Research Vessels

The purpose of our boating policies is to ensure the safety of operators and scientific personnel through safe and responsible boating operations. SPMC vessels are designated by the US Coast Guard as Oceanographic Research Vessels (ORV), and our policies ensure boating operations are consistent with that designation.

The ORV designation restricts persons aboard to scientists or scientists-in-training and requires that vessels be used only for oceanographic study.  Our groups of WWU students and researchers may be expanded to include others who are connected to WWU and participating in oceanographic activities (e.g., scientific dive team members, research associates, members of the media documenting research, etc.). Individuals in these latter categories must complete a hold-harmless form and be approved by the SPMC Boating Safety Officer. Anyone outside these designated groups can travel on an SPMC vessel only with approval from the SPMC Boating Safety Committee.

A SPMC vessel sits next to a buoy in the water

RV Magister

RV Magister is a 34-foot aluminum hull vessel with a passenger capacity of 12.  It is designed for deploying oceanographic equipment such as CTDs, sediment corers, ROVs, and plankton nets.

Students aboard a SPMC vessel collect samples with a plankton net.

RV Zoea

RV Zoea is a 32-foot aluminum hull vessel with a passenger capacity of 9. This vessel is designed to run biological sampling nets, bottom sediment samplers, and ROVs.  A drop-down bow door and open deck also make this a good platform for SCUBA operations.

Requesting a Vessel

Vessel requests can be made by contacting the Boating Safety Officer (BSO) at 360-770-4277 or

All requests require an associated float plan detailing the purpose, date and time, participants, location, and planned work. The float plan must be submitted to the BSO at least two days before the trip. Float plans for trips to be completed outside normal work hours must be submitted at least two weeks prior to the trip. While priority is given to WWU research and courses, we also serve outside researchers. 

Authorization of Boat Operators

Individuals may become authorized boat operators of smaller vessels through the following process:

  1. Review the Boating Safety Manual
  2. Submit a Vessel Operator Application (contact Nate Schwarck)
  3. Obtain a Washington State Boater Education Card
  4. Demonstrate ability to safely operate a boat as determined by the BSO