Ripple Effect Ecotours, located at Marineland, has discovered a way to bring patrons on educational and minimally invasive tours of the Intracoastal Waterway while onboard a jet propelled, 21-foot diesel engine boat.
Imagine gliding along the Intracoastal Waterway with no fear of striking a marine mammal, and being comforted with the knowledge that the vessel you are riding in is leaving 1/3 a carbon footprint of an average boat. Acquired nearly four years ago, Ripple Effect Ecotours is striving to reintroduce its 21-foot boat, fully equipped with a modified diesel engine that runs entirely off of fractionated vegetable oil. The oil is recycled from local restaurants and filtered of any leftover food particles. The boat only requires one to two gallons of oil for an entire
“Between the very unique construction of the boat and the diesel engine modified to accept vegetable oil, this may very well be the only one of its kind in the world.”
BRANDON MELLIN, Ripple Effect tour guide
The idea to implement environmentally friendly ecotourism into the Ripple Effect Ecotours sprung from Dockmaster Chris Kelley, owner of Ripple Effect Ecotours Adventure Outfitters. Kelley took on the project to have the boat’s diesel engine converted to accept an alternate fuel source, such as vegetable oil, in order to raise the standard on ethical and sustainable ecotourism. Ripple Effects was already offering noninvasive kayaking tours for guest experience, yet Kelley saw the value of implementing a unique outdoor classroom experience onboard a jet boat that can reach a cruising speed of 25-miles per hour.
“We understand that not everyone wants to kayak,” explained Eric Ziecheck, assistant dockmaster and Ripple Effect manager. “So the tour allows people to experience the waterway from a unique perspective while onboard the boat, and it proves to be a great opportunity to educate the public on the area’s history and ecology.”
The jet boat was originally built as a tender for a 214-foot mega yacht that sailed in the Mediterranean Sea. Since the vessel was constructed to compact tightly onboard the much larger vessel, the semi-rigid inflatable boat has a specially designed control panel which is made to rotate inwards, allowing the entire boat to be winched.
To add to the boat’s ecofriendly appeal, it was designed to operate using a water-jet propulsion system. Therefore the boat, affectionately named Ripple Effect 1, does not have an exposed propeller and can glide over the water and cause minimal damage to marine wildlife. This is especially important to the environmentally conscious, because on average every manatee in the Intracoastal Waterway will be struck by a boat propeller 15 times in its lifetime.
“Between the very unique construction of the boat and the diesel engine modified to accept vegetable oil, this may very well be the only one of its kind in the world,” said Brandon Mellin, a Ripple Effect tour guide.
Mellin is one of only three Ripple Effect tour guides that are eligible to take visitors out on the waterway.
“We hope that reintroducing this ecofriendly boat tour will get people excited about exploring the area,” Mellin said. “This excitement will in-turn directly aid the environment, because it helps people better understand the ecosystem and develop a passion for the waterway and its inhabitants.”
The Ripple Effect 1 tour is available almost every day upon preregistration. The two-hour tour can typically be booked for a morning or midafternoon tour for up to six people. Other tour times vary depending on availability. For more information visit rippleeffectecotours.com.