Shipyard Upgrades In Action

R/V Sally Ride has successfully completed two science cruises since leaving the shipyard last month. The first involved visiting a research site in the Gulf of Alaska in order to switch out long-term moorings. That cruise off-loaded in Newport, Oregon and the ship then headed to San Diego. Multiple Scripps technicians were onboard for the transit south in order to tie up loose ends (in some cases literally) and get the ship ready for the demands of a CalCOFI cruise. The seasonal trip fills the ship’s staterooms and labs with scientists and uses pretty much every capability – from underway sampling to deployments to sonars. And on this cruise, Dr. Uwe Send’s group also loaded up a buoy and other instruments as part of an opportunistic mooring deployment. So it was a very full ship!

The new main lab setup. For pictures of the lab before the shipyard changes,
check out this post

You may remember that the CalCOFI group was also aboard Sally Ride for their fall trip last November. So they were able to compare the ship as it was then, after just a few science verification cruises, and now, after the shipyard period. What made the most difference to them was the reconfigurable lab spaces. Gone are the rows of narrow tabletops with cabinets above and below, replaced with custom-made easy to move nesting tables of varying sizes and heights. They come with the extra perk of storage space underneath and it’s a necessity at sea that everything be easily secured. The tables bolt into the floor, the lab has holes every two feet in a grid pattern, and gear can be screwed into the tabletop or strapped to the frame. “The new tables are great!” says CalCOFI Chief Scientist Jen Wolgast, adding that it made it much easier for the various groups aboard to have the work areas that they needed while sharing limited space. “It’s nice to be able to get to all sides of the tables, it lets people move around easier,” said LTER scientist Shonna. I’m glad to hear that the new lab setup is working well, and can’t wait to see how each science party customizes it.

The forward area of the wet lab, now with a watertight door leading
out onto the deck near the CTD sampling area. Note CalCOFI’s famous
espresso setup – they know how to live.

The wet lab also got an update. As outlined in a previous post, the name was a bit too literal at first. Sister ship R/V Neil Armstrong was first out of the yard, and reported water making its way into the wet lab through the rolling door connecting it to the starboard working deck. Now, that door has been converted to a solid wall and instead there’s a watertight door that leads from the forward part of the wet lab out onto deck. Chief Scientist Jen Wolgast reports, “We used the door from the wet lab to help with landing the CTD, it’s in the perfect spot to assist with getting the rosette right where we need it in order to sample all the way around.”  

The forward 01 deck also got reinforced so that containers can be housed there, both for storage and additional lab space. This was quite an undertaking in the shipyard, and there are dramatic photos of the transformation in a previous post. A second ladder (stairway, see header photo) was added from the forward focsle deck, so that there’s still easy access no matter where the containers are placed. No science group has needed that extra functionality yet, but you can be sure that once they do, you’ll see pictures of it here. 


Back to Work!

The final steps of the new paint job were done with the
entire ship under cover. Photo by 2nd Mate Randy Christian.

R/V Sally Ride is back in the water after two and half months in a shipyard dry dock in Alameda, California. As you may remember from previous posts (here and here), there was a lot of work done to the ship during that time. Everything on the to-do list has been completed, including the addition of a CTD hangar, a reinforced forward 01 deck, and a new paint job. The crew is excited to have the ship back, and took her out in San Francisco Bay for a series of sea trials to make sure all the systems are working properly.

Scientists are now onboard and loading their gear for a research cruise. It will be a mooring trip out to Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) array at Station Papa, which is in the Gulf of Alaska, about halfway between Seattle and the Aleutian Islands. As with other mooring trips aboard R/V Sally Ride, this one will include the deployment and recovery of instrumentation designed to spends months to years in the water column.  

The transition time between shipyard work and this research cruise is brief, so everyone has been working flat out to make it happen. It’s gone from the seeming chaos of just a week or two ago during the final stages of work in the shipyard to the orderly setup of the working deck, where every piece of equipment is secured in place and ready to head out to sea.

