The 56-foot aluminum Cap’n Lake was built a decade ago to work in Chesapeake Bay’s aquaculture oyster fishery. Today, it is just like new and still going strong.

Lake “Lakey” Cowart Jr. of Cowart Seafood Corp. in Lottsburg, Va., had Atlantic Metal Products of Topping, Va., build the Cap’n Lake in 2010. (See NF August 2011, “Barge ahead: Cap’n Lake harvests Chesapeake oysters with dredge and cages”)

The construction of Cap’n Lake was a statement of the successful revival of Virginia’s oyster fishery. Through the 1950s to 1990s, the oyster fishery was horribly depressed as a result of diseases (MSX and dermo) and predator destruction by the cownose ray that decimated the industry. Success in the development of disease-resistant oysters and better growing methods, like cage and spat-on-shell growing, and providing protection from rays contributed greatly to the comeback of the fishery.

The building of Cap’n Lake was a sign of confidence by Cowart that bay oysters had come back enough for him to justify building a boat that would financially support itself now and into the future.

“She has done exactly what we wanted her to do,” says Cowart. “She has worked great for us, and she has proven to be well worth our investment.”

The boat is being used to plant shell and seed oysters on Cowart’s oyster grounds in the York and Rappahannock rivers, and tributaries on Potomac River and to harvest seed oysters on the James River.

A main change to the boat came in 2015 when Cowart had a new aluminum support system built and installed under the 700-bushel-capacity hopper. After five years, the pressure-treated wood braces supporting the hopper had worn out, says Cowart.

Unusual to the Chesapeake Bay region, Cap’n Lake is designed with a jet-drive propulsion system. When planting oysters in close to shore, Cowart can determine by sound when the vessel is in too-shallow water.

“The jet drive sucks stuff off the bottom,” says Cowart. “And when I hear shells rattling around that intake, I know to put her in neutral and let her slowly drift forward."


HOME PORT: Lottsburg, Va.

OWNER: Cowart Seafood Corp.

DESIGNER: Kaufman Design, Severna Park, Md.

BUILDER: Atlantic Metal Products, Topping, Va.




LENGTH: 56' 2"

BEAM: 16' 7"

DRAFT: 30"


PAYLOAD CAPACITY: 700 bushels of oysters

POWERTRAIN: John Deere, 525 hp/12.5 liter at 2,100 rpm, hooked up to a 610 HT Traktor Jet from North American Marine Jet

SHAFT: Stainless steel 2"

SPEED: 18 knots empty, 9 knots loaded

FUEL CONSUMPTION: 24 gallons per hour at 2,000 rpm

FUEL CAPACITY: 90 gallons

ELECTRONICS: Garmin GMR 424 XHD2 radar and Garmin 8616 XSV display, includes GPS, depth finder and installed 2020 by Marine Installations, Reedville, Va.

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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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