On North Carolina’s Outer Banks, Hatteras Boatyard in Buxton, N.C., caters mostly to commercial and charter boat fishermen hauling and maintaining boats up to 55 feet.

Started in 1984, the yard was founded by Michael Scott and traded under the name of Scott Boatyard until he sold it in 2001. Back in the 1970s and early ’80s, however, Scott built boats under the name of Buxton Woods Boat Works. Under that name, Scott started out building dory-style haul-seine and pound net skiffs, and restoring and converting old sail-powered Carolina shad boats to power.

By 1980, Scott was building bigger boats. Former NF Field Editor Richard Lebovitz wrote a feature in 1981 called “Fuel-Easy: Lucy B finds roots in the past.” The detailed story was on Scott and crew building the wooden deadrise Lucy B, a 36' x 9' 10-1/2" offshore commercial fishing boat.

Nearly 40 years after Lebovitz’s article appeared in NF, a call to boatyard manager Eric Ensenat in February 2021 revealed the Lucy B was at the yard, in for repairs.

“She was built right here by Michael Scott,” says owner and captain of the Lucy B, Rob West of Buxton. West purchased the boat in 1992 and works the Lucy B in the Atlantic Ocean gillnet fishery catching Spanish mackerel, bluefish, croaker, gray trout, spiny dogfish, and striped bass; and he fishes hook and line for king mackerel.

West says Lucy B is the only all-wood gillnet boat working in North Carolina’s Atlantic gillnet fishery between Ocracoke Island and Oregon Inlet, N.C.

The boat is at the yard for replacement of rotten wood in the cabin top, for hull and bottom painting, and mechanical work.

“The yard can do most anything with fiberglass and wood boats,” says West. “We can depend on them to haul us immediately when we have a problem, and that’s important to a commercial fisherman.”

There is also a Webbers Cove 34 fiberglass 35' x 10' 6" built in Blue Hill, Maine, at Hatteras Boatyard for repairs. The boat is named Devocean and is owned by commercial fisherman David Isbrecht of Buxton. Isbrecht had the boat built in Maine new in 1986 to work in the North Carolina ocean gillnet fishery. Over the years he has put about 45,000 hours on engines.

“I haven’t sat idle at the dock,” he says.

Speaking of engines, Isbrecht recently received notice that he has been awarded a $13,500 grant to go toward the purchase of a new Caterpillar C7.1 diesel engine for his boat.

The grant was awarded by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, Division of Air Quality and funded by the U.S. EPA’s Diesel Emissions Reduction Act Program.

Isbrecht says the new engine and his dedication to maintaining Devocean is part of his retirement plan. He has some good advice for fishermen nearing retirement age.

“I’m not planning on retiring anytime soon, but part of my financial plan is the sale of my boat and permits,” he says. “Some fishermen, when they get towards retirement, let off on maintaining their old boat. That’s not a good plan. I look after the Devocean so she will continue to get me out to the fishing grounds and bring me home safe. I also see her as an important long-term investment for me — one I need to look after.”

Boatyard manager Ensenat says Hatteras Boatyard was purchased in 2016 by an investment group composed of fishermen/investors determined to keep the property from being sold for condominium development. An ongoing issue with coastal commercial fishing communities is the loss of railways and boatyards to urban growth.

Speaking of old boats, Deltaville Boatyard in Deltaville, Va., recently had the wooden deck boat Veteran up on the hard for replacement of two bottom planks and other maintenance.

The hull of the Veteran is 107 years old, built in 1914 by J. Wood Tull in Irvington, Va.

Veteran's hull is 107 years old and up on the hard at Deltaville (Va.) Boatyard. Larry Chowning photo.

She was originally named Elsie Louise and has had a remarkable career, starting out as a freight and oyster dredge boat for Morattico Packing Co. of Baltimore, Md. She was used to haul freight, buying oysters and dredging for crabs and oysters until converted in the 1980s to work in the Chesapeake Bay’s menhaden snapper rig fishery. She was renamed the Georgeanna and rebuilt by her owner, Capt. Wesley “Dootsie” Walker of White Stone, Va., in the style of a menhaden steamer with the pilothouse forward on deck.

The boat was sold to Eric Miller of Burgess, Va., in the early 2000s. He took off the menhaden-style house/pilothouse and masterfully converted the old Elsie Louise into a pleasure boat with a large house aft. He named her the Veteran. Today, she is owned by Michael Sheffield of Urbanna, Va., and is being used to carry charters on the Rappahannock River.

For 107 years the hull of Elsie Louise has won from worms and rot and rust and barnacles. She has sailed through stormy and fair winds and rough and calm seas. Most of her former captains and mates are in graveyards now — but she’s still sailing.

Hats off to Elsie Louise!

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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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