Fishermen's News - The Advocate for the Commercial Fisherman

Third Time's a Charm for F/V Paige Marie

Vessel Profile


Beau Brenden takes a break from welding on the Paige Marie's new mast platform inside the Port of Astoria's Tongue Point hangar on the east side of Astoria. Photo by Peter Marsh.

When owner David Sorensen brought his 58-foot Seiner F/V Paige Marie into the Columbia River last December, his 42-year old steel boat was showing its age, despite regular maintenance since he bought it in 1998. He was heading for the Tongue Point ramp on the east side of Astoria where J & H Boatworks has been modernizing good old boats with hull extensions, new houses and systems since 2006.

Like the Tongue Point Industrial Area, formerly a WWII navy base, the Paige Marie also had a long history and a lot of miles under her keel. That included a capsize in Wrangell Narrows in 1996 under her original name Jackie Bell. The boat began life in 1972 at Mackey in Fort Bragg as a 54-foot tuna troller with a beam of 17 feet, was sold and converted to a longliner in 1981, then converted again to seining by the Schonberg brothers in the mid 1980's.

That's when David first encountered the boat in 1989 while longlining for the first time with Pete Schonberg. This year he was back in Resurrection Bay, Alaska for the longline/halibut season while the conversion proceeded in Astoria.

"I had worked for Pete for 15 years and knew he took good care of his boats," he explained, "so I knew what I was buying." In 1998 he re-named the boat Paige Marie, after his wife, and began seining under his own SE Alaska permit.

The boat never gave him any serious problems – until he was heading north from Seattle in June 2006 with a full load of fuel and picked skiff when he was caught in heavy weather in the Queen Charlotte Strait north of Vancouver Island and capsized without warning. "I was heavily loaded in the stern and the skiff broke loose," he admitted. "I was trapped inside and had to swim through the boat to escape."

His first thought was for his ten-year old daughter Katie, who had joined him as soon as school was out... she had been helped out of the boat by a crewman. "That was the first thing I thought," he told me. "I grabbed hold of her by the hood of her sweatshirt, then a fender drifted by and I grabbed that too. We floated for about half an hour and we slowly drifted away from the upturned boat." Their situation was pretty desperate at this point, but luck turned their way when another crew heading north saw the boat bottom up and found them.

Before he had dried himself off in the rescue boat, he had another boat lined up to lease on the radio. He also received two calls: one from the guy he leased a boat from but even more importantly from a Canadian fisherman named Tanaka who heard about the accident and offered his family and home to help out.

Another Canadian fisherman towed the upturned boat and skiff into Sointula on Malcolm Island off the northeast shore of Vancouver Island. (David remains friends with the Good Samaritan, and they swap fishing stories a few times a year, noted Paige Sorensen.)

After they removed everything they could from the Paige Marie so it could begin drying out, David was off to Alaska to fish in less than a week. The Tanaka family spent the whole week housing, feeding and helping recover the boat and all their belongings. That included doing load after load of laundry and having all boat contents strung throughout their yard and home while they dried. "It was incredible: they didn't even know us and took us and our crew in," recalled Paige. "The whole Sointula community came by delivering pies and other niceties and inviting us to family functions and dinners."

"That's where the boat stayed all summer, drying out until David returned from Alaska," she explained. "Both the skiff and the Paige Marie's engines were re-started, and they used the same engines for several more years. In fact, when David replaced that engine with his current Cummins, someone else installed the other engine and it's still running today!"

David already knew the boat was too narrow, the transom was only 18 inches high, and the stern wasn't designed to carry a skiff, so he wasn't fishing it again without a lot of changes. The next step was to take the Paige Marie south to the Fashion Blacksmith boatyard in Crescent City, northern California, who had made conversions a specialty. "They cut off seven feet of the old upswept stern and replaced it with a ten foot extension with a flat run aft and a transom 5 feet high. We figured out an extra 3 feet on each side would work for the sponson on each side." Then they added one foot to the bow to fair in the sponsons, which brought the hull up to the regulation 58 feet. Sorensen also invested in stainless steel cap rails and cleats to cut down on rust.

