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  • Donated vessel launches veteran's aquaculture businessNovember 03, 2018 11:56PM By Catherine Hewitt, Sun staff writer MYSTIC, CONNECTICUT A donated research vessel will help a local Connecticut Coast Guard veteran start a new career on the water. Work
USCg PO 1C Marc Harrell at the helm of Dominion 1

Donated vessel launches veteran's aquaculture businessNovember 03, 2018 11:56PM By Catherine Hewitt, Sun staff writer MYSTIC, CONNECTICUT A donated research vessel will help a local Connecticut Coast Guard veteran start a new career on the water. Work

MYSTIC, CONNECTICUT  A donated research vessel will help a local Connecticut Coast Guard veteran start a new career on the water. 

Work Vessels for Vets, of Mystic, presented U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1C Marc Harrell, of Niantic, with a 35-foot commercial vessel, the Dominion I, in a ceremony at Mohegan Sun on Friday. Dominion Energy, of Waterford, which operates the Millstone nuclear plants, donated the boat to Work Vessels for Vets, a volunteer nonprofit that has supplied more than 1,800 veterans nationwide with machines, vehicles and equipment valued at more than $2.5 million, to help them in their own enterprises.

Harrell, 33, who is originally from Augusta, Georgia, served for more than a decade with the Coast Guard, most recently as a C-130 aircraft crew member at the International Ice Patrol in New London.

When he moved to the area and settled in Niantic, he began to learn about aquaculture from his next-door neighbor, Jim Markow, an oysterman with the Noank Aquaculture Cooperative.

“I’d used to track sea ice and icebergs in the North Atlantic for a couple of weeks at a time and so when I’d come back home or had a day off, I’d spend the time at the oyster farm,” Harrell said. “The bug got in my system and I couldn’t let it go.”

Working with Markow and with Norm Bloom & Son Oysters of Norwalk, Harrell decided to start his own company, one that would help fellow veterans returning to the civilian workforce. 

“They’re allowing me to have dock space, to work out of Noank and have provided all the logistical help to get out there and oyster farm,” he said. “My whole plan is to take other veterans like myself and teach them sustainable aquaculture oyster farming.”

Harrell said the skills that make a successful oyster farmer are the same practical skills learned in the military: self-reliance, a strong work ethic, purpose and leadership. 

Coining the term “aquaculture therapy,” he also said that being on the water is healing to veterans returning from combat who are struggling to find sustainable employment.

“There’s something very therapeutic about being out on the ocean with the saltwater running through your hair and your veins,” he said. “My whole idea is to get guys and gals out there who served our country and let them experience that through hard work, through understanding how shellfish grows and how kelp is developed as well.”

Cathy Cook, executive director of Work Vessels for Vets, said she had told Nancy Bulkeley, Dominion community affairs representative, that the group had an applicant with a business plan, “but we had no idea where we could find or afford the large vessel he needed. This is a wonderful match!” She said they were thrilled when Bulkeley called with the offer to donate the research vessel, Dominion I.

Don Landers, supervisor of the Millstone Power Station Environmental Lab, said in a press release that for the past four decades, “This boat has supported our mission of compliance and environmental stewardship by monitoring local marine life around Millstone. It’s an honor to be able to pass it on to a veteran who will continue to use it on Long Island Sound and improve the lives of other veterans by teaching them skills for new careers in the sustainable aquaculture of shellfish and seaweed.”

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