WPEC CBS12 brings viewers the news as it’s happening on the water from a Jupiter center console, Marine Watch 12.
Florida’s Martin County, which includes shoreline on Lake Okeechobee, is 27.8 percent water, and Palm Beach County is 17.3 percent water. It was only natural for the area’s prime news station, WPEC CBS12, to develop on-the-water coverage.
On display at the 44th annual Stuart Boat Show, presented by Infinity, Marine Watch 12 is the newest member of the WPEC CBS12 fleet. “We thought if we could have the Traffic
Tracker 12; if we could have the SkyTeam 12 drone; if we could have the StormTracker 12 truck; and if we could have a boat, we would have a fleet of vehicles that would give
our news team an awesome advantage in terms of getting to particular stories or even finding new stories,” says General Manager Michael Pumo, who remembers how the idea
“When the algae bloom happened, all the reporters were on shore, and we thought, we should be out on a boat showing how deep the algae is, what it looks like and actually going out to Lake Okeechobee and being able to look at it. Having the boat has enabled us to do that.” And it’s not just the bloom; news of refugees coming to shore, people that go missing, storm erosion, and abandoned boats in the waterways are all shown from the water’s perspective.
At the helm is Capt. Abe Aksal, who was with the Lake Park police department marine division for 8 years and retired after 25 years with the sheriff’s department. With towing,
radar, Ordinary Seaman, and U.S. Navy endorsements, Aksal is certified in rough water ocean rescue and is a licensed dive master. “Finding the right captain was critical because it’s not an easy job,” says Dale Matteson, integrated sales manager of WPEC CBS12. “We needed somebody who was credible, reliable, knew the waters, knew the laws and could manage the boat as well.” When it comes to news, it’s not a nine-to-five gig, so when it happens, Capt. Aksal has to be ready to go.
The 30-foot Jupiter is sponsored by Geico’s West Palm Beach office and Tuppen’s Marine. Aksal says the twin 300-hp, four-stroke Yamaha outboards “sip fuel and are very economical.” He adds, “It has a step-down hull and holds about 300 gallons of fuel with a cruising range of about 500 miles. At about 5,500 rpms, she’ll go about 55 miles per hour.” The center console allows for plenty of room to hold the latest Garmin electronics and incorporates Yamaha’s synchronized management software to synch the throttles and show fuel consumption, rpms, and maintenance schedules in one unit. With a 50-gallon water capacity, plenty of storage and ample seating, Aksal says the best thing is its comfortable ride.
But what gets the news to the studio is the power unit that controls two GoPro cameras tied directly to the TV station? The canopy camera incorporates night vision technology; a portable underwater camera can lower down to 300 feet and is also towable behind the boat with a fin mount. A monitor on the boat allows for the captain to see what’s shown in the studio, and producers can control the cameras from the TV’s control room.
Launched in March 2017, the boat has more than 230 hours of sea time and has been 30 miles offshore to cover a large debris field from Hurricane Irma. Besides community participation in local events, Marine Watch 12 also relies on input from viewers. “We want boaters to let us know stories that we’re not seeing and hearing about, and it gives us
ammunition to go out and make these stories more relevant for the community,” says Pumo. “We’re blessed to live in an area that is surrounded by water, and water for us is recreation, livelihoods, and our environment.”
By Steve Davis, Southern Boating March 2018