BAR HARBOR — The first of two identical new boats ordered last year by hotel company Ocean Properties Limited (OPL) has arrived June 20. The boats will serve as tenders to visiting cruise ships too large to tie up to a dock, shuttling passengers to one of two dock facilities owned by the company. They will also be put into service for the Bar Harbor Whale Watch, which is owned by OPL.
The Acadia Explorer is 98 feet long and carries 149 passengers, according to Bar Harbor Whale Watch (BHWW) head naturalist Zack Klyver.
The Acadia Explorer was set to have its first tendering job when Adventure of the Seas – with a capacity of 3,100 passengers – visited here on July 2.
The other boat, the Schoodic Explorer, is set to arrive later this month, Klyver said.
“The captains are excited about the boat they have now,” he said. “The bridge is world class, it’s about as good as it gets.”
The boats were designed by Australian firm Incat Crowther and were built by Gulf Craft in Franklin, La.
Whale Watch Captain Matt Ketchen oversaw the building of the boat and then drove the boat to Maine, a six-day journey, Klyver said.
The Acadia Explorer has already been used for lighthouse and nature tours. Klyver said passengers have lauded the view from the cabin.
OPL has been conducting tendering operations with cruise ships here for 10 years. Some cruise lines use their own small boats and sometimes OPL uses the existing 112-foot and 126-foot whale watching vessels, but all the passengers come ashore at either Harbor Place or the Harborside Hotel dock.
The company charges cruise lines for the service. How much they charge varies from job to job, officials told the Islander in November, but declined to specify those charges.
“On the hotel side of things, the exposure is great for business,” said Eben Salvatore, director of operations for OPL. So when, at times, they need to cancel tours to free up boats for tender operations, it’s worth the lost revenue.
Tendering is a large part of the preliminary plan for the former ferry terminal property, which the town is set to purchase following a June vote.
The recommendation from a citizen Advisory Committee convened last fall calls for relocation of buses for cruise passengers to the Hulls Cove property to help ease congestion in downtown Bar Harbor. Salvatore said he doesn’t support the recommendation.
“The whole ‘congestion’ term is propaganda to create a use for the [ferry terminal] property,” he said in November. “Putting people a mile away from where they want to be doesn’t make sense.”
Early business plan analysis shows the property only turning a profit if more than 32 percent of tendering is done at that property.