Ocean FAD Articles > F/V “Ocean Joy” receives freezer upgrades

Captain John Harder reports on progress made aboard Ocean Joy:
15 Jun 2012


After returning from Guam, attending the WCPFC8, I rejoined Ocean Joy to start boat work.
Up to the early eighties, West Coast Albacore Tuna Fishermen had US canneries to buy their fish. Many Albacore boats were equipped with dry coils that lined the fish hold, or spray brine refrigeration that showered the fish with high salt salinity water to freeze the fish at temperatures of around 10f. 
After 1984, the US canneries “Chicken of the Sea“, “Starkist” & “Bumble Bee“, closed their doors and stopped buying US caught Albacore Tuna from the West Coast. This created a big problem for US fishermen having nowhere to sell their fish.
 Till this day, US major brands “Chicken of the Sea”, “Starkist”, and “Bumble Bee Tuna” do not support American Albacore Tuna fishermen.
If you want to support US fishermen, buy American Albacore, or MSC certified Sustainable Albacore (blue label).
Looking for alternate marketing, local fishermen turned to selling their Albacore to the public off the docks. This led to better refrigeration methods in efforts to upgrade the quality of fish. Fishermen, working with the public, found that bleeding the Tuna immediately after catching the fish, then freezing the Albacore with a air blast system, reaching -20f temperatures, or colder,  made a fare better product. 
As time went on, advances were made to processing this Blast Bled Albacore Tuna by cutting the fish, while still frozen, into loins and sold as Sushi grade, or Fresh Frozen. Canada is the leader in expanding this market witch brought a favorable price to the fishermen. In some years, the price for Blast frozen Albacore nearly doubled that what was given for the Brine frozen Tuna. Last year the price per ton paid for Blast Bled frozen Albacore was at it’s all time high of $5,200.
Being that our production dropped nearly 50% in 2011, and noting that there was no fish caught “off shore”, I figured if we are going to catch less, it would be good to get paid more for what we do catch.
The 1st plan of attack was to purchase a spare compressor, since we were now going to run 2 separate systems, we now needed another compressor for backup. A  new John Deer generator was purchased to give us more power to run both systems. This generator has 20 kw more power then our old generator, giving us extra juice for other upgrades to come.
My good friend Pat Tally, and his sweet wife Balinda were there to help with the installation. We had to move the engine and generator from the deck, down to the engine room, in it's place.
The next step was to remove all the old freezer coils from the fish hold, to the top of the house were they could be reconditioned. We cut out the bad coils, then welded them together in bundles that would be used for our chill box.
Now that all the rusty pipes were out of the fish hold, we could start working on the shaft ally. This area was rusted out and leaking for years. We cut the old metal out and replaced it with new plating.
Now that the fish hold was free of freezer coils, we could see the condition of the fiberglass lining of the fish hold was in bad shape. For thew next few weeks, all we did was grind and fill the voids of the fish hold to prepare it for a new coat of fiberglass and jell coat. First we did the overhead, then all the sides and floor.
We did not anticipate this mutch work, but now was the time to do it. Pat and Balinda had to return to their home in Washington, but my daughter Gracie and son Dylan came to my rescue and we started building the deck tubs next.
This was a tedious process and changes being made as we went. Thank God for Gracie's creativity and patience or we never would have got it done. We went ahead and repaired some damage to the hatch combing while we were at it. We were becoming fiberglass experts! It was everywhere. In our clothes, our skin... yuck!
While Gracie mixed up bondo to fill our voids in places, Dylan helped me get the back chill box ready for freezer coils This took some time as we had to glass partitions in the floor to hold down the cover. Gracie did the Jell coating. We then lowered down our bundles of coils, leak tested them, bolted them down, and fit the covers.
Now it was time to start working on the compressors up in the for peak. We cut all the old copper pipes away, and started plumbing new.
To go with all this plumming, we added a large condencer that would need a recever and a water pump to cool the freon.
Once all the plumbing was done in the compressor room, we moved back to the chiller box to hook up expansion valves
By now, Gracie started fiber glassing lids and while Dylan and I mounted and plumbed up air blast units in the fish hold.
The hatch cover was to be our new fish bins to hold the fish after they had been chilling in our tubs. The fish checkers were fun to build because we new we were getting close to the end of the project.
We got the circulating pump hooked up and wired up the fan motors in the fish hold. After fixing a couple of small leaks, we were ready to test. YES, we had frosty cold!
We had taken way more time then expected, but I feel that we did the best we could with what we had. Now it was time to clean up and put things away. Some Albacore Tuna boats have already started catching fish up in Oregon. We needed to get underway ASAP!
That is all for now. Thanks for sharing our "Life on the Water Front" aboard the good ship "Ocean Joy"

Captain John Harder