Dispatches – April 2009


DOWN ON THE FARM: Snapperfarm -

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sea Grant staff have developed a self-propelled underwater cage that’s being used by Snapperfarm, an open-ocean aquaculture company in Culebra, Puerto Rico. The 62-foot-diameter Aquapod is a mobile fish farm designed for use in locations where the water is too deep for conventional anchored cages.The Aquapod incorporates two large, slow-turning props powered with 6.2-hp motors that are tethered to a diesel generator and a pair of controllers on a small boat.

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Fish farms account for more than half of the seafood produced globally, according to MIT Sea Grant. www.snapperfarm.com

HMS Victory mystery appears solved

Odyssey Marine Exploration is investigating what it claims is the long-sought shipwreck of HMS Victory, lost in 1744. “It’s the solution to one of the most intriguing naval mysteries in history,” says Greg Stemm, CEO of Tampa, Fla.-based Odyssey. “It went down with the most famous admiral [John Balchin] of his time, it has the largest collection of bronze cannon in the world on board, and research suggests that it has one of the largest shipments of gold and silver that will likely ever be found on a shipwreck.”

The 175-foot ship carried 820 crewmembers, 110 bronze cannons and 4 tons of gold coins. The wreck is said to be 25 to 40 miles off southern England in the English Channel at a depth of 330 feet. Negotiations between Odyssey and the British government are under way.

The finding is the subject of a Discovery Channel documentary, “Treasure Quest,” which debuted in February. www.shipwreck.net

Satellites saved 283 lives in 2008

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says its satellites were instrumental in the rescues of 283 people in the United States and its surrounding waters last year.

NOAA’s polar-orbiting and geostationary satellites, along with Russia’s COSPAS satellite system, are part of the international search-and-rescue system known as COSPAS-SARSAT. The system uses a network of satellites to pinpoint distress signals from emergency beacons aboard boats and aircraft, as well as personal locator beacons.

When a satellite locates a distress signal, the information is relayed to the SARSAT mission control center at NOAA’s satellite operations facility in Suitland, Md. From there, it is sent to a rescue coordination center, operated by either the Coast Guard or Air Force.

Alaska topped the list for the most lives saved with 49. Rounding out the top five were New Jersey (18), Florida (15), Hawaii (14), and California (12). www.noaa.gov

A ‘much nicer’ Eastern

Responding to its customers, Eastern Boats has transformed its 24-foot center console and pilothouse models from Spartan workboat-type vessels into larger, more comfortable boats for day cruising as well as fishing.

Eastern 248 Explorer

“Not only is it much larger than our old Eastern, it’s much nicer,” says Eastern sales and marketing manager Jake Bourdeau. “Our boats appealed to the gentlemen, but the wife wasn’t that excited because of the fit and finish, which was like a commercial finish. A lot of our customers want to go cruising, so we’re trying to accommodate them.”

The new Eastern 248 Explorer is 6 inches longer and 10 inches beamier than its predecessor, and the freeboard is significantly higher, says Bourdeau. In addition, the builder has added a deck liner and sprinkled teak throughout the helm and cabin to enhance the appearance. The boat maintains its Down East look, however, with a nearly plumb bow, sloping sheer, round bilges and relatively flat bottom aft. The addition of running strakes forward increases lift during acceleration, says Bourdeau.

The design allows the boat to perform efficiently with minimal power. With a single 150-hp 4-stroke, the Eastern burns about 6 gallons per hour at 25 mph, which equates to more than 4 mpg. The builder offers Yamaha and Honda 4-strokes, as well as Evinrude E-TEC 2-strokes.

Based in Milton, N.H., Eastern builds the 248 with simple materials and methods. The bottom and sides are solid glass, and the decks are cored with a Nida-Core PVC. All materials are hand-laid. The original 24 was introduced in 2001 in pilothouse and center console versions, and Eastern sold a combined 100 boats. The improvements add around $15,000 to the boat’s price tag. A finished model with a Yamaha F150 sells for around $70,000. www.easternboats.com

— Chris Landry

In our wake

On April 8, 1909 — Good Friday — the 446-foot British steamship Mahratta was homeward bound for London with 90 crewmembers, 17 passengers and a cargo of jute, rice, rubber and tea when she ran aground in the English Channel in calm weather. An inquiry later found that the pilot failed to recognize Gull Light and took an incorrect course. Despite safely transporting all ashore (one passenger initially refused to leave her dog aboard) and offloading much of its cargo, the vessel could not be refloated and broke in half after 24 hours aground. A New York Times article at the time put the estimated loss at $1 million.

This article orignially appeared in the April 2009 issue.