RISE OF THE MOTH­ER­SHIP

MORE BIG-WA­TER AN­GLERS ARE MOV­ING TO THE USE OF MOTH­ER­SHIPS, BOTH FOR TOUR­NA­MENT FISH­ING AND TO EX­PAND THE HORI­ZONS OF WORLD­WIDE TRAVEL

Marlin - - CONTENTS | FEATURES - BY LENNY RU­DOW

More big-wa­ter an­glers are mov­ing to the use of moth­er­ships, both for tour­na­ment fish­ing and to ex­pand the hori­zons of world­wide travel By Lenny Ru­dow

The con­cept of us­ing a moth­er­ship for ac­com­mo­da­tions and long-dis­tance travel while fish­ing from smaller game boats that are towed be­hind, hauled aboard or run in tan­dem is noth­ing new. Close to 100 years ago, Zane Grey — the first an­gler with a doc­u­mented 1,000-pound blue mar­lin catch — ex­plored the pos­si­bil­i­ties with a 190-foot three-masted schooner that was con­verted to diesel power and car­ried sev­eral small fish­ing boats aboard. Decades later, moth­er­ship op­er­a­tions such as The Madam and The Hooker (with 80 world records to its credit) and the El Zorro/ El Zorro II team (a 100-foot moth­er­ship that car­ried a 32-foot crane-launched Sunny Briggs) would travel the world and go on to pi­o­neer moth­er­ship/sport-fish­ing-boat op­er­a­tions. And to­day, the use of a moth­er­ship has be­come al­most com­mon­place. Al­most. De­spite the pop­u­lar­ity of the ar­range­ment, the one ob­vi­ous draw­back is the ex­pense as­so­ci­ated with run­ning both a yacht and a sport-fish­ing boat. This nat­u­rally lim­its the pool of po­ten­tial, and that’s not the only down­side to run­ning a moth­er­ship op­er­a­tion. But the ad­van­tages of such a sce­nario are, in many ways, un­beat­able. TEAM-BUILD­ING EX­ER­CISE

As we spoke with own­ers and cap­tains of moth­er­ship/game-boat ven­tures, the big is­sue that popped up again and again was as­sem­bling the right crews. Yes, crews: In most cases, a moth­er­ship op­er­a­tion re­quires sep­a­rate per­son­nel to run each boat. But it’s im­per­a­tive that the two teams are able to work well to­gether seam­lessly.

“The owner has the ul­ti­mate chal­lenge to make sure ev­ery­one meshes,” says Randy Ring­haver, owner of Car­son, a 148-foot New­cas­tle mo­to­ry­acht that trav­els with his 86-foot Merritt, Bree.

“Big egos or au­thor­i­tar­ian at­ti­tudes don’t make for a happy op­er­a­tion. I have not ex­pe­ri­enced such a sit­u­a­tion, as I fol­low Jim Collins’ ad­vice in his book

Good to Great: Make sure you have the right peo­ple on the bus!”

He then thought­fully adds, “My wife and I jointly in­ter­view all crewmem­bers be­cause I feel that a woman’s in­tu­ition is bet­ter than a glossy re­sume.”

Bree Capt. Kyle Liane echoes Ring­haver’s sen­ti­ments, men­tion­ing that a large crew can be an as­set, as well as a chal­lenge. “Large crews can cer­tainly lead to per­son­al­ity con­flicts,” he says. “But for­tu­nately, that’s not a prob­lem in our case. In fact, hav­ing the yacht crew takes a tremen­dous amount of pres­sure off the fish­ing-boat crew. That’s prob­a­bly the best thing about hav­ing the moth­er­ship around. When we get up early, fish all day and ar­rive back late, the yacht crew more or less takes over for the re­main­der of the evening. We’re all work­ing to­ward the same goal, which is keep­ing the owner and guests happy, so it’s a big re­lief. It lets us catch our breath. In fact, if any­thing, it im­proves our abil­ity to fish. We have time to get ev­ery­thing ready for the next day and get a good night’s sleep.”

Capt. Ja­son Buck, who runs the 70-foot Vik­ing

Done Deal for owner Jon Gon­soulin, in tan­dem with the 110-foot En­ter­prise, iden­ti­fies the ex­act same aspect of the moth­er­ship/fish­ing-boat re­la­tion­ship as a key ad­van­tage from a fish­ing per­spec­tive. Rec­og­niz­ing that En­ter­prise is a very un­usual moth­er­ship — a mas­sive cathulled house­boat with a he­li­pad on the top deck — that’s used for sup­port and travel as Done Deal tour­na­ment-fishes along the Gulf Coast, a dual crew is again a ne­ces­sity. But Buck is also quick to point out that it al­lows the an­glers to stay fo­cused on the fish­ing. “We share a lot of re­spon­si­bil­i­ties,”

Buck says. “But hav­ing En­ter­prise there means we don’t have to worry about things like cook­ing din­ner, or en­ter­tain­ing guests when our boss wants to have a big party. We can stay fo­cused on the tour­na­ment prep.”

