US Watercraft, the commercial boatbuilding division of Waterline Systems, said it is building a new oyster farm support vessel for Matheson Oyster Co., a sustainable oyster farm located in Virginia.
Matheson Oyster came to the Hubert, N.C. boatbuilder with a specific request: build a low-freeboard vessel that can hold position safely and travel quickly in the choppy waters of Chesapeake Bay.
US Watercraft’s 26-foot aquaculture support vessel design is the result of a series of conversations with the Matheson Oyster crew, where the builder learned about Matheson’s innovative farming methods. Matheson oysters are grown in baskets on an adjustable longline system in the Chesapeake Bay, in waters up to five feet deep. The 50-pound baskets are currently retrieved and loaded onto a support vessel by a crew member in the water. This requires the crew to lift the baskets over the boat’s gunnels and lower them into the cockpit. The new USW boat is equipped with a powerful electric davit, flush deck, and 12-inch freeboard that will allow the crew to winch up the baskets and slide them on deck quickly, safely, and efficiently. The deck is also equipped with a series of removable guard rails that store out of the way during harvest and are easily replaced to secure the baskets (and serve as hand holds for the crew) while underway.
Returning to shore quickly is essential to retaining freshness. To facilitate this process, US Watercraft designed the hull with a 5° V and tapered bow to promote planning even in choppy conditions. With its 26’ LOA and 8’6” beam, the boat is easily trailered while fully loaded, ensuring a fast return to the Matheson Oyster Co. processing facility where the oysters are transferred to a refrigerated area, the builder said.
The boat is currently under construction and after launching will run year-round on Chesapeake Bay.