The Lunacy Report

CATCHING LOBSTER POTS: How Grabby is Your Hull?

 

Tanton design Star Cruiser under construction

We've already discussed the awful proliferation of lobster pot buoys along the Maine coast. What we haven't discussed is how they interact with different sailboat hull forms. This subject suddenly seemed interesting to me (again) after I caught a buoy while sailing Lunacy twixt Chandler Cove and Portland harbor a couple of weeks ago.

Lunacy's hull (seen above during her construction back in 1985) had thus far, during my tenure as owner, successfully shed all pot buoys and warps we had run down together while sailing. The front of her long fin keel is raked aft at a nice 45 degree angle, her prop protrudes directly from the back of the keel, and the root of her nearly vertical rudder skeg is right aft and very near the water's surface. When motoring I carefully avoid pots for fear the turning propeller may somehow catch a line, but when sailing I have assumed I am immune. With Lunacy's MaxProp feathered, I always reckoned the skeg was the only feature that might foul a line, but that its root was high enough that any trapped buoys would pull right through.

This theory seemed to work well until the day in question. I was sailing the boat on my own after a night spent out in the cove, reveling in all the speed generated by a fresh bottom scrub from an obliging diver (the hull had been extremely foul), when suddenly all my speed was gone and the hull seemed very foul again. I sensed immediately a lobster pot must be the cause.

I dragged the pot a mile or more, hoping the hull would finally shed its warp. No luck. I tacked the boat, hoping the change in angle would dislodge the line. Then I jibed. Still no luck. Finally I dropped sail altogether and anchored (fortunately we were in relatively shallow water), and the offending buoy immediately popped up from beneath the hull.

Lobster pot buoy

I hoped this must have been an anomaly, but then this past weekend, while sailing back from Popham Beach with the family aboard, it happened again. This time, fortunately, it seems I succeeded in shedding the pot warp by heaving to for a while. I wasn't certain, however, and ended up dousing all my sails to stop the boat again. I stripped to the waist, donned a mask, and stuck my head underwater while lying prone alongside the hull in the tender just to make sure.

Quelle drag, as they say en France. Sad to say, the needle on my pot paranoia meter is on the rise again.

The worst boat I ever had for catching pots was Sophie, my Golden Hind 31. She had right-angle flanges at the bottom of her twin steel bilge plates and the forward ends of these were cut off square. This created a nice deep V-notch between the  forward end of flange and the leading edge of the plate, which was raked aft. Such a configuration, I learned, was just about ideal for catching lines. Any pot warp contacting the leading edge of a bilge plate (the windward one always jutted out nicely when the boat was heeled, like a outstretched arm) immediately slid down and was firmly trapped in the notch when the buoy pulled up hard against it. Even worse, because the drag from the pot was far off the centerline and about halfway up the hull, the boat immediately became impossible to control every time this happened.

Golden Hind 31 hull profile

I finally solved the problem by cutting the square corners off the front of the bilge-plate flanges. This very simple act transformed Sophie from a boat that always caught pots to one that never did.

Crazy Horse, my Alberg 35, was also good at shedding pots. With her classic CCA-style cutaway full keel and propeller aperture, she never once caught a trap during the two seasons I sailed her in Maine. Indeed, if you sail exclusively in trap-ridden waters and are firmly committed to having a boat that always sheds lines, I've come to the conclusion that some variation of a full-keel hull with an attached rudder and small prop aperture is the very best choice you can make.

Pearson Alberg 35 hull profile

Of course, boats like this do not perform as well as much more modern designs. But such are the compromises we are forced to make. The very best go-fast monohulls these days have dramatic T-shaped bulb keels that are as perfectly configured for catching lines as any hull form can be.

Beneteau First 30 hull profile

Unless you fit a sharp serrated blade along the front of the keel strut, or are extremely vigilant while underway, you'll soon be dragging a dozen or more lobster pots behind you if you sail a boat like this in Maine.

Osprey nest atop a fishing boat

PS: Another big problem for boaters everywhere is BIRD POOP (gross!). Here's a boat I found in Chandler Cove that boasts a very effective bird deterrent. By allowing osprey to nest in his rig, this fisherman has struck a bargain with the devil. The osprey for certain will keep other birds away. Whether they'll poop in the immediate vicinity of their own nest is another question.

 

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