At first glance, you might not think a Texas boater would or should pay too much attention to the boats they fish from in Alaska. Their waters are a world apart from what’s found around here, and the types of fishing they do are 100-percent different. But when I was up there on a salmon fishing trip in the Kenai River, I was surprised to discover several interesting things that boaters everywhere could benefit from.
One of the first things I noticed about the fleet of aluminum fishing boats we were using was that all were tiller-steered. Many of us started out with small tiller-steered boats, and “graduated” to “real” steering systems with wheels, cables, and/or hydraulics. What we may have forgotten through the years is that tiller steering actually allows better control of the boat. While it takes a few seconds to spin the steering wheel around, you can shove the tiller one way or another in a fraction of a second. But that’s not even why these guys all stick with tillers—for them, it’s a simple matter of maintenance. Tiller steer systems are essentially idiot-proof. There are no cables to bind, no hydraulics to leak, and no attachment points to fail. Replace the steering system? Hah.
Another interesting thing about these boats was that they didn’t use regular bow cleats when securing their anchor line. Instead, in the very peak of the bow they had a “jam cleat” installed. This is essentially a metal V. You pull the line down into the slot, and when tension is applied it jams in the V and stays put. At first I had my doubts, but after sitting at anchor for hours at a time in different boats, I think I’ll put one of these on my own boat. The biggest advantage? When you need to quickly release the line, you just give it an upward yank and it pops right out of the slot.
Finally, I noticed that all of the seats in all of their boats had fold-down arm rests. Now, you may think this added touch of luxury is unnecessary, but judging from the popularity of the blog I wrote a while back about boat seats (Adding Comfortable Seating to a Small Boat: Yes, it Can be Done) there are an awful lot of you out there who wish for more comfortable boat seats. Well, those arm rests make a huge difference.
I’ve got to say, that trip to the Kenai was one of the coolest fishing excursions I’ve been on in years. I expected the awesome fishing, the beautiful scenery, and the (incredible) food. What didn’t I expect? For those northern Pacific boaters to teach me a thing or two about fishing boats.