Deck Gear Manufacturers Continue to Innovate
January 1, 2019
Fishermen looking to upgrade their deck gear in 2019 will find that manufacturers are still finding ways to improve their products, or modify stock designs to suit an owner's specific requirements. This is particularly so with gillnetters, where efficiency and ease of handling can make all the difference when the fishing time or zone is strictly limited.
Kinematics Twister Drum Drive
Ed Luttrell has been upgrading his Kinematics line of gillnet gear, especially the reels, to improve performance under power and freewheeling. After a long search, he identified the best direct-drive hydraulic motor for his new Twister wheel drive. It comes from Rotary Power – a company based in Newcastle, UK that has been designing and manufacturing industrial hydraulic motors for more than 45 years and has an international reputation.
The XF cam motor is typically used as an axle drive on construction equipment. It has a 14 cubic inch capacity, runs best off a 20-gpm/2000-psi pump and puts out 20,000 in-lb of torque to turn the drum at up to 100 RPM. It is supplied with roller bearings, a freewheeling clutch and caliper disc brake; it has a cast aluminum housing and 4/6-bolt drive flange with keyed or splined drive shaft. The Kinematic reel comes with a full range of options including standard or automatic gillnet levelwind, and is standard equipment on Mavrik's successful line of gillnetters. Ed also sells the motor package to fishermen who want to repower their old reel, anchor or drag winches themselves.
His other development is not actually new, as he is "reintroducing" the freewheel roller with ball valve control that the company introduced 35 years ago. Demand dropped off in the early 2000's as 4-by-4 hubs became popular, but many operators overlook the basic maintenance that this hub needs. Then problems can crop up, Ed points out, so he has begun stocking the freewheel roller again.
Maritime Fabrications' Big Bay Roller
Maritime Fab has been providing Bristol Bay fishermen with creative solutions for their deck machinery needs for more than 35 years. The Big Bay Roller is a new addition to the line. Some Copper River boats asked for a bigger roller to help them round-haul the end of the net so they could re-position more quickly. The company's standard Bristol Bay roller has a 14-inch external diameter and heavy cast aluminum side frames.
The Oczkewicz brothers and their engineering staff decided they could increase the diameter to 17 inches, which should give the crew's net-pulling ability a boost. They also decided to re-engineer the side castings with 3/8-inch aluminum plate with a heavy-duty formed and welded L-shaped edge, and a separate guard rail. The new design retains the standard 18 cubic inch freewheeling hydraulic motor and hub-less design that makes it easier to maintain and service.
The low-profile base shape with hinge fits most mounting platforms and has the lock pins located safely inside the open ends. The first season with the Big Bay, the crews found they had improved traction when round hauling with a smoother pick-up and reduced fish knock outs, Isaac Oczkewicz explained to me at the Expo. It's still too early to say if this change will catch on, but it could become another step in the evolution of gillnetting gear.
New Ideas in Seine Gear
The design of gear for bigger boats is pretty well established, but these producers can also come up with useful improvements. Here are a couple of items that are standard on purse seiners and have seen an upgrade recently.
Smith Berger and Marco Global
Smith Berger Marine is an employee-owned Seattle company with more than 110 years of experience building robust deck machinery that withstands some of the toughest duty cycles on the planet. In 2017, they acquired the Marco Global line of commercial fishing machinery. When a menhaden fisherman inquired about a Marco Powerblock with a wider mouth to suit that fishery on the east coast, the Smith Berger team engineered a new version of the popular B33 2-Speed Powerblock with a wider sheave to handle a larger purse seine net. The B33 is driven by a powerful two-speed motor and an internally mounted, fully sealed gear reducer. No ring or pinion gear maintenance is ever required.
