More than a new shell

Like many fishermen, Justin Yager has a strong interest in responsible harvesting. ‘We don’t need to be fishing the crabs right up into their moult stages,” he said.

Similarly, he saw the common sense of rebuilding the Gulf shrimper BJ Thomas after 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 Justin’s wife, Sara’s grandfather, 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.

‘It was built Like a canoe,’ Justin recalled. ‘About 90 feet long and only 22 feet on the beam with even less at the stern.’

The rebuilt Dauntless earning its keep as a twin-rigged shrimper off the coast of Oregon. Image: Fred Wahl Marine

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. We took it right down to the engine room and the fish holds he explained.

All design and construction of the like-new 85.4 foot (26m) 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.

Dauntless was originally Gulf shrimper BJ Thomas. Image: Justin Yager

Adding sponsons increased the new hull’s beam to 29.5 feet (9m), carried all the way 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 a thruster, to the highly efficient nozzle and triple rudders aft, there is no trace of the original 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. Justin Yager retained the foamed and glassed 1635 cubic foot (46m3) forward hold and the 1462 cubic foot (41m3) aft hold. He left the wing tanks, created by the sponsons, as painted voids that can be ballasted with water.

Justin Yager has two other boats, both powered by 19-litre Cummins engines. They have served him well, so he went to Scott Graf at Newport’s Currie Marine for a new 750hp Cummins QSK19-M with a 5:1 Twin Disc gear turning a 65.5-inch prop, to repower Dauntless.

During the refit at Fred Wahl Marine. Image: Justin Yager

‘The boat will do ten knots, but with the small mesh, twin-rigged, shrimp nets we can operate at around 1300rpm to maintain a two-knot towing speed with our two 90-foot trawls,’ he said.

He went onto explain that, with 45-foot outriggers and a twin rig, he is limited to 90-foot trawls as the doors nearly meet in the centre.

‘We have had some big trawls,’ he added. ‘But we try to stay to about 10,000 pounds (4530kg) 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 27,000 gallons of fuel, 838 of hydraulic oil, 2379 gallons of fresh water, and 152 gallons 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, Justin chooses to change oil, but only every 1000 hours.

Dauntless wheeled out of the construction hall for launching. Image: Fred Wahl Marine

Dauntless trawls shrimp, pot-fishes crab, and will trawl ground fish in season. Much of the deck equipment was retained from BJ Thomas, but the hydraulic system to run it built to a modern spec. 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.

Justin Yager acts as relief for his regular skippers, such as 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 BJ Thomas to the rebuilt Dauntless, it may be more appropriate to think of the boat as a butterfly out of a cocoon.