River Passenger Ship to be Known as Captain Red, Honoring Legendary Harbormaster

Ryan Slavit, who recently received his 100-ton master’s license, mans the controls of the ship, while his brother Tim Jr. looks ahead. (Courtesy photograph.)

Former Haverhill Harbormaster William J. “Red” Slavit. (Courtesy photograph.)

The new 400-passenger riverboat coming to Haverhill this spring will bear the name of Haverhill’s beloved former harbormaster William J. “Red” Slavit.

The MS Captain Red, a 105-feet long, 28-feet wide vessel, is expected to dock in downtown Haverhill this spring. Tim Slavit, son of the legendary figure who died in 2008, told WHAV the “MS” stands for motor ship, demonstrating its large size. Although expected to draw a large recreational following, Slavit said the ship honors his father’s deep commitment to educating the city’s youth.

“It is something my father always did. He always took care of the school kids in Haverhill to make sure when they are young to get out on the river. To this day, 40- and 50-year-old people still come up to me and say, ‘I remember riding on Capt. Red’s boat. He let us steer the boat. We all had a hot dog and a tonic,’” he recalled.

Haverhill Public Schools and other groups have already been briefed on plans for educational journeys.

“When the time’s right with the COVID, each and every school student is going to be back out on the river. We’re going to be dealing with the elderly in Haverhill and the veterans. They’re all welcome for free trips in Haverhill on the ship, MS Captain red,” he explained.

He noted others in talks about bringing events to Haverhill via the ship include Wounded Warrior Project of Gloucester and Shriners Hospitals for Children.

Slavit and his two sons Tim Jr. and Ryan took possession of the ship in December when they maneuvered it from Boston Harbor to a temporary winter home in Gloucester. Formerly known as New Boston, the vessel had been used in Boston Harbor by Mass Bay Lines since 1964.

The ship is expected to be stationed at Chase’s Wharf, off Water Street, and will require a gangway and special moorings to accommodate a ship of this size. He said the wharf, adjacent to Wall Street in downtown Haverhill, has been home to vessels for more than 200 years. Early ships included the steamers City of Haverhill and the Merrimack. The MS Captain Red still plans to make stops at Capt. Red Slavit Memorial Dock off Washington Street in downtown Haverhill.

Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini, who met with Slavit last Friday, said the ship will be an important attraction.

“This will bring people to our downtown. It’ll put our city on the boating map—it’s already on many maps. It will put us on the boating map. It will be great for tourism. It’ll be great for our restaurants and great for our city,” Fiorentini said.

Fiorentini also pledged his support to help overcome any obstacles standing in the way of the ship coming downtown.

“This will be absolutely terrific for the city. We’re going to do everything we can to work with him,” the mayor added.

Besides serving as harbormaster, Capt. Red Slavit served in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II at Woods Island Lifesaving Station in Maine. He was born in Haverhill and lived the city his entire life. He played a role in the construction of WHAV’s original studios and frequently was heard on the air discussing his latest river rescues.

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