Photos by Cade Lucero and Mason Tuttle
Casting for rockfish and halibut while pounding through the offshore waters of the Pacific Northwest, Shane Scott discovers just how tough the Lindell 41 is.
Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” —Murphy’s Law. It’s a quote that some use as a coping mechanism for when they’re just too frustrated to come up with any other explanation as to why fate seems pinned against them. Up until now, I’ve been no stranger to this phenomenon, nor the dumbfounded feelings that ensue. But after being stranded in the middle of a snotty-watered Puget Sound in a power-sapped, inoperable vessel amidst a boat test gone awry, I’m now beginning to rethink what ol’ Capt. Murphy was feeling when he said those famous words. Call me crazy but I actually think he was having a brazenly good time.
I met Frank O’Neil, Chief Commercial Officer of Lindell Yachts at a little brewery in La Conner, Washington along with two younger men, Mason Tuttle and Cade Lucero, who would be our photographers for a fishing trip we had planned to test out their latest Lindell 41. We decided to grab dinner the evening before our venture to get acquainted.
Although I never told him this to his face, O’Neil bore an uncanny resemblance to the late Canadian comedian Norm Macdonald—sans hair. He even sounded like him.
“Our products are like the [insert name of celebrity with extensive glutius proportions here] of boating,” O’Neil said, looking up from his burger, before going on to needlessly qualify his statement. “They’ve got a big ol’ backside.”
Tuttle and Lucero cackled. O’Neil went on to explain how Lindell Yachts got its start. As the story goes, Jim Lindell, the company’s founder, started building commercial gillnet boats because he wanted to beat everyone to the best fishing spots. He developed a 40-foot gillnetter that was lighter and faster than anything in its class on the water and trounced the competition during the next commercial salmon season in Alaska . That same year, his friends were lined up asking him to build one for them.
Lindell Yachts pride themselves on the fact that they make hard-working boats for hard-working clients. The company fits right in with La Conner—the kind of place where you get stuck behind a dusty tractor going 5 miles per hour any time you need to get anywhere other than the town’s tiny main street (this happened to me at least three times).
One of my tractor-drafting moments happened the next morning. O’Neil was at the wheel of his truck, taking us to the local marina.
“Come on, this isn’t farm country,” O’Neil called out, looking for a chance to pull past the metallic yellow dinosaur on wheels that we had been stuck behind for the last several minutes. Eventually escaping the rut, we arrived at the marina, where a row of Lindells of varying sizes peppered the slips.
“98 percent of our clients are blue collar guys who became entrepreneurs; they’re hardcore hunters and fishermen,” O’Neil said as we walked down the docks. “Right after fishing season, they take off to Alaska for bear and deer hunting.”
Some of Lindell’s clients even use their boats optional davit to haul in 300-plus-pound bears that they bring in on their tenders from said hunting trips. O’Neil showed me an example of some of the customizable features a Lindell can come with on a 46-footer called the Yackattack. He opened the hatches in the cockpit to reveal a deep freezer and a commercial vacuum hidden inside.
“We made it custom for him to be able to vacuum pack and freeze fish within ten minutes of catching them,” O’Neil explained.
The bonds that Lindell makes with their buyers are unique, forged by the enduring hands-on process it takes to build each vessel. While bigger companies might be able to produce a new boat every few weeks, it takes Lindell about a year to produce one. During that year, clients play a big role in the shaping of their future vessel.
“We’re not officially a custom boat builder but we do customize a lot and our clients really have a lot of their fingerprint on their boats,” Brian Kott, owner of Lindell Yachts, explained as we took a quick tour of their factory a few minutes away from the marina. “People have been wanting more and more stuff on their boat lately, so we’re just trying to manage that. We had one customer who wanted to put a fire pit on the back deck—we had to turn that down.”
Kott, a stroke surgeon by trade, who took over Lindell Yachts from Jim Lindell six years ago, has been working to refine what his predecessor started, bringing more production, such as cabinetry, in house. They even bought a new plot of land capable of fitting a much bigger, 33,000-square-foot factory on it—one that Kott says will allow the team to build three times the number of boats that they do currently. The team plans to have the factory ready by 2023.
More than anything, Lindell boats’ claim to fame are the weight that they boast and their range with larger models at 30,000 pounds, and the ability to carry over 700 gallons of fuel..
Back at the docks and ready for action, I helped Tuttle and Lucero untie our 41. I was excited to see how this fishing boat would fair.
“No!” Lucero yelled as his glasses dropped from the boat into the water, He watched them sink helplessly. “I just did the same thing the last time we were at these docks a month ago,” Tuttle said with a laugh, shaking his head.
