Kauai’s research boat

NAWILIWILI — Simply sailing around the Hawaiian Islands in one of his two boats wasn’t enough for Moshe Blatt.

So, he decided to dedicate his 24-foot sailboat as a research vessel for marine research, education and conservation.

“Now, when we’re out there sailing we are doing research too. And I get to see all of it right on the TV, while it’s happening,” Blatt said.

The vessel is in a slip at Nawiliwili Small Boat Harbor awaiting a few engine repairs before she is seaworthy, as well as a few more instruments and cameras.

The goal is to make the boat a floating research lab where data can be collected and analyzed. The boat will also be equipped with a 360-degree underwater camera, as well as other cameras in waterproof housing.

“We’re setting it up so that we can go out on a research trip, take video and send it straight out from the boat,” said Terry Lilley, who is heading up the project.

The state project to eliminate rats on Lehua Island via three applications of aerial broadcast rodenticide was the epicenter of Blatt’s decision to donate the vessel.

He said he thinks the Kauai community could use the boat to be more involved in marine research.

“With this we’ll go out and see (for) ourselves what’s out there,” Blatt said.

And equipping Kauai with its own research vessel is one way to get that community involvement, Lilley said.

“This isn’t a state boat, or a UH boat or a NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) boat, it’s a Kauai boat,” Lilley said. “It’s based here in Kauai and it’s for Kauai people.”

Often Kauai gets passed over for research, funding and grants, Lilley said, and he’s hoping the new boat will help provide a framework for recapturing some of those resources.

It’ll also be a springboard for scientific, educational, and conservation projects.

“We need a research boat for a lot of the things we want to do,” Lilley said. “Now that we have the boat, we can do a lot more and we’re still coming up with new ideas.”

While the research vessel is awaiting repairs, Blatt is anxious to start work with Lilley. Because of that, he’s donating the use of his 60-foot sailboat for the interim.

The crew will be taking that boat out to the waters around Ni’ihau and Lehua Island early this week to start gathering footage and data on the marine environment.

“This vessel and the equipment we’ve got coming, it’s giving us a chance to get some really cool stuff,” Lilley said. “And video footage is really valuable; you can give the same clip to a hundred scientists and they’ll all analyze it differently.”

In addition to sending footage to scientists and gathering data, Lilley wants to bring fishermen, divers, and others to contribute to the effort.

“We want to collaborate with the people that know these areas,” Lilley said.

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