The finest fishing boat I have ever owned is my D.R. Radon Signature 29, which I named Gray Light. I have a soft spot for boats built by small shops, so much so that, in addition to Radon, I have owned boats built by Riddle Boatworks, Modutech and Farallon Boats. On the West Coast and in Hawaii, Radon boats stand alone, as they are built to withstand the rigors of commercial fishing yet have the fit and finish of a sport boat.
Radon boats are customizable to meet the needs of specific fisheries and are built to be stronger than the crew. Quality materials such as ISO resin and composites are used throughout. That’s important because ISO resin is much stronger than polyester resin. The boat has no screws holding it together; it is fully bonded. This sort of unibody design means no corrosion, cracking or flexing over time.
Don Radon is a lifetime fisherman and surfer, and his boats provide access to every system and part. Built in Goleta, Calfornia, Radon boats have a very soft ride, even in the tumultuous conditions we face on the Gulf of Alaska, where I fish. I have never operated a boat of any size that runs better in a following sea. Running down sea can cause some boats to feel out of control. Radon’s trademark “belly keel” and stepped chine help Gray Light run just fine in a big, fast-moving sea.
Powered by twin 300-hp Mercury outboards, she cruises effortlessly at 25 knots, burning 1.3 mpg, and holds 380 gallons of fuel and 100 gallons of fresh water. Equipment includes a 12-volt anchor winch with 1,800 feet of Spectra rode, a 2,000-pound insulated fish hold, a Webasto diesel furnace for heat, an aft station with controls, a Simrad GPS plotter/sounder with side scan, and a Simrad AP 44 autopilot.
After 25 years of mentoring deckhands and basically training my competition, I wanted a boat I could run single-handed. The aft station has a second autopilot control head, a plotter/sounder repeater and throttle controls, so handling the boat and working the salmon spread at the same time is very manageable without a deckhand.
As a charter skipper, the 2,000-pound fish hold is perfect for the multiday excursions I run out to a remote lodge from Seward, Alaska. I typically bring 1,000 pounds of ice to keep the fish we catch in perfect shape. I also removed the boat’s powder-coated aluminum rails aft and had them treated with Rhino Lining. This allows me to pull gear, such as shrimp and crab pots, over the rails without scratching the boat.
I’ve been getting 4,000 to 6,000 hours out of the engines — about six to eight years of service — which makes outboards a very reasonable choice. The boat still looks like new after seven years of hard service, and I am sure she will last long enough for a young, hard-charging captain to earn a living for another 25 years after I am done. Despite the high cost of having Gray Light built in 2015, the boat has kept its value. There is just no substitute for a custom, hand-crafted boat built in a small shop with this much attention to detail. Every boat is a compromise, but my Radon 29 doesn’t compromise much.
To fish with Andy Mezirow, visit graylightalaska.com.