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Boating: Testing the Waters

Michael Schulze

By any standard, the 198-foot Blue Moon, the fourth Feadship owned by Chicago industrialist Richard Duchossois, is an extravagant vessel. The $90 million yacht–the largest to appear at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show this past October–includes a glass-enclosed elevator, a library, and two gymnasiums, among other amenities. But this boat is special for another reason.

At a cocktail party aboard Blue Moon one evening during the Fort Lauderdale show, Duchossois hosted Feadship principals and members of an organization that has equipped the superyacht with a sophisticated ocean-monitoring device. "After I took delivery of the boat in June 2005," Duchossois said, "we cruised the North Sea, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, Florida, and the East Coast. And all that time this machine was checking the water."

The device pumps water past its sensors, measuring a host of factors, including salinity, dissolved oxygen, and acid levels. It also monitors surface temperature, wind speed and direction, air temperature, and barometric pressure. Every three hours, the information is sent via satellite to a computer server maintained by the International SeaKeepers Society, a nonprofit group in Fort Lauderdale. SeaKeepers, in turn, sends the data to various scientific and governmental organizations that are watching the world’s weather, monitoring the oceans, and tracking global climate change.

"I’ve been scuba diving since 1966," said SeaKeepers CEO John Englander, one of the guests aboard Blue Moon, "and like other divers I’ve personally seen how the ocean is ailing: the degradation of coral reefs, the destruction of fish habitats. But oceanographic research ships are rare and expensive, and we desperately need reliable, precise, economical ways to collect data. SeaKeepers is the only organization that has turned to yacht owners to do this."

SeaKeepers, which was founded in 1998, so far has recruited about 80 founding members, each of whom has contributed a minimum of $50,000 to the group. Associate membership requires a donation of at least $25,000, while membership in the Admiral’s Club requires at least $250,000. Six major boatbuilders–Feadship, Christensen Shipyards, Delta Marine, Lürssen Yachts, Oceanco, and Trinity Yachts–recently agreed both to contribute to the society and to encourage their yacht owners to join. As part of this agreement, SeaKeepers organizes awareness-raising events aboard yachts, such as the Blue Moon cocktail party.

According to SeaKeepers chairman Don Tomlin, the number of installations is growing rapidly. Thus far, the society has equipped about 30 privately owned yachts with the monitoring device, called the SeaKeeper 1000. Some 20 additional monitors have been placed on other vessels and at lighthouses and other static locations. These participants likely share the sentiments of Blue Moon’s owner: "I feel that if I’m going to be using the waterways of the world," said Duchossois, "I have a responsibility to protect them. SeaKeepers deserves support."

International SeaKeepers Society
954.766.7100
www.seakeepers.org

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