There are quite a few family-owned companies in the workboat industry that have been passed on from generation to generation. There are lots of stories about the families that own these companies — some of them true, some are tall tales, and some are simply falsehoods. One thing most of them have in common though is that they are almost always interesting.

Cenac Towing Company is one of those pioneering firms, whose storied past has left an indelible footprint on the region,” Jason P. Theriot wrote in the introduction to his new book, “Pelican Brand Oysters to Pioneer Tug and Barge, The Legacy of Cenac Towing Co.”

How do we know what’s in the book is the way it really was and is? Because Arlen B. Cenac Jr. hired Theriot, who is an author and historian, to write the book for his sons — Jack and Jock Cenac.

“We are a marine-oriented family. We were born on the water, made a living from the water, and continue to be involved with the natural waterways of the great Gulf Coast and the world,” Arlen wrote in the book’s foreward.

It sounds cliché to say that the author was given unprecedented access to the Cenac family and its histories through interviews and photos. But he was and he delivered.

Theriot takes us from C. Cenac & Co., the first commercial seafood cannery and distributor of oysters in the region, to the family’s close ties to Texaco and the burgeoning oil and gas business in Louisiana and right up through today. The journey runs almost 200 pages and features so many characters it’s hard to keep track of them all. The Cenac family alone is a challenge to keep up with much less all the peripheral characters. (Perhaps if the publishers had included a genealogy page with a family tree.) But it’s worth the effort.

At times I asked myself, “Is that the grandfather or the great grandfather?” But it’s fun to try to stay with them all. And like a novel, you’re anxious to see how it all turns out.

When I finished the book, it occurred to me that the next chapters were being written right now by the current Cenac family members. Maybe Theriot will get a chance to tell their stories as well.

You purchase the book at


Ken Hocke has been the senior editor of WorkBoat since 1999. He was the associate editor of WorkBoat from 1997 to 1999. Prior to that, he was the editor of the Daily Shipping Guide, a transportation daily in New Orleans. He has written for other publications including The Times-Picayune. He graduated from Louisiana State University with an arts and sciences degree, with a concentration in English, in 1978.