation by fabricating a very neat keel cooler using half pipe.

The Traktor Jet is typically seen on seine skiffs, and recognized for its large thrust rather than top speed potential. However, Pitsch checked with the manufacturers, who were confident that the large 24-inch diameter impeller on the TJ610HT would easily get the Royal Fortune out of the hole and onto the step with the 1,450-lb Volvo pushing a hull that wasn't over-built, and a light load. The complete boat weighed in at 52,000 lbs., the fuel capacity is 600 gallons of fuel, and a full tank adds about a foot to the draft.

Rick Corazza is pleased to report he is getting about the same fuel economy at 2,300 rpm going 20 knots as he does at 14 knots. Loaded down with a full catch, he will be content to come home at 8-9 knots. He has a wheel in the house and jog sticks in the crow's nest and on the aft deck, operating an electronic engine control system by Glendinning. Cutting edge technology puts all engine data, video cameras in the engine room and back deck, GPS and stereo on the all-in-one Garmin touch screen, smartphone, or tablet. Autopilot is almost as easy as "push and go" and is controllable by a watch that can be worn anywhere on the vessel.

The seine block is from Marco, the winch was built in-house, and the hydraulics were installed by Seattle Marine. An MER MG30 30 kW genset powers an 18-ton RSW chiller system from IMS, designed for both fishing and crabbing. "We were really excited to be a part of this project," said Kurt Ness, operations director at IMS." Rick had an existing IMS system on another boat and we'd recently done a couple of projects with Pat and Rory from Strongback prior to the Royal Fortune, so it was fun collaborating on the RSW side of things as a group. We felt our 22-ton system would be a perfect fit for this amazing boat," he explained.

With the galley below deck level, the boat's deck stretches almost 30 feet aft. Photo courtesy of Strongback Boats.

The low profile of the superstructure puts the galley below deck level with stylish windows in the topsides letting plenty of light in. With the house's small footprint, the boat has a huge deck space stretching almost 30 feet aft with a bulwark high enough to keep a man onboard. Pitsch doesn't believe in putting foam into aluminum holds because it encourages corrosion. So he builds double walls with a 4" airspace using corrugated 1/8" aluminum.

The raised engine room access doubles as a ventilation shaft. There is a huge head with shower, the galley table seats four comfortably with a removable bench seat for extra seating and has a 42-inch flat-screen monitor. The foc'sle sleeps four with a day bunk in the wheelhouse that sleeps two. The Royal Fortune is set up primarily for salmon seining, but also has the ability to add crab gear, which is something Corazza hopes to fish in the future. He is also on-call as an oil-spill response vessel.


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