Rumbling across the main stem of the Chesapeake Bay, the Patricia Campbell was carrying about 7 million juvenile oysters. Its captain, Karl Willey, was eyeing the GPS as the planting site in the Tred Avon River approached. Soon, a capable crew of deckhands and volunteers would be guiding the spat-on-shell oysters down the conveyor belt, toward the spreader, and into the murky waters below. After about an hour, the oysters were in their new home, cleaning and filtering the water around them.
For a boat that has traversed nearly every tributary in Maryland, the planting was just another day at the office in the vessel's lengthy career. But this year is special for the Patricia Campbell; the boat is marking a milestone—its 20th year of service.
A marvel of a vessel when it was built in 2002 to accelerate CBF's restoration efforts, today the 60-by-19-foot Patricia Campbell is as seasoned as the deadrise crab boats it often passes on its way to oyster sanctuaries. But even today it remains innovative and unique.
Karl Willey, the first and current captain of the vessel, said he knows of one other boat on the Chesapeake—Future Harvest—that has similar features. Built by a Virginia oyster company it is smaller and used for aquaculture.
"One of my favorite things about my job on the Patricia Campbell is seeing the spat-on-shell hit the water because I know they're going to create oyster reefs and filter the water for years to come," said Willey.
Or maybe what you're trying to do is just impossible
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