MOUNT DESERT, Maine — With the ceremonial launch of a new patrol vessel on Wednesday, Maine Marine Patrol has upgraded its ability to respond to incidents or investigations at sea.

The Dirigo II, which like its predecessor will be based in Northeast Harbor, is a 39-foot boat built by SW Boatworks of Lamoine. It is designed with a lobster boat-style hull and, according to Marine Patrol officials, will provide them with safer conditions when operating and inspecting fishing gear offshore.

That boat was launched Wednesday at Abel’s boatyard on Somes Sound as Department of Marine Resources staff broke a bottle of champagne over its bow.

The new vessel replaces Dirigo, a 35-foot vessel that was struck by lightning last summer when it was tied up and unoccupied. Col. Joseph Fessenden, chief of Marine Patrol, said that the electronics “were pretty well spent” on the prior boat, which also was more narrow than Dirigo II. The new boat, he said, is more seaworthy and can take on more gear that Marine Patrol officers might haul up for inspection.

“We started this project about a year and a half ago,” Fessenden said Wednesday. “The [Dirigo] was 15 years old and we weren’t sure we wanted to put a lot of money into that vessel. It took quite a hit [from the lightning].”

The National Marine Fisheries Service law enforcement division, which has a cooperative agreement with Maine Marine Patrol, funded 85 percent of the cost of building the boat while the remaining 15 percent came from the sale of Dirigo to a commercial fisherman in the midcoast area, Fessenden said. At a project cost of $410,000, that means the federal government paid nearly $350,000 toward the project and the state contributed the $60,000 or so it made from the sale of the other patrol boat.

“Basically, no general fund money went into the construction of this vessel,” he said. “That’s worked out well for us.”

Specialist Colin MacDonald, who will be responsible for running the boat, said Dirigo II will operate in the waters off Schoodic Point and Isle Au Haut and “everything in between.” He said it has an approximate top speed of 25 knots, which is “more than enough,” and has a 700 horsepower Caterpillar engine.

“It’s going to be able to get us to where we want to go in any conditions and get us home safely,” MacDonald said.

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....