At 32’x12’x2’ the aluminum catamaran Robert C. Shinn Jr. is about twice as big as most of the boats in New Jersey’s state water-monitoring fleet, and it brings major new capability to protecting the coastal environment.

With its speed and landing craft-style bow ramp, the Shinn will serve as a as a research buoy tender and platform for water and sediment sampling. It is servicing a network of telemetry monitoring buoys that transmit real-time data about water quality.

Kanter Marine, St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada, custom built the $215,000 vessel to the state Department of Environmental Protection’s specifications and its need to service the buoys in Barnegat Bay and the Sandy Hook-Raritan Bay region near New York Harbor.

The research vessel Robert C Shinn, Jr. tied up. Kirk Moore photo.

The research vessel Robert C. Shinn, Jr. tied up. Kirk Moore photo.

The DEP’s Bureau of Marine Water Monitoring checks for pollution that can affect public health on shellfish beds and swimming beaches. Most of its fleet are trailer-borne small boats like Carolina Skiffs. The bureau is relying more on the big data buoys, especially in the DEP’s Barnegat Bay restoration program, so the Shinn is a major new capability.

“We used to use Aids to Navigation (state buoy tenders) and we were tied to their schedules — and they were slow,” said Bruce Friedman, the DEP director of water monitoring and standards. After years of planning, “we bid this through the state Treasury (Department) and Kanter came in with the lowest bid that met our specs.”

With twin Evinrude E-Tech 250-hp outboards, the Shinn can hit 40 mph at top end, said captain Ken Hayek.

“I had 2,500 pounds, four people and 200 gals. of gas on board and did 30 mph,” Hayek said. With its 2’ draft and ramp bow, the boat is suited to get around New Jersey’s shallow back bays.

Hayek has a Simrad radar and GPS suite in the spare wheelhouse, with a Lowrance Link-8 VHF radio, and controls for the ramp which can also be lowered and raised from a forward station. On deck, a Fassi Micro 25 knuckleboom crane provides the muscle for lifting up to 1,100 lbs. through a door in the port side gunwale.

The data buoys collect water-quality information including temperature, oxygen content, turbidity, and chlorophyll levels — key indicators of environmental stress in Barnegat Bay, where the DEP is in the midst of a years-long restoration program.

Christine Todd Whitman with Bob Shinn aboard his namesake vessel. Kirk Moore photo.

Christine Todd Whitman with Bob Shinn aboard his namesake vessel. Kirk Moore photo.

In summer months, algae fouling can reduce the accuracy of buoy instruments, so frequent maintenance is one of the boat’s missions. Having that “continuous data” sent automatically every hour is a big help in protecting the state’s growing shellfish industry and beach tourism, said Dan Kennedy, the assistant DEP commissioner for water resources.

The boat is named for Bob Shinn, who was New Jersey’s longest serving environmental commissioner from 1994 to 2002. Shinn elevated coastal water protection during his tenure and was a mentor to the generation now working at the agency.

“Bob led an extraordinary team…clean water was his thing,” said former governor Christine Todd Whitman, who credited Shinn’s work with giving New Jersey the environmental protection record that resulted in her serving as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator under former president George W. Bush.

“When Bruce Friedman said ‘We gotta name a boat,’” Kennedy said, “there was only one answer.”

Contributing Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been an editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for over 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.