For twenty-six of his 59 years, James Blanchard has had a ready and steady partner in his shrimping endeavors, the 63-foot steel-hull trawler named Waymaker.

Blanchard began working on the boat when it launched in 1996, and by 2001 was its proud owner. In lakes, bays and open Gulf of Mexico waters, James has guided Waymaker through weather fair and foul, and both skipper and boat have undergone changes over the decades.

Blanchard became an active, driving force in the battle for shrimpers to overcome challenges from overseas aquaculture markets, as Louisiana representative for the eight-state Southern Shrimp Alliance; Waymaker was adapted to industry changes through conversion from being a simple ice boat to housing a state-of the-art IQF system. The vessel made it possible to put three children through college, including a daughter who went on to study at Yale University School of Law and is now herself a professor of law.

When the boat’s exterior construction was complete, James became its first captain, working under its builder, the late Russell Portier. Blanchard completed the work inside and hired a carpenter to craft its fine Spanish cedar woodwork, while he put finishing touches on exterior features.

“I had a lot invested in it, a lot of time in the shipyard with metal and paint work,” he said. “The boat has beautiful lines. I think the shape of the boat is beautiful.”

The boat’s name was derived from James’ love of Christian Scripture.

“It says in the Bible that Jesus is the Waymaker, so it was named for him,” Blanchard explained. And just like the Bible’s verses, the Waymaker has afforded great learning experiences.

“This boat has taught me not to take anything for granted, to always put my faith in God and not to just rely on myself,” he said. “It’s got a special place in my heart for everything I have been able to do in my life. It’s taught me a lot of patience, the understanding that you’ve got to have faith and you’ve got to believe.”

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John DeSantis is the senior staff writer at The Times, a newspaper in Houma, La. and regularly contributes to National Fisherman.

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