The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has christened the newest boat in its Hydrographic Operations fleet, naming it after a long-time captain of the Crisfield-Smith Island route the boat will serve. The M/V Eddie Somers was christened this week by DNR officials and its namesake at shipbuilder Blount Boats Inc. in Warren, Rhode Island.
The boat is named after former DNR Capt. Eddie Somers, who retired in 2018 after 25 years as captain of the M/V J. Millard Tawes, the boat the new vessel is replacing.
Governor Larry Hogan named Somers an Admiral of the Chesapeake upon his retirement and approved the vessel’s name.
“This is a great example of our efforts to modernize the assets of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources while also honoring our department’s 50-year legacy of service,” said Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio. “It is also a DNR tradition to name vessels after employees with exemplary years of service, so it is very fitting that it will be named after Capt. Eddie Somers who has done so much for his community, Smith Island, and the State of Maryland.”
The new vessel will sail later this year to its homeport at Somers Cove Marina in Crisfield, where DNR will hold a commissioning ceremony for the M/V Somers.
The M/V Tawes will be retired from service after nearly 50 years in the DNR fleet. The retiring vessel was built for the U.S. Coast Guard in 1941 and operated as a buoy tender until the early 1970s when it was surplused by the federal government. The department acquired it for use on the Chesapeake Bay and renamed it after the first DNR secretary and former Maryland Governor J. Millard Tawes.
The M/V Somers measures 94 feet long, weighs 195 tons, and produces 1,500 shaft horsepower. Its hull and running gear are fortified for ice operations. The boat additionally has a 5-ton knuckle boom crane for buoy and debris removal applications.
Unlike the retrofitted Tawes, the M/V Somers was designed and purpose-built by DNR for the services it will provide. The boat will serve as the primary icebreaking asset for Crisfield Harbor and Smith Island, in addition to placing buoys and performing other functions. As was the M/V Tawes, the M/V Somers will also be a lifeline to Smith Island when the waters surrounding it freezes over, with the boat clearing a path for supply and shuttle boats. By cooperative agreement with Virginia through the U.S. Coast Guard, the M/V Somers will also provide this service to Tangier Island in Virginia when requested. During heavy ice seasons, all food, fuel, medicine, and emergency transport going to and from the islands are supplied by the vessel.
The department’s Hydrographic Operations team, based on the Eastern Shore, operates four large boats that perform various duties throughout the Chesapeake Bay. The department’s boats are shallow draft, meaning they can get into rivers and shallow areas of the Bay.
Hydrographic Operations’ main functions are:
- Placing and maintaining more than 2,000 aids to navigation, speeds zones, hazards, and other regulatory markers in support of natural resource areas and the boating public,
- Providing charting and ice-breaking services, and
- Assisting in the removal of tons of dangerous debris and abandoned boats from public waterways.