Edmund Porter, of Port de Grave, Newfoundland, started fishing with his father some 35 years ago as a teenager. A few years later, having moved out on his own, he was joined by his wife Marian. In 1979 he built his first vessel, a 33-ft. trap boat. The couple have now shared three decades as a fishing family. This past July, they christened a new boat, the MV Ashton & Cody named after their two grandchildren.
The naming of the boat for a new generation is particularly fitting as the boat also represents the new fisheries of Newfoundland. Since the collapse of the cod stocks, fishermen have been turning to shrimp and crab fishing with
good success. The 62 by 22-ft. MV Ashton & Cody is a tangible result of that success. Massively built of fibreglass she is, with interior wood stiffeners, several inches thick in parts of her hull around the waterline where North Atlantic ice can put extra stress. Built at the Universal Marine yard in Triton Newfoundland, the boat shares this rugged construction with a growing list of sister and similar vessels.
As with many of these vessels, the Ashton & Cody has a Cummins KTA19 M for main engine power. In this case the engine is a KTA19 M3 delivering 640 hp (447 kW) at 1,800 rpm. The marine gear is a Reintjes WAF650 with a 6:1 ration turning an open 68 x 58-in. propeller. On sea trials this combination pushed the heavy boat at 11.4 knots although Mr. Porter says he generally operates the vessel at around 1,600 rpm for a speed between 9.2 and 9.6 knots when loaded. When fishing shrimp he tows the net at 1,100 rpm for a speed of about 2.2 knots.
Speaking of the new boat, Marion Porter explains that it replaced the family's Cummins-powered 55-ft. boat but with the big beam and extra length it is functionally twice the size. It has accommodations for eight with a washer and dryer below and for two more bunks in the captain's quarters above. It is a true family boat with Edmund and Marion making some trips and a crew that includes a brother, two sons, a son-in-law and a nephew. The oldest son Cory has a Class Three masters license and skippers the boat while the crew size varies depending on the fishery. The forward cabin vessel has a full shelter deck.
In the less than three months that they have had the boat it has made six four day crab trips in the last 28 days of the crab season catching 202,000 pounds on one trip. They fish a total of 550 pots on fleets of 75 traps each. The ground line on these fleets is 9/16 of an in. and varies from about one to 1.5 miles for each fleet. The traps weight about 40 pounds each and are left to soak about 12 hours on the first set and then hauled more or less continuously. A typical crab trip with the new boat sees them return to port with around 40,000 pounds of live crab. The larger hold of the new boat allows for the crab to be stowed in boxes and off loaded in just over an hour. The 55-footer carried only 30,000 pounds stowed loose and required over four hours to off-load.
For shrimp fishing they make five-day trips with two days spent getting to and from the grounds leaving three days for fishing. Although the boat could pack up to 90 or 100,000 pounds of shrimp, they are usually take 40 to 55,000 pounds per trip. A regulation limits each trip to 55,000 pounds maximum.
The Porters report that the typical towing speed is 2.2 knots at 1,100 rpm and each tow typically yields about 2,800 pounds. Prices vary with size, a recent price for 83-count shrimp was $.45 Canadian ($.34 US) per pound. The boat is equipped with a Notus Electronics "Trawlmaster"wireless trawl monitor. The largest tow to date yielded enough shrimp for 212 28-pound bags.
The shrimp is bagged and stored in ice in the insulated fish hold. The owners will be adding refrigeration to the vessel which has two Cummins-powered generator sets. With the new boat already a success at crab and northern shrimp, the Porters have prepared two hundred 50-fathom Monk fish gillnets
for another new fishery which they plan to try next June. The irony of their entry into the new fisheries as a result of the loss of the cod does not escape Marion Porter, who says, "This is better than cod, now we are into more expensive fisheries with better profits."
The family's belief in the future of the fishery is shown in the new boat named for four year old Cody and six year old Ashton, both who have already made trips on board with their mother up to 100 miles off shore. Their portraits were painted on the boat's hull by an artist from Twillingate. When the cod come back this family will be ready, in the meantime they are doing just fine.