So the Paige Marie looked and felt a new boat – at least from the deck down – and fished successfully for the next 8 to 9 years, homeported in Olympia and based in Fisherman's Terminal, Seattle. "But we never got used to the look of the old house on the new hull," David admitted, "and we could see how other crews were enjoying the extra cabin space the wider hulls provide." So he looked around again for a yard to complete what he called "the resurrection of the boat," and Astoria's J & H Boatworks met his needs.

Tongue Point isn't nearly as far from Puget Sound as Crescent City, but it is still off the beaten track for the Alaskan fishing fleet. However, besides J & H's track record, the Astoria-Warrenton area has a full range of marine services to meet the needs of the year-round trawling fleet, winter Dungeness crabbers, and other ocean fisheries. J & H has taken advantage of the old navy base that includes a wide concrete ramp and tall hangar that was built to house Catalina seaplanes. The key to accessing the facility's potential was their trailer – a remarkable assembly of axles and chassis parts from three log trailers – that serves as a construction and launch platform.

"We began by cutting off the house, then we realized the deck need replacing and the holds needed more work. So it was good that we had started in December," Tim Hill told me after the Paige Marie was back on the Columbia on the solstice. Naval architect Tulio Celano, who was consulted on most of these projects, designed the new aluminum house that weighed 13,000 lbs. when it was hoisted onto the boat early in February. That is a significant weight saving on the old iron house, and reduces maintenance.

The interior was installed by four local carpenters who did some top-class joinery with black walnut trim on every edge and around the drawers and dining table. The result is a comfortable galley with a touch of luxury, which has room for a large Whirlpool refrigerator/freezer and stainless Samsung stove. Forward are two cabins and showers, with an angled set of steps in the corridor leading up to the bridge. The lighting is all recessed with LEDs throughout the vessel, all installed by NW Electric of Seattle, who sent two men down in the company truck. The entire job including the bridge and deck lights took three weeks to complete.

The plenum under the mast houses both Harco mufflers, and the exhaust is vented up the inside of the mast through two stainless steel tubes. Some of the engine heat is directed to a drying locker starboard of the door. The mast is supported by a pair of tubular struts, which allows it to be narrower than the freestanding type. This is a concept that Sorensen worked out with David Berry, whose re-fitted F/V Ursa Major has a similar set-up.

The bridge is surrounded by 20 windows offering a clear view of the aft deck. The starboard helm is equipped with jog sticks, the portside helm has the back-up steering wheel and large computer screen. The door on the aft side gives access to the upper deck and the ladder to the crow's nest.

On deck, the deck winch from Yaquina Boat Equipment remains unchanged, as does the steel main boom with five Pullmaster winches and a Marco powerblock. Puget Sound Hydraulics also sent a vehicle and crew down to re-work the hydraulics. They retained the old control units and fitted new stainless steel piping and fittings that give the bulkhead a clean look. "This was a pretty similar project to previous conversions that J & H Boatworks has done," reported Tim Hill. " We know there are always going to be changes to the plan as we progress. Some from the owner and some that become obvious as we clear the decks and discover the condition of the boat."

Beau Brenden has many years of experience with the company and was the team leader at Tongue Point. "Each boat is different, and this one had a few interesting ideas. Building the mast and fitting all the exhaust components inside, plus attaching the platform with all the electronics was a new challenge. We replaced the old water tank, fitted new tanks for clean oil and waste oil, and we all thought the heated raingear locker beside the door was a nice touch."

The improved Paige Marie is seen sporting a lighter, larger aluminum house and a reworked mast supported by struts, allowing it to be narrower while still housing the exhaust components. Photo by Peter Marsh.

In the engine room, the main, a 425-HP Cummins K19, and a large and small genset are all set within the original narrow hull in close proximity, although most accessories were moved out onto the tank top in the new sponson. Sorensen installed the K19 in 2011 – after it had already run in another boat for 20 years. "It's been re-built once, and I'll re-build it again when the time comes," he said with a smile.

"It has been an awesome experience with J & H, their craftsmanship is excellent, and the management has been great to work with," was Sorenseon's verdict after they went back into the water. The motor started right up when the Paige Marie left Astoria on June 22 with David Sorensen and three crew on board. They picked up David's 20-year old daughter in Seattle and another crew arrived in Ketchikan a few weeks after the June 15 opener, but still in time for the first big run of humpies. David also seines in Puget Sound during the fall.


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