Sponsored by Oregon Business

Shipbuilder Fred Wahl stays afloat

| Print |  Email
Articles - July/August 2013
Monday, July 08, 2013
0713 FOB FredWahl 02
A view of the Trailblazer from the company warehouse
// Photo by Adam Wickham

The industry began to revive around 2005, says Hal Hockema, a naval architect for Seattle-based Hockema & Whalen Associates. The favorable exchange rate for U.S.-caught fish and the premium on wild salmon made commercial fishing a lucrative occupation once again, as did the strategic fisheries management via federal- and state-set quotas.

“Wahl stayed with it while others dropped out, and now that the market is coming back, he’s in a good position to meet it,” Hockema says. “He’s kind of a last man standing.” Staffed by about 75 employees, Fred Wahl’s shipyard can construct a boat in six to seven months and, unlike most others, fabricates all its own tools from scratch, welding together everything from cranes to anchor winches to shaft couplings.

Wahl’s specialty boat to date is the Arctic Fox, a 58-foot design he developed in 2007 and has replicated a dozen times. The seiner fits the regulatory length limits of Alaskan fisheries but compensates by being as wide and deep as possible.

Commercial fisherman Matt Giambrone, whose 58-foot Magnus Martens is one of the three new boats headed for Alaska this season, says the design squeezes maximum performance out of the length limit. The boat can hold a lot of gear and 200,000 pounds of fish at once, which reduces the number of port trips needed to unload.

“It used to be, to pack that much fish, you’d be looking at a boat that was 80 feet long,” Giambrone says.

To meet a need he predicts will arise in coming years, Wahl recently designed and built a 114-foot stainless steel crabbing vessel called the Victory. His largest boat yet — and hopefully (depending on demand) a prototype for many more to come — the Victory will take on the Bering Sea this summer.

While Wahl’s shipyard is currently busier than ever, Wahl’s son Mike, who started as a purchasing agent when he was 20 and now oversees the yard day-to-day, says he cannot predict what the future will bring. He does know one thing for sure, though: “The good old days are right now,” he says. “We’re rolling through them.”



+1 #1 Anchor wenchGuest 2013-07-10 19:56:24
Nice article, but an anchor wench would be quite different from an anchor winch.
Quote | Report to administrator
Web Editor Emma Hall
0 #2 Anchor 'wench'Web Editor Emma Hall 2013-07-10 20:01:10
Ha! You're right. Thanks for the catch, fixed now.
P.S. Arr, matey!
Quote | Report to administrator
0 #3 RE: Shipbuilder Fred Wahl stays afloatGuest 2013-07-10 21:50:14
"Anchor Wench" (hysterical)
Quote | Report to administrator
0 #4 BuckysMarineGuest 2013-07-25 10:04:55
Ha 'Anchor Wench' , bit of a slip up there eh! ;)
From a fellow boat building enthusiast.
Quote | Report to administrator

More Articles

Photo Log: #TillamookSmile

The Latest
Friday, October 30, 2015
103015-cheesethumbBY CHRIS NOBLE | ART DIRECTOR

Against a changing backdrop Patrick Criseter’s infectious grin remained constant. It’s a cheesy (pun intended) beam that begs for a hashtag.


The War Room

November/December 2015
Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Veteran political consultant Carol Butler plays to win.


The death and life of American cities

Linda Baker
Monday, November 02, 2015
housingoldpdx thumbBY LINDA BAKER

The hollowing out of the American city is now a bona fide cultural meme.  Newspapers, magazines and digital media sites are publishing story after story about the morphing of urban grit and diversity into bastions of wealth and commodity culture.


Make the business case, governor

Linda Baker
Thursday, November 05, 2015
aoikatebrownthumbBY LINDA BAKER

Gov. Kate Brown delivered the keynote speech at the Associated Oregon Industries annual policy forum yesterday.  Speaking to a Republican-aligned audience of about 100 business and public policy leaders, the governor was out of her comfort zone.


Tech to Table

November/December 2015
Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Power Lunch at the Barn Light Cafe & Bar in Eugene.



Linda Baker
Thursday, November 12, 2015
111215-taxilindaBY LINDA BAKER

Raye Miles, a 17-year taxi industry veteran, lacked the foresight to anticipate the single biggest trend in the cab business: breaking the law.


Insurance pulse: health care and Export-Import banks

Linda Baker
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
111715-healthcarelindathumbBY LINDA BAKER

The past month has been marked by upheaval in the health insurance markets. I also check in on clients of the Export-Import bank, a federal credit agency that subsidizes, and insures, foreign exports.

Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02