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Maine builder feeds the ‘tuna fever’

Nov 06, 2023Nov 06, 2023


Wesmac Custom Boats in Surry, Maine, has been building a lot of boats over the past year, and many of them are tuna boats.

"The guys, they all got tuna fever," says Wesmac's owner, Steve Wessel. One of the tuna boats will be the second one for Chris Peterson of Freeport, Maine, when he takes delivery of his 42’3" x 14’6" boat in late spring or early summer.

Like all fiberglass boats built at Wesmac Custom Boats, it's built with composite construction. A 1,150-hp Scania will provide the power, and "she’ll be a fully decked out, live aboard," says Wessel, with bunks and a head-up forward, while back aft will be a refrigerated fish hold with freezer plates, ice makers, and water makers.

Next to Peterson's boat in the building bays, a 46’ x 14’6" tuna boat is under construction with the same Scania diesel and the same refrigerated fish-hold arrangement. It's being built for Cedric and Trisha Vohden in Oceanport, N.J.

Going up in size, a 54’ x 17’6" tuna boat will be going to Boston with a 2,000-hp MAN. "She’ll cruise at 27 to 28 knots," says Wessel.

East Coast fishermen aren't the only ones coming to Surry, Maine, for new tuna boats. Next summer, a 50’ x17’6" tuna boat is scheduled to be shipped to San Diego, Calif., for Robert Padigo. Not so big, but with a lot of power is a Super 46 (46’ 9") with a 17’ 2" beam for Friendswood, Texas, tuna fisherman David Dion. A 2,200-hp C32B Caterpillar will be bolted to its engine beds, which Wessel notes, "is a lot of power for that boat."

Dion's tuna boat will leave Maine with a relatively new feature on a Wesmac boat: a walk-around wheelhouse with a recessed deck.

"It's not a conventional Wesmac top. It's walk-around so he’ll walk all the way to the eyes of the boat and fish off the bow," says Wessel. Once a tuna is caught, it will be walked down the length of the boat to the transom and pulled aboard. This is the fourth Wesmac boat with the walk-around feature.

The third boat with the walk-around wheelhouse was launched at Wesmac Custom Boats on Nov. 8. It's 54’ x 17’6" with a 1,000-hp C18 Caterpillar that should push her along at about 15 mph. It is going to the Bridgeport Regional Vocational Aquaculture School in Bridgeport, Conn.

"It's for teaching kids how to farm," says Wessel, referring to mussels and oysters. The 54-footer is also outfitted with a knuckle crane on the transom for oceanographic research, unloading cargo, and picking up buoys.

Wesmac Custom Boats sends a number of bare hulls and tops to other boatshops for completion. The most recent hull and top combination to leave Wesmac Custom Boats was a 46’ x 14’ 6" package for Steuben, Maine, lobsterman Mark Kelley that arrived at Sargents Custom Boats in Milbridge, Maine, in October.

Prior to that was a 50-foot lobster boat hull and top whose beam had been pushed out to 20 feet from the standard 17’ 6", "because it will be fishing offshore and needs to carry a lot of traps," says Wessel. It's being finished off by Moises Ortiz at Boric Custom Boats in Gouldsboro, Maine.

This is the second 50’ x 20’ lobster boat on a Wesmac hull; the first 50’ x 20’ lobster boat was launched in October after being completed at Little River Boatshop in Cutler, Maine for Matthew Huntley of Machiasport, Maine.

Michael Crowley is the former Boats & Gear editor for National Fisherman.