It Isn’t All Just Farming

It Isn’t All Just Farming

  In the dark of the winter, when the weather prohibits oystering and musseling it is nice to have something to keep you occupied.
It is especially appealing when there is snow to the ceiling, and your fingers lose feeling to have something to keep you inside.
Although it is not fully enclosed so my feet are still cold, and the weekly snow storms are getting old, though low and behold it’s better than working the wind and the tide.
The boat that we need arrived in style though it might take a while, through the frowns and the smiles and the workload that piles and piles and piles, still we’ll go the extra mile, and oh the opportunities she will provide!

 Thomas D. Royal

12/31/2014 was the last cruise of the old year, and coincidentally the first cruise of our new (to us) boat! We purchased the 48×18 foot Novi Style work-boat built by Spinney Boat Yard in Nova Scotia from a Sakonnet lobsterman and steamed from the farthest reaches of the ocean state back to our home port. The boat had a brand new deck and was in perfect working order for high seas lobstering, but we had different plans for her, so shortly after arriving in Allen’s Harbor it was hauled. Now, in our work yard, she is getting a makeover with hopes of launching her in April. We knew this time had to come if we were going to continue to grow as shellfish farmers, and we are grateful that when the snow melts we will be riding in style on the Thomas D. Royal.

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Thomas D. Royal: aquaculture vessel

Tom Royal was a maven of aquaculture, a partner in Salt Water Farms, and a friend to us all. He passed away too soon, though we know his spirit lives on in our farming vessel.
There is much to do before this vessel is able to work our farm sites, and Ole’ Adam and Uncle Gary have been hard at work on an endless list of projects to get the boat ready for the springtime. We are happy to have Uncle Gary to help with the retrofitting of the new boat; he has been building elevators since he graduated high school in 1978, so he knows a thing or two about sturdy construction.

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Adam Silkes and his lists…

Adam has the project list in the pocket of his overalls at all times and the vision of a work boat that does most of the work for us. We all have that dream, but not many have the versatile skill set needed to achieve it.
The primary projects that need to happen are; mount two star wheels fore and aft on the starboard rail of the boat, install a new hydraulic system to run a knuckle boom crane and the various other pieces of equipment we have on deck, sand her down, and give her a new paint job.


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The star wheel this winter…

Star Wheels
At the farm when we are working on a longline it is hauled out of the water and put into the star wheels just about every time. Putting the mainline into the star wheels brings it up to a working level simultaneously allowing us to move up and down the 300-600 ft. lines. The forward mounted star wheel is connected to a hydraulic motor that spins to move either forward or backward on a line. Due to the tremendous pressure on the star wheels and the working rail of the boat, we added a 12 ft. steel I beam to the stern rails on both sides. This serves to support the aluminum extension off the back of the boat and the star wheel as well.

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Knuckle boom crane in waiting…

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Getting rigged for aquaculture…

Knuckle Boom Crane
The knuckle boom crane is a new tool for us that will give us greater control when moving heavy weights around the boat. It will be mounted in the center of the deck directly behind the wheel house. It has 4,000 lbs. holding capacity, and a 25 foot reach. We looked into installing similar cranes on the New Hope, but it just wasn’t a sturdy enough boat to do so. The Thomas D. Royal has over twice the deck space as the New Hope, therefore, she will be more stable and enable us to get a lot more harvest out of our days. To put a deck crane on board we will need to increase the hydraulic capacity; there will be several other pieces of equipment running off the hydraulics at the same time so we needed to bring in some experts. Pine Hill Equipment out of Westport, Ma, 3 generations deep, is designing the system, and when it is finished it will accommodate all of our aquaculture equipment needs. The crane will need a solid platform to rest on otherwise it will put a great deal of stress on the deck of the boat and cause serious problems down the line. We are using 8×8 oak timbers to attach to the hull of the boat and a 2 ft. diameter steel pipe to connect the crane through the deck to the timbers. The lower you mount the crane on the boat the more safe and secure it will be.

We will keep on plugging along with the New Hope, working on the bay when the wind allows us to.  We are keeping close correspondence with the mussel community, and we participated at the Northeast Aquaculture Conference in Portland, ME in January.  Here we met with mussel farmers from Maine, Canada, and Washington state, and we presented what we are doing down in RI.  They are established producers, and they shared with us insights including; grow out methods, problems with duck predation, and other fouling organisms.  Setbacks can happen when it comes to farming, and they can be discouraging, but like William Butler Yeats said..

Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking.

Follow along on our journey…

Mason Silkes



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