News Feature

Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, July 18, 2013
‘Green’ lobster boat passes seaworthiness tests
Next step is a full-size prototype

The trimaran lobster boat design

The trimaran design, tested in area waters last week.

Photo courtesy of Penobscot East Resource Center

by Jessica Brophy

With lobster prices this year looking nearly as dismal as last year, lobstermen are looking to cut operating costs wherever they can.

The second largest operating cost for lobstermen, behind bait, is fuel. According to Stonington-based Penobscot East Resource Center, the average lobster boat burns approximately 3,000 gallons of fuel each year.

One way to cut the operating costs of fishing would be to cut fuel costs. Penobscot East, in conjunction with Naval Architect Douglas Read of Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, developed a trimaran (three-hull) model lobster boat that reduces drag and therefore fuel consumption by 20 to 25 percent.

Recent testing in California has shown that the six-foot scale model is seaworthy and is confirming those expected fuel savings compared to a similar six-foot scale model of a traditional, 38-foot Holland hull. The traditional hull has not seen any major changes to its design for about 70 years.

Read said the trimaran saw similar performance to the Downeast hull in rough water, and even had a more favorable wave cut because of its design. “It doesn’t pitch quite as much,” he continued.

More testing will be done this fall at MMA with radio-controlled, free-floating tests. The next big step, however, is the construction of a prototype.

Robin Alden, executive director of Penobscot East, said that such an undertaking will be a big project. “We’re looking to partner with a fisherman and a boatyard,” she continued.

Alden said she’s also interested in getting feedback from anyone, especially fishermen, on the design.

While the tri-hulled boat saves up to 25 percent in fuel costs, it isn’t better at everything, said Read. “The boat is designed for optimum performance up to 22 knots, which is a speed fine for most fishing,” said Read. But, since the boat doesn’t ever “plane,” it would likely not be winning many lobster boat races.

“You can’t design for everything,” said Read.

Alden said that perhaps there will someday be new categories for the boat races, where there would be 38-foot boats with 200 hp engines.