Maritime Aquarium's New Research Vessel to be Named R/V Spirit of the Sound

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The name was chosen in a contest entered by 399 Norwalk school students. The $2.7 million catamaran, which will feature a unique hybrid propulsion system, is expected to begin outings on Long Island Sound in June.

Maritime Aquarium Name the Boat Contest winner

Kiara Velazquez of Norwalk (right), whose entry – Spirit of the Sound – was chosen as the name for The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk’s new research vessel, holds an illustration of the new boat while m

It will be our job to help every student and every adult who comes aboard ... to feel the spirit of the Sound and carry it with them long after they step off the boat. – Jennifer Herring,Maritime Aquarium president

The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk’s new hybrid-powered research vessel will be named R/V Spirit of the Sound™.

Spirit of the Sound was chosen out of 315 names suggested by Norwalk school students in a recent contest. Kiara Velazquez, a sophomore at Brien McMahon High School, wins the contest’s grand prize for submitting the winning name.

“We love the name and the liberated image it suggests,” said Jennifer Herring, the Aquarium’s president. “It will be our job to help every student and every adult who comes aboard for an Aquarium program out on Long Island Sound to feel the spirit of the Sound and carry it with them long after they step off the boat.”

The Aquarium’s $2.7 million, 65-foot catamaran is expected to make its debut in late spring. The new research vessel will be bigger, quieter and greener than the Aquarium’s current 34-year-old trawler. It will be powered by a unique hybrid electric propulsion system, which will reduce fuel consumption by an estimated 75 percent. The new boat will have 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.

Kiara wins a free outing aboard the R/V Spirit of the Sound for her immediate family, plus a free IMAX® movie screening for one of her classes at Brien McMahon.

The Maritime Aquarium’s “Name the Boat” contest was open to Norwalk school students in Grades 3-12. (That is the age range for the Aquarium’s educational programming aboard its research vessel.) The major contributors toward the boat supported the contest, only asking that the word “Spirit” be in the boat’s name.

Entries suggesting 315 distinct names were submitted by 399 students. Thirty-eight students submitted the name Spirit of the Sound but – per the contest rules – Kiara was awarded the grand prize because she entered the name first.

The winning name was selected by a committee whose members included: George Bauer of Wilton, a local philanthropist and major donor to the vessel; Norman Bloom, owner of Norman Bloom & Sons oyster company in Norwalk; Per Heidenreich of Greenwich, chair of the Aquarium’s new-vessel committee and a major donor; Susan Karlshoej, program officer of The TK Foundation, a major donor; Robert Kunkel, president of Alternative Marine Technologies and the new-vessel project manager; and Dr. Charles Yarish, professor in the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and Department of Marine Sciences at the University of Connecticut.

The Maritime Aquarium uses its research vessel year-round on Long Island Sound – for educational programs with students on field trips during the week, and for public outings on weekends. From April through October, live animals are brought onboard for examination during Marine Life Study Cruises. From December through March, Seal-Watching Cruises are offered.

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 at the Robert E. Derecktor Inc. shipyard in Mamaroneck, N.Y. Its hybrid electric propulsion system was made by Northern Lights, Inc.

Bank of America is the official launch sponsor for the new boat.

“The Maritime Aquarium’s new, state-of-the-art research vessel will be a wonderful addition to the region’s educational resources,” said Bill Tommins, Southern Connecticut market president, Bank of America. “The ‘floating classroom’ will expand opportunities for students and the public to explore local marine life and deepen appreciation for our great natural resource, the Long Island Sound.”

For more details about The Maritime Aquarium and its educational programming, call (203) 852-0700 or click on

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Dave Sigworth
The Maritime Aquarium
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