Our boats

Work in marine science at the University of Plymouth is underpinned by access to a fully-equipped fleet of boats, the latest instrumentation, specialist software and a £4.65million Marine Station that provides a base for fieldwork.

Pride of place in our fleet goes to RV Falcon Spirit, a 15 metre catamaran which is used, along with smaller boats, for group practicals and individual project work spanning collection of seabed and water samples and acquisition of hydrographic survey and oceanographic datasets.

Our instrumentation includes the latest oceanographic and hydrographic survey sensors (including an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler, Multi-Beam Echo-Sounder, and towed undulating Conductivity-Temperature-depth system), an automatic weather station and specialist software for data analysis and visualisation.

The facilities and equipment represent a substantial investment and are available to support any research or commercial project that is conducted by our staff and our partners.

RV Falcon Spirit 

RV Falcon Spirit in a 14 metre aluminium catamaran configured as a flexible platform for teaching and research.

It is used extensively for oceanographic and biological sampling as well as hydrographic survey. To support this, it has lifting capability via a stern H-frame, a variety of mounting points for survey equipment and both dry and wet laboratory spaces.

The name honours Robert Falcon Scott, who as a Plymothian naval officer and polar explorer attempted to be the first person to reach the South Pole.

The Falcon Spirit is a 13.65 metre survey vessel coded by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency for 14 people to work up to 60 miles from safe haven. Built by Alnmaritec of Northumberland the RV Falcon Spirit is an aluminum catamaran. With a beam of six metres it offers a large and stable 25 metres of flood lit configurable aft deck space. 

Internally the vessel has dry laboratory space for a minimum of six workstations, plus a separate wet laboratory facility. With a pair of 500 horsepower diesel engines, the vessel is capable of a 165-mile range at a 15-knot service speed, with considerable power in reserve. The vessel comes with the capability to troll at very slow speeds and boasts a one metre by one-metre moon pool, two independent 600kg hydraulic capstans, and a 400kg pot hauler in way of a double door in the starboard bulwark.

Power is via an independent generator producing 12.3 kVa of clean power to a multitude of 240V sockets, a 1.6kw inverter, and a 4kw UPS. The RV Falcon Spirit offers a flexible and state-of-the-art platform for marine research.

Multi-beam sonar system

The multi-beam echo sounder system is used on board Falcon Spirit and can accurately measure latitude, longitude and the height of seabed features up to 400 meters below the surface. 

It is used for teaching, research and in partnership with commercial companies for hydrographic and other underwater surveying. 

The system enables students and researchers to map the subsurface environment and visualise in detail features such as shipwrecks.

<p>Wavedancer at sea in Plymouth Sound</p>
<p>Students doing experiments on Falcon Spirit</p>
<p>Boaty 2</p>

Take The Helm 

Take the Helm is a Dufor 445 and is the University of Plymouth's sail training vessel.

Coded to sail 60 nautical miles from a safe haven, she's equipped with a galley, teaching area, six berths, all modern navigational aids and a heater! Weekend sailing with appropriately qualified students is a great way to build experience and confidence.

  • Sailing yacht for navigators and seamanship training
  • Skipper
  • Length: 13.5 metres
  • Beam: 4.34 metres
  • Cruising speed (under power): 6–8 knots
  • Range: 20-60 miles from a safe haven (dependant on P.O.B)
  • MCA Cat 4 with 10 P.O.B./Cat 2 with 8 P.O.B.

Special equipment:

  • Position fixing, chart plotter/GPS, radar, sounder, VHF.


Wavedancer is a South Cat 11 metre (36 feet) Mk11 Catamaran. It is used extensively for diving and oceanographic and biological sampling. To support this, it has two interchangeable configurations, a lift on the back for diving and a stern H-frame for deploying and retrieving equipment.

After an extensive refit, RV Wavedancer built by South Boats on the Isle of Wight, re-joined the fleet of teaching and research vessels run by the University of Plymouth from the Marine Station. 

The state-of-the-art, multi-purpose survey vessel boasts the most up-to-date navigational and electronic equipment and has a versatile and configurable deck space which allows the School of Biological and Marine Sciences to conduct marine fieldwork across a whole range of subject modules. 

Biological sciences; marine biology; and marine sciences all make use of the vessel to get students afloat to investigate and study the marine environment. 

Wavedancer is also configurable as a diving support vessel, with a dive lift fitted to the stern she is used to support HSE scuba diving courses and scientific diving module and associated research.

Designed to take up to 12 students or divers. The vessel has already proved her worth operating in and around Plymouth Sound as a teaching platform, training the next cohort of marine scientists and divers on the HSE Professional SCUBA Diver course.


JoJo regularly undertakes the role of dive support vessel as well as other support roles for teaching and research.

JoJo is coded to work up to 60 miles from safe haven, cruise at a speed of approximately 14 knots and can carry 12 passengers and two crew.

  • Skipper + 1 nominated crew
  • Length: 10.5 metres, Beam: 3.46 metres
  • Cruising speed: 10 knots
  • Range: 60 miles from a safe haven
  • MCA Cat 2/ Max P.O.B. 14
  • 240 volt AC/600 watts
Special equipment: position fixing, chart plotter/GPS, radar