National Fisherman

Legacy isn't built in a day

Virginia boatbuilding brothers pay tribute to a long oystering tradition

By Larry Chowning

In 2006 David and Mark Moore started building an oyster boat. This July — six years later — the 30-foot Legacy went into the water at Deep Creek Landing in Newport News, Va.

It’s not that the Moore brothers are slow boatbuilders; it’s just that other things got in the way. “The reason it took so long for us to build it was because we had to build it around our lives,” says David, who owns the boat.

“We both work other jobs, so we worked on the boat mostly during holidays or at nights. But sometimes we would knock off and it was months before either of us could get back to it. It nearly drove me crazy because I love building boats, but finding the time was very difficult.”

To be sure, the Moore family has been tied to boatbuilding and the lucrative James River oyster fishery for a long time. Their father, Billy Moore, who was involved in a documentary and a book on how to build wooden deadrise boats, along with other boatbuilders in the Deep Creek area, taught David and Mark boatbuilding.

The oystering connection goes back to the 1920s when their great-grandfather leased oyster grounds on the James and Warwick rivers. He also owned an oyster buy boat.

For years, Billy, David and Mark built boats primarily for their own use, but they didn’t always get to keep them, especially in the 1980s and ’90s when the market for deadrise oyster boats was strong along the James River. “Every time we got one built, someone would come along wanting to go oystering, usually around Thanksgiving, and offer us a crazy price for it. We would sell it and start another one,” David remembers.

He can reel off a list of those boats. “We built one in 1973, 1976, 1978, 1980, two in 1982, one in 1983, one in 1985, one in 1986, one in 1991 and the last one, besides this one we have just completed, was built in 1993.

“We were pretty busy building boats for a while, but Mark got into commercial contracting and I got into the metal fabrication business, and we just didn’t have time to build boats.”

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