It’s worth point­ing out that Done Deal won the Blue Mar­lin World Cup this year with a 600-pound blue mar­lin, fish­ing out of Or­ange Beach, Alabama. Aside from tour­na­ment fish­ing, how­ever, work­ing with a moth­er­ship like En­ter­prise does also have some draw­backs.

“En­ter­prise is not the best for runs through big wa­ter,” notes Buck. “And it can barely han­dle siz­able waves. So I’d hes­i­tate to even call it a ‘moth­er­ship’ op­er­a­tion, like one of the big boats that can travel around the world. Get­ting it to and from dif­fer­ent places has its is­sues. But in some ways, that makes it even bet­ter — it’s sort of a red­neck dream, to tell you the truth, and it’s used for hunt­ing par­ties as much as for fish­ing. The best part of win­ning the World Cup was that we were barely 30 miles from the boss’s duck blind.”

THE BIG HAUL

For those op­er­a­tions that do en­gage in ma­jor travel, the up­sides and down­sides to con­sider are nu­mer­ous. Lo­gis­tics can al­ways be an is­sue, and many other po­ten­tial prob­lems may arise de­pend­ing on how the boats travel: each on its own bot­tom; with the fish­ing boat loaded on the moth­er­ship; or with the fish­ing boat un­der tow.

“There’s vir­tu­ally nowhere we can’t go,” says Capt. Michael Sedrick, who runs the 92-foot Paragon End­less Sum­mer with the 34-foot Reg­u­la­tor North Star towed be­hind it. “We go to the Ba­hamas, and we go up north and fish in the bluefin tour­na­ments, and while fish­ing with the Reg­u­la­tor isn’t like fish­ing from a big boat, it ac­tu­ally gives us a lot more flex­i­bil­ity. But it’s not prob­lem free.”

The prob­lem­atic part of this equa­tion is the tow­ing. “It can be very chal­leng­ing,” Sedrick notes. “There are some bridges on the In­tra­coastal Water­way you can’t tow through. The tow can wan­der at slow speeds. Weather is al­ways an is­sue, and can make it dif­fi­cult to un­hook the tow. On a re­cent trip to the Aba­cos, it was blow­ing hard when we ar­rived, and it was a very chal­leng­ing sit­u­a­tion. On top of that, you have to be very dili­gent. Ev­ery bit

My wife and I jointly in­ter­view all crew mem­bers be­cause I feel that a woman’s in­tu­ition is bet­ter than a glossy re­sume.

of gear has to be checked be­fore and af­ter ev­ery trip. The tow line has to be rinsed and covered. You have to carry spares for ev­ery­thing, and you have to con­sider the le­gal­i­ties and get ap­proval from the in­surance com­pany. There’s a lot to plan for.”

But when asked about whether the ex­tra has­sle is worth­while, both Sedrick and owner Thomas Moloney don’t hes­i­tate to an­swer in the af­fir­ma­tive. “Once we set up shop with the big boat, we can do just about any­thing in the Reg­u­la­tor,” Moloney ex­plains. “We can make long runs quickly when we’re fish­ing, its shal­low draft means we can go ex­plor­ing around and we can take it places where the big boat wouldn’t have the space to tie up.”

Just as im­por­tant, pair­ing a cen­ter con­sole with the mo­to­ry­acht works bet­ter from a fam­ily per­spec­tive. When asked why he chose to take the moth­er­ship route in­stead of pur­chas­ing a sin­gle large sport-fish­ing boat Moloney laughs, then says, “I like my mar­riage! My wife loves the Paragon. She likes the Reg­u­la­tor too, plus the grand­kids love stay­ing on the big boat and be­ing able to run around in the cen­ter con­sole.”

“Tom and the en­tire Moloney clan are re­ally into it,” Sedrick adds. “Win­ter, sum­mer, you name it. We’ve gone on trips where we’ve fished for 13 out of 15 days, and ev­ery­one has had a great time. You just can’t do that with an en­tire fam­ily on a big sport-fisher and keep ev­ery­one happy at the same time.”

Moloney’s ex­pe­ri­ence is any­thing but unique. In fact, ac­cord­ing to Reg­u­la­tor’s direc­tor of sales and mar­ket­ing, Keith Am­mons, the more ver­sa­tile na­ture of a smaller boat is a main rea­son cus­tomers cite when go­ing the moth­er­ship/sport-fisher/ cen­ter con­sole route.

