Maritime Aquarium Christens Larger "Greener" New Research Vessel

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A 63-foot catamaran, the R/V Spirit of the Sound will be the country's only research vessel with a hybrid-electric propulsion system.


The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk’s unique new research vessel, R/V Spirit of the Sound. Upon her launching in December, the $2.7 million 63-foot catamaran will be the country’s only research v

By operating a boat that runs on clean quiet power without emissions, The Maritime Aquarium will be practicing what we teach.– Jennifer HerringAquarium president

The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk has christened a larger “greener” research vessel in preparation for launching a new era in examining, monitoring and teaching about Long Island Sound.

The research vessel Spirit of the Sound™ was christened and officially named during a Sept. 26 ceremony at the Aquarium dock. Breaking a bottle on her hull was “godmother” of the boat, Astrid Heidenreich of Greenwich.

Bank of America is official sponsor of the boat’s inaugural season.

Revolutionary in design, this $2.7 million boat will be the only research vessel in the country running on hybrid-electric propulsion. Upon her launch in December, she will run virtually silently on electric power for the Aquarium’s 2½-hour public “study cruises” on Long Island Sound.

The 63-foot all-aluminum catamaran will replace the Aquarium’s 40-foot 34-year-old diesel-powered trawler, R/V Oceanic. The new boat will have a climate-controlled indoor classroom and an outdoor research space. With more room inside and out, the new research vessel doubles the Aquarium’s capacity for getting visitors out on the water – from 29 to 60 people per cruise.

R/V Spirit of the Sound’s unique hybrid-electric propulsion system will reduce fuel consumption by an estimated 75 percent. Running quietly on electric will be a benefit to wildlife, to other boaters and to the delivery of educational programs on board.

“By operating a boat that runs on clean quiet power without emissions, The Maritime Aquarium will be practicing what we teach,” said President Jennifer Herring. “And, with the larger capacity, we expect to double the number of school children who can experience our programming out on Long Island Sound.”

You won’t need to be a school student to come aboard. R/V Spirit of the Sound will be used for the Aquarium’s public study cruises as well. Initial public outings on the boat begin in mid-December with Seal Spotting Cruises, offered many weekends through mid-April. Even greater opportunities to experience the boat begin in May, with the Aquarium’s 2015 season of Marine Life Study Cruises, during which crabs, mollusks, squid and a wide variety of salt-water fish are brought up out of Long Island Sound for examination. These are offered on weekends in spring and fall, and daily in July and August.

Herring added that R/V Spirit of the Sound, when docked, gives the Aquarium an additional classroom space for on-site programs.

Major contributors toward the new boat include: George and Carol Bauer of Wilton; The TK Foundation of Nassau, Bahamas; and the Per and Astrid Heidenreich Family Foundation of Greenwich.

Designed by Incat Crowther of Australia, Spirit of the Sound is being built in Mamaroneck, NY, at the Robert E. Derecktor Inc. shipyard, with construction managed and integrated by Alternative Marine Technologies (Amtech). Her hybrid-electric propulsion system was made by BAE Systems Inc., Corvus Energy and Northern Lights Hybrid Marine.

Fund-raising and planning was led by Per Heidenreich, founder of Norwalk-based Heidmar, Inc., one of the world’s leading commercial tanker operators. Committee member Robert Kunkel, president of Amtech, is serving as the Aquarium’s project manager for the boat’s construction.

Bill Tommins of Bank of America, the official sponsor of the boat’s inaugural season, said the R/V Spirit of the Sound will be a wonderful addition to the region’s educational resources.

“The ‘floating classroom’ will expand opportunities for students and the public to explore local marine life and deepen appreciation for our great natural resource, Long Island Sound,” said Tommins, Southern Connecticut market president for Bank of America.

For more details about The Maritime Aquarium’s new research vessel and it public study cruises onto Long Island Sound, go to or call (203) 852-0700.

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Dave Sigworth
The Maritime Aquarium
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