New boat joins an old profession
Johnny Walker has made a living fishing and guiding anglers for 27 years. The politics and economics of fishing have become more and more complex over those years, but he’s committed to fishing. And when the time came to order a new boat, he knew just how it should look.
The vexing issues around fisheries management have recently involved the division of quotas for the red snapper catch among recreational, charter boat and commercial anglers. Walker wears all three hats. The greater part of his livelihood comes from commercial fishing, but he also takes out parties and fishes for his own pleasure and dinner table. His new boat, which he named Katana, had to suit all three roles.
With the help of naval architect and engineer Darron Roop, Walker designed Katana and had her custom-built by Blackwell Boatworks in North Carolina. The 57-foot center-console vessel is able to take parties of up to six sport anglers as far as 150 miles offshore for a day in pelagic, or deep ocean, fisheries, as well as for shorter trips in coastal waters.
“She is fast, but with great fuel efficiency, and she’s built like a tank,” Walker said as he tidied up around the deck. “You’re not going to get a squeak out of this boat.”
The hull itself is a complicated sandwich. Layers of marine-grade okoume, the lightest, strongest and most expensive plywood, made from trees that grow only in Equatorial Africa, are encased with layers of fiberglass core and West System epoxy. Laminated fir stringers, also encased in fiberglass and epoxy, as well as three watertight bulkheads, provide additional rigidity.
“You could lift her up by one end, and she wouldn’t flex or deform,” Walker said.
Her hull shape is a “modified deep V,” with a sharp entrance and forefoot to cut through the water, but holding a rounded shape all the way aft.
“That means she rolls some in a seaway, but the ride is much smoother and more comfortable than in a speedboat,” Walker said.
Power is supplied by the single 1800-horsepower Man diesel in her spotless, white engine room. Katana can sprint at up to 43 knots. At cruising speeds of 20 to 30 knots, with her 1300-gallon fuel tanks topped off, she has a range of more than 1,000 miles.
With bunks, shower, head and galley, she can take parties overnight on deepwater hunts for swordfish and tuna. She is fully equipped with ice-maker, coolers, fish-hold, live tanks and air conditioning, in addition to sophisticated electronic navigation, radar, communications and fish-finding sonar in the wheelhouse.
Walker made the long delivery trip earlier this year from her builder’s yard in North Carolina, across the Gulf of Mexico to Galveston, so he has seen how she behaves in the capricious conditions of the open ocean. He has confidence in her conduct in a seaway.
Recreational red snapper season began June 1 and goes on only until July 18. Walker and Katana are ready for it.