Whale Song — By Diane M. Byrne
— July 2002
Different Song, Different Verse
|How one yachtsman is answering the call of the ocean--to be more specific, the songs of whales all over the world.|
"Saw a lot of whales on that trip," Capt. Ray Grenier recollects as we drive to the Palm Harbor Marina in West Palm Beach, Florida. He's relating the leg of the trip he and the owner of the 94-foot Whale Song made several months ago--the leg which took them from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to Provincetown, Massachusetts, as they motored southward again following a maiden cruise from the Bahamas up the East Coast to Nova Scotia.
While other captains might recount the scenic anchorages they enjoyed while in Charleston, New York City, Newport, or Martha's Vineyard, it's the whales--mostly Humpbacks, although "we did see a few Right whales along the way"--that Grenier talks about when it comes to his first year aboard this yacht. The same goes for the yacht's owner, an unassuming man who you could easily picture chatting up the locals at a neighborhood pub. He's obviously proud of the yacht as he shows me around, but his eyes sparkle when he details little-known facts about whales that populate the Mediterranean.
Getting the picture that Grenier and the owner of Whale Song are not your usual yachting folk? Well, Whale Song certainly isn't your usual yacht. Admittedly, her expedition-style profile has become more common among the pleasure-boat set, and her green-and-vanilla paint job ("the Eddie Bauer package," her owner and Grenier jokingly call it) isn't shockingly different. But this globetrotter, which her builder, Trinity Yachts, calls a "pocket world cruiser," was conceived specifically to permit the owner to crisscross oceans in his quest for observing whales in their natural environment. And this summer marks the beginning of what's sure to be an inspiring observation tour, taking the owner, Grenier, and a crew of three from this side of the Atlantic to the Med, south and back across the Atlantic to the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal, and up the West Coast to Alaska.
The owner says the idea for the yacht came from his desire to help educate people about the oceans in general and whales in particular, having derived much enjoyment from the sea while growing up and, in recent years, at the helm of a 58-foot Hatteras. A self-described owner-captain who enjoys running Whale Song on occasion, he wanted a yacht large enough to comfortably live aboard full time and one that could be used as a research platform for visitors from The Ocean Alliance. The organization, which is greatly admired by the owner, does extensive scientific research on whales.
One area sure to get a lot of use on that account is the crow's nest. Well-suited for navigating in poorly charted areas and doubling as a support for the boom that launches the two RIBs on the foredeck, it's also ideal for observing the big whale migration that occurs in the Azores and off the coasts of Massachusetts and Maine. It will also get a lot of use next summer in Alaska.
Also sure to be put to a lot of use in Alaska is an acoustical array that will be picked up in Seattle. According to the owner, the device is designed to be towed underwater, about 300 feet behind the yacht, and will let him and researchers from The Ocean Alliance hear whale songs upwards of 20 miles away. In fact, he says, The Ocean Alliance's own research vessel, a 93-foot steel ketch called the Odyssey, is the only other vessel equipped with such an array.
Given the variety of climates where whales are found, it was important that Whale Song keep everyone aboard feeling safe. Below her aluminum superstructure, her half-inch-thick ice-class steel hull is divided into five watertight compartments, and her bow is reinforced with up to five inches of steel plate. Waist-high stainless steel rails and wide side deck ensure safe fore and aft movement. Mindful of pristine remote anchorages the yacht will visit as well as Nantucket's strict discharge regulations, the owner requested an ORCA-IIA sewage-treatment system that processes both black and gray water.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.