Delaware Bay Shipbuilding Co. LLC of Leesburg, N. J., launched the 64’ x 20’ x 4’ 5” oyster dredge boat, Jill Louise, on June 15 for Bivalve Packing Company (BPC) out of Port Norris, N.J.

President of BPC Steve Fleetwood says the firm was founded in 1946 and is one of the largest oyster growers/packers in New Jersey. The new boat is named after Fleetwood’s daughter-in-law and modeled after a 1920’s New Jersey wooden dredge schooner. The new steel hull boat will be worked on Delaware Bay and Great Bay, dredging oysters and maintaining grounds by moving, cleaning, and replanting shell and seed oysters. The new vessel is an Eastern rig/schooner-style vessel with the house aft, which allows for plenty of workspace forward. The raised aluminum pilothouse with nine windows provides good visibility and oversight of the workspace for the helmsman.

The Jill Louise was built for Bivalue Packing Company, one of the largest oyster farms in New Jersey. Photo by Delaware Bay Shipbuilding Co.

The hull is built out of Corten steel, with foredeck and bulkheads made out of stainless steel, and the house/pilothouse out of aluminum. The boat is powered by a Cummins QSM11 rated at 455 h.p.

A Genset 12 KW Phasor generator runs the electrical, and a Cummins QSB 4.5-m auxiliary hydraulic pump engine runs three conveyor belts, two tumbler sorters for washing and cleaning farm-grown oysters, and two main winches used to tow a 250 lb. oyster dredge. A Simrad Marine electronic package was installed.

The boat is designed by Farrell and Norton Naval Architects of New Castle, N.J. The architectural firm specializes in designing commercial workboats and has recently been busy designing commercial fishing boats for Mid-Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico boatbuilders.

BPC owns several old wooden vessels. The oldest one, Peter R. Paynter is a 1899 wooden New Jersey schooner. The 55’ 9’ x 17’ 7” vessel was built in Essington PA.

The Jersey schooner Peter R. Paynter, above, built in 1899 is one of the oldest commercial fishing boats that is still working. Photo by Bivalve Packing Company

Fleetwood says the Peter R. Paynter has spent her entire life working in the Delaware Bay oyster fishery, and he believes it is one of the oldest commercial fishing vessels still working in the country. He plans to keep the 125-year-old vessel working. “I will never do anything to let her go away,” he says. “We needed another boat, and when we looked to the future, we decided steel, aluminum, and stainless steel would eliminate maintenance issues that go along with wooden boats.”

Fleetwood says BPC works about 1,500 acres of oyster grounds in the traditional method of planting seed on shell cultch bottoms and also in more modern aquaculture methods of growing oysters in cages.

The firm packs oysters under the East Point Brand label.  “We plant a lot of seed oysters and move a lot of shell over some distances. The Jill Louise has better crew accommodations for going over to our oyster beds on Great Bay,” he says.

Delaware Bay Shipbuilding Co. LLC currently has a 50’ aluminum research and dive boat underway for Deep Blue Void LLC out of Lighthouse Point, Florida.

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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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