WHOI Constructs New Coastal Vessel

Near-shore research boat to arrive in 2004


o satisfy a growing demand for scientific understanding of near-shore waters, WHOI has contracted with Gladding-Hearn Shipbuilding (Somerset, MA) to build a state-of-the-art research vessel. The new boat is intended to improve access to coastal environments from the Hudson River to the Gulf of Maine, from the edge of the continental shelf to the beaches and bays of the northeastern United States. Scheduled for delivery in 2004, it will replace the existing coastal vessel, Asterias, which has served the Institution since 1979.

“It is clear that changing research needs and the societally important questions our researchers seek to address will require a much more capable vessel,” says Richard Pittenger, Vice President for Marine Operations. “The new boat will provide researchers with a new generation of near-shore vessel with tremendous capabilities for many years to come.”

Designed to cruise at twice the speed of Asterias, the new coastal vessel should allow scientists to spend more time on station and less time in transit, according to Ernest “Dutch” Wegman, WHOI’s Port Engineer and project manager for the new boat. The modern hull design and three-point mooring system will allow crews to work farther offshore and closer inshore, and within narrow weather windows, Wegman notes.

“The increased use of autonomous instruments and vehicles, the development of our new Martha’s Vineyard Coastal Observatory, and an increased focus on coastal processes are among the many reasons we need a more capable vessel,” says physical oceanographer Rocky Geyer, Chair of the Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering Department.

“This new vessel will enhance our seagoing educational experience,” Geyer adds. “That experience has been limited somewhat by the realities of long cruises on our larger research vessels. Opportunities for students to conduct research on a variety of coastal processes will now be within a day’s reach.”

Wegman says the new boat is being designed to better support scuba and snorkel divers by including a more accessible dive platform, a dive locker and shower, wet suit racks, and tempered (warm) water on deck. The stern A-frame will be capable of lifting 4,500 kilograms (10,000 pounds), and a versatile boom and 4.5- by 6-meter (15- by 20-foot) fantail will enable scientists and engineers to tow and deploy coastal instrument systems and moorings.

Among the standard instruments planned for the vessel are a flow-through water sampling system, a full suite of meteorological measurement systems, an acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP), and a conductivity/temperature/density (CTD) rosette with a conducting wire winch.

“Scientists and engineers are pursing more complex problems and using increasingly sophisticated equipment that they often design, build, and need to test,” Wegman says. “Their sea-going needs have changed considerably in the past decade, and it became clear that we needed a new generation near-shore vessel for a new generation of measurement systems.”

The new vessel is expected to cost $1.6 million and will be owned and operated by WHOI. Roger Long Marine Architecture (Cape Elizabeth, Maine) has designed the boat with extensive input from WHOI scientists and ship operators. It is currently under construction at Gladding-Hearn, builders of more than 330 vessels since 1955, including Gray Lady, a Hyannis-to-Nantucket fast ferry. The team of Roger Long and Gladding-Hearn recently built similar oceanographic research vessels for the University of New Hampshire (R/V Gulf Challenger) and Old Dominion University (R/V Fay Slover).