The company has also introduced a valuable option to its Marco purse seine winches: the PKW17 (line pull 8,000 lbs.) and PKW 20 (line pull 12,000 lbs.) winches now feature a unique dual sheave design which eliminates slippage when pursing. The line wraps first around the inside sheave, then comes around the outer sheave for a second wrap which takes the slack and maintains traction on the line in the inside sheave. The extra traction allows the operator to stop and reverse the winch to pay out line under tension. The dual sheave also allows splices, knots and even links to pass through the sheaves safely without slippage. Both models also feature an E-STOP emergency shut off switch on the top horn. The backside of the winch features a capstan.
Kolstrand Offering Lightweight Aluminum Ring Hook
InMac-Kolstrand has a huge range of gear covering every Pacific Northwest and Alaska fishery from gillnetting to longlining, and has introduced the Westport Dungeness LineHauler and stainless steel H28 safety hook with a 7000 lbs. SWL in the last three years. A traditional item for purse seiners is the Kolstrand forged steel ring bar that is heat-treated for maximum strength, then hot-dip galvanized for a long rust-free life. It weighs in at a hefty 67 lbs., which does make it sink faster, but is also tiring on the crew.
So Kolstrand decided to build an aluminum ring bar to offer a lightweight option. It is made from aircraft-grade material for maximum strength and corrosion resistance, and weighs 39 lbs. (The 22-inch ring weighs just 23 lbs.) The inside diameter has a large radius and smooth corners to greatly reduce chafing of the purse lines and rings. Large pick-up holes allow the ring bar to be lifted for balanced use.
Sitka Family Refits Four Seiners
J.K. Fabrication is based in Seattle on the south side of the Ship Canal locks where it specializes in the fabrication of a wide range of hydraulic deck equipment from durable anchor winches to longline, crab and seine gear used on the bigger commercial fishing vessels. JK stands for owner Jim Kreider who has been in the business for 40 years and has a wide range of products and options to fit almost any skipper's needs.
Asked about his most notable sale of 2018, he mentioned a Sitka, Alaska family with four seiners who purchased four of his 20-18 stainless steel anchor winches. These are all of very rugged construction, built for maximum strength and long life, with oil bath chain drive and hand wheel brake assembly for control in all conditions.
The family has also fitted their boats with JK's stainless steel rail rollers. These are also built to last from 4" heavy wall stainless steel schedule 80 pipe on the horizontal. They run on bronze bushings and are oil-filled for continuous lubrication. Many options are available from 7.5 inches to 30 inches wide. This is a popular item with numerous installations in Alaska, Jim pointed out.
TrapMaster Digital Counter
The TrapMaster brings digital electronics to the working deck of fishing vessels engaged in crabbing, trawling and bottom fishing. It was invented by John Smith, a long-time Newport, Oregon fishermen who has perfected a device with five primary functions. They are:
1) Launching pots/traps, informing the crew (using a buzzer) of when to release pots/traps to measure launching distance using GPS, and monitor pots/traps with ease,
2) Counting the pots/traps as they are being run in a string.
3) On pulling the pots, the counter then counts each crab with an infrared beam.
4) Calculates the average of crabs per trap and displays the number.
5) Trawling, it measures wire/rope running off the winches in fathoms by a digital readout located on each winch for the crew, and sends it to the main console in the wheelhouse.
Every device is handmade with care with US-made parts and lots of testing to ensure a quality product.
Life Cell Marine Safety Life Cell
Life Cell is a buoyant, float-free device from Australia that combines a life ring and a ditch kit in one device. Safety equipment is often stored under seats, in gunwales or under bunks making it difficult to locate in a time of emergency. Life Cell however combines all of this essential safety equipment in a flotation device which significantly reduces the chance of these safety items being lost or unable to be found in time to abandon the vessel. It is simple to use even in bad conditions and comes with lanyards so that users can tether themselves together and to the package.
It is highly visible with clear signage and is designed to be mounted on a bracket in an accessible location where it can automatically deploy in the event of a boat sinking or capsizing. The Life Cell has been approved by several national boating authorities as a "Life Saving Appliance" and is classified as a Throwable Buoyancy Device that can support 1-4 persons.