New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park - Fishing Vessel Virtual Tour (U.S. National Park Service)>

Come Aboard A Working Scalloper

New Bedford, home to fishering of nearly all types, is currently the largest commercial fishing port in the United States. The two largest fisheries in the harbor are divided between the ground-fishermen and those who scallop, with hundreds of vessels of each type operating out of the port. The Huntress, built in 1979, is typical in both size and layout for the scalloping fleet in the area, and her trips to sea last between five and fourteen days. Click on the images above and come aboard the F/V Huntress to see what life is like for the crew of one of these hard-working ships.

MAX ISACSEN, OWNER CAPT. CHRIS WRIGHT

This is a self-guided tour of the scallop boat F/V Huntress. To see any particular room, simply click on the compartment you would like to explore. Within each compartment are links to other materials associated with the particular room you have entered, such as photos or sound and video files.

This is a self-guided tour of the scallop boat F/V Huntress. To see any particular room, simply click on the compartment you would like to explore. Within each compartment are links to other materials associated with the particular room you have entered, such as photos or sound and video files.

This is a self-guided tour of the scallop boat F/V Huntress. To see any particular room, simply click on the compartment you would like to explore. Within each compartment are links to other materials associated with the particular room you have entered, such as photos or sound and video files.

Max Isacsen

Capt. Chris Wright

Captain's Quarters

While the captain's quarters are not luxurious, he does have his own private quarters on the starboard side of the main or weather deck. The only other features besides his bunk within the room are a wash sink, shelving and storage space and a wall-mounted heater. While his room may be the size of a typical home's small walk-in closet, it should be remembered that very little time is spent in any of the cabins onboard the vessel that is not devoted entirely to sleep.

Crew's Quarters

The Huntress was built in a time period where up to fifteen men completed the crew. To reduce overall fishing effort, laws were introduced limiting the number of men and women allowed on any particular trip to seven. Because of this, the crew's quarters are much less cramped than they had been in the past. With crew members working different watches, or shifts, it is usually possible for each crew member to have the cabin to him or herself as they sleep, the other crewmember being on deck. That said, you can see that there is still precious little room in any of the four cabins devoted to deckhands, with three of them having bunks for four people. If the bunks appear small, it is because they are. In the rough seas often encountered on their fishing grounds, small bunks allow the fishermen to wedge themselves tightly into position for sleeping.

Escape Hatch

The modern fishing vessel is a dangerous place to work, not only for the environment in which they work far from shore, but also because of all of the complex machinery found onboard. The escape hatch gives the crew one more chance to escape the vessel should something such as a fire block their exit to the weather deck.

Bosun's Storage

The very "eyes" of the ship, located all the way forward, are the least comfortable or useful portion of the interior. As the bow can rise and fall quite dramatically in heavy weather, objects or people can take a real pounding. Because of this and the triangular shape of the compartments themselves, these spaces generally become lockers used to store gear that does not need to be accessed frequently. On Huntress, a refrigerator/freezer takes up much of the space.

Galley

The kitchen is known as a galley aboard a vessel. The crew's meals are prepared here, despite the weather conditions encountered, as crewmembers working sixteen hour days for weeks at a time require a lot of fuel themselves to keep going. A typical grocery bill on the Huntress for a two week trip totals fifteen hundred dollars. Traditionally, these ships once carried a cook aboard, but because the law allows for less than half the crew it once did, this burden now falls on the captain and the first mate.

Dining Area

Part of the galley is devoted to the dining room table. For obvious reasons, the crew sits on benches bolted to the deck and the table is divided into compartments by "fiddle sticks" that keep the plates of food close to the crewmembers trying to eat from them. As crew members work around the clock in different shifts or watches, they are seldom all at the table at once. Crew are generally responsible for getting their own breakfast and lunch between watches.

Mud Room

This storage area is largely used as a changing room for crewmembers as they either prepare to go on deck to work or come off the deck at the end of their watch. It is located such that the crew does not track deck grime and water throughout the vessel, keeping the interior as clean and dry as you home. As the crew comes off the deck, they strip off their outer layer of foul-weather gear and boots and leave them ready to step back into at a moment's notice, much as firemen do with theirs. This can save valuable time in an emergency or allow the crewman a few moments extra sleep during their long days.

