VESSEL REFIT | Dauntless: more than a new shell

The Gulf of Mexico-style B.J. Thomas before the fire

Like many fishermen, Justin Yager is interested in the responsible harvesting or marine resources.

“We don’t need to be fishing the crabs right up into their molt stages,” he said recently. Similarly, he saw the common sense of rebuilding the Gulf shrimper B.J. Thomas when the boat had a serious fire at Newport, Oregon.

Built in 1976 at Marine Builders in Mobile, Alabama, the boat found its way to the west coast where the grandfather of Justin’s wife Sara owned it for some time before selling it on to the next generation. Justin fished the boat for a few years with the crab and shrimp permits that the couple also purchased from Sara’s grandfather-in-law.

“It was built like a canoe,” Justin recalls, “about 90 feet (27.4 metres) long and only 22 feet (6.7 metres) on the beam with even less at the stern.”

The fire was the impetus for the rebuild that the owners had planned for the boat. “We cut off the bow, part of the stern, and the house,” he explained, “we took it right down to the engine room and the fish holds.”

All design and construction of the like-new 26-metre boat were done at Fred Wahl Marine in Reedsport, Oregon. Like a moulting crab, the rebuilt and renamed Dauntless emerged with a new shell, but, unlike a crab, she was totally unrecognisable from the original.

The renamed Dauntless ready for launch at Fred Wahl Marine

Adding sponsons increased the new hull’s beam to nine metres carried right aft. This made a dramatic increase in deck space. The new house was set well forward on the newly raised fo’c’sle.

From the bulbous bow, with thruster, to the highly efficient nozzle and triple rudders aft, there is no trace of the Gulf shrimper. The robust, modern, west coast, Fred Wahl style dominates.

By late August, Dauntless had made several trips trawling shrimp off the Oregon Coast. Yager retained the foamed and glassed 46-cubic-metre forward hold and the 41-cubic-metre aft hold. He left the wing tanks, created by the sponsons, as painted voids that can be ballasted with water.

Yager has two other boats, both powered by 19-liter Cummins engines. They have served him well, so he went to Scott Graf at Newport’s Currie Marine for a new 560kW Cummins QSK19-M with a 5:1 Twin Disc gear turning a 1,663-millimetre prop, to repower Dauntless.

“The boat will do ten knots, but with the small mesh, twin-rigged, shrimp nets we can operate at around 1300 rpm to maintain a two-knot towing speed with our two 90-foot (27-metre) trawls.”

He went onto explain that, with 13-metre outriggers and a twin rig, he is limited to 27-metre trawls as the doors nearly meet in the center.

“We have had some big trawls,” he added, “but we try to stay to about 10,000 pounds per tow for optimum quality. We have chains suspended from the foot rope to stir up the shrimp, but we try to stay 18 inches off the bottom to avoid flat fish by-catch.”

The thought and care that goes into the fishing is reflected in the boat. Tankage includes 102,000 litres of fuel, 3,170 litres of hydraulic oil, 9,000 litres of fresh water, and 575 litres of lube oil.

The QSK19 is fitted with the CENTINEL lube oil management system. While the engine is running, CENTINEL monitors the engine’s duty cycle. At precise intervals, it bleeds off a small amount of used oil and sends it to the fuel tank, where it blends with diesel fuel and is burned during combustion. Although, with this system, it is possible to virtually eliminate oil changes, Yager chooses to change oil, but only every 1,000 hours.

Dauntless trawls shrimp, pot-fishes crab, and will trawl ground fish in season. Much of the deck equipment was retained from B.J. Thomas, but the hydraulic system to run it is state-of-the-art. A Cummins QSB7-powered 150kW generator provides the power for electric over hydraulic deck winches and equipment. An additional 100kW genset provides back-up with a still smaller genset for hotel services.

Yager acts as relief for his regular skippers like Kyle Barnhart on Dauntless. He acknowledges the excellent work of the crew at Fred Wahl Marine for both design and fabrication. At Curry Marine, Scott Houck is his go-to-mechanic for setting up the new engine and maintenance of his existing Cummins power.

In terms of gaining a larger size, the analogy of a crab replacing its shell may be appropriate. However, for looks, comparing the Gulf shrimper B.J. Thomas to the rebuilt Dauntless, it may be more appropriate to think of the boat as a butterfly out of a cocoon.

The rebuilt Dauntless earning her keep as a twin-rigged shrimper off the coast of Oregon

For more news, features and vessel reviews as part of this month’s Fishing and Aquaculture Week, please click here.

Alan Haig-Brown

Alan Roderick Haig-Brown is a Canadian novelist and non-fiction writer. He specialises in commercial marine and commercial fishing writing and photography. He is a regular contributor to a number of marine publications.