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 in mid-March by DNR officials and its namesake at shipbuilder Blount Boats Inc. in Warren, RI.
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 home port at Somers Cove Marina in Crisfield, where DNR will hold a commissioning ceremony for the Somers. The Tawes will be retired from service after nearly 50 years in the DNR fleet.
The Somers measures 94 feet long, weighs 195 tons, and produces 1500 shaft horsepower. Its hull and running gear are fortified for ice operations. The boat additionally has a five-ton knuckle boom crane for buoy and debris removal applications.
The Somers was designed and purpose-built by DNR to serve as the primary icebreaking asset for Crisfield Harbor and Smith Island, as well as to place buoys and perform other functions. As was the Tawes, the Somers will also be a lifeline to Smith Island when the waters surrounding it freeze over, with the boat clearing a path for supply and shuttle boats. By cooperative agreement with Virginia through the U.S. Coast Guard, the vessel 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 shallow-draft boats that perform various duties throughout the Chesapeake Bay. The team’s main functions are as follows: placing and maintaining more than 2000 aids to navigation, speed zones, hazards, and other regulatory markers; providing charting and ice-breaking services; and assisting in the removal of tons of dangerous debris and abandoned boats from public waterways.