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There may not be many Downeast lobster boats chartering on the Gulf of Mexico, but Captain Peter Fill and his clients couldn’t be happier catching red snapper and grouper on his Yankee Star.
A native of Connecticut, Captain Fill began charter fishing at age 14. Today — after 30 years of running charters on the Alabama Coast — he still favors the speed and seaworthiness that Downeast-style semi-planing hulls deliver.
Yankee Star is a 6-pack sportfishing boat designed by legendary Downeast boat designer and builder Ernest Libby. Fill provided input on the design and hired Libby’s Boat Shop on Beals Island, Maine, to build the 11.6-meter (38-foot) fiberglass hull.
“I love Downeast boats, and I love my boat,” says Fill, who charters out of Orange Beach, Alabama. “It’s the second boat I’ve owned from this same builder.”
John Deere for a marine engine repower
Fill is also partial to John Deere marine power and the dealer support he’s received over the years. “I had the first boat built in 1997 with a 7.6L engine and had phenomenal performance out of the engine. Then I had the Yankee Star built in 2001 with an 8.1L engine. I ran that engine for 14,000 hours and repowered it two years ago with a 9.0L engine.”
The John Deere PowerTech™ 6090SFM85 marine engine spins a 66x68.6-centimeter (26x27-inch), 5-blade prop through a Twin Disc 505A transmission with a 1.77:1 gear ratio. Yankee Star steams across the water at 25 knots on the pin. “There’s no need to run the boat that hard, but if I have to, I have that option,” says Fill.
He says the 373-kW (500-hp) marine engine delivers what it promises — and more. “When John Deere says you have 500 horsepower, that’s on a bad day. You don’t have to be under ideal conditions to get the horsepower they advertise.”
With a displacement of about 10 metric tons (23,000 pounds) fully loaded with cargo, fuel, and passengers, Yankee Star cruises 18.5 knots at 1950 rpm at 62 percent load. Fill says the 9.0L engine has 50 percent more torque than his previous 280-kW (375-hp) John Deere 8.1L marine engine with the same gear reduction. “I’m also getting more speed running at the same rpm, and the 9.0L engine is quieter and smoother.”
In addition to propelling the boat, the 9.0L engine drives a belt-driven wash-down pump and a Vickers V10 pump for the hydraulic steering.
Custom sportfishing design
Fill leveraged his years of experience with boats when designing the layout of the engine room. Yankee Star sports a spacious engine compartment accessible through three hatches with sliding doors from the wheelhouse deck. It’s easy to maneuver around the inline 6-cylinder engine. “I could have four wrestlers standing around the engine, no problem,” quips Fill. “Everything is designed for ease of maintenance.”
Fill says the John Deere marine engine sports a clean design, and it runs clean, too. “Customers never complain about diesel fumes while fishing at transom. My deckhand, Ricky, loves it, and the transom is always spotless. You’d never know we left the dock,” says Fill. Those qualities are important, because Fill takes pride in keeping his charter boat very clean. “My boat is going to be immaculate when customers arrive,” says Fill. “If a guest comes down to the head, it’s going to smell like fresh flowers.”
Top-notch charter fishing
Most of his clients are repeat customers. Sure, they enjoy a clean, quiet boat and reeling in a trophy catch from the crystal-clear blue waters off the Alabama coast. But they also respond to Fill’s contagious love for fishing and the local marine environment.
“I’ve been fishing since 1965 and have always been passionate about it.” Fill adds that it’s important to instill that passion for fishing and a respect for the marine environment in today’s youth. “We believe young people are a vital part of coastal conservation, and it is important to educate them about marine life.”
Over the years, Fill has hooked a lot of young anglers on fishing, which for him is truly the prize catch. Fill says, “Whether they catch a big fish or a small fry, it’s the size of the smile that matters.”
When John Deere says you have 500 horsepower, that’s on a bad day. You don’t have to be under ideal conditions to get the horsepower they advertise.