Plansea casts off; Marilyn J to be painted

Chris Tucker
Posted 5/23/17

Two old boats are being upgraded and improved to provide many more years' worth of service.

Craftsmen United at the Port of Port Townsend boatyard is working on the 78-foot FV Plansea tender and …

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Plansea casts off; Marilyn J to be painted


Two old boats are being upgraded and improved to provide many more years' worth of service.

Craftsmen United at the Port of Port Townsend boatyard is working on the 78-foot FV Plansea tender and 62-foot Marilyn J fishing boat.

"It's a thing of beauty," said Dan Wiggins, president of Craftsmen United, of the bright blue Plansea, which was on blocks near Building 21 at the yard last Wednesday, May 17.

Several workers scurried in and around the ship to get it ready for a haulout that was scheduled later in the week.

Wiggins said Plansea was built in 1954 in New Orleans by Higgins Industries as a military landing craft.

"It still has the Army logo on it," he said, referring to the "LCM 8204" lettering that had long ago been welded onto the hull.

LCM is short for "landing craft mechanized." Specifically, the boat was an LCM-8. Before its current name of Plansea, it had been called the Tyler M.

Wiggins plans to take the boat on a 7,000-mile round trip to Cordova, Alaska, in Prince William Sound and then to Bristol Bay. The purpose of the voyage is to deliver cargo.

Wiggins' work on the ship has improved it tremendously since he acquired it in 2014, he said. Back then, the boat was on the verge of sinking in Port Orchard, he noted. He had the boat towed to Port Townsend and inspected the hull.

He said the advantage of an old boat like the Plansea is that building a brand-new boat is too expensive, and the boat already had the proper documentation.

So, Wiggins and his crew brought the ship up to an improved level of seaworthiness by lengthening the stern by 4 feet in 2015 and lengthening the bow by 16 feet in 2016. The boat drafts only about 4 feet, Wiggins said, which means it doesn't handle very well in the sea, but it works well in shallower water. They also installed an aluminum tank that can hold 100,000 pounds of fish.

Over the past three months, the company has gutted the ship and increased the tank size to a capacity of 186,000 pounds.

A refrigerated seawater system keeps the fish tanks cool and the fish fresh.

The boat has two 425-horsepower motors, and Wiggins added sponsons to the boat for greater width.

Wiggins also added two more fuel tanks, which have increased the fuel capacity by 1,700 gallons to a total of 4,100 gallons.

The boat sleeps four crew and has a washer and dryer on board.

"It's got everything you need," he said.

He plans on adding as many as four more bunks in the front of the boat so he can sell space to travelers along the way.

Wiggins said it is an all-new boat with new hydraulics and generators and deckhouse.

"It used to have a little tiny doghouse on there," he said, pointing to the larger deckhouse.

"I can't stop. I can't help myself," he joked of his desire to continually improve the vessel.

The crew is to provide services for fishermen and buy fish from those fishers, who operate boats about 20 feet in length, he said.

"We supply food and gasoline and cargo, and we buy fish," he said.

He said the fishing business was a risky one, and added that last year was a terrible year for tenders because the pink salmon never showed up.


Another boat that Craftsmen United is working on is the 1980s-era fishing boat Marilyn J.

The boat is in a large construction building, where several workers were busy Wednesday welding the exterior metal plates and inspecting the new 5-foot-long bulbous bow.

The entire bow of the ship has been replaced. The company used lasers to measure the dimensions of the boat and created a 3-D model of the existing hull.

He created the new stainless steel bow by building it upside down, then removing the old bow and "plugging in" the new one.

The sponsons increase the width of the boat by 7 feet

42 inches on either side. The new work appears to be seamless, as if it had originally been built to its current width.

A new aluminum deckhouse was also added to the boat. The boat still has to be sandblasted and painted.

The fuel capacity of the boat was increased from 1,600 gallons to 4,000 gallons. The sponsons have made the vessel more stable.

Work on the Marilyn J started in January, and Wiggins expects the work to be complete in June.

The boat has been changed so much, he said, that "the old boat is sitting in the middle of the new boat."