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ExplorOcean’s New Floating Bus

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ExplorOcean’s new catamaran will take students around the Newport bay while conducting marine-based science experiments. 1 Photo courtesy ExplorOcean ©

ExplorOcean CEO Tom Pollack and ExplorOcean Director of Education Wendy Marshall on ExplorOcean’s new catamaran that will take students around the Newport bay while conducting marine-based science experiments.
— Photo by Christopher Trela©

The Beatles may have had their “Yellow Submarine,” but Balboa’s ExplorOcean has done Lennon and McCartney one better—they’ve just taken possession of their own yellow“ twin-hulled boat that’s sure to become a classic in its own right in marine education.

The 45-foot-long, sun-bright yellow catamaran was christened by former California State Senator Marian Bergeson at a ceremony last Wednesday at the Balboa Bay Club.    

As soon as the U.S. Coast Guard completes the required safety examination, ExplorOcean skippers will be taking up to 49 Orange County youth from various schools and organizations on marine explorations, ranging from tours to the Upper Bay out to the kelp beds near the mouth of the Newport Jetty.   

If the seas are kindly, the cat can venture out farther to visit the resident sea lions sunning themselves atop the harbor entrance buoy.    

ExplorOcean expects to book at least 150 educational excursions in the cat’s first year.

According to ExplorOcean CEO Tom Pollack (one of ExplorOcean’s two USCG-licensed skippers), the craft was custom made specifically for ExplorOcean, and will be able to carry four dozen students at a time to Catalina Island coves and study centers in early morning crossings, when the channel is normally flat.   

She (historically, all ships were referred to in the feminine) is capable of speeds up to 24 knots when throttles to the twin, 150-hp Yamaha outboards are jammed full ahead. She measures 14 ½-feet along the beam, and weighs nearly 13,000 pounds.   

Her open design allows for 360-degree, unobstructed visibility – great for students, guests and boat operators alike.

Interior of ExplorOcean's new catamaran

Interior of ExplorOcean’s new catamaran

“Our catamaran allows for a steady platform from which to conduct sea experiments and research,” said Wendy Marshall, PhD., director of education and public programs.  “The boat was designed from the keel up for our educational programming, all of which is in line with the California Standard science principles and grounded in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), as well as on the seven principles of ocean literacy.”

For many of the children piped aboard, it literally will be a first trip to the ocean, and the first time aboard a boat.  

Marshall  anticipates that ExplorOcean’s inaugural educational cruises will last about 45-minutes and will stay within the harbor.  But there’s plenty to see, everything from microscopic critters to sea lions to sea birds.

The boat also will serve as a launching platform for kid-constructed, underwater robots.   Young “scientists and engineers” will be able to follow their robots’ meanderings via fish finders and underwater cameras. A platform off the bow makes for easy robot recovery.

Marshall sees these early experiences as influencing children to study the ocean and to consider ocean-focused professions, from oceanography to the naval  services.   ExplorOcean offers diverse ocean literacy programs and camps for children aged five on up as a stand-alone, nonprofit entity, as well as in cooperation with school districts and youth-focused organizations throughout Orange County.

Cost of the catamaran was $185,000. So far, $140,000 has been raised, with a $30,000 matching grant in effect from Scott Pollard, trustee of the Winslow Maxwell Charitable Trust in New[port Beach, and three ExplorOcean board members: Tim Collins and his wife Sheila, Scott and Jane Calder, and Terri and Doug Pasquali.

“It started with a $30,000 matching grant from Linda and Todd White, and we had that matched in two months,” said Pollack. “That $60,000 was the deposit for the boat that we ordered in November of last year. We’ve had more trickle in. Once we’re done, we hope to have around $20,000 extra for maintenance and other costs.”

For more information, call (949) 675-8915 or visit ExplorOcean.org.

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