DEER ISLE — Sunday was a great day to have a picnic along the shore of Eggemoggin Reach even without an excuse. The celebration for the launching of Stonington lobsterman Matt Shepard’s new lobster boat Alexsa Rose made the party even better.
Shepard comes from a fishing family and has been lobstering since he was a tyke on a succession of ever larger boats. For the last several years, he fished on a 35-footer. Alexsa Rose, named for his daughter, is big step up.
The solid fiberglass hull and cored fiberglass top were built by the Kief brothers’ Morgan Bay Boat Co. in Frankfort and it was just the third boat out of the mold for the new 43-foot model.
In January, the hull was delivered to Eaton’s Boat Shop in Deer Isle, where owner Jeff Eaton and his crew were lined up to finish off the boat.
The new boat is an enlarged version of Morgan Bay’s fast, seaworthy Northern Bay 38 and has an overall length of 43 feet and an extreme beam of 15 feet.
To create the model, “Gary and his brother Tim (Kief) cut (a 38) and refitted her back together,” Eaton, said. “I know that they added the length and the width in the middle to keep all the lines as true as possible.”
Shepard, who fishes year-round with two sternmen, said he chose the Morgan Bay 43 because he prefers the rounded shape of a “built-down” hull to the flatter bottom of the “skeg-built” boat developed Downeast and popular in the lobster fishery right now.
“They ride easier,” Shepard said.
He chose Jeff Eaton’s shop to finish the boat for a couple of reasons.
“He pumps out some good looking boats,” Shepard said Sunday as friends and family gathered at the town landing at the foot of the Sedgwick-Deer Isle Bridge for a celebratory picnic and introduction to Alexsa Rose. And those boats fit their owners.
“He had a lot of thoughts on how things should be placed, a lot of measuring,” Shepard said. “I basically stood in the middle (of the hull) and he built the boat around me.”
“We measured up Matt’s old boat for the rail working height, et cetera,” Eaton said, “and we tried to make this one as close as we could to all the measurements and only change just some little things that he’d like to fit him better.”
Shepard had another reason for choosing Eaton to finish his boat besides his craftsmanship and attention to detail.
“I wanted to keep everything as local as possible,” Shepard said, citing two reasons — the economic benefit to the Deer Isle boatbuilding community and proximity to his home.
Eaton’s is located near Shepard’s home, so it was easy to visit to the boat shop on the way home from hauling, or anytime, rather than having to spend hours on the road for every time he wanted to see how the project was progressing.
That proximity had another benefit.
“Every time I went into the boatshop I kissed the bow of the boat for good luck,” Suzy Shepard, Matt’s mother and also the wife of a fisherman, said Sunday afternoon.
“I’d like to thank Matt for choosing my boat shop and trusting me and my crew to build his boat,” Eaton said. “Being the first one to go in the water, it’s quite the risk.”
Eaton and Shepard both give the boat shop crew of Deer Isle and Stonington residents credit for the excellent and speedy work. Each cited Eaton’s Dwight Stapes as Eaton’s “right hand man” and David Weed, the shop’s “fancy trim man.”
Other credits, both said, should go to Thompson’s Welding in Stonington and electrician Thomas McGuire, who has wired every boat to come out of Eaton’s shop.
It took Eaton just under six months to turn the bare hull into a finished boat. Alexsa Rose was trucked from Deer Isle to Glendon Stanley’s shop for awlgripping at the end of June but otherwise pretty much ready to go.
And go she does.
Alexsa Rose is powered by a 750-horsepower John Deere diesel that turns a 34-inch-by-34-inch propeller through a 2:1 ZF reverse reduction gear.
Based on readings from her two Furuno GPS units, the boat has a top speed of 28.6 knots and a cruising speed of 22 knots with the engine turning 1,850 RPMs. Electrically powered Zipwake trim tabs help keep the boat on her lines at speed.
Fuel consumption looks good, too. Sailing without much gear aboard, the boat consumes 24 gallons of fuel per hour at cruising speed, “and if you throttle back to 1,600 RPMs, it’s 18.5 knots for 17 gallons,” Shepard said.
Like most new boats, Alexsa Rose carries a full suite of electronics — Furuno radar, GPS chartplotter and VHF radio, Hondex color depth machines — with each piece of gear installed in duplicate.
Never forgetting purpose, the boat has a 14-inch Hydroslave hydraulic pot hauler at the helm and storage for 20 crates of lobsters beneath the platform.