Commercial fishermen working in the nation’s inshore fisheries often do much of their own maintenance on their boats and gear. With the cost of maintenance and upkeep it pays to be handy. Tangier Island, Va. waterman Willie Crockett is a case in point.
In October, Crockett had his boat, the 42’ x 12.5’ Carolyn Annette, up on the hard at Pruitt’s Boat Yard on the island, getting ready for the start of Virginia’s public oyster dredge season in November.
“She started leaking bad at a spot on one side of the keel but I’d had it happen before so I was pretty sure it was just a bad shaft tube,” says Crockett. “I had replaced one once before so I knew how to do it.”
After installing the new fiberglass tube shaft alley with the help of yard manager Gary Parks, Crockett was ready to go back on the oyster grounds. Crockett, 71, is currently working the Carolyn Annette in the Virginia waters of Pocomoke Sound. The sound forms part of the boundary between the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia.
“I’ve oystered most of my life and I’ve never seen so many oysters as there are now in Pocomoke Sound,” he says. “I have an hour run (from Tangier) to the sound and we are catching our limit (16 bushels) every day in about an hour and a half and we are back home for lunch.”
Jerry Pruitt owns Pruitt’s Boat Yard and for years built wooden deadrise boats there. Pruitt and his brother-in-law Mickey Parks built traditional wooden deadrises, several in the 45’ to 50’ range, specifically to work in Virginia’s winter crab dredge fishery.
That all went bust in 2008 when Virginia Marine Resources Commission banned the fishery for conservation reasons. Pruitt, 77, now leases his yard to Gary Parks who runs the yard and helps maintain Tangier’s aging commercial fishing fleet.
Named after Crockett’s daughter, the Carolyn Annette was built by Deltaville wooden boatbuilder, the late Willard Norris in 1985. The boat was fiberglassed over at the now defunct Deltaville Boat Co. in 2002 by Berend Tyson.
Interestingly, the Carolyn Annette was featured in a National Fisherman Around the Yard-South column in 2002 by former NF field editor Charles Piatt when the boat was being fiberglassed over in Deltaville. She was then known as the Patti Paige, named after Crockett’s first wife.
A few years after the boat was fiberglassed, Crockett needed a new engine. He had a well-used 6-71 Detroit Diesel that needed replacing and he wanted to purchase a new 300-hp Cummins Diesel.
“I went to the bank to borrow the money and they said I needed to put the boat up for collateral. They asked me a bunch of questions about the boat,” says Crockett. “I went home and got the NF article, took it to the bank man, he read it and loaned me the money – no other questions asked.”