Although subtle, this was what I’d call the first flap of the wings in our Murphy’s Law riddled butterfly effect. We boarded our boat and headed out to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, following behind two brothers, Tony and Mike Lind, in Tony’s own Lindell 46. Unexaggeratedly, the Lind brothers are mountains of men. No, really, Tony even had Lindell customize his boat with a wet head in place of a separate shower because he’s just too wide to fit.
A childhood friend that was coming along with them for the ride, Todd Reber, showed me their cooler, filled with several pounds of packaged steaks and fish filets.
“Looks like a month’s worth of food, right?” Todd asked me. (I nodded.) “This is just for the weekend,” he laughed.
As hard working as the blue collar Lind brothers are—Mike runs their family slaughterhouse while Tony runs a concrete company-—it’s no wonder they can work up a monstrous appetite. About the only thing Tony seemed to like to eat more than steak was waves. He was plowing through the swells like there was no tomorrow as he led the way to our destination, Neah Bay.
“We’re going in the HOV lane, boys” O’Neil said as he veered our boat behind Tony’s 46, passing an older yacht to our left.
“Yeah!” Lucero shouted, watching the yacht we passed with a smirk. “They don’t have 1,200 horsepower!”
“It’s not high speed we’re looking for,” O’Neil said looking up at me. “It’s 1.0 [miles per gallon] and a 700-gallon tank that’s key. That’s what will push us ahead of the competition in this category.”
Before long, O’Neil rose from his seat and started for the ladder.
“You want to take the wheel?” he asked me as he went, “just make sure not to pull any maneuvers while I’m in the head.”
Naturally, me being at the wheel meant opening the throttle (just as soon as O’Neil had left the head). We quickly blew past Tony’s boat and made a few needlessly fun turns and 360s. Suddenly and quite unexpectedly, the waters off the bow were filled with logs upon logs. I zig-zagged between a few, with Lucero nervously watching me, as I ended up on course to plow right into a large slab of wood about 20 feet in front of us. I swerved out of the way at the last moment. While my response time might have lagged, the boat’s did not, and I witnessed just how impressively agile and maneuverable she was. The instant I turned the wheel, we were immediately out of the path of collision—just in the nick of time. Lucero breathed a sigh of relief.
“You’re a Northwestern boater now,” O’Neil said, watching from behind me, “you’ve just been baptized.”
With my stomach growling, I handed the wheel back to O’Neill and tried my best to walk across the salon deck to the galley to make myself a sandwich. Lucero and Tuttle soon followed suit—only their food ended up on seats, each other’s laps and various other places besides their mouths, as O’Neil over at the helm was purposely trying to launch us off waves.
“I want to get the props in the air one time for Shane,” O’Neil said, looking back with a smile.
“Do it!” Lucero shouted back to O’Neil, laughing while he tried to scrape some mayonnaise onto his hoagie and keep himself from falling over at the same time.
O’Neil had the boat practically leaping out of the water and slamming back into it at every interval, but the 41 handled like a champ. The same couldn’t be said, however, for the grill that was propped up on a table in the cockpit. After the third big wave, it went flying off its post and slammed onto the deck. O’Neil yelled for Lucero to secure the metal cooker as he continued down the channel, unphased.
After about three hours we arrived at our destination, a salty old marina called Big Salmon Fishing Resort, that welcomes incoming boaters with a weathered wooden shack set at the end of a teetering dock that looks as if it has been sliding slowly into the water for the last 20 years. All the slips were filled with commercial boats covered in grime—this was no beauty pageant, but if it was, Lindell was the winner.
From the cockpit, O’Neil lifted the twin 600hp Mercury engines out of the water and started up a water pump that releases a stream of fresh water mixed with salt-away solution onto the props. The fresh H2O came from a watermaker located under the deck. We soon joined the other guys on Tony’s boat, now in the cockpit setting up several fishing rods for the next day’s outing. I watched Mike try to tie the same knot at the end of his line for what seemed like an hour.
“You wanna try?” Mike said in frustration.
I shook my head.
“I have to write the story,” I said.
Eventually Tony and Mike got to cooking while the rest of us lounged around the cockpit. Reber turned on the nav lights and proceeded to gawk at the sea creatures lurking against the underside of the docks.
“Is this a starfish?” Reber asked me as he ducked down to examine it more closely. “Hand me something to poke at it with.”
I handed him a pike pole and took a moment to sit back and enjoy the aquatic scenery glowing in the effervescent red lights.
“Come on in and get yourself some food,” Mike called out to us, not too long later.