“The abil­ity to get into shal­low wa­ter, and the abil­ity to cover more ground, is im­por­tant,” Am­mons says. “The story I’ve heard a few times is of tak­ing the big boat to a re­mote is­land, an­chor­ing up, and calling it home. Then, the ‘dinghy,’ the cen­ter con­sole, is used to fish with the kids or go on day trips all over the area.” When ac­com­pa­nied by a larger sport-fisher, the ver­sa­til­ity (and fun) is mul­ti­plied even fur­ther.

Am­mons says the com­pany’s 34-footer is one of the most pop­u­lar mod­els to tow be­hind a larger sport-fisher or moth­er­ship. “Reg­u­la­tors are good boats for this pur­pose be­cause they’re top-qual­ity,” he notes. “And they match the high ex­pec­ta­tions that these own­ers ex­pect in all of their ves­sels. They have great fisha­bil­ity and can be used to tar­get a bunch of dif­fer­ent species too.”

The lo­gis­ti­cal is­sues faced by crews run­ning boats that can’t be towed, nat­u­rally, present a very dif­fer­ent set of chal­lenges. Bree’s Liane, for ex­am­ple, has to worry about tim­ing and speed when the two boats travel. “The big boat cruises at 12 knots, and we cruise at 30,” he ex­plains. “We usu­ally want to be at the same place at the same time, so it does take a bit of plan­ning, but in truth it’s pretty easy.”

Buck has the same is­sue, not­ing that the house­boat with which he runs in tan­dem cruises at a whop­ping 7 knots. “There are all sorts of gives and takes, and it can be a pain in the butt co­or­di­nat­ing with the other boat,” he says. “Some­times it means do­ing what’s not nec­es­sar­ily the best thing for fish­ing. But it’s also lots of fun and makes for great ca­ma­raderie, and life is short, so we’d bet­ter en­joy this while we can. If it means we’re a day later or we stay in­land in­stead of run­ning out­side, so be it.”

THE BIG MOTHER

Along with all of these fac­tors, there are a num­ber of small but im­por­tant ad­van­tages that go along with fish­ing à la moth­er­ship. Vir­tu­ally ev­ery­one we spoke with men­tioned how much they ap­pre­ci­ate the abil­ity to carry nu­mer­ous spare parts, for ev­ery­thing from me­chan­i­cals to ad­di­tional fish­ing gear. Hav­ing es­sen­tially un­lim­ited freezer space is an­other big bonus. It’s also nice to be able to of­fer guests the op­tion to stay be­hind and spend the day on the moth­er­ship if they aren’t hard­core enough for the weather con­di­tions off­shore. Be­ing able to hook up to the moth­er­ship for power and give the on­board gen­er­a­tors a break was also men­tioned as a plus. But over­all, range and flex­i­bil­ity are the defin­ing fac­tors.

“You can pretty much fish any­where and any­time you want,” says Ring­haver. “There’s no need for dock­age reser­va­tions and that type of long-term plan­ning. And you can switch direc­tions if the fish­ing is slow.”

Liane agrees, adding that even the type of fish­ing they can do ex­pands with the moth­er­ship at hand. “We can go off­shore fish­ing, we can go inshore fish­ing or we can even go flats fish­ing on the skiff (which lives atop Car­son’s up­per deck). All of these op­tions di­ver­sify the fish­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and give us a ton of flex­i­bil­ity. With­out the moth­er­ship op­er­a­tion, this just wouldn’t be pos­si­ble.” And hav­ing those op­tions also opens up the pos­si­bil­i­ties for larger groups as well; guests can ro­tate through a day of chas­ing blue mar­lin and tuna off­shore, then fish­ing inshore or div­ing the next, plus us­ing the out­board to visit nearby is­lands for sight­see­ing, all while en­joy­ing the lux­ury and ameni­ties avail­able back aboard the moth­er­ship at the end of the day.

The bot­tom line? Each of the own­ers and cap­tains we spoke with felt that run­ning a moth­er­ship op­er­a­tion as op­posed to a sin­gle boat gave them vastly greater ver­sa­til­ity and adapt­abil­ity, both for fish­ing and other as­pects of boat­ing, in­clud­ing the all-im­por­tant so­cial side of things. All felt that the flex­i­bil­ity far out­weighed any neg­a­tive as­pects of a mul­ti­ves­sel op­er­a­tion. And each be­lieved that the moth­er­ship/game boat/cen­ter con­sole com­bi­na­tion is sim­ply an un­beat­able op­tion for that next big off­shore ad­ven­ture.

A well-ap­pointed cen­ter con­sole (above) opens up a host of op­tions for own­ers and their guests, in­clud­ing fish­ing, div­ing or just sight­see­ing. The 148-foot New­cas­tle Car­son serves as the moth­er­ship for the 86-foot Merritt Bree (left). Both are fa­mil­iar...

En­ter­prise, Jon Gon­soulin’s cat-hulled moth­er­ship (right) serves as a float­ing base camp for his team’s fish­ing and hunt­ing ad­ven­tures through­out the Gulf of Mex­ico.

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