Tim Broderick was the captain of the 55-foot fishing dragger Four Kids, and for five seasons he’d go out into Vineyard Sound and pull nets to harvest fluke. But over the years fishing has become harder and not as profitable. This summer he sold the dragger to Stanley Larsen of Menemsha Fish Market.

Tim Broderick sold his dragger Four Kids this summer, switching from fluke fishing to oyster farming. — Mark Lovewell

“It was a nice three-month summer job,” Tim said.

These days he has a nearly year-round job — raising and harvesting oysters in Menemsha Pond with his father Stephen.

Four years ago the Brodericks began to shift their thinking away from fish and toward oysters. They acquired two shellfish grants, and two years ago put out their gear with baby oysters. They built their oyster farming barge in the family backyard. It is a product of Chilmark ingenuity, involving the recycled hull of a 38-foot Silverton Cabin Cruiser. Everything above the hull is new, including the deck, and a tall cabin made of fiberglass cloth and resin on plywood and framed with pine two by fours. The beam is 11 feet, wide enough to include all the amenities they need. From a distance, the barge looks like a peculiar lobster boat with an oddly shaped cabin.

It takes two years to raise a juvenile oyster to a harvestable adult size. A wild oyster takes three years to reach harvestable size.

The Brodericks built a custom oyster barge in their backyard, using the recycled hull of a Silverton Cabin Cruiser. — Mark Lovewell

This summer the Brodericks had a promising start to their business, selling oysters to four Island restaurants: Port Hunter, the Home Port, the Harbor View and Offshore Ale Co. They also sell to the Menemsha Fish House, a wholesaler.

The two designed and built a grader/tumbler, which sorts out small oysters that are returned to the pond for further growing. During the sorting process, the smallest oysters have their shape improved for future harvesting. While rolling in the tumbler, the sharp edges of the shell are dulled; then as the cultured oyster grows, it forms a fuller body, different from the more banana-shaped wild oyster. Oysters that go through the tumbler are also cleaned.

The Brodericks market their shellfish under the name Chilmark Oyster Farm, and showcase their oysters in custom-made wooden boxes assembled from re-purposed wood collected at Island job sites. Jeremy Mayhew of Oceanscape Arts designed the logo.

Tim Broderick: "At the end of the day, it is still fishing. You are picking a new fishery." — Mark Lovewell

The Broderick family has been on the water a long time. Stephen Broderick, 69, was chief engineer for the ferry Islander for 28 years and spent 40 years as a working mariner. Tim Broderick, 38, has been on the water since he was a kid.

“It is a great place to work, and it is quiet,” Stephen said of Menemsha Pond. Much quieter than the engine room of a Steamship Authority ferry or out on a dragger.

The future looks good for Chilmark Oyster Farm. Tim Broderick said the business is meeting their goals, and operates nearly year-round. During the coldest part of winter if ice moves in, they haul the barge out of the water.

Tim admitted that there are times when he misses dragging. But "there are benefits,” he added. “I get to work with my father. We share a great office in a beautiful building, where we grow oysters. At the end of the day, it is still fishing. You are picking a new fishery. I think it fits me better. It is the future.”