Building big fishing boats in Coombs

Roy Brown at Independent Shipwrights in Coombs is building the biggest boat of its kind on the West Coast.

Roy Brown looks up at the hull for the largest boat they have built at Independent Shipwrights in Coombs.

Roy Brown looks up at the hull for the largest boat they have built at Independent Shipwrights in Coombs.

Roy Brown at Independent Shipwrights in Coombs is building the biggest boat of its kind on the West Coast.

The 60-foot long commercial fishing boat will be unusually wide at 23-feet, competing with boats a third longer, said Brown, who has been building boats on the property for 36 years.

“I started training on building wood boats in New Zealand in 1972,” he said.

“Back then you had to go to the East Coast or overseas,” he said of his early interest in the craft.

But very soon after starting his business back in his home province, he had to switch to fibreglass, which was already standard in the industry.

“It takes about a third of the man hours to do the same work in fibreglass,” he said.

Unable to find waterfront property, he moved to then very rural Coombs where “I could build my own building and nobody bothered me.”

Today he’s still building his biggest boat in that same original building where the hull pretty much takes up the whole space.

The boat will be so big that they will have to move it to French Creek Marina with special permission through empty roads from 2-4 a.m., with hydro and utility company cooperation.

They do about half the work in the shop, building the hull like the foundation of a house, then move it without the wheelhouse, which will be built in place once the boat is in the water.

With a 7,000 gallon fuel tank and a huge amount of storage capacity, the “very beamy” or wide boat will be able to spend months out in the middle of the ocean between stops to re-fuel and unload their catch.

The 70-ton boat, being built for long time local customer Neil Main, will be able to operate with just two deck hands and a skipper and despite its large size, still slips in under the 100 ton mark where regulations get a lot more complicated, Brown said.

It will fish black cod off B.C. and Alaska, mid-Pacific tuna, coastal prawn and brown fish like halibut.

“This is the first new build this size in fibreglass in 20 or 30 years on the coast of B.C.” Brown boasted, mourning the loss of much of the boat building not only in the region, but across North America, with much work being outsourced over seas.

Despite the trend in larger boat building in general, Brown is excited about his market in what he called “small boats,” with a resurgence in the market for those under 100 tons.

“The market is growing, the fleet out there is getting too old now,” he said, adding they have at least a year and a half of work booked.

Brown, who also builds fibreglass tanks and components for salmon hatcheries all over the coast, invites people to stop by their supply shop in Coombs, just past the goats on the roof. Call 250-248-2293 or visit www.independentmarine.ca for more.