The R/V Patricia Campbell deploys 37 spat-on-Reef Balls, plus 2.5 million spat-on-shell in a new area on Cooks Point Sanctuary Reef near Tilghman Island. © Erika Nortemann The R/V Patricia Campbell deploys millions of spat-on-shell in a new area on Cooks Point Sanctuary Reef. Photo © Erika Nortemann 

The Oyster Restoration Vessel Patricia Campbell

Patricia Campbell's Mission

  • Apply the unique capabilities of Patricia Campbell to enhance restoration efforts.
  • Leverage greater public and private investment in oyster restoration.
  • Engage volunteers to help produce seed oysters for use in CBF's oyster gardening program.
  • Create public awareness of the critical need to restore oysters.
  • Develop partnerships with community groups, institutions, and organizations.
  • Catalyze research on habitat and oyster restoration.
  • Serve as a local source of hatchery-produced seed oysters for reef projects.
  • Help CBF reduce pollution and save the Bay for future generations to enjoy!


  • Length overall = 60 feet
  • Beam (width) = 19 feet
  • Draft = 3.5 feet to 5 feet
  • Crew = 2 to 3 people
  • Crane capable of lifting 2 tons (4,000 pounds)
  • Engines = twin 375 HP diesels
  • Fuel capacity = 750 gallons of "bio-diesel,' a Bay-friendly soybean byproduct
  • Maximum tonnage = 40 tons
  • Top speed = 15.7 knots
  • Cruising speed = 12.7 knots
  • Built by Midship Marine, Harvey, La.

Realizing that restoring Chesapeake Bay oysters requires dedicated efforts, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) commissioned the restoration vessel, Patricia Campbell, in August 2002. From its homeport at CBF's Oyster Restoration Center in Shady Side, Md., the 60-foot boat transports and places hatchery-produced seed oysters onto sanctuary reefs throughout Maryland waters. It also carries oyster shell and other materials for reef construction.

CBF Trustee and oyster advocate Keith Campbell funded construction of Patricia Campbell and named it for his wife, Patricia. The vessel’s design combines features from Virginia oyster farmers’ boats with state-of-the-art technology to create the most advanced oyster restoration vessel on the Bay. The boat performs multiple functions essential to oyster restoration to help jumpstart the Bay’s decimated oyster population.

Historically, Chesapeake oysters were the Bay’s most valuable fishery. Ecologically, native oysters are equally important: they filter large amounts of algae, sediment, and other pollutants. Native oyster reefs also provide habitat for fish, crabs, and other Bay organisms. Currently, native oysters are estimated at less than two percent of historic levels, making restoration critical to help improve the Bay’s water quality and increase its economic viability.

Patricia Campbell: Making Reef Building More Efficient

Reef balls are loaded onto the Patricia Campbell oyster restoration vessel. Photo by Karl Willey/CBF Staff
Photo by Karl Willey/CBF Staff

CBF often works with partner organizations to design, build, and stock sanctuary oyster reefs. Patricia Campbell brings to collaborative projects the capability to deposit as much as 40 tons of oyster shell or spread up to several million seed oysters per load. Its most valuable features are the built-in conveyor and spreader that allow the crew to evenly spread seed oysters from the bow with pinpoint accuracy. The on-deck crane also gives her the capability to place alternative reef materials, such as concrete reef balls, on the bottom.

At our Oyster Restoration Center, CBF has installed three 3,000-gallon setting tanks for producing seed oysters. Using larvae produced at the University of Maryland’s Horn Point Laboratory, CBF has the capability to produce more than twenty million oysters per year. The larvae attach to oyster shells in one-ton stainless steel containers, which are later hoisted by crane onto Patricia Campbell for transport to reef sites. Patricia Campbell's draft enables it to work in shallow water. The specially designed spuds, a type of anchor, allow the boat to hold its position exactly or spin on a dime, making placement of valuable young oysters onto reefs much more precise. Patricia Campbell brings valuable innovation to oyster restoration to improve the Bay's water quality, help restore fisheries, and save the Bay.

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