And as the job gets bigger—when you add the protection and management of land on Cuttyhunk Island for public access and full schedule of collecting water samples from Vineyard Sound as well as the center of the Bay—you need a bigger, more seaworthy boat, which is where the Coalition found itself last year.
Enter the R/V Helen K., a 31-foot SteigerCraft pilothouse boat that was recently christened as the new Baykeeper, thanks to a generous gift and great support from Kingman Yacht Center and Buzzards Bay Yacht Sales in Cataumet.
“I’ve always loved our old Baykeeper boat. It was a 1985 former Coast Guard auxiliary boat that we got in Norwalk, Connecticut. It was already on its second legs then,” Coalition President Mark Rasmussen said. “We put it into service for 20 years. Every year since, it’s been working on the Bay. She was very good to us.” But it was time to move on as our need to be out on the Bay and Sound continues to expand.
Russ Keeler, who will complete his service on the Coalition’s board in July, discovered the issue for himself last summer, when he volunteered to serve as assistant captain. “The boat we had previously would get tossed around when it was rough. It was tough on the crew and tough on our volunteers,” he said. “There were times last year when we had to abandon trips because of the weather.”
Keeler also discovered the solution, a larger and sturdier vessel built for offshore work that cuts through waves rather than pounding over them. “Russ saw the potential and the need and we are all the beneficiaries of that today,” Rasmussen said at a casual christening ceremony held at Kingman Marina in early May. “I really want to thank Russ for his boldness for this wonderful decision to invest in this amazing boat that will significantly enhance our work for a very long time to come.”
In just a few weeks, the promise of the new Baykeeper has made itself clear in trips out to Cuttyhunk as well as a research trip around the Bay with partners from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
“We’ve been out a few times in choppy waters, and it’s made quite a difference,” Keeler said. “The new boat is very seaworthy, that’s the big difference. It’s got more power, it’s a little bit longer. It has a thicker hull. You feel safer and we can take on longer days and more complicated missions.”
The new boat also better meets the high standards that the Coalition has set for its facilities and programs, Keeler said.
“The coalition has top-notch facilities in Onset, Marion, New Bedford, and Woods Hole, and we had this old boat,” he said. “This new boat brings this important tool up to the standard that we have set with our other facilities. And it builds up our capacity for on-the-water work for the longer term.”