BY JAMES HUMECKY - Of the Advocate
Noyo Harbor sprang to life last Thursday when Van Peer Boatworks on Highway 20 launched a new vessel into the river. This was the first launching of any magnitude since late 1999.
It was a party-like atmosphere on both sides of the river with close to 1,000 spectators showing up about 8:30 a.m. on a rare sunny day.
As the tide rose, the boat movers and helpful bystanders finagled the new boat down the narrow launch ramp. Due to the wider beam (24-foot, 6-inches interior dimension) the pilings on the west side had to be cut down and pulled to the side. The dock on the east side had to be detached so it could be lowered and not scrape the new paint or bang-up the hull.
By 9:30 a.m. Thursday the newest fishing boat in the Noyo, the JesAn, was afloat with its owner and captain Tim Estes proudly at the helm. Onlookers and well-wishers cheered and breathed a collective sigh of relief for the successful launch.
Boat builder Chris Van Peer used a new design from Jensen Maritime Consultants, Inc. to construct the JesAn. The Seattle-based firm's design is 6 feet wider than most conventional designs which allows for more hold space. The hold capacity of the boat is about 3,500 cubic feet; 2,119 in the forward hold and 1,480 in the aft. The bigger stainless steel holds can carry over 100,000 crab and the 63-foot boat can carry 450 plus pots.
Two 25 horsepower 6x6 pumps combined can pump up to 2,200 gallons of water per minute. It is vital to have a good flow of water in the holds to keep crab alive until they are brought into port. Refrigerated water will be pumped in when fish are being carried.
The JesAn is powered by a 640 horsepower Cummins in-line six, diesel engine and is capable of doing about 10 knots. The engine also powers two 100-kilowatt John Deere generators. Empty, the boat weighs 130 tons and has a 9-foot draw. Loaded, including cargo, it will tip the scales at about 250 tons with a 13-foot draw.
With an 1,100-gallon fuel capacity and 2,000 gallons of freshwater aboard, the JesAn and crew could spend about a month at sea. The boat sleeps six comfortably with four bunks in the forecastle and two in the stateroom. All the interior woodwork was done by local carpenters.
Van Peer started work on the boat Feb. 21, 2005 when the first load of steel arrived from Farwest Steel Corporation in Eugene, Ore. Since then, work has been almost non-stop, seven days a week, with a brief three-week interlude while the builders waited for more steel to arrive.
Since moving to the coast in 1973, Van Peer has built 28 boats, most here in Fort Bragg. This is the first boat built since 1999, after a brief misunderstanding with a neighbor slowed his work.
"No one wanted boats for awhile," said Van Peer.
The property was rezoned to "fishing village" in 2000 by the Coastal Commission and he continued to do repairs and maintenance. He is now back to building boats. Van Peer has another boat of the same design scheduled to start construction in a few weeks and possibly another right after that.
Michelle Mehtlan, Van Peer's daughter, said, "It is great to see dad at work again. It is really a special thing and I am glad that his grandkids get to see his work. It has been a labor of love. He has worked hard this last year and now he needs a vacation, maybe Mexico."
Matt Trost of Trost Jacking and Drayage from Concord moved the boat into the harbor on Wednesday, Jan. 11, in preparation for the Thursday launch. Trost, whose dad had moved Van Peer's boats until his death, was keeping up a family tradition.
Two Big River Rock dump trucks were tethered to the back of the boat as it moved down the hill on South Harbor Drive and into the harbor. The weight of the trucks kept tension on the boat trailer so it wouldn't overtake the lead truck being driven by Trost, and to hold in case of a runaway boat. After the boat reached the flats, one truck was moved to the front to help pull it around the next run and up the hill part way so it could be backed onto the boat ramp. Trost then turned his big rig around to push the boat into the water.
Moving into the harbor has its own special obstacles, two humps on the road down and a sharp turn at the bottom. PG&E had workers out to watch electrical lines. Tree trimmers were on the boat to cut any limbs that got in the way. Mendocino County Sheriff's deputies provided traffic control.
Several members of Estes' family were present, including his uncle, Mike Hagen, from Lodi.
"This is really a big deal for Tim," said Hagen. "It is a big undertaking with a lot of responsibility. The whole family is very proud of him. He has been a hard-working boy from a hard-working family and he deserves this."
Estes lives in Fort Bragg with his wife and three kids. He said the JesAn will remain harbored here and will primarily be a crabbing boat, but that he plans to use it for black cod and albacore too.
The finishing touches are being put on the boat where it is docked at Tommy's Marine Service. Estes plans to be out fishing on it by sometime next week.