Author: Mona de Crinis

After more than two painstaking years of meticulous planning and myriad design meetings, coupled with delays due to the global pandemic, PacWhale Eco-Adventures  — the for-profit social enterprise wholly owned by and benefiting Pacific Whale Foundation —  brought brand-new build Ocean Legacy home to Maui’s Lahaina Harbor. While it’s not the first vessel built to further PWF’s goal of informing the public about ocean conservation, this particular boat is a big deal. 

“We designed Ocean Legacy to accommodate a variety of purposes,” says Blake Moore, COO of PacWhale Eco-Adventures and the primary driver behind the new build. “It’s ideal for our popular evening cruises because it offers exceptional visibility of the dynamic environment that surrounds us while easily transitioning between our many offerings, from snorkel excursions and whale watches to private cruises — and everything in between.” 

Equally as important are the vessel’s innovative sustainability features that bear promise in revolutionizing the ocean tourism industry with PacWhale leading the shift toward environmentally friendly commercial vessels, Blake notes. 

Equipped with a host of eco-friendly additions, Ocean Legacy utilizes solar-charged house batteries, minimizing power needed from petroleum-generated sources that run the vessel’s sound system, lighting, appliances and other shipboard systems; dedicated tanks that capture “grey water” from onboard sinks and dishwashers (thereby eliminating the commercially accepted practice of dumping chemical-tainted used water into the ocean); LED lighting throughout to reduce power needed from petroleum-driven sources; convenient cup holders to keep reusable cups secured until placed into an onboard dishwasher; EPA Tier 3-compliant engines; and includes ADA-compliant boarding and head (bathroom) access to accommodate limited-mobility passengers — a critical component unique among Maui commercial boat operators and one that Blake holds near and dear to his heart.  

It’s a huge thing for me, personally,” he reveals. “I have family with mobility issues, and my mom was in special education for over 30 years. Providing access to all is important to me. We want to make sure that being on the ocean where you can see marine wildlife in its natural habitat is an experience that’s accessible to everyone.”  

Blake hopes to take this commitment to full inclusivity even further with the next build. “My plan for the next boat is to find a way to allow people with physical disabilities to access and enjoy the water surrounding the boat while at sea, especially for those who’ve never been able to experience the ocean,” he professes.

That said, he’s proud that Ocean Legacy employs the latest technology available at the time of the build and is intent on taking advantage of any and all new engineering and tech elements that will make future PacWhale fleet additions even more accessible, comfortable and sustainable.  

Ideally, according to Blake, PacWhale looks to regularly replace vessels as a way to maintain the highest integrity and functionality within its fleet of eight. “Currently, our fleet is a mixture of old and new builds,” he explains, adding that paramount in any new build consideration is its synergy — both in terms of sustainability and guest experience — with the Maui environment.  

“Our vessels are created specifically for the programs that PacWhale — as PWF’s social enterprise — supports on the nonprofit side as well as to provide our guests with an exceptional time on the water, whether whale watching, snorkeling or a sunset cruise.” 

One might logically think that purchasing an existing vessel would be less expensive than a custom build, but that’s not necessarily the case, says Blake. “Often times, it’s more financially responsible to build new boats than to upkeep an old boat.”  

Even so, each new build requires an inordinate amount of time, planning, and physical and mental energy. A typical new build takes approximately 18 months from start to finish, with additional months added for pre-build design and architecture planning. For the first time in PacWhale history, a vessel design committee was created that included vessel crewmembers most likely impacted by design decisions.  

“There are a lot of things to think about when designing a boat,” Blake acknowledges. “What type of propulsion are we using? Where are the seats and tables going to go? Do window latches slide up and down or sideways? What materials are we using on the countertops? Where should speakers be located, how many and how powerful do they need to be? Where’s the fuel fill located? The list goes on and on.”  

Blake and members of the committee conferred with Australian marine design firm, One2three Naval Architects, a company known worldwide for superb efficiency in design that PWF Founder Greg Kaufman consulted on all new builds prior to his death in 2018.   

After the design was more or less fleshed out, Ocean Legacy went into production in 2019 employing Mavrik Marine, Inc. out of La Conner, Wash., which also built PacWhale’s high-tech, ultra-smooth catamaran Ocean Guardian. Even with the global pandemic shutting down production sites and impacting the supply chain, Ocean Legacy met its 2021 delivery goal — albeit in the 11th hour — arriving in Hawai‘i on Dec. 31. 

Throughout construction, Blake traveled repeatedly to the Pacific Northwest to oversee the build and enact any necessary change orders, often spending weeks at a time away from his wife and newborn baby daughter — a sacrifice made by his family that he recognized with heartfelt gratitude during Ocean Legacy’s blessing ceremony. During that period, Blake reviewed the boat’s progress at least once a month indicating design and construction issues in need of revision.  

As an example, Blake recalls insisting that the placement of interior support poles was not in line with his concept for maximum visibility. “I said, ‘That’s not going to work. It messes up the view and I need it to move,’” he remembers. “That was a challenging change in terms of engineering and also a big expense, but if you don’t pay attention to those things, it diminishes the guest experience. For me, the most important facet of building a boat is paying attention to the details that most people don’t even notice, because that’s ultimately going to make or break the experience.”  

In addition to its environmentally friendly components, Ocean Legacy’s unique design provides passengers with an elevated degree of comfort and visibility. Notable upgrades include custom windows and strategically placed “cut outs” around the foredeck stadium seating for maximum visibility; complimentary USB charging stations in the main cabin; cushioned benches; removeable tables to accommodate various space configurations for private charters; state-of-the-art sound system and two televisions offering a superior educational platform for onboard Certified Marine Naturalists; and inviting lounge areas for relaxation and social interaction.   

However, Ocean Legacy’s design elements are not the only measure of PacWhale’s contemporary approach to new builds under Blake’s leadership. In addition to harnessing the knowledge and input of a vessel design committee, the naming of the vessel was also reached through consensus rather than by management decree as in the past. “Historically, we were told the name at company events with great fanfare and that’s how it ran,” Blake says. “Ocean Legacy was originally going to be Ocean Warrior, but this build’s name went through a voting process by staff and supporters and was changed to Ocean Legacy. This is fitting as it honors what we are striving to leave the next generation here at PacWhale.”  

Ocean Guardian, the boat Ocean Legacy most closely resembles in terms of structure, was Greg’s last vessel build and design. “It was the ideal name because Greg was the guardian of the organization,” Blake explains. “Ocean Legacy certainly has elements of Greg’s vision, but more importantly, I believe Greg would be happy with the current direction and focus in terms of this new build. In fact, this boat is designed to leave an indelible legacy for this organization.” 

From bow to stern, port to starboard, Ocean Legacy not only sets the bar for sustainability and enhanced guest experience, but it also serves as a blueprint for future PacWhale vessel builds — each promising to be more passenger- and environmentally friendly than the last.  

To experience a cruise on Ocean Legacy, click HERE and select a Lahaina Whalewatch.