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Three Tips For Keeping Your Sportfishing Boat in Fighting Shape

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More people are getting hooked on the sport of fishing. In fact, fishing participation increased by 1.5 million people over the last year according to the Alexandria, Virginia-headquartered Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation’s 2017 Special Report on Fishing. This makes fishing the number two adult outdoor activity behind jogging. Add to this fact another stat. That is, sales of new powerboats increased nearly 7 percent in 2016, reaching an estimated 250,000 boats sold, according to Chicago, Illinois-based National Marine Manufacturers Association data. It’s not a far leap to think that more sport fishermen are owning boats. Yet, sport fishing boats aren’t simply power yachts with a fighting chair in the cockpit and tuna tower on top. These craft have their own unique features and needs when it comes to maintenance and upgrades.

“Sport fishing boats have a larger cockpit to fight fish in, rod storage with quick access, bait station, plenty of tackle storage and other amenities,” says Shawn Schmoll, Roscioli Donzi plant manager, for Roscioli International, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “They are high-performance boats, made to run fast to fishing grounds while being able to handle rough seas. The sport fishing yacht we build is made for endurance, comfort, safety and speed.”

1. Focus Yard Time Where It Counts
A captain or owner-operator should always keep a running list of repairs needed on a vessel. With this list, he or she can take full advantage of an approaching yard visit to maximize the work accomplished while the boat is down.

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“Main items to address are below waterline services like bottom paint, props, shafts and bearings and preventative maintenance services for engines, generators, gears and air conditioning systems,” recommends John Fitzgerald, chief executive officer of Saunders Yachtworks, in Gulf Shores, Alabama. “A lot of the mechanical maintenance is determined by operating hours on the equipment and manufacturer scheduled maintenance at these thresholds. Fishing boats will have additional requirements for components like pumps that run live wells, tuna tubes, bait/catch refrigeration and additional ice making. Electronics upgrades are critical whether finding game fish or navigating outside the normal range.”

The aluminum towers or half towers on sport fish vessels require specific maintenance.

“We are fortunate to have a tower fabrication company, Bausch-American Towers, on site,” says Dominick LaCombe Jr., general manager of American Custom Yachts (ACY), in Stuart, Florida. “Tim Bausch recommends inspecting the tower and paying extra attention to the welds or footplates. As you routinely wash and wax the tower, keep an eye out for any cracks or loosening.”

2. Consider All Facets of Engine Upgrades
The criteria for upgrading engines, or repowering, is best determined by the captain or owner, recommends ACY’s LaCombe. “Is your objective increased top speed, better fuel efficiency at cruising speed, or increased machinery space in the engine room? Speed is the outcome of efficiency, so a lot of these criteria go hand-in-hand.”

Other points to ponder include the horsepower (HP) of old versus newer engines.

“The same make and model engine two years ago could vary by 200 HP. Consider the ramifications of added HP. More may mean larger gear. Larger gear could change the position of the engine on the stringers. Plus, the fuel consumption of newer engines could be different and need to be considered. Fuel supply and return lines need to be verified. Lastly, newer engines are more electronical. This means the control panel location, wire harness and voltage need to be engineered before starting the project,” says Roscioli’s Schmoll.

Think too about the effects on the sport fishing boat in upgrading the engine.

“You often have to cut access to get the engine out of a yacht. Even on a boat with hatches to access the engine room via the salon, we still must get the engine out of the salon. So, the owner needs to be prepared that the boat is going to have to be cut and repaired to create access. On the plus side, while the engines are out it is a great opportunity to access equipment and wiring and plumbing that are typically challenging to reach while the engines are in the way. Also, use this time to update critical connections and clean up the engine room and you will have more performance dependability with the new engines.”

3. Go the Distance before Traveling to Faraway Fishing Grounds
A big part of ownership enjoyment is running the boat to seasonal fishing hot spots such as Central America and the Caribbean. The secret to success is to prepare in advance.

“A competent crew is probably the most important part of long range fishing programs,” says Jim Dragseth, president of Whiticar Boat Works, in Stuart, Florida. “The crew has to notice small changes in operations that might indicate a developing problem.”

Saunders Yachtworks’ Fitzgerald offers a good example. “We had a boat come through the yard last fall that was transporting to Costa Rica for a two-year stay in Los Suenos.  The captain had a list of major services he wanted completed. For example, he knew he would surpass 3000 hours on the engines while he was in Costa Rica, so we completed the service ahead of schedule. He replaced components that were at the end of their service life like the live well pump and icemaker even though they still operated at low capacity. He also had us pull the props and shafts and make sure everything was in order with the driveline. He anticipated owner needs and expectations for many other smaller items. When I last spoke with him, they were having a great experience and were planning to stay longer. He really made our job easier.”

Still, even the best of planning won’t 100 percent prevent breakdowns.

“We have discussed partnerships and response times with some facilities in these remote regions so we can coordinate parts delivery or emergency services. We are also well versed in traveling to remote regions with parts to repair vessels remotely. Sometimes we can send parts with another boat already traveling to the region where a customer is,” says ACY’s LaCombe.

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Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.

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