Tour boat business set to launch in Haverhill

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Aug. 5—HAVERHILL — The Rachel Carson made its first voyage to Haverhill on Thursday, where it pulled up to the William "Captain Red" Slavit Municipal Docks behind the Tap restaurant on Washington Street.

At the helm was Paul Aziz, who owns Yankee Clipper Harbor Tours in Newburyport and is set to launch a tour boat business in Haverhill, as soon as the 33-passenger Rachel Carson receives its U.S. Coast Guard final inspection, which Aziz expects will happen by sometime next week.

"As soon as we're cleared, we will post a schedule online," he said.

For Mayor James Fiorentini, who was eagerly awaiting the boat's arrival, it was a dream come true.

"It's always been my dream to open access to the river and have a tour boat in the city," Fiorentini said. "It took us a long time to get money for the boardwalk, which had been held up for 20 years. Once we got the boardwalk it was my goal to get docks, and once we got those it was my goal to get a tour boat."

Last summer former Assistant Harbormaster Tim Slavit brought a 105-foot long 400-passenger tour boat to Haverhill in an effort to promote his own tour boat business, but the plan never materialized due to concerns of city officials as to the size of the boat, as well as environmental concerns and issues with the permitting process.

Fiorentini said the introduction of a tour boat business in the city was made possible through the efforts of the city's Harbor Commission, chaired by Dr. Sam Amari, and Harbormaster Michael Vets.

Vets said he will soon be installing new floating wooden docks for use by the Rachel Carson. The new docks were purchased with money from a waterways fund managed by the Harbor Commission. The fund charges the owners of motorized boats an annual fee for mooring or docking their boats in Haverhill.

"We're also installing a 35-foot long gangway to the new docks for the tour boat," Vets said. "If someone is in a wheelchair, they can use the ramps leading to the main dock and we'll move the Rachel Carson there for boarding."

Amari called the introduction of a tour boat business a "huge development" in addition to kayak rentals offered by Plum Island Kayak.

"It's a big start with more things coming," Amari said.

Aziz now has two tour boats, one, the 45-passenger Yankee Clipper, takes people on harbor tours in Newburyport and has also increased the number of tours of the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. He said business has been very good this summer.

Aziz said he became aware of the mayor's desire to bring a tour boat business to Haverhill.

"I knew that Haverhill has wanted a boat up here for a long time so it's a natural fit," he said.

The Rachel Carson, built in 1988 and recently reconditioned, is new to Aziz's business. It will be docked in Haverhill and take passengers for hour-long tours, traveling as far downriver as the Rocks Village Bridge before making its return. Aziz said he's also planning to offer 90-minute long sunset tours.

Tickets, $20 for the one hour tour, can be ordered on the Yankee Clipper Harbor Tours website once Aziz receives his Coast Guard approval for the Rachel Carson.

According to an article in the Daily News, Aziz named his new boat the Rachel Carson to mark the memory of an early environmentalist.

Carson wrote the book "Silent Spring," which is considered one of the first warnings of environmental damage taking place without some government oversight. It was published in 1962.

In 1947, she spent that autumn studying black ducks at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. The number of ducks was diminishing, in part because of pressure from duck hunters.

Carson, who was a staff researcher for the federal Fish and Wildlife Service at the time, is credited with helping to develop a compromise that would accommodate bird hunters and bird-watchers.