A Profile of Pete Fallon's 31
After owning a 1961 31' Express Cruiser (Hull # 186 lay-up date 12-13-1961) for 37 years and re-doing the entire boat from bow to stern, I am very familiar with almost every nut, bolt and hose in the boat. I bought the boat in June of 1978 after looking for a used low hour, never fished Express Cruiser model. The boat was originally owned by Gordon Buss of Buss Fuse Company and was only used for a few seasons in Cape Cod waters before Mr. Buss had health issues and the boat went into inside dry storage for 11 years at a Cape Cod Marina.
The boat was commissioned at the Bertram dealer in Brick New Jersey in the spring of 1962 and she was powered with 413 CID Chrysler FWC cross ram big blocks with direct drive transmissions that turned 16" x 11” three-blade bronze props and low profile 106" 1-1/4" shafts with intermediate strut bearings and 3-1/2" under water Sendure transom mounted silencers and 1-1/4" raw water cooling by-passes out the transom. She had a stand-up electric enclosed head and an 18 gallon fresh water tank, a 172 gallon fiberglass fuel tank, a Navy style soft top, single lever Morse controls, a Ritchie 6" compass and a Loran A with an Alpelco paper flasher/depth sounder.
In 1979 I bought a used Pompanette RM fighting chair and fitted the boat with a set of Lee Jr. 21' single spreader outriggers, a used gin pole and four new 130 Penn Internationals spooled with 180 lb Dacron line, and we used #19 wire with 10/0 J hooks and went fishing for bluefin tuna. I ran from the mooring behind my house in Salem Willows to Stellwagon Bank, a distance of 19.6 miles, almost every day in the summer of 1979. I chartered the boat basically for gas money that summer and landed only one bluefin of 700 lbs. That fish paid for the boat insurance that summer.
1980 was a little bit more productive with three bluefin of 650, 609 and 735 over the transom, however Hurricane Bob ended the tuna season early that fall and it rained 16 out of 19 weekends, which had a negative effect on my charter business. I did manage to do a lot of blue fish and whale watch charters to clients from the New York/New Jersey areas. In the early to mid 1980’s, we caught a fair amount of giants. One of them was a 980 lb monster that was still touching the dock floor from the hanging scale at the Cape Ann Sportfish dock, that fish was 129" long with a girth of 98" and when the gin pole broke I ripped a section of gill plate off and we had to drag it alongside for over an hour and a half to get back from the bank to Gloucester Harbor. I figured I lost at least 25 pounds of gill plate and blood, and Joe Cuccuru at Producers Fish told me the fish was over 1,000 pounds. I managed to sell that fish, which was a high quality diamond grade for the unheard of price of $2.75 per pound back then, dressed weight was 760 pounds for a tidy sum of $2,090.
The next few years were fair fishing seasons, with the reduction of the tuna quota from one fish a day down to one fish per week, so if you caught a fish on Sunday the entire next week was a wash out. I finally stopped chartering in the late 80's after insurance costs for charter insurance went thru the roof and USCG regulations on survival suits and life rafts and other rules went into effect. I dry docked the boat for four years, then in 1995 I had the hull re-gel coated from the rub rail to the keel and stripped off years of built up bottom paint, had the cabin house and decks Imroned. I bought and installed new 454- 7.4L FWC Mercruiser throttle bodied fuel injected engines and 8 degree Hurth down angle 1:5:1 transmissions, new struts, monel shafts and 5" exhausts with internal mufflers and shipped the boat to West Palm Beach in 1997. I redid all the curved Plexiglass panels on the house and express bridge windshields and had all new electronics, new cockpit sole made of high density PVC foam, removed the old style engine boxes and replaced them with the single piece boxes and had new helm and companion seats built by Pompenette.
I had fiberglass cockpit side and transom panels made of gel-coated core mat and redid the cabin overhead with core mat panels and new foam-backed V berth bulkhead fabrics. The cabin sole was fiberglassed non skid panels and a new 25 gallon pressure water tank and a new Galley Maid electric head replaced the original Groco, 36 year-old toilet. I fished the boat out of Riveria Beach for three years for sailfish and dolphin and intracoastal pleasure cruising.
In 2005 I began having issues with my replacement knee and had to stop fishing. I sold the boat in 2014 to a fellow from St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. It was a sad day for me when the boat was loaded onto a RORO ship and set sail for the Islands. After owning her for 37 years, it was like losing a very good old friend.