Vessels & Technology

Whale tagging operations
The Research Vessel Auk is used in whale tagging operations. Photo: NOAA (NOAA Fisheries Permit #775-1600-10)

Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary maintains the research vessel (R/V) Auk and a rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB), along with a variety of research equipment, including a conductivity-temperature-depth profiler (CTD) and small remotely operated vehicle (ROV). The NOAA Office of Law Enforcement (OLE) sanctuary enforcement officer and a patrol vessel are co-located in Scituate, Massachusetts.

R/V Auk

R/V Auk used for santuary programs
The R/V Auk is an important platform for sanctuary research programs. Photo: NOAA (NOAA Fisheries Permit #775-1600-10)

R/V Auk is a twin-hull, 50-foot aluminum hydrofoil-assisted research catamaran. The multi-purpose vessel supports science and education missions and is designed as a day boat with a maximum capacity of 16.

The vessel has both wet and dry labs and a dive ladder for scuba and snorkel operations. It can deploy, tow, and retrieve equipment with a 1,000 pound capacity oceanographic winch, a 2,000 pound capacity hydraulic A-frame, and an articulated knuckle crane. Bow thrusters aid in positioning the vessel. A spacious fly bridge facilitates wildlife observations, and a 16-foot, rigid hull inflatable can be deployed as needed. R/V Auk also offers secondary capabilities as an emergency response asset.

R/V Auk was recognized as one of the "Great Boats of 2006" by Marine News magazine (December 2006).

Length: 50 feet
Beam: 19 feet
Draft: 6 feet
Speed: Top speed 24 knots, but 16 knots or less in sanctuary
Range: 400 nautical miles
Fuel Capacity: 600 gallons
Crew: 2
Day Passenger Capacity: 14
Overnight Passenger Capacity: 4

Request Use of R/V Auk

NOAA OLE Patrol Vessel

A patrol vessel in Scituate
The NOAA Office of Law Enforcement maintains a patrol vessel in Scituate. Photo:NOAA

The NOAA Office of Law Enforcement (OLE) patrol vessel F3403 is an aluminum monohull patrol craft designed specifically for conducting offshore patrols. OLE took delivery of the boat in August 2018. The vessel is based in Scituate, Massachusetts.

All vessel operators are officers or agents with NOAA OLE who have completed a four-week Marine Law Enforcement Training Program. The vessel has proven to be an effective tool for fisheries enforcement at sea and for educating mariners about safe boating in the sanctuary and elsewhere in the Northeast region.

Length: 37 feet, 10 inches
Beam: 10 feet, 9 inches
Engines: 3 Yamaha outboard engines, 300 horsepower each
Crew: 4


A small inflatable, Luna, is utilized for wildlife tagging and several other research and outreach missions.

Other Research Vessels

For larger, longer missions, the sanctuary occasionally acquires the services of larger vessels that are part of NOAA's fleet. At other times, the sanctuary has contracted with academic institutions or private industry to employ research platforms for varied projects. For whale tagging, the sanctuary utilizes a 22-foot rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB) named Balena which is used in conjunction with R/V Auk.