Connecticut aquarium set to launch electric boat

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In August, The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk in Connecticut will launch the Spirit of the Sound, a $2.7 million boat that will be the only research vessel in the country operating on hybrid electric propulsion.

The vessel will run virtually silent on electric power for the aquarium’s 2-1/2-hour public study cruises on Long Island Sound.

The 65-foot, all-aluminum catamaran will replace the aquarium’s 40-foot, 34-year-old diesel-powered trawler, R/V Oceanic. With more room inside and out, the new research vessel will double the aquarium’s capacity for getting visitors out on the water — from 29 to as many as 60 people per cruise.

R/V Spirit of the Sound 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.

“By running on clean, quiet power without emissions, The Maritime Aquarium will be practicing what we teach,” president Jennifer Herring said in a statement. “And, with the larger capacity, we expect to double the number of schoolchildren who can experience our programming out on Long Island Sound.”

Running quietly on electric power will be a benefit to wildlife, to other boaters and to the delivery of educational programs on board, the aquarium said.

Designed by Incat Crowther of Australia, Spirit of the Sound is being built at the Robert E. Derecktor Inc. shipyard in Mamaroneck, N.Y. Her hybrid-electric propulsion system was made by Northern Lights Inc.

To promote the new boat, the aquarium recently received a $30,000 marketing grant from the Connecticut Department of Economic & Community Development and the Connecticut Office of Tourism. The grant will be matched by an equivalent contribution from the aquarium.