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Repair the Sea’s dive boat gets an electric makeover

Grey Curcio

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Rabbi Ed Rosenthal (center, blue shirt) with members of the Repair the Sea team and electric engine re-fitters. Photos provided.

A local dive boat has been refitted from traditional gas turn key to new electric power, making it completely carbon neutral. A 1985′ Sea Ray Cruiser, the 34-foot Alley’s Way, is used by Repair the Sea, a Tampa Bay nonprofit with a focus on marine restoration efforts through a Jewish perspective.

Repair the Sea was founded in 2022 by Eckerd College Campus Rabbi Ed Rosenthal, who has been working at Eckerd College since 2009. Rosenthal also leads SCUBI Jew, a club that works with Repair the Sea in their educational and marine cleanup efforts.

“I understand that we are partners with God in repairing the world, but if we don’t work NOW to repair the sea, the rest of the world doesn’t stand a chance,” Rosenthal says.

The organization hosts biweekly dives, aboard Ally’s Way, to collect debris in the bay. Eckerd students are active participants. The vessel was named in honor of former SCUBI Jew member Allison Willen, who passed away in 2015, and is one of the oldest boats ever to be converted to a completely electric propulsion system. Designed entirely from scratch, the project took around three years to complete with the help of three international businesses, Xantrex, Mastry Engine Center and Vetus.

The process of converting Ally’s Way was a time-consuming one, says Rosenthal, as it first started during the pandemic. At the time, the Repair the Sea crew was able to continue its Dives Against Debris because of their ability to social distance on the boat – but when the starboard engine failed, they began to consider other options. They reached out to Xantrex and Vetus, both of which agreed to complete the project, each working on separate parts of the boat: Xantrex designed the batteries and Vetus designed the propulsion system.

Rosenthal believes Ally Willen would be ecstatic to see how far the project has come. “She was a huge environmentalist and I always thought that she would be proud of the boat just in general, and the work that that we were doing,” he said. “Now, I know she would just be ecstatic.”

Repair the Sea runs several programs in the Tampa Bay area and beyond, hosting local cleanups, educational events, dives for debris, and the annual Reverse Tachlich event. Tashlich is a custom on Rosh HaShanah (the Jewish New Year) in which Jews throw pebbles or shells into a body of water to symbolically cast off “sins” from the previous year to start the New Year with a clean heart.

In 2023, the event had over 4000 volunteers from 300 communities across 23 countries. This year’s Reverse Tachlich will take place Sept. 29.

For Ed Rosenthal, the connection between conservation and Judaism is a clear one. He references the traditional Jewish value of Tikkun Olam, which means “repair the world,” and encourages kindness and action to make the world a better place.

The emission-free propulsion system is powered by Xantrex Lithium-ion batteries.

“What better way for the club and its certified divers to clean the Tampa Bay reefs than with clean technology,” said Mastry Electric Hybrid Manager Nancy Frainetti, who spearheaded the three-year effort, in a prepared statement. “It’s exciting to bring this project to fruition and to provide the latest technological advancements to benefit such a worthwhile organization that does so much to improve the area’s marine environment.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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