What a difference a week makes! The back working deck of R/V Sally Ride towards the end of shipyard work (left, photo by restech Keith Shadle). The walkway is actually the top of the ship’s A-frame, which is in maintenance mode, lowered all the way onto the deck. On the right, taken this week, all that clutter is gone, the A-frame is in its usual configuration, and mooring gear such as anchors and floats full of instrumentation have been loaded and secured in place. (Photo by 2nd Mate Randy Christian, note the lovely San Francisco skyline in the background.)

At the end of this cruise, R/V Sally Ride will return to her home port of San Diego, where there’s a busy schedule of research cruises for the rest of 2017. We hope you’ll follow along!

R/V Sally Ride is back in the water after two and a half months in a shipyard dry dock. As 2nd Mate Randy put it "…as…

Posted by UC San Diego R/V Sally Ride on Saturday, July 1, 2017







Shipyard Status Report

R/V Sally Ride is entering the last few weeks of a planned shipyard period. Crew members and technicians involved in the process have shared that the ship is almost unrecognizable as work is being done from top to bottom to make it a more efficient and adaptable member of the Scripps fleet. 

Click on any of the pictures below for a larger version. Unless otherwise noted, all photos are thanks to 3rd Mate Randy Christian. If you’re interested in more, a previous post contains details and pictures about some of the main projects, and there are more pictures here

One of the biggest projects has been upgrading the forward 01 deck. This required cutting away the original deck, while making sure to protect everything in the focsle deck staterooms below. A new deck was then brought onboard using a crane and is being welded into place. This deck is stronger and has securing points so that container vans can be placed on it, allowing for better use of space on the back working deck. 

The anchor chain has all been replaced. R/V Sally Ride has an anchor on each side of the bow, plus one spare, each weighing 5,000 pounds. Anchor chain is measured in “shots,” with each shot being 90 feet long. The ship has eight shots of chain, so 720 feet total on each side, which is stored in a special locker. Each shot of chain is connected by a detachable link, (painted white and red in the pictures below). The chain closest to the ship is painted red so that it’s obvious when the last shot is being paid out. The crew wants to avoid using this section, as it’s intended to be extra in case weather warrants a longer length.

The ship has gotten new paint, including anti-fouling paint on the underwater portions, which will discourage marine plants and animals from attaching or growing there. For a little while, the ship looked very different, as the undercoat is black. Soon enough, it was back to the usual red color. Next up is the blue, which has been sanded and is ready for a fresh coat, though I kind of like the denim look it’s sporting right now.

Technicians and crew members are taking advantage of the shipyard period to make upgrades to many of the systems onboard. Running new cables, cleaning outdoor or underwater surfaces, and calibrations are all taking place. This has led to the interesting photos below of people in cramped spaces, or checking out instrumentation that is usually underwater. 

This shipyard period has been a whirlwind of activity. R/V Sally Ride is on schedule for sea trials in a few weeks, and then back to science cruises right away, returning to San Diego later this summer. Stay tuned for more! 

Upgrades in the Shipyard

R/V Sally Ride is currently in the shipyard for some upgrades. It was always part of the plan for the new research vessels to spend a few months there at the end of their first year in service. R/V Neil Armstrong, which was delivered to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, has been about six months ahead in the whole construction and verification process. As such, that ship is already done with its shipyard period and back to doing science. Sally Ride will soon be ready to get to work, with a full schedule already set for the rest of the year. Up first is a research cruise scheduled out of Newport, Oregon, and then the ship will return to San Diego just in time for the summer CalCOFI trip.

R/V Sally Ride in dry dock. The propellers have been buffed and the shafts and rudders are back in place. Note the blocks under the keel.
Picture by ROV technician Doug Penny.

The ship is currently in dry dock, which means it’s out of the water. Dry docking a ship is an involved process – the ship pulls into a submerged slip, which is then raised and the water drained. Divers steady blocks underneath the keel of the ship and secure it. This makes all areas, including those usually underwater, easy to access – and the work continuing over the coming weeks takes advantage of that.

A hole is cut in the side of the ship in order to add the
additional ballast. Photo by 3rd Mate Randy Christian.

