Is Speed Necessary? MAG

By Unknown, Unknown, Unknown

   IS SPEED NECESSARY? by Paul M., Scituate, MA

Over the past several years, increasing numbers of people have flocked to the harbors along the New England coast, from Maine to Provincetown, to go whale watching. With the renewed interest in the ocean and marine mammals, there have been new demands placed on the whale-watching industry, including better service, knowledgeable staff and more cruises.

The industry has responded by hiring experienced staff and marine scientists to provide a more informative and educational experience. However, providing more cruises remained a problem. For the most part, the industry utilized heavy mono-hulled boats constructed of either fiberglass or steel. Their average speed ranged from 12 to 20 knots. A typical whale-watch trip averaged four to five hours, depending on the location of the whales. As such, the farther away the whales were, the less time people spent with the whales. In spite of these efforts, the public continued to demand bigger, faster and more luxurious boats.

In the early seventies, the industry turned to light-weight mono-hull boats constructed of aluminum. These boats proved to be effective, especially when they were equipped with more than one engine. These boats remained the industry standard until the advent of dual hull, or catamaran, boats. These dual hull boats have proven to be faster and more stable and can reach speeds of 35 knots. In addition, they are capable of transporting up to 300 passengers. Today, they are utilized around the world in many types of marine transportation from commuter ferries to cruise ships.

Although these new boats are faster and more economical, are they necessary? This is question that has been asked by many over the past few months. Already this season, there have been several accidents involving high-speed catamarans and whales, one with the Boston-based boat, the Millennium. It was returning from a whale-watch trip on Stellwagen Bank when it struck and severely injured a two-year-old humpback whale that had surfaced in front of the boat. The estimated speed of the boat was 20 knots. Another incident involving a high-speed boat and a whale occurred in Cape Cod Bay. Once again, the vessel was returning from a trip to Stellwagen Bank at a high speed and again the boat hit a whale. Unfortunately the whale did not survive. Traveling at high speeds is also proving a hazard to man. Recently, a high-speed passenger ferry rammed a fishing vessel in Nova Scotia, sinking the vessel and killing its crew.

The public outcry from these recent events has left many wondering whether the use of high-speed boats is worth the risk to man and animal. Some have suggested that we limit their use in coastal waters, while others insist that we return to mono-hulled boats. The answer is obvious. The newer catamaran boats are a better design and provide smoother, more stable ride. It is also true that these boats are more fuel-efficient and provide a quicker means of transportation on the water. The issue is not the boat itself but how they are being used. Is getting there faster always a good thing? It is clear from these recent events that it may not be. The focus for companies and their passengers should be to decide what is an appropriate use of these boats and to put a stop to the dangerous competition between companies. If these boats are the wave of the future, then we need to teach them to how and when to use them safely.

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i love this so much!

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