The frame and keels are in place as The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk’s new research vessel begins to take shape, with the boat expected to hit the water late next spring.
The $2.6 million, 65-foot catamaran is being built at the Robert E. Derecktor Inc. shipyard in Mamaroneck, NY.
In an Oct. 15 tour of the shipyard, Micah Tucker, general manager of Robert E. Derecktor, and Robert Kunkel, president of Alternative Marine Technologies, gave a first look at what will become the Aquarium’s new “floating classroom” to Aquarium President Jennifer Herring and philanthropists George & Carol Bauer of Wilton, who were among the primary contributors toward the boat’s design and construction.
The catamaran, which will replace the Aquarium’s current 34-year-old trawler, will be powered by a hybrid diesel-electric propulsion system that will reduce diesel fuel consumption by an estimated 75 percent, according to a release from the Aquarium. The new vessel will offer both a climate-controlled indoor classroom and an outdoor research space with total capacity of 65, more than twice that of the Aquarium’s current 40-foot boat.
Incat Crowther of Australia designed the new vessel.
“After such thorough thought and effort, it’s very exciting to see our new research vessel beginning to take shape,” Herring said in the release. “We can’t wait to get it in the water and expand our educational opportunities out on the Sound, all the while doing it more quietly, more economically and in a more environmentally friendly way.”
Besides the Bauers, other major contributors for the boat were the Per and Astrid Heidenreich Family Foundation of Greenwich and The TK Foundation of Nassau, Bahamas.
Norwalk schoolchildren will be invited to enter a naming contest for the boat in November.
Fund-raising and planning for the new research vessel was led by a special committee of naval architects, marine engineers and Aquarium staff members led by Per Heidenreich, founder of Norwalk-based Heidmar, Inc., one of the world’s leading commercial tanker operators. Kunkel is on this committee as well, as are Peter Drakos, a leading maritime lawyer, and Blaine Collins, director of external affairs at the prestigious international maritime classification society and international risk management firm, Det Norske Veritas.
The Maritime Aquarium uses its research vessel from April through October for Marine Life Study Cruises, during which crabs, mollusks and a variety of fish and other creatures are brought up out of Long Island Sound for examination. From December through March, the vessel is used for “seal watching” programs called Winter Creature Cruises.
The cruises are available to school groups, summer campers and the general public. For a schedule or more details about The Maritime Aquarium’s study cruises, call (203) 852-0700 or click on www.maririmeaquarium.org.