Shuckng Station

There are two shucking stations on the main weather deck, one to port and one to starboard on either side of the massive winch at the forward end of the open deck. Scallops are shucked at sea - only the "meats" are brought back. As a typical trip to a closed area will bring back 18,000 pounds of scallop meat (this is the muscle that opens and closes the scallop's shell) the crew spends a large portion of the trip standing at these stations "cutting" scallops. The muscle is removed and tossed into a bucket and the shells are funneled back overboard. The shucking areas are covered, but still offer little protection from either the cold or the heat.

The trawl winch is perhaps the second most important piece of gear found aboard a fishing vessel after the main engine, as without it, the fisherman's job is over. There are a number of other hydraulic winches aboard, but none compare in size or strength with the trawl winch. Scallops are "dredged" from the ocean's bottom. A pair of dredges, or steel frames with chain-mail bags attached to them, are dragged across the ocean floor, scooping up the scallops as they go. The winch is used to set out and haul back these massive dredges, and so they are subjected to enormous strains.

Working Deck

The open back deck is where the heavy work is done. The two dredges are lifted aboard the vessel after the tow is over (A tow may last three hours on average, but this depends on how numerous the scallops are in any particular area. The captain can usually tell how long he should tow after the first pass.) Once aboard, the dredges are rigged in a way that allows the scallops to be dumped onto the deck for sorting. The dredges are then immediately put back overboard, allowing the Huntress to begin her next drag. This cycle goes on twenty-four hours a day. The deck is also pierced by two hatches that lead to the fish hold where the scallops will be stored for the remainder of the trip, and one hatch that leads to an after machinery space called the lazerette.

Engine Room

This is the heart of the ship, and seemingly one of the noisiest places on earth. The main engine, a Caterpillar D 399, provides most of the power, but there are also two separate diesel generators to provide electrical power throughout the ship for things such as lights, cooking, or air-conditioning. The room also contains an air compressor that powers many of the controls used in conjunction with the hydraulic equipment on board, as well as many other pumps and motors necessary to the ship's operation. As all of this equipment is housed in a steel room, full ear protection is required to enter this compartment. An enormous fan brings in air from topsides to feed the engine and help keep the room slightly cooler.

Fish Hold

A typical trip on the Huntress may last between five days and two weeks. As is common throughout the fleet, scallopers carry up to forty tons of ice in their holds to refrigerate their catch. While refrigeration units are also in use on some boats, the added complexity of such a system in this harsh environment often leads to problems. Ice seldom malfunctions at sea. The hold is divided up into "pens" to keep the load of ice and scallops from shifting in heavy weather - an event that could and has cost many a ship it's life. After bagging, scallops are lowered into the hold and each bag is carefully buried under ice for the remainder of the trip, taking care to balance the weights from side to side. The ice is moved from the pens in which it is stored with a simple shovel.

The Head

There is only one head, or bathroom on board the Huntress. In earlier times, the entire head was composed of a bucket on deck with a toilet seat on which to sit. Times had certainly changed for crews by the time the Huntress was constructed, and the bathroom looks much like you would find at home. Despite this, however, the crew does not get much time to use the shower during their time at sea. Given their working schedule, they still feel lucky if they can get a shower every three or four days.

Lazerette

The lazerette and aft store room, accessible through a 22" diameter hatch and a steel ladder, is another space where gear seldom used can be stored. More importantly, however, is the access it provides to the mechanical systems that play such an important role in the functioning of the ship. The steering gear is back here, and should something go wrong with it in heavy weather, it is vitally important that the crew be able to access it to effect needed repairs.

Scallop Washing Station

After the scallops have been shucked, they are dumped into these washing tubs for a complete rinsing with fresh salt water to remove any grit or other undesirable particles. From here the crew will place them into cotton bags specially made for them. Scallops must breathe in storage, and plastic is never used to store them unless they are flash-frozen. These cotton bags generally hold about forty pounds of the scallop meats. From here, the bags are lowered into the fish hold where they will remain buried in ice for the remainder of the trip.

The Bridge

The bridge is the control center for the vessel. From high up in this perch, the captain can see and direct the work of his crew. All of the vessels heavy equipment can be operated from one or two locations on the bridge. The speed and course heading is handled at the helm and the operation of the winches that raise and lower the fishing gear are controlled from a separate control station overlooking the back deck. There is an arsenal of electronic gear on the bridge that enhances the captain's senses. There are radars to pierce the fog, fathometers to plumb the depths below him, and satellites to locate him within a few feet on the earth's surface. Radio, satellite and even the Internet allow the crew to communicate with anyone they choose around the world. While the ship is often steered automatically and guided by GPS, the traditional chart table still has its place on the modern bridge, as does the seemingly old fashioned compass.