Vessels: Of Christenings, Cajuns and Crawfish

Monday, April 05, 2004

By Larry Pearson

Of all the Cajun customs in south Louisiana, boat Christenings go back, way back to shortly after the Cajuns arrived from Acadia in Canada in the 1700's. The pursuit of food during these early hard years revolved around the bountiful rivers and streams that were full of fish, but also oysters and shellfish, mostly shrimp and crawfish. Even though these early boats were little more than small wooden canoes, made of plentiful cypress, the Cajuns were a religious people, so boat blessings and Christenings were common. Now, fast forward to March 10, 2004 on the banks of Bayou Teche at Breaux Brothers Enterprises shipyard in Loreauville, La. Breaux Brothers is a major builder of aluminum crew/supply boats in the 150-165 ft. range.

Today they are carrying forth the customs that have surrounded boat Christenings for centuries. Food is an essential ingredient in a Christening and the food of choice is crawfish. Often called "mudbugs' by locals, crawfish are not only a staple at mealtimes, but also party food. Like lobsters, most all of the meat is in the tail and it takes a while to learn how to "pinch the tail and suck the head." Crawfish are served right out of the cooker and placed in large Styrofoam containers and taken to long tables where ritual of pinching and sucking is carried out with abandon by all in attendance from the boat owner and shipyard chief to the newest apprentice employee. These events are often family affairs so it is not unusual to see wives and dozens of children running about the large open grassy spaces near the Breaux Brothers dock. While the food and the party atmosphere is critical to the success of a Christening, no one forgets the real reason for the party…. to send another oil field boat on its way to work with God's blessings.

Today the boat is the 160-ft. Ms. Nancy, a crew/supply boat, packed with all the latest innovations. The vessel is owned by C & G Boats, Larose, La. to be operated by Gulf Logistics LLC also of Larose. Joey Arceneaux owns the vessel and he proudly proclaimed," This is my third crew/supply boat, all built since 2000."

The vessel has power to spare propelled by four Caterpillar 3512 B engines. "We hope to hit 30 knots during sea trials," said Vic Breaux, son of one of the company founders Vance Breaux. The vessel has a 200 hp Wesmar hydraulic bow thruster driven off one of the inboard main engines and a fire pump is powered off the other inboard main engine.

A 93-ft. cargo deck is a main feature of this vessel, emphasizing the advantage crew/supply boats have in getting deck cargo to a rig or production platform fast. Forward of the cargo deck is the enclosed cabin with 80 passenger seats plus a private "meeting area" for supervisory personnel with a VCR, TV and table.

The interior joinery is another feature of the Beaux Brothers vessels. It fits up well and is finished to a high gloss, important in the wet environment of offshore service vessels.

Building a crew/supply boat is a very personal thing. Sure a lot of the metal is cut on computer programmed laser cutting machines, but all of the pieces are fit together by people. The shipyard workers attend the Christening and not only will they tell you what part of the boat they were responsible for, they will take you on the boat and show you what they do.

It took four mighty swings of the bottle before it broke across the bow of the Ms. Nancy, and a big roar came from the crowd when the bottle broke signifying the vessel was ready to leave the shipyard and go to work.

After the Christening, the Ms. Nancy headed down Bayou Teche for Amelia, La. to stop first at the Caterpillar dock and then out into the Gulf of Mexico for sea trials and delivery to the customer.

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