Bayou Shipbuilding and Service in Mobile, Ala., is converting a 96' x 24' oil supply vessel into an oyster planter for W.E. Kellum Seafood in Weems, Va.

The vessel will be used to haul and plant seed oysters and shells on the firm’s private oyster grounds. It will also be used to plant on public grounds for Virginia’s Oyster Replenishment Program.

“We purchased the boat down on the gulf and decided to find someone down there to convert it,” says Tommy Kellum of W.E. Kellum Seafood. “It is a lot easier to get washdown pumps and cannons (used to blow the seed and shell on oyster grounds) installed down on the gulf than it is in Virginia,” says Kellum.

As Virginia’s oysters have flourished lately, business relationships between the commonwealth’s oyster growers and Gulf of Mexico oystermen and seafood dealers has nurtured friendly business relations. On good advice, the Kellums bought the OSV and are having Bayou Shipbuilding do the conversion.

The boatyard came highly recommended by Stan Wright, owner of Wright Brand Oysters-Seafood, and Dominick Ficarino Jr. of Dominick’s Seafood both of Bayou La Batre, Ala.

The Kellums met Wright through their oyster businesses and became acquainted with Ficarino through their retail seafood store, Kellum Farms Produce & Seafood Market in Irvington, Va.

“We sell a lot of seafood that we buy from Dominick for our store,” says Kellum. “He is a super guy with a first-class product. Stan and Dominick highly recommended that we take the boat to Bayou Shipbuilding, and they have been in the business in that area for a long time.”

The boat is expected to arrive in Virginia in late June after a seven- to eight-day run up the Atlantic coast from the gulf. Although it will be the first OSV hull conversion for Virginia’s oyster fishery, the state’s menhaden fishery has regularly used them for conversion to menhaden steamers and carry-away boats.

Jennings Boatyard in Reedville, Va., keeps turning out garveys. The firm has a 27' x 10' garvey just about completed that will be going to commercial fisherman Bill Harris of Hartfield, Va. The boat will have a pilothouse aft, leaving enough space forward for a gillnet reel. It will be powered by a 300-hp Suzuki outboard. The motor will be mounted on a Stainless Marine outboard bracket.

In May, the firm had a 27' x 10' garvey hull sitting on the yard to be used for a research/education vessel for Stockton University in New Jersey. It will be used for teaching and conducting research activities in the school’s marine science program. The contract on the boat is still under negotiation awaiting Coast Guard passenger certification. “I really do not think that’s going to be a problem,” says Larry Jennings, owner of the yard.

Mentioned in the November 2020 column, Jennings has since completed and delivered a fiberglass pilothouse to Wayne Goddard of Valley Lee, Md., and his son-in-law Brian Hite of Ridge, Md. The pilothouse was installed on the 65-foot wooden buyboat Poppa Francis. The deck boat built in 1989 was one of the last wooden deck boats built on Chesapeake Bay. It was built by Wayne’s father Francis Goddard.

Moving to Deltaville, Va., David Reid of New Point, Va., was at Deltaville Boatyard in May replacing four bottom planks on Carlton Haywood’s Sharon H., a 38' x 10' deadrise built by Virgil Miller of Deltaville in 1972. Reid and his bother Danny are part of the bay’s wooden workboat culture that helps keep the bay’s workboats alive. They do not have a boatyard, but for 40 years have gone to where the boats are hauled to do the necessary work to keep each boat going. Traditional watermen in the area know them well.

The Sharon H. was prepared for the crab and oyster seasons. The Nellie Crockett and F. D. Crockett, both on the National Historic Register, are also at the Deltaville Boatyard. Larry Chowning photo.

When asked if they wanted their address published in NF to advertise their work, David made it clear: “We have more work than we can do!” The unfortunate message for bay watermen from that was that traditional and affordable boatwrights, like the Reids, are now few and far between.

While up on the hard, the Sharon H. was shadowed by the large wooden hulls, side-by-side of the 61.7' x 20.4' x 6.5' Nellie Crockett and 55.8' x 15.7' x 4.6' F.D. Crockett. The boat crew of the Deltaville Maritime Museum were painting the bottom and sides of the log hull of the F.D. Crockett, while Ted and Mimi Parish and family of Georgetown, Md., were getting the Nellie ready for the upcoming annual Chesapeake Bay Buyboat Rendezvous in August. The owners normally do their annual maintenance at a yard closer to home but foreclosure of that yard brought them to Deltaville Boatyard, a yard capable of hauling a wooden hull the size of the Nellie Crockett. Both the Nellie Crockett (1925) and F.D. Crockett (1924) are listed in the National Historic Landmarks Program.

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Larry Chowning is a writer for the Southside Sentinel in Urbanna, Va., a regular contributor to National Fisherman, and the author of numerous books.

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