Some Maine lobsters build their boats more for racing than fishing

Beals Island, Maine, lobster boat Winfred “Winnie” Alley has a new boat – a Libby 34 christened Faith Melle.

“That’s my wife’s name, it’s pronounced Faith Mellay,” Alley said. “It’s an old family name.”

The Faith Melle is theoretically a commercial lobster boat that Winfred uses to set up and transport lobster traps in the coastal waters around Beals Island and along the adjacent coast. But fishing isn’t what he really built it for.

“I built it more for racing,” he says. “I bought the kit from Frank Coffin on the East Side. He had the cabin right there on the floor, so we put it over there and I screwed it in place.

After stabilizing the hull with additional framing, Alley had the boat transported approximately 40 miles along the coast to Addison, where he hired a boat shop to complete the project.

“It used to be Uncle Bunks Boatshop,” he says. Working about five or six hours a day, he completed the boat in three months.

Winfred Alley laid the roof and cabin frame on his new boat at East Side Boats in Machiasport, Maine before hauling the kit to Addison where he added the coosa board sides. Faith Miss Alley photo.

According to Frank Coffin, the owner of East Side Boats in Machiasport, Maine, he originally built the boat for himself. “But I could never find the time to finish it,” he says. “Winnie asked me, and we agreed on a fair price, and he accepted it. I love what he did with it, the colors. He does a good job, very meticulous.

Alley took the engine from his old fishing and racing boat, the Bounty Hunter, a Calvin Beal 34, and installed it in the Faith Melle. “It’s a 425 Cummins,” he said. “He has few hours. I like it and didn’t want to try to find another one.

Alley put a 1.75:1 Twin Disc gear on the Cummins, which spins a 2-inch-diameter shaft that’s only 10.5 feet long. Alley pointed the shaft to a 24″ x 26″ 3-blade propeller. “If I was just building for fishing, I probably would have used a four-bladed, more powerful one,” says Alley. “But I think I get more speed with a three blade. I have nothing to prove it, just my feeling that it goes faster.

Alley and the Libby 34 go back a long way. “I’ve been fishing lobster since I was 17,” says Alley, 51. “I worked with Earnest Libby Jr. in the summer and fall, and in the winter I worked with him at the boat shop.”

With his low-hour Cummins 425 engine in place, Winnie Alley keeps it covered to protect it from paint and fiberglass while he finishes the deck and cabin. Faith Miss Alley photo.

At Libby’s store, Alley helped build the mold for the original 34. “We built the 38 first, then the 34. We built a wooden boat, covered it with fiberglass inside and out, smoothed it and waxed it,” said- he declared. said. From this plug, they made the mold and began to offer the 34-foot lobster boat for sale. “It’s 13 and a half feet wide,” says Alley. “I’m not sure what she’s drawing, it’s about 3 and a half feet.”

Frank Coffin primarily builds the Libby 41, and his own stretched version, the Libby 47. He had purchased the 38 and 34 foot molds from the widow of Stewart Workman, who had purchased them from Earnest Libby. “I just didn’t want to lose them,” he says. “The 38 was destroyed, but we made a new mould,” he says. “I had a 38 registered and we used it. I sold one to a fisherman in Alabama. Another guy he knew bought the plug and liked it so much he ordered a 41.”

For the 10 years before the Faith Melle was built, Alley operated a plug boat for the Calvin Beal 34 mold. It was another wooden boat covered in fiberglass and smoothed with fairing compound and lots of sanding. “It’s high maintenance,” Alley says. “It’s like a hollow hull, but a bit like having a wooden boat. They use a lot of Polyfair to smooth it out, and in the winter when you carry it around it starts to crack and the paint peels off. So you’re still smoothing, sanding and painting.

Nevertheless, the boat was fast and still is. “That’s what I’m racing against,” Alley said. “My own boat.”

The Libby 34 wasn’t perfect either, according to Coffin, mainly due to the condition of the mold. “Back then, they didn’t invest a lot in building the moulds,” he says. “And it has never been reconditioned. He has a lot of dinks and bumps. But it’s the biggest of the 34s. It’s always been the widest and it’s top of the line. Coffin plans to recondition mold 34 this year.

