Westman Marine puts finishing touches on Alaska seiner

Published on Thu, May 14, 2009
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Photo and story by Jack Kintner

“It’s nice to see a new state-of-the-art Alaska Limit seiner,” said Bob Gudmundson of Westman Marine as he stood back to admire the 58-foot steel hulled Intangible taking shape in his yard. “There was a 20 year stretch where not many new fishing boats were made,” he said.
But as with land-based businesses that work on their infrastructure during times of economic slow-down, owner and skipper Eric Rosvold of Petersburg, Alaska, is building the new vessel despite fish prices that have dropped right along with other commodities in the current recession.
“It wasn’t an easy one to build because of the shape and the unusually strong framing,” said yard foreman Marv Hansen, who added that he and Gudmundson have built approximately 50 to 60 large boats together. “They take about 9 to 18 months to complete,” he said.
Intangible will take about 13 months from laying the steel keel to a finished product, Gudmundson said. The architect was Hal Hockema of Hockema and Whalen Associates of Seattle. Basic dimensions are 58 feet (length) by 25 feet (beam) by 11 feet (draught), unusual in that it’s five to seven feet wider than other Alaska limit hulls, all of which must be no longer than 58 feet by state law. “That means the only way to get a bigger boat is to make it wider,” Gudmundson said, “and even though that may not seem like a lot, increasing a boat’s dimensions increases its inner cubic volume, so that’s actually a lot more space below for fish.” The boat will gross out at more than 200 tons.
The hull has two separate holds so it can store two different kinds of fish in the same run without mixing them. It has a bulb on the bow and a platform wing in the stern beneath the rudder both of which serve to add stability as the boat’s designed for some of the roughest water conditions fishers ever face, the winter-time crab fishery in Bristol Bay.
The bulb in the bow is for stability but can also hold 2,000 gallons of water, or about ten tons, plus another 9,000 gallons of diesel fuel (roughly 657,000 pounds) for the single 660 Cummins  that powers the single-screw boat to a cruise speed of about eight knots.
“She will do about 11 or 12 at full throttle,” Hansen said, “but that takes about 35 gallons an hour. Reducing that a little to a cruise setting cuts consumption in half.”
The bridge is separated into a large navigation area that has a standard ship’s wheel mounted on the front bulkhead, which is used only as a back-up, and a smaller captain’s station on the starboard side that features four large “glass cockpit” computer screens that can show everything from fish and the sea bottom below to weather and charts, engine information, autopilot settings and even the ball game, Gudmundson said.
Three levers are set between two of the screens, a joystick to control the bow thruster, a horizontal lever to steer with and a vertical lever for the throttle. All the information on any of the four screens can be relayed to a large flat screen TV in the galley that Rosvold can use to navigate the ship as well, either while making coffee or through a window when operating from the deck just aft of the galley while his crew is harvesting fish, be it salmon, black cod, halibut or king crab. Radar Marine of Bellingham supplied the electronics, Rasmussen Marine Electric of Ferndale did the wiring and Tri-County Diesel Marine of Bellingham supplied the engines, one for the boat, one as a generator and one to pump refrigerated sea water through the holds to keep the catch cold.
Stability is a function not only of the protruding bulb on the bow and the rear wing but also of weight distribution. “We have four-inch thick steel on the bottom of the hull,” Gudmundson said, “and didn’t need any concrete for ballast when stability tests were run.”
The high wear areas are stainless steel and the house, or superstructure, is aluminum, another way to reduce weight up high to reduce the rolling momentum. Since steel and aluminum together set up an electric current that destroys them in marine applications, they must be insulated. “In the old days we tried to insulate the bolts that tied them together but eventually they just gave out. Now we use Data-Clad sheets that are aluminum on one side and steel on the other. They’re explosively joined together so that no moisture can come between them to support the electrolysis.”
Such sheets are used like gaskets wherever steel and aluminum would otherwise come into contact.
Gudmundson said he hopes to launch Intangible in a couple of weeks, “when we can get her painted. She’ll be gray, black and trimmed in red.”