January 2021

Monterey Bay Eco Tours

A Unique and Wonderful Experience

by kevin Painchaud

One of our guiding philosophies is that viewing the natural beauty of the Elkhorn Slough should have minimal impact on the wildlife and environment.

On a beautiful fall afternoon, my daughter Tess and I boarded an all electric catamaran owned by the company Monterey Bay Eco Tours and spent the next hour and a half exploring wildlife of the Elkhorn Slough. It proved to be a unique and wonderful experience that that kept us both excitedly pointing out sea otters, various harbor seals and seal lions and birds of all types. The naturalist on board, Wyatt Henry, provided us with interesting information all about the wildlife, the land and history of the slough. It was such a wonderful trip that was safe not only from sea sickness, but is also a wonderful Covid-safe adventure for all ages. It was also such a pleasure to be onboard this 37-foot custom built catamaran, because it was very quiet and did not give off any noxious fumes, that you often get from other boat charters.

The captain and owner of the electric catamaran, Wendy Kitchell, spent some time with me explaining her company, Monterey Bay Eco Tours.

This is a new company on the local charter boat scene that has partnered up with Moss Landing Boat Works for an operating base with the objective of changing the face of the charter boat industry, both locally and beyond. They began the build almost two years ago and went through rigorous Coast Guard testing for the new boat.

They opened in March and then closed soon after because of the Covid outbreak With safety features at hand, it opened ing again in June.

“One of our guiding philosophies is that viewing the natural beauty of the Elkhorn Slough should have minimal impact on the wildlife and environment,” says Kitchell.
“A great step in that direction is the elimination or massive reduction of the noise and pollution caused by fossil fuel powered engines. Utilizing the ancient form of the canoe below the waterline and modern design additions has resulted in an extremely light, efficient catamaran powered entirely with electricity.”

Combining what is currently being developed in battery technology, materials, and manufacturing processes, the owners believe they cannot only change the charter industry, but transform the boat building industry as well. Builder, Joe Kitchell, Wendy’s brother, has spent over 20 years developing not only the design, but also the methods involved in building these boats.

The El Cat, is a fully electric, 32-passenger, Coast Guard-certified vessel. It was designed specifically to tour the waters of the Elkhorn Slough, an incredibly diverse and fragile ecosystem vital to the health of Monterey Bay. The Slough is a nursery for fish, a haven for birds and a filter for the system of rivers and creeks that run into the bay. 

“It is vital we take care of this body of water for future generations,” says Kitchell. “I believe we provide an amazing way to educate the public about this precious resource aboard an electric vessel, gliding silently through the water so as not to disturb the flocks of migrating birds, families of sea otters, seals, leopard sharks and many more species of marine animals.”

The crew includes naturalists with years of giving guided tours of the Elkhorn Slough.  They both have degrees in Marine Biology and are both pursuing careers in education and marine research.  

Kitchell is a licensed captain with 24 years in the Maritime Industry who has captained 500-ton ships.  She has worked on boats all over the world as well as captained quite a few passenger charter boats specifically working on the East Coast and the Caribbean where the charter industry is very competitive and so highly innovative. 

The Eco Tours, she says, “are designed to educate, inspire and intrigue children of all ages.”

For more information, check out montereybayecotours.com

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