RV Sea Lab lets kids explore

by Pam Creech
Wednesday, July 3, 2013


Contrib photo 

The 38-foot Coastal Barracuda, once used for coastal cruising, is now used as a research vessel.



This summer, Matt Perkins opened RV Sea Lab, a summer camp that takes kids on an educational adventure up and down the North Carolina coast. Before starting his business, Perkins purchased a 38-foot Coastal Barracuda, which was once used for cruising, and converted it into an aquatic-research vessel.

Perkins, who teaches marine biology at Topsail High School, wanted to give kids opportunities they couldn’t get at other summer camps.

“It’s educational and adventurous,” he said. “It’s an experience they can’t get in any other way.”

So far, Perkins has taken campers on one-day excursions, which have been a hit with kids aged 11 to16. 

“They learn an amazing amount about marine bio,” he said. “They’re on a boat for nine hours.”

The campers’ day begins at 8:30 a.m. when the boat departs from Surf City. Then, the kids learn about channel markers as they navigate through the Intracoastal Waterway. 

“They’re engaged the entire time,” Perkins said.

After cruising through the ICWW, the students weave through tidal marshes as they collect water quality tests and record them into scientific logs. 

“It’s a science expedition,” Perkins said. “They’re supposed to feel like they’re on the Discovery Channel.”

However, the RV Sea Lab trips aren’t strictly educational. Participants enjoy recreational activities, such as stand up paddleboarding, while they explore coastal ecosystems.

Perkins’ one-day trips have been successful, and he plans to lead longer excursions, too. “We’re trying to book three one-week trips for the end of the summer,” he said.

The one-week trips will give participants a deeper understanding of the skills practiced by day campers. Also, week-long campers will sleep on the boat, which offers participants a unique experience.

“We’ll travel from Wrightsvile Beach to Beaufort (North Carolina) and back … Sunday through Friday afternoon,” Perkins said. 

He plans to take one-week campers to Shackleford Island to see wild horses. 

One commonality between the one-day and the one-week camps is the equipment that campers use, which includes Vernier probeware, crab pots and microscopes.

Perhaps the most interesting set of equipment onboard is the underwater cameras. The boat is equipped with television sets, so everyone onboard can watch what’s going on underwater.

“It’s pretty intense,” Perkins said.

Although Perkins is the captain of RV Sea Lab, his business is not a one-man show. Perkins’ wife Amanda encouraged him to start the camp, and helped him prepare for its inaugural summer. “She did a lot of work on the boat,” Perkins said.

For more information, visit www.rvsealab.com


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