Using beef from his own slaughterhouse, Mike made us just about the best ribeye and New York strip steaks I’d ever had. And it wasn’t long before he was pushing us to eat seconds, to which I naturally obliged. However, I had to turn him down when he suggested thirds, reminding him I just ate two steaks.
“What, are you filling a quota or something?” he shot back.
We laughed and shared a few stories before turning in for the night. The 41 sleeps about five guests; two in the master cabin, up to two in the second stateroom and one in the salon—the dinette table drops down, with a small, pull-out mattress to cover it. O’Neil insisted I take the stateroom because he wanted a good story. I didn’t fight him on it. I slept like a baby.
Bright and early the next morning, I got up and watched as Tony carried over a big bucket of lures to our boat. A novice fisherman at best, I immediately reverted to my five-year-old self.
“Which one’s good for catching lingcod?” I asked.
“Everything,” he said. “They’ll bite all of it.”
“How about kings?” I asked.
“None of these … well maybe this,” he said pointing to a bluefish shaped lure.
“What about this one?” I asked, pointing to a copper rod.
“Lingcod and halibut-—they love this thing,” he said. “I don’t know why, the electrolysis it puts into the water drives them crazy.”
After thoroughly exhausting Tony with my rapid onslaught of questions, we started the boats and headed back out to sea. Tony led the way, using the sonar he had built into his 46 to find a notable halibut hole. There were some big Pacific rollers that morning, but with the built-in Seakeeper on, the 41 crossed smoothly—save for Tuttle spilling a mug of coffee all over himself.
We found a nice halibut hole and casted our lines. Within a minute of dropping mine, I had a bite and it was a big one. I lift some heavy weights in the gym but whatever was on the hook was giving me a better workout than I’d ever had. The thick electric rod I was using had completely bent back like a candy cane. After a minute or two of fighting and trying to reel my opponent in, the pull stopped. I reeled the line back up to see that the copper rod I had dropped was bitten off by its end, and only a small fragment of metal remained.
Whatever it was, it had teeth, and it was gone. And so was my luck. Just about every attempt I made after that came up with nothing. Except for … The One.
Yes, The One. I don’t know what else to call it. I had another line in the water and finally felt a little weight on the end. I reeled it up to find a giant, white ball of slime, like a blob from outer space composed of knotted-up tongues, wrapped tightly around the copper.
“What the hell is this, a sea slug?” O’Neil called out as he reached for the monster that I was reluctant to bring onto the deck. He started peeling away at the layers, and dropping them into the water, narrating as he went.
“It’s the nastiest, slimiest thing I’ve ever touched,” O’Neil said, as my stomach began to turn. “Ah! It’s all over my fingers,” he added, showing me his hand, in case I didn’t believe him.
I’ve never been seasick, but from that moment on, I sure was. Minutes later, O’Neil caught a rock fish, which he insisted I reel in.
“Isn’t that cool?” he said as I stared at the bug eyed, spiny finned, pink face looking back at me.
Queasily, I tried to keep fishing. Moments later, O’Neil decided to decapitate a small lingcod he caught. That was it for me. I went to an also seasick Tuttle and requested some Dramamine. After about a minute of searching through his duffle bag in the cabin, I couldn’t wait any longer. I rushed back up the ladder and pushed Lucero out of the way.
“Sorry, guys, I’m gonna chum the water,” I said as I rushed over to the rail and gave up the protein bar I had earlier to whatever lurked in the ocean below.
“You’ll definitely catch something now,” O’Neil said with a smirk.
Instantly feeling better, I picked up my rod and went back to it.
“Back in the saddle again!” O’Neil sang as I rode out my second wind (which was fruitless but at least there were no other blob monsters).
Eventually, it was time to head back home and though we faced snotty waters, the 41 planed crisply over them—that is until some alarming beeps started sounding. A signal on the helm’s monitor read, “Warning. Portside engine low power. Reduce speed.” Then, the engines stopped, leaving us stranded in the open water, like a pinata for unending waves to bat around.
O’Neil tried phoning Mark Fritzer, Lindell’s Vice President of Engineering. Eventually we got a hold of him and he calmly walked us through how to use the boat’s control monitor to signal the generator to power the port engine, which he reasoned likely had a faulty alternator. Within minutes, we were back in the saddle again.
“All of our boats are monitored directly by Mark via satellite connection,” O’Neil said. “And he’s available to every client via phone.”
Plenty went wrong on this trip, but we managed to right just about all of them or at least get a good laugh out of it in the process. My takeaway? Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. But with the right boat, it can still be a lot of fun.