“Hopefully we’ll get there in the fall,” he says, though he notes things are taking longer these days. “I spend a lot of time on the road. I can’t get anything. If I need anything, I might as well drive to Rockland [150 miles]and come in and take it.

Knowing the hull of the Libby 34 for a long time, Alley knows how to make the most of it. He likes to play with form, hoping to pick up some speed. “Earnest used to talk about why he shaped the hull the way he did, lowering the bilges aft so she had something to sit on and things like that, but I was young and didn’t pay attention to it,” says Alley. “Then when I got older and started building my own boats, I started thinking about it more.”

When a shell comes out of the mold, it’s just a shell, says Alley. “You can change the shape a bit. You can drop the wedges and put more rocker in it. What I did was lower the bottom to give it more rocker and put the shaft risers in. He

then install temporary framing to hold everything in place and lay them in the stringers and floor beams. Outside, he lowered the rails, “to give it more lift,” he says.

Despite the state of the mold, Alley shaped and smoothed his new 34 into a beautiful racing machine, and after a few losses the boat wins. At the start of the racing season, at the June races at Boothbay Harbor and Rockland, the Faith Melle did not perform as well against her old boat, the Bounty Hunter.

Keeping things light and simple, Beals Island lobsterer and boat builder Winfred Alley lays fiberglass on the coosa plank deck of his new lobster/racing boat. Faith Miss Alley photo.

“I lost the first race,” he said. “And I lost the second one, but it was close. Then I realized that the electronic throttle didn’t fully open. I brought it back from the old boat and knew there was a problem. I knew it wouldn’t open all the way, but I didn’t care when I first put it on. We fixed the problem and started winning. The Faith Melle emerged victorious in the July races at Bass Harbor, Jonesport and Stonington.

Faith Melle Alley points out that her husband’s expertise in building racing boats goes beyond his own boat. “I don’t know if anyone told you that,” she said. “But Winnie has worked on five boats that finish first and second in their division this year.”

According to Alley, the boats run a straight one-mile course, essentially a drag race. “You have a boat moving forward with one person in the back waving a flag, and each boat has a flag on the back. less lined up, then they put the flag on the leading board and off we go. It’s not perfect, and sometimes you wonder about the starts but…” The boat from Alley reaches high speeds in the 30s seconds. “With a good tide and the wind with you, you might see 40 or a little more,” he says.

Alley built the boat light for the race, and it’s usually just him and his wife on the boat on race day. “I used composite for the cabin, deck and everything,” he says. “It’s called the Coosa board. It’s very light. That’s all everyone uses these days. I put it on and laid the fiberglass on it.

Simplicity is the raison d’être of the Faith Melle. “I don’t have a fish hold, just a lobster box on deck that holds about 400 pounds,” says Alley. There are no forward berths or amenities. When Alley and his wife head to more distant errands like Stonington – a three-hour trip – or Boothbay Harbor – a six-hour trip – they stay ashore at a hotel.

All ready for fishing and racing, the Faith Melle sits on a trailer on the Beals Island boat ramp on June 15, ready to taste the salt water for the first time. Faith Miss Alley photo.

Alley’s fishing systems are simple: it has a 14-inch Hydro-Slave carrier and its electronics are minimal. “I have a Standard Horizon VHF and a chartplotter,” he says. It has no sounder. “I’ve been fishing these same waters for 25 years,” he says. “I tried to go wide. I bought a 41. But that was the year the price went down. I traded this boat for a smaller one and got rid of the payments. Now I just fish ashore.

Being so familiar with the waters he fishes, he has no compass or radar. “I had radar on the Bounty Hunter, but never turned it on. I just use the chartplotter. Guess I might get in trouble if it ever comes out. It has no deck lights no floodlights, only its position lights. “I leave after sunrise and return before dark. I don’t plan to go fishing at night. Not having a superstructure with lights and radar gives Alley a clean cabin roof and reduced wind resistance, which probably helps nose-to-nose wins.

At 51, Winfred Alley is probably far from done building racing boats that also catch lobsters – and when the East Side Boats crew reconditions the old Libby 34 mold that Alley helped build in adolescence, he can meet new competitions.

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