Company celebrates day of firsts

Northern Boat Repair Ltd. launches unique fishing vessel

Adam Randell
Published on August 2, 2013

A 30-year dream came true for Val Cull, owner of Northern Boat Repair Ltd., and fisherman Brad Watkins, of Cottlesville, Notre Dame Bay, when the Atlantic Charger was lowered into the water on July 20.

The Port Saunders business owner’s dream was to build a vessel from the keel up.

Watkins’ dream was to have a state of the art vessel to call his own.

When the two met last year, they were able to make each other’s dreams come true by producing a high-end, 68-and-a-half foot vessel.

Appraised at $2.3 million,

the Atlantic Charger comes with twin trawls, which Watkins says is a first for a Newfoundland fishing vessel.

It also has a bulbous bow, bow thruster, electronic transmission, — first in N.L. — an autopilot system integrated with satellites, weather stations, tides and currents for fuel efficiency — another first.

Watkins also helped design trawl sensors, which have never been used in the world.

“There is nothing lacking when it comes to technology on the boat,” said Watkins, “there are transducers on the boat that are hooked up to sounders. That’s multi frequency — it’s pretty rare in Newfoundland.

“Because this boat is multi-species, I can set the frequencies for whatever species I’m working at the time.”

The boat was built with an 850 Mitsubishi engine, walk in shower, hardwood cabinets and stainless steel appliances.

Cull put his 30 years of craftsmanship to use when building the Atlantic Charger.

The boat was constructed with B.C. fir, which he said is excellent for boatbuilding because it expands when wet and doesn’t rot.

From there 600 rolls of matting and 130 drums of resin were used.

“In the early years we were mostly working with wooden boats, but it’s gone beyond that to fiberglass and that’s where quality is important,” Cull said.

“Even fibreglass has moved on the chemical stage, where the right mixtures can really strengthen a boat’s structure.”

Cull said having the right chemical mixture is always a must for Northern Boat.

When Watkins signed on to have his boat built in Port Saunders, Cull started making preparations.

The keel was laid on October 22, 2012, and 20 workers were hired to build the boat.

Nine months later she was ready for launch.

“My philosophy building boats is the same as repair, if I need to hire a dozen people for a five-month job, it’s just as well to hire additional workers to do the job ahead of schedule,” he said.

Just because his company built the boat, Cull is quick to note a project of this magnitude benefits the region and the country.

“We got supplies from across the country. Locally we would buy wood in Hawkes Bay. Northern Diesel in Port-au-Choix, saw $350,000 spent at that business alone,”

Looking back, Cull said to see the Atlantic Charger take to the water for the first time was an unbelievable experience.

“I’ve been aiming for it for a long time, and I’ve had offers to build other boats, but it was waiting for the right guy who wanted to build the quality of boat the same as I did,” he said. “That man was Brad Watkins.”


From the skipper

While Watkins was busy with the boat during the launch, the Northern Pen was able to catch him via telephone Wednesday, while he was in St. John’s conducting trial runs with the twin trawls.

Even though his truck was stolen from a hotel parking lot that morning, it wasn’t enough to dampen his excitement about his new vessel.

“She’s probably the most technologically advanced boat in eastern Canada,” he said. “There have been Newfoundland boats with the RSW tanks and bulbous bows, but not the full package.”

He also pointed out the nine-month project was about the fastest it could have been done.

“It’s a new accomplishment, a boat of this size and technology in nine months. Val really met a milestone on that one,” Watkins said.

When he first started looking to get a boat built, Watkins initially thought he’d have to get it built in Nova Scotia.

Then he heard about Cull’s operation in Port Saunders. Watkins decided to make a trip up to meet him.

“I just got a comfort level right off the bat that he could build this boat,” he said. “It’s been more than a pleasant experience working with him, and after this winter Val is family to me. I can’t express that enough.

“The people around him, the workers, Val and his wife, his daughters — they’re family now, no doubt.”

Watkins said all the extras that come with the boat are designed around fuel efficiency.

He said fuel consumption is the biggest expense fishermen face when fishing.

“The bulbous bow, transmission, autopilot, torque nozzles, are all designed for fuel efficiency,” he said. “The twin trawl alone is tested and documented for 33 per cent savings. So I’m expecting to get some big savings with this boat.”

Cull also agrees with the need for fuel efficiency.

“Quality is more important than quantity, if everyone added these systems to their boats, there could be less fish caught, but more money made because of the money saving technologies,” he said.

Overall Watkins said he’s extremely pleased with how the boat turned out, and how great of an experience it was to work with Cull’s team.

“I’m very impressed with the workmanship. He had a very good design in place, but he went over and above the design. He has done a lot to extras to further strengthen the boat. He’s very adamant on quality and strength,” Watkins said of Cull. “The craftsmanship is just amazing.”


The Northern Pen