By Annette Hinkle
How do you use The Kathy in your job?
First and foremost, it’s patrolling or surveillance. It’s amazing what you see from the water. You can identify changes in the shoreline or assess different activities. I’ve called in at least a dozen violations over the years— people filling wetlands or clearing vegetation illegally. At times, I’m the first to identify the presence of red tide. It’s important for me as an educator and advocate to have a strong knowledge of conditions. Is the water clear? Is it brown? Are there fish kills? It’s also important in response. We get calls where someone identifies something and within a couple hours I can be there on site. We also use the boat for education — elected officials, school groups, scientists — all have access to the water they wouldn’t otherwise have.
Where did The Kathy come from?
When I first started as BayKeeper in 1998, I went on public TV saying that the BayKeeper needed wheels on the water. Skip Tollefson of the Lobster Inn called and said ‘I saw you on TV and hear you need a boat.’ He had this salty dog, raspy voice. So I brought out a marine mechanic and saw the boat was sunk in the basin behind his restaurant.
It was sitting on mud. It wasn’t really floating. I turned around and the mechanic was gone. Skip actually had the boat lifted and flew a guy up from Florida who works with his boats and he focused on it for three or four months and had it fitted out.
But that was 15 years ago, so it now needs a lot of work. You also said the boat was further damaged by Superstorm Sandy. What happened to it?
We keep the boat in East Quogue so we can get through the canal and cover the South Bays as well. After the storm we were checking Moriches breaches and one further west, in Bellport. But the channels subsequent to Sandy had changed and we could not rely on the buoys. You could be going on a straight line geometrically buoy to buoy, but what we found out was, boom, we were up on a shoal. Either from the towing or the shoal, the rudder got bent and the steering was damaged and we ultimately had to have that replaced and deck work done. Over the years, some other structural problems came up that needed to be addressed, so we pulled the boat out to address 15 years of wear and tear.
You’re in the midst of a fundraising campaign to pay for the repairs. How much will all this cost?
It’s $25,000 for the total repairs. We need to raise another $10,000 or $15,000. This was an unexpected expense and $25,000 can be a heavy hit for a small organization, that’s why we’re calling on the community to help us get The Kathy in shape.
When are you hoping to complete the repairs?
Absolutely before the season, and launch in late March. But the fundraising campaign is continuing and could extend beyond the launch date.
As her captain, what do you like about The Kathy?
It’s a big boat — 29 feet — that can handle chop in Gardiner’s Bay or Peconic Bay. Skip bought it from a guy in Rhode Island who used it for sword fishing, he’d even go out to The Canyon in it and bring gerry cans of extra fuel. Billy Joel helped pay for a new engine seven or eight years ago. But all these years later, it’s in dire need of repairs and maintenance.
It sounds to me that you and The Kathy have become good friends out there on the water….
After 15 years of running her, I’ve got a good feel how The Kathy responds. She’s like an old pair of shoes.
Donations to restore The Kathy, can be sent to the Peconic Baykeeper, PO Box 893, Quogue, NY 11959, made by calling (631) 653-4804 or by visit the Peconic BayKeeper’s website at http://www.peconicbaykeeper.org.