Fishermen's News - The Advocate for the Commercial Fisherman

Attention to Detail: Prepping Vessels for the Season


Making a vessel shipshape prior to any season and keeping it seaworthy is a prime consideration for commercial fishermen.

Boatyard and fishery managers say focusing on details is paramount for getting the right things done in the right places at the right time – and getting it done on time to optimize fishing opportunities. Thorough scheduled maintenance is the key to having a good start to any fishing season, boatyard managers note. Realizing what can go wrong and minimizing risks is what it's all about in keeping vessel and crew safe and sound and fully functional.

The Port of Toledo Boatyard at Sturgeon Bend on the Yaquina River near Toledo, Oregon is a full-service boatyard for vessels up to 300 tons. The port is also immersed in finishing a project to add new haul-out piers and a lift designed to accommodate vessels up to 620 tons.

Bud Shoemake, Port of Toledo manager and acting boatyard manager, said the boatyard features the experience, facilities and resources needed for all types of maintenance, repair and refit projects, from the most basic haul-out to extensive re-fits, delivering "on time and on budget."

It offers steel fabrication services (hull repairs and modifications, custom house modifications – design and fabrication, deck gear drive train service and modification, sandblasting); repairs and installations (engine and drive train, propeller and bearings, deck gear, mechanical and hydraulic, electrical and electronics, rudder, transducer); traditional and modern shipwright services (plank and frame replacement, wood refinishing, custom interiors, design and modification, finish carpentry, mast and spars, fiberglass and gelcoat repairs); painting (bottom spray and roll, top side, high end LPU coatings, full sandblasting above and below water line, brightwork - varnish and cetol); and rigging services (rigging and chainplate inspections, winch, roller furling installation and repairs)

They can also tailor services to meet individual needs, encouraging boat owners to be as involved in the maintenance of their vessels as possible.

"We are one of the few remaining repair facilities that not only allows, but welcomes the do-it-yourself owner," Shoemake noted.

Boatyard managers say fishermen should plan ahead to maximize time spent out of the water, and avoid ending up stuck in drydock when they should be out on the ocean plying their trade. Boatyard managers need vessel drawings and details beforehand, so they can be ready when the fisherman's ship comes in. Fishermen should know their paint brands and model numbers, consult manufacturer manuals and servicing dealer (each engine and vessel systems is different and has its own requirements), and identify any outside contractors to determine where and how they fit into the overall work schedule.

Basic recommendations include:

Hull, Deck, Hold

Protect the bottom of the boat with a fresh new coat of paint, and don't skimp on quality. For wood, use a good copper paint. For steel and aluminum boats, use a vinyl-type hard-based paint and high-quality epoxy coatings above and below the waterline.

Test all vessel lights. Inspect emergency equipment (flares, life raft, EPIRB, hydrostatic releases, life buoys and lights, immersion suits and lights, fire extinguishers, hand-held VHF, batteries) for operational status and expirations. Check deck machinery for leaks and wear, and grease winches, controls, bearings, and blocks. Check all machinery (including hoses, fittings, connections, filters, fluids), equipment, and compartments for leaks and signs of corrosion or wear. Check all fishing gear (lines, hooks, main wire, winches and hoisting systems) for wear.

Check the fish hold and shaft alley bilge, potable water system, all nonskid coatings, hull, deck plates, hatches, doors, windows, watertight bulkheads and fittings, and all rigging, including shackles, blocks, stays, and turnbuckles.

Engine and Related Systems

Service the engine, genset, hydraulic, propulsion, and fuel systems.

Check all fluid levels, and look for fuel and hydraulic system leaks. Change engine oil, oil filters, and fuel filters, and lubricate. Make sure engine coolant is the proper mixture, including needed inhibitors and proper PH. Look at pulleys for alternators, water pumps and other equipment, and clean up any corrosion. Check belts for cracks and other normal deterioration, and replace, if necessary. Set tension on all belts according to maintenance manuals.

Check engine mount alignment, fasteners, and studs. Readjust or replace as needed, and set isolators according to manufacturer directions.

Make sure the propeller shaft is true and prop is balanced and functioning at maximum capacity. Check the stern cutlass bearings, and make sure everything is in balance.

Test all batteries, electronic systems, chargers, PTO shutoffs, and auxiliary generators. Make sure all connections are corrosion-free and protected. Check battery fluid level, cables and charging system.

Remove any water or other contaminants from fuel tanks, and change the primary and engine-mounted secondary fuel filters.

Identify and repair any exhaust system leaks. Check the entire system - fasteners, gaskets, and any flexible connections – for corrosion, cracks or breaks.

Test the throttle and gearshift control systems to be sure they're operating smoothly. Follow manufacturer guidelines for reduction gearboxes. Change oil, and check, clean or replace any filter or screen, depending on type of transmission. Be certain shift valves operate freely, and inspect the connections for electrical pressure and temperature sensors.

Don't Forget People

Fishery managers say regular maintenance pays dividends by avoiding time lost due to breakdowns, or especially lives lost due to an unseaworthy vessel. They recommend consulting with boatyard managers and maintenance experts to develop a thorough plan for getting vessels ready for a season, and staying on top of things daily, weekly, and monthly.

One final note: Don't forget the human factor, experts say. A properly trained and prepared crew helps keep things shipshape on a daily basis, and serves as a first-alert system to potential problems to help nip them in the bud.


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