It was about an hour before dusk, out in the Great South Channel 40 miles or so southeast of Nantucket, Mass. The sea was calm, the wind out of the northwest, the mood relaxed after a good day’s fishing. “We’d been up early, fueled up, got the baits rigged and left the dock around 3 a.m.,” says Al Redway, the boat’s owner.
They’d caught seven fish. Then the big one hit. Without warning, the line flew off the big reel. “It was like a Maserati going the other way,” Redway says. “The line went screaming off. We knew it was a serious fish right from the get-go.”
An hour and a half later, he and his companions hauled aboard a 950-pound bluefin tuna. “That’s the biggest fish I’ve been involved with — pretty exciting,” the 49-year-old Westbrook, Conn., businessman says.
The boat that got them out there, 65 miles from their home port of Hyannis, Mass., is a 1987 custom 50-foot aluminum sportfisherman from Carolina builder Paul Wetsig. Redway, an avid tuna fisherman, bought it in 2000 from the original owner through Brewer Pilots Point (Westbrook) Marina in an estate sale. The price was $200,000.
Offshore fishing is tough on a boat, but the Wetsig 50 is used to that kind of work, its owner says. The boat is seaworthy and comfortable — a stable, maneuverable fishing platform with a cockpit big enough to handle the action. “There’s a whole orchestra of movement, a lot of teamwork,” Redway says. “This boat is set up well for that kind of communication.”
The 50-footer does duty as the Redway family boat, too, with wife Traci, daughter Colby, 22, and son Sam, 19, spending a lot of time on board. With its two private cabins, full galley and large saloon, the layout provides plenty of room to spread out. “Throughout the summer, we take weekend day trips and go fishing,” Redway says. “It has to be a family boat, too.”
Still, it’s fishing that has been his longtime passion. “I grew up on the water and have been on the water fishing and boating since I was about 7 years old,” he says. “My grandfather had a house on the beach, and when I went to visit he used to take me out fishing on his 21-foot Lyman lapstrake. I got my boating license when I was 12 years old, and I have had a boat [Aquasport, Robalo and Albemarle] ever since.”
It’s no wonder it was love at first sight back in 2000, Redway says. There he was, looking to replace his 32-foot Albemarle with a bigger offshore boat when the Wetsig hove into view. “I saw this boat drive up the channel into the north yard of Pilots Point, and I immediately went to look at it,” he says. “I knew this was the boat for me when I stepped aboard and saw the unique woodwork in the interior. And the large [16-by-14 feet] working cockpit with the controls in the back was the deciding factor. I knew immediately that this would be an all-around great boat to fish in and take family trips in.”
Redway contacted the builder, who explained how the boat had been built as a 44-footer and that the original owner had 6 feet added to the cockpit. That’s why there was so much room aft. “There were actually two fighting chairs back there,” Redway says. “That’s how big it is.”
The boat was in good shape, too. Over the years, the bottom has been stripped, refaired and painted; and the hull refinished in a legendary sportfishing color — Fighting Lady Yellow. In 2005 the original Detroit 671 power plants were replaced with new Cummins QSM 11 diesels, and new transmissions and a new generator were installed.
The engines each produce 660 hp, for a cruising speed of 20 knots at 1,900 rpm. “I run at 75 percent load, and the fuel burn is about 32 gallons an hour. Her true cruising speed may be closer to 24 knots.”
The Wetsig has covered some territory in the 13 years Redway has owned it, fishing off the New Jersey canyons and 100 miles off Montauk, N.Y., and two years ago making three trips to Georges Bank near the Canadian border. “I’ve been out in 12-footers. I don’t like that, but she is an awesome sea boat,” Redway says. “Normally, if it’s 3- to 6-foot [waves] in the forecast, we’ll go out. Depending on how the bite is, we’ll push it a little harder.”
It’s a confidence thing, he says. “With this boat I feel like I can go anywhere the tuna are biting.” The big tuna, that is.
The Wetsig 50 layout starts with a V-berth master stateroom with drawers for storage and a cedar-lined hanging locker with distinctive wicker vents. The adjacent enclosed head compartment is to port, equipped with a sink and marine head, shelves and an opening port.
The unusual midcabin just aft is large and has a double bunk, a cedar locker and under-bunk rod storage. The galley-down is easily accessible to the saloon and set up along the starboard side, with a sink, a cooktop and a microwave, along with an icemaker and stand-up refrigerator. The galley gets lots of use, Redway says. “When you’re out fishing and it’s cold, hot food is a good thing. And we use it on family trips, too.”
There are four steps up to the spacious saloon and a lower helm station. The floor plan includes a C-shaped lounge with a table for dining and couch-style seating along the starboard side. The helm is to port, with a big dash for instruments and electronics. There’s expert joinery throughout the boat, and nice touches include teak-and-holly surfaces around the helm station, a Paul Luke gas stove, a telltale compass over the midcabin berth and an old-fashioned binnacle with weather instruments at the helm.
Outside, the flybridge and upper helm are reached by a ladder from the cockpit. The helm and dash are on centerline. There are two swivel chairs aft, as well as bench seating forward of the console and along the port side.
Paul Wetsig was building boats in Wilmington, N.C., in the early 2000s and turning out fiberglass parts and components for a variety of industries. His boatbuilding specialty was large, high-end, hard-core sportfishing craft, and his boats have fished waters from the Canadian Maritimes and New England to Mexico and Central America. Custom models were 50 feet or larger and mostly built of fiberglass, although he also produced a handful of hulls in aluminum. Wetsig Enterprises has closed its doors, according to the Wilmington Business Development agency. There aren’t a lot of Wetsigs on the used-boat market, but offshore anglers keep watch for them.
LOA: 50 feet
BEAM: 15 feet
DRAFT: 4 feet, 6 inches
WEIGHT: 44,000 pounds
HULL TYPE: modified-vee
PROPULSION: twin 660-hp diesels
TANKAGE: 850 gallons fuel, 150 gallons water
BUILDER: Paul Wetsig, Wetsig Enterprises, Wilmington, N.C.
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January 2014 issue