One important item on the to-do list is to add more permanent ballast. The ship is lighter than expected, and thus floats higher in the water. This can throw off the instrumentation that is mounted to the bottom of the ship, including transducers that collect data about the seafloor, currents, and animals in the water column. Over 700,000 pounds of magnetite, a type of iron, have been added into chambers on the lower decks of the ship, which should lower the ship about a foot and a half. In order accommodate this work the propellers and shafts had to be removed, which required the rudders to come off as well. While they were off, the propeller blades were buffed and are all nice and shiny again (see above photo). 

Changes are being made to accommodate containers on the forward 01 deck, both for storage and lab space, which will lend more flexibility to Sally Ride‘s configuration. Currently, all containers are placed on the fantail, which is prime real estate for equipment staging and deck area for operations. This upgrade is no small task though, as the deck has to be reinforced in order to hold the weight of these containers and their contents, and sockets have to be added in order to secure them. The area in question is on top of the staterooms at the forward part of the focsle deck, including those for the Chief Scientist and Chief Mate. The entire deck will be sliced away and replaced with a new one that’s up to the task. Check out this post for pictures of that operation.

Shipyard workers wall off the opening between the wet lab and
what will become the new CTD hangar. Photo by Doug Penny.

Another big change is the addition of an enclosed CTD hangar on the starboard side. R/V Neil Armstrong got one just like it during its shipyard period and reviews are positive. Originally, the ships were designed with a rolling door between the wet lab and the deck, but reports of the wet lab getting too wet made it back from the Armstrong in time for the doorway to be patched on Sally Ride. Now that opening will be converted into solid wall, and paneling will be added to enclose the area forward of the CTD handling system (aka T-Rex arms). So CTD casts will still be deployed and recovered in the same way, but now the frame can easily be moved into a hangar, which makes sampling easier and more safe. 

There are also some changes being made for the comfort of crew and scientists aboard. One such example is that the opening between the galley and mess will be made larger. Lowering the bottom of the opening will allow shorter people to be able to reach salad fixings that are in the back row. And raising the top will make it so that taller people don’t whack their head every time (see Twitter pictures below). I was glad to hear of this plan – I am an average 5’7″ but have both hit my head and not been able to reach the snap peas.

Restech Keith runs cable on the 02 deck, also referred to
as the Hobbit deck, a low space just beneath the bridge.
Photo by Doug Penny.

Sally Ride will get a fresh coat of paint on those usually hard to reach areas – underwater and the freeboard (area from the waterline up to the main deck). There will also be upgrades to various pumps, drains, vents, tanks, and valves all over the ship. Once she emerges from the shipyard later this summer, R/V Sally Ride will be better equipped than ever to perform the numerous tasks that science parties require, including deployments and recoveries of myriad gear and top-notch sensor data collection. Scripps Institution of Oceanography is lucky to have such a workhorse in the fleet!

Check out these posts for more pictures from the shipyard

Back to the Shipyard

Shipyard Status Report


Commemorative Coin

As you know, Sally Ride was America’s first woman in space. And now R/V Sally Ride is the only member of the academic research fleet named after a woman. Carrying her name is an important legacy, and one that we here at Scripps Institution of Oceanography are excited to be a part of. 

The coin on the highest deck of R/V Sally Ride, just before the mast
was placed. Photo by Paul Bueren. 

When the ship was being built in Anacortes, a bronze coin commemorating Sally Ride’s first mission into space was placed under the mast for luck. The coin, purchased on eBay by Chief Engineer Paul Bueren, shows the official NASA mission emblem, with the space shuttle flying over Earth. Seven stars and the shuttle’s robotic arm shown in the shape of the number seven denote the 7th shuttle mission. Sally Ride operated the arm in order to deploy and recover satellites during the mission. Also of note is the plus (female symbol) as part of the 5-pointed insignia, with the other four parts being arrows (male symbol) for the other members of the crew. 

From June 18-24, 1983 the space shuttle Challenger traveled 2.5 million miles with Sally Ride and the rest of the crew aboard. Though it’s impossible to compare, Scripps research vessels have traveled an estimated 7 million miles in our 100+ year history.

