Research Vessels

a silver boat with a noaa logo on the water
The NOAA research vessel Shearwater. Photo: Robert Schwemmer/NOAA

Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary operates R/V Shearwater. The R/V Shearwater is a 62 foot high-speed catamaran. The primary operations include oceanographic research in the waters of the Santa Barbara Channel and Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary in Southern California. Oceanographic research includes scuba diving, mapping the ocean floor, remotely-operated vehicle support, and sampling of the water, air, Earth, and marine organisms. Further, both these vessels are used in emergency response when needed to protect sanctuary resources and also maritime heritage or archeological and cultural research. Additionally, Shearwater can host educational field trips for local and visiting schools and institutions.

Our research vessels are operated by qualified, licensed captains and qualified, trained operators. These captains and operators receive monthly and annual training to ensure safe and efficient scientific operations. Additionally, their local knowledge assists in guaranteeing an educational and fun trip for those working and/or visiting the Channel Islands for the first time. Check out our amazing crew over at our staff page!

Both vessels are equipped with scientific instrumentation to assist in research, education, and emergency response. For more specific information on vessel capabilities, please see the vessel specifications sheets. If you have any further questions, please contact the vessel operations coordinator at

The vessels primarily operate between the months of April and October as the weather is more predictable at these times, but they remain available for research, education, cultural heritage, and other missions year-round. If you're interested in scheduling either research vessel for your university, research institution, company, organization, or school, please contact the vessel operations coordinator at

See the vessel calendar for available sailing dates or to confirm your project dates.