In the fast-paced world of commercial crab fishing, no captain wants to spend valuable time repairing equipment on-board during the fishing season. And because performing regular boat maintenance is hard enough while out in the middle of the rough Bering Sea, bringing the boat in for regular repairs and tune-ups in the off-season is absolutely essential. Proper preventative maintenance during this downtime will make a major emergency repair far less likely later on when every second counts.
Leave It to the Professionals
Experienced crab fishermen know what they can do and what they can't, and they leave the highly technical, intensive maintenance up to the professionals. Companies along Dutch Harbor in Unalaska, Alaska, specialize in this repair duty. Using specialists like welders, electricians, machinists and mechanics, these companies perform any and every repair necessary to restore the boat and get it ready for next season.
Routine Repairs and Services
In addition to regular maintenance like basic fuel fill-ups, every ship needs some kind of repair during the off-season. Common problems range from little things like leaky pipes to bigger issues like propeller troubles.
If a crab vessel is in need of an entirely new main engine, it's not an easy chore. It involves cutting a hole in the side of the boat to take the old engine out and bring a new one in. After everything is hooked up properly, the hole must be filled, which means welding that part of the boat back on.
Or, the boat might need a whole new deck. In the past, boats were physically lengthened to accommodate space for more crab pots (when officials loosened the limits on the number of pots allowed).
No one wants to stop for repairs in the middle of a highly competitive fishing season. But in the race for crabs, a major problem like a busted propeller can put a vessel out of commission until repair. And it can cost a pretty penny and valuable time to attain a special order piece. That's why the captain keeps a close network of on-shore companies to fix problems as soon as possible, at times using divers to perform such repairs underwater.
Stubborn broken pieces might even require explosives to remove. Getting the blast right in this kind of repair is a delicate and dangerous challenge — just another reason to let the pros do it.