March / April 2022

The Oysterman’s Dream

Copps Island Oysters’ historic fleet still going strong
Copps Island Oyster

Copps Island Oysters, which Norm Bloom founded in 1994, carries on his family’s traditions of oyster dredging, which extend back to the 1940s off the Connecticut shore. He prefers proven oyster boats: VIGILANT (left) was built in North Carolina in 1924 and has since had her wooden hull sheathed in steel; the GRACE P. LOWNDES (center) was built in 1931 in Stratford, Connecticut, and has been recently restored (see sidebar, page 26); and the MARY COLMAN of 1924 (right) started off as an oyster buy boat in Virginia.

Top of the Morning

Capt. Norm Bloom is smiling between sips of his green tea and bites of a breakfast sandwich. He’s at an outdoor table overlooking the harbor at East Norwalk, Connecticut, and this morning is shaping up to be a good day.

The cold front that brought pelting rain in the middle of the night is blowing off to the east, leaving a mild breeze and the possibility of abundant sunshine for this Saturday in late October 2021. It’s a perfect morning to be out on the oyster grounds along the north shore of Long Island Sound, working RINGGOLD BROTHERS. Rigged to harvest oysters by towing two dredges over the oyster bars, she’s one of those well-kept workboats some New England fishermen like to call the “finest kind.” Oystermen just call her a “drudgeboat,” as the word is universally pronounced among them.

At nearly 20' abeam and 56' LOA, RINGGOLD BROTHERS is stout and rugged-looking, with two booms tethered to a steel H-frame over the forecastle. Her open deck, sweeping sheer, and pilothouse mounted high and aft over the engineroom give her the functional elegance often associated with classic New England fishing boats. But her origins are not in New England. RINGGOLD BROTHERS started life 110 years ago as a Chesapeake Bay skipjack, dredging oysters under sail.

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