Built by fishermen for fishermen

Tom Aliotti’s 'Mariola' at speed on Bellingham Bay Tom Aliotti’s 'Mariola' at speed on Bellingham Bay

Tom Aliotti’s new Bristol Bay gillnetter 'Mariola' did 36 knots on sea trials. Asked the secret of getting that speed, he replied, ‘I’m not going to tell you my secret,’ he said, when asked how that speed is achieved. “Except that I have fished Bristol Bay for 33 years and I use that knowledge to build boats for fishermen.”

Staying within the legally prescribed 32 foot (9.75m) limit for Bristol Bay gillnet boats creates a challenge that eager designers like Tom Aliotti are happy to take on, reports Alan Haig-Brown.

“But it is not all about light boat speed,” he explained. “It matters to me what speed you can maintain with the weight of fish onboard and how a boat performs in weather. There are compromises to be made and I can design and build to those.”

From that description, the discussion gets interesting as a client coming to Aliotti Enterprises for a new boat can tell Tom just what compromises he is interested in making and Tom can design to that desired balance. In the past few days, there have been two, near sister ships, launched into Bellingham Bay in anticipation of the June opening in Bristol Bay that will last for only six weeks.

Allioit’s hulls have a wide lift chine, but even there, he balances it to allow for a finer entrance at the bow. This is so that the boat won’t pound when driving up against a nasty chop that summer winds can bring to the Bay. Tom Aliotti built three boats this past winter. The same Cummins QSC8.3-litre engines, producing 493hp, power two of the three. These two boats have identical 15.5 foot (4.72m) wide hulls. But the drives, aft of the engines, have some differences.

Both boats have ZF gears and Ultrajet, water-jet drives, Indy Walton’s boat, Sniper, has Ultrajet 340 drives turned by ZF305 gears, and Tom Aliotti’s boat, Mariola, has Ultrajet 340hd drives turned by ZF286 gears.

‘My drives are 1.5 inches bigger in circumference than Indy’s drives,’ Tom Aliotti said. The difference in performance, he explained, is pronounced. With 400 gallons of fuel onboard, both boats weigh about 28,000 pounds (12,70 tonnes). On sea trials Indy Walton’s Sniper will likely clock 40 or more knots, while in virtually identical trials, Aliotti’s Mariola with the bigger jets did 36 knots.

Light boat sea trial speeds are important, but these are fishing boats and are designed to perform, ready to fish, at 28 to 30,000 pounds (12-13 tonnes) net weight. In addition, they can pack up to 30,000 pounds of sockeye salmon in their 13 individual RSW holds. The two boats will fish different regions of Bristol Bay, Indy Walton in Naknek and Aliotti in Egegik, but the two regions put similar demands on the boats with a mix of distance, tide and wind.

The most important factor is personal preference as to where speed matters. Tom Aliotti feels a greater need for loaded speed.

‘I put 16,000 pounds (7.50 tonnes) of water on and still got up on the step and did 26 knots,’ he said.

Meanwhile, Indy Walton, opting for a greater light boat speed, expects that he will still get up on the step and make good speed with 10,000 or even 12,000 pounds (4.50-5.50 tonnes) on board. Building a boat that costs well over of a half million dollars is done by fishermen with very particular expectations.

“My boat interior is nicely finished and comfortable for a crew of five,” said Tom Aliotti. “But if you want to see a really classy finish, take a look at the interior of Indy’s boat.”

Indy Walton chose Tom Aliotti to design and build his boat because of the strong framings system, with the frames only 28-inches apart with multiple stiffeners running fore and aft. With the engines, gears, jets and exhaust all set in place, he moved the Sniper over to Bellingham’s Colony Wharf Coop where a team of gifted trades people did the detailed finishing.

The result is a spectacular boat from the carbon fibre dash cover in the wheelhouse to the carbon fibre lettering for the name and home port on the stern. An innovative design allows for a comfortable skipper’s berth in the wheelhouse and a exceptionally clean finish to the walls with one-inch of insulation in the accommodation area with fridge, stove and private head. This, together with cargo holds and engine room is all fitted into a 32-foot hull.

On deck, both boats have Kennimatics anchor winches and net drums. Asked about the apparently narrow (18-inch by six-foot ) net drum, Walton said: "That allows me to set my net at 25 knots without getting a back lash."

Indy Walton plans to fish with a crew of five including his 22-year-old daughter Bristol and 13-year-old son Dylan.

“We bleed and float all of our fish in RSW to get about 25 cents additional per pound,” he explained. “Having a large crew allows us to do this even in heavy fishing.”

This summer Indy Walton’s mother, wife, and another daughter will continue the family set-net operations while his son Dagen takes over his other boat, Double Dippin’.



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