Maritime Aquarium’s new boat now at home in Norwalk

The aquarium’s new research vessel Spirit of the Sound™
The Maritime Aquarium’s new research vessel Spirit of the Sound™. (Photo courtesy of the Maritime Aquarium)

Updated, 5:25 p.m., It’s Relevant video added.

NORWALK, Conn. – The next generation of Maritime Aquarium research has arrived – quietly.

The aquarium’s new research vessel Spirit of the Sound is described in a press release as being “revolutionary in design,” the only research vessel in the world 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 release states.

The $2.7 million boat sailed into Norwalk Wednesday and was christened Friday.

“The 63-foot, all-aluminum catamaran will replace the Aquarium’s 40-foot 34-year-old diesel-powered trawler, R/V Oceanic,” the release states. “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.”

The new boat is expected to use 75 percent less fuel than the R/V Oceanic, the release states. Its quiet electric propulsion will be better for wildlife, for other boaters and for the educational programs on board, the release states.

“By running on clean quiet power without emissions, The Maritime Aquarium will be practicing what we teach,” said President Jennifer Herring  in the release. “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 board the R/V Spirit of the Sound, as the boat will be used for the aquarium’s public study cruises as well. Those 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.

When the boat is docked the aquarium will us it for additional classroom space, the release said.

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 was built in Mamaroneck, N.Y., 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., a commercial tanker operator. Committee member Robert Kunkel, president of Amtech, served 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 in the press release that 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, in the release.


4 responses to “Maritime Aquarium’s new boat now at home in Norwalk”

  1. Oldtimer

    Sounds like an amazing facility for education. The donors have done a marvelous public service. The RV Oceanic will probably now be sold. It will be interesting to see how long the new boat will stay in the water during the winter. It would be a mistake to risk getting it damaged if the upper harbor freezes, but the time when that is a serious risk is usually pretty short. If the cabin is comfortably heated, winter cruises could be a lot more popular.

  2. Kevin Di Mauro

    A hybrid, catamaran, classroom ! This sounds exciting.

  3. Kevin Di Mauro


    Fantastic image for this article. Did you Photo Shop it ? Great reporting, including the video.

    1. Mark Chapman


      Nancy says thanks, but that was a handout from the Aquarium…

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