The mast is craned aboard. Note R/V Neil Armstrong already afloat in the background. Photo by Paul Bueren.
The coin (bottom center) was placed on the deck and the mast was lowered and guided into place on top of it. Photo by Paul Bueren.

Back to the Shipyard

R/V Sally Ride has entered a shipyard period as it ends its first year in service. Upgrades and refits will be made over the next few months. After that, it will be back to science cruises! Follow along here for photos from the shipyard, including dry dock, where the ship is set up on blocks out of the water so that the outer hull, propellers, and other areas that are usually below the waterline can be accessed. Click for larger versions. For more details about the changes being made in the shipyard, check out this post. And this one for more pictures


All That Water

Aboard R/V Sally Ride, we’re always studying the ocean as part of the science – but that’s not the only water we have to be concerned with. Thankfully for those in the science party, the engineering crew takes care of all the rest (in addition to keeping the ship’s propulsion and electricity up and running).

Labeled pipes run throughout all levels of the ship.

The ship is capable of making all the fresh water necessary to keep the people and systems aboard happy
and healthy. The reverse osmosis system is capable of making 5,600 gallons of potable water, which is plenty considering the assumed consumption is 40 gallons er person per day (1,800 gallons for a full compliment of 45 crew and science members). Some science parties require deionized water. Water from the engine room evaporators is pumped up into the lab and run through a purification system that includes ion-exchange and carbon filters. This ultra-pure water can then be used to make up the reagents needed for chemical experiments run onboard. 

The plate heat exchanger, through a series of
pumps, uses seawater to cool fresh water.

Gray water from sink and shower drains is brought back to the engine room and filtered before being sent overboard. All ship drainage happens on the port side of the ship, so as not to interfere with any science sampling that may be happening on the starboard side. Black water (sewage) is also treated onboard, in a separate area of the engine room. If there are any restrictions on dumping, like when the ship is in port or near a marine protected area, the ship’s waste can be sent to holding tanks designed to store 96 hours worth. 

Seawater (of which we have access to an unlimited supply) is strained on its way into the engine room. It is then pumped into heat exchangers in order to cool fresh water, which is then sent throughout the ship to cool the engines and other systems, before being filtered again and sent back overboard. One of my favorite features of the now retired R/V Melville was a hot tub supplied by water heated by being used to cool the ship’s engines.

Ballast tanks are located in areas of the ship at or below the waterline, and filled with seawater as necessary. For example, more is added as the ship’s fuel supply is used up in order to offset the weight change. And in case of high seas, like those we experienced on the November CalCOFI cruise, roll tanks on the upper deck are used to stabilize the ship. The seawater is treated with filters and UV lights before being brought onboard, and again when it is dumped, to prevent spreading of non-native and potentially invasive species, which has been a huge problem in sensitive environments around the world, most notably the Great Lakes

Ship schematic showing of the layout two levels down from the main deck, which consists mainly of water tanks for various purposes.
Bilge water pipes run from pumps in the lowest area of
the ship to the oily water separator in the engine room.


Water, oil, and runoff from other ship’s systems collects in the bilge (lowest point on the ship) via drains in the various deck spaces. It is sent through the oily water separator in the engine room to be cleaned before sending it overboard.


I bet you never knew there were so many uses for water onboard an oceanographic vessel! I sure didn’t until Chief Engineer Paul Bueren gave me this tour of R/V Sally Ride‘s engine room.


The Ever-Changing Lab

The lab space on R/V Sally Ride is on the main deck, just forward of the fantail. There is a “wet” lab and a “dry” lab, separated by a door. The wet lab connects right to the staging bay via water-tight door, where equipment to be deployed over the side of the ship can be stored when it’s not being used. Sampling can also take place inside the storage bay and samples transported through the wet lab to various groups around the ship, or into storage to send back to land for analysis.

Mooring group uses lab benches to store recovered equipment.

Picture 1 of 3

When the ship is holding still on station, or tied up at the dock, it’s easy to forget that the laboratory space aboard R/V Sally Ride is any different from labs back on land. Everything you’d expect to find in a lab – fume hoods, flammable (or is it inflammable?) cabinets, safety showers and eye wash stations – are on the ship. But when the ship is underway, it’s a different story. The lab benches (table tops) are wood, so that every instrument, sample, or laptop can be secured in case we run into any weather. Our tie-down skills were definitely put to the test during the November CalCOFI cruise, when we experienced a wild ride for 24 hours in 20+ foot seas and 30+ knot winds. A few samples were lost to broken jars, chairs scooted around in the labs and the mess hall, but luckily no instruments or equipment fell.

Science groups that come onboard use the lab space differently – some fill every inch with various equipment and instrumentation, plumbing into the surface seawater feed and setting up compressed gas cylinders, some fill lab reefers and freezers with samples for analysis back on shore, and some only monitor deployed equipment, gathering data on laptops. To make sure every team has its optimal configuration, the labs onboard Sally Ride can be reconfigured, all cabinets and shelving can be easily shifted or removed, and there’s plans to make the benches adjustable as well.

Check out the 360 degree views of the main lab as used by the chemists of the CalCOFI group versus the engineers of the JASON group

Many changes have been made since the shipyard, the most striking being the removal of tables and cabinets in order to set up the wall of monitors in the main lab. The nerve center of all scientific operations onboard, it went from being just another corner of the lab to a well-equipped space that facilitates decisions that need to be made and monitoring of equipment and instrumentation.

Main lab forward in shipyard (left) and now, with the wall of monitors.

WIRED tour and unanswered questions

Scripps Ships Operations director Bruce Appelgate gave WIRED magazine a tour of the R/V Sally Ride while it was docked in San Francisco.  It was done via Facebook Live, so there were a lot of questions asked in the comments. The videos below cover many of them, and more have been covered already in other blog posts, but I’m going to get to some of the others below.

Click to watch the Facebook Live video tour of the ship.


Click to watch the video from WIRED posted a week later.

Question from Justin Moss: Top speed?

Answer: 12.8 knots. For sustained speed, 11.5 knots.

Monitors in the lab show real-time data from
the echosounders.

Q from Robert Focht: Can it explore to the bottom of the Mariana’s Trench ?

A: A few other questions were asked about the Mariana Trench in particular, which is the deepest part of the ocean at nearly 11,000 meters. The ship itself has to stay on the surface of course, but is capable of carrying instruments to be deployed to the seafloor. Most of the instruments usually used max out at 6,000m so specially designed equipment would be necessary. The multibeam echosounder aboard could be used to map the seafloor even at this depth.

Q from Dion Og: What sort of bottom scanning sonar/em sensors does the ship use?

A: The ship has two Kongsberg multibeam systems, an EM122 deep water system best suited for 1000 meters or more, and the EM712 for shallower water. There are also two Knudsen systems, a single-beam echosounder that operates at 12kHz and a sub-bottom profiler that operates at 3.5kHz.

Q from Myles Blackwood: What type of fuel does that ship use?

A: There are four 12-cylinder diesel engines aboard the Sally Ride. Each one is 1400 brake horsepower and generates 1000kW of power, which is converted to electricity that is used to power the ship’s propulsion, as well as everything else electronic on the ship. Take a 360 degree tour of the engine room here.

Q from Robert Kidwell: Why’s it named after Sally Ride?

A: I think astronauts and oceanographers have a lot in common – both groups of scientists are true explorers, studying the vast unknown in order to better understand how Earth is unique. Dr. Sally Ride was a professor at UC San Diego after retiring from NASA. Once the class of vessel and its sister ship were named after an astronaut, Neil Armstrong, it seemed like the perfect choice. More about the decision and christening of the ship here. 

The ship’s name plate.

Q from Joaquin Molina: Is this military or a civilian ship?

A: R/V Sally Ride is owned by the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research and operated by Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The crew is made up of civilians, though many of them are veterans of the armed forces. The scientists are also civilians, though may have funding from military projects along with other sources. More about this dynamic here. 

Q from Donald Brian Mix: Where was this ship built?

A: Dakota Creek Industries in Anacortes, Washington built both the Sally Ride and her sister ship, the Neil Armstrong. Construction began in 2012, with both ships being christened in 2014 and arriving at their home institutions for the first time in 2016. The ships were built to the same specifications, though now that they’re in the hands of SIO and WHOI, small differences are likely to pop up in terms of instrumentation and equipment onboard.

Q from Judy Cash Lee: What is your next mission?

A: The first official science cruise is coming up in November. It will be the fall CalCOFI cruise, which is made up of scientists from SIO and NOAA. More about their test cruise here. Follow the blog for photos and posts from the upcoming cruise!

Q from Birch Hansen: What is the crew complement of the Sally Ride?

A: The ship has 20 crew members, you can check out more about the current group here. As mentioned in the video, Scripps does strive for a mix of male and female crew members. There aren’t currently any women assigned to the Sally Ride, but there are female crew members on other ships in the SIO fleet.

Q from Jason Vincent: How long can you stay out to sea at one time?

A: The ship can carry 140,000 gallons of fuel, enough for 10,545 nautical miles at 12 knots. The storerooms can hold 40 days of food assuming a full complement of 20 crew and 24 scientists.

And perhaps the most important question, from Oscar Torres Vazquez: Have you eaten tacos on the ship?

A. Yes, I have. Mexican food is an important part of the rotation on the Sally Ride. Being that her home port is San Diego, California, the cooks have access to excellent ingredients. Tacos, burritos, enchiladas, and huevos rancheros are all served aboard the ship on a regular basis.

Carnitas lunch aboard R/V Sally Ride

There are some more questions I will get to next week, so check back!

Making it Official

Dr. Tam O'Shaughnessy breaks a bottle of champagne against the bow of research vessel Sally Ride during an August 9, 2014 christening ceremony at Dakota Creek Industries, Inc. shipyard in Anacortes, Wash. O’Shaughnessy, the ceremonial ship's sponsor and long-time partner of Sally Ride, was joined on the platform by Dick Nelson, president oif Dakota Creek Industries; matron of honor the reverence Dr. Bear Ride; matron of honor Kathleen Ritzman, assistant director, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego; Kathryn Sullivan, undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and administrator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, chief of naval research.
Dr. Tam O’Shaughnessy breaks a bottle of champagne against the bow of research vessel Sally Ride during an August 9, 2014 christening ceremony at Dakota Creek Industries, Inc. shipyard in Anacortes, Wash. O’Shaughnessy, the ceremonial ship’s sponsor and long-time partner of Sally Ride, was joined on the platform by Dick Nelson, president of Dakota Creek Industries; matron of honor the reverence Dr. Bear Ride; matron of honor Kathleen Ritzman, assistant director, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego; Kathryn Sullivan, undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and administrator, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, chief of naval research.

The christening ceremony for R/V Sally Ride took place back on August 9, 2014. It’s tradition for a ship to be christened (given its name) as soon as it hits the water for the first time – and that a bottle of champagne is broken across her bow as part of the ceremony. This important role was performed by Dr. Sally Ride’s life and business partner Dr. Tam O’Shaughnessy, who will serve as the ship’s sponsor. This is another tradition, a female civilian is given the honor of bestowing luck and protection over the ship and her crew.

The decision to name the ship after the late Sally Ride came from the Secretary of the Navy in 2013. A few months prior, the R/V Neil Armstrong, the sister ship also being built in the Dakota Creek shipyard in Anacortes, Washington, was given its name.

The commissioning ceremony, when R/V Sally Ride will be officially drafted into service by the Office of Naval Research, will take place in late October. As part of the celebration, the ship will be tied up at the Broadway Pier in downtown San Diego for the long weekend, and available for tours. This is your chance to come out and see the ship, roam its decks, and help welcome her to a long and productive life as part of Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s fleet. Check out these links for more information, and bring the whole family!

Birch Aquarium member tours on Saturday, October 29 from 9-11:30am

UCSD alumni and affiliate tours on Saturday, October 29 from 12-4pm 

Public tours on Sunday, October 30 from 12-4pm

Version 2
Sunrise over downtown San Diego, as seen from the focsle deck of R/V Sally Ride.