Aquarium research vessel takes shape at Derecktor yard

Aquar newboat-frameOCTOBER 17, 2013 — A $2.6 million, 65 ft Incat Crowther design catamaran that will serve as a "floating class room" for the Maritime Aquarium of Norwalk, CT, (see earlier story) is taking shape at the  Mamaroneck, NY, shipyard of Robert R. Derecktor, Inc., where it is expected to hit the water late next spring.

The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk research vessel takes shape at the Robert E. Derecktor shipyard. Derecktor's Micah Tucker (in gray vest), standing at one of the catamaran's hulls, explains the aluminum framing to philanthropists George and Carol Bauer of Wilton and Aquarium president Jennifer Herring (in red jacket)

In an October 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 the vessel to Aquarium President Jennifer Herring and philanthropists George and Carol Bauer of Wilton, CT, 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. 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.

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.

"After such thorough thought and effort, it's very exciting to see our new research vessel beginning to take shape," Ms. Herring said. "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.

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. Mr. Kunkel is on this committee as well, as are maritime lawyer Peter Drakos and Blaine Collins, director of external affairs at classification society DNV.