Visitors in town could be forgiven for guessing after a quick look that the large blue-and-white vessel moored on Anacortes’ waterfront was an enormous yacht. But evidence – including a contingent of Navy officers in summer uniforms and strange gear on the vessel’s aft deck – proved it was no rich man’s toy.
It was the Sally Ride, a 238-foot oceanographic research vessel built by Anacortes’ Dakota Creek Industries, under a two-vessel Navy contract valued at $177 million. She will be operated by the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in San Diego.
The Navy brass and an assortment of scientists were in town for the Saturday christening of the recently-launched vessel. She is scheduled to be completed, undergo sea trials and delivered late next year.
Sally Ride was the first American female astronaut in space. She was on the crew of the space shuttle Challenger in 1983. Later, she joined the faculty of the University of California San Diego as a professor of physics and was director of the university’s California Space Institute. She died in 2012 at the age of 61.
The vessel, designated as AGOR 27 (Auxiliary General Oceanographic Research) has a vivid blue hull and white topsides. For the christening ceremony, Dakota Creek employees added signal flags and wrapped her in red-white-and-blue bunting.
Although no tours were offered, the public was welcome to walk the pier to lean back and stare upward. Sally Ride has a steel hull and an aluminum deck house. She has a beam of 50 feet and draws 15 feet. With twin diesel-electric propulsion systems she will cruise at 12 knots.
She will carry a crew of 20 and has accommodations for 24 scientists and carries fuel and supplies sufficient for 40 days of cruising and research.
Sally Ride is the second AGOR vessel built by Dakota Creek Industries. The John Glenn (named for the nation’s first man in space) was launched earlier this year. She will operate from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.
Defense Industry Daily described the vessels’ seakeeping characteristics this way:
“As blue water ships, they’ll be expected to sail into tough conditions. The program wants ships that can operate 75 percent of the time during the Pacific Northwest and North Atlantic’s winter months. The vessels need to be fully operational in Sea State 4, and be able to handle dynamic positioning relative to a fixed position in a 35 knots wind, in sea state 5 with a 2 knot current.
“Just to make things interesting, the ship should be as acoustically quiet as possible in the choice of all shipboard systems, their location, and installation. A lot of ocean research involves listening, and a ship that gets in the way of that isn’t much use.”
Anacortes probably is best known as a haven and popular destination for pleasure boat owners and for the construction of yachts. But Dakota Industries, a locally owned firm, is well-known for building technically difficult vessels – from ferries to offshore oil well support ships to innovative commercial vessels on which the crew works under cover around a well amidships.