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Fisherman's approach to roll stabilization

Jan 1, 2003

To the editorCongratulations on publishing your recent Power Voyaging section, and especially Earl Hinz's piece on preventing power voyagers from rolling ("Roll stabilization," Issue No. 93, Nov./Dec. 1998). Unfortunately, the author perpetuates some misconceptions about paravane-type stabilizers introduced by the Beebe/Leishman book Voyaging under Power. First, as any commercial salmon troller can tell you, "stabies" ("flopper-stopper" isn't used by commercial fishermen) are not hard to deploy and retrieve. I used them on three boats, up to 40 feet, and could singlehand them, either stopped or slowly underway. Some fishermen operate these devices on boats larger than 50 feet alone. If physical strength is a limitation in retrieving the "fish," it is easy to rig an in-haul using a light cable shackled to the vertical stabilizer of the fish and retrieved manually or with a hydraulic gurdy. However, men of average strength can retrieve the unit either by pulling in a tagline connected by fairlead to the spring line, or with a retrieving line connected to a small grapple, which is thrown ahead to snag the spring line. The illustration in the article complicates the matter by showing shrouds and pole support wires, none of which are needed. The key to smooth operation is rigging the system correctly in the first place. It is essential that the axes of the pole-mounting bracket and the forestay bracket be directly in line with one another so that the stays are taut in the full arc from stowed in the crosstree position to the fully deployed position. If they are out of alignment, as in the illustration with the article, the forestay will be taut when the pole is up or down but not both, or it will have to be adjusted while lowering and raising. If wire stays are used, an afterstay is required, and it too must be in alignment or the rigging will become slacka dangerous situation when raising or lowering the poles in rough water. The solution most commercial users have adopted is the rigid forestay, in which a length of steel or aluminum pipe mounted on a pivoting bracket some distance forward of the pole angles back and attaches to the pole at or near the point of attachment of the halyards ("pole lift line") and the spring line. If the rigid forestay bracket is properly aligned with the pole bracket, the pole will make a perfectly straight arc from the crosstree to the working position, and no afterstay is needed. Finally, it is not necessary to replace the "fish" with special harbor anti-rolling devices; the properly sized fish-type vanes provide a great deal of roll dampening even at anchor. Aside from the impact they have on the boat's appearance, and some drag, the only real disadvantage to stabilizers is that then can be noisy when not in use. Careful thought is required to strap or pad the lines and chains to minimize the slapping and clanging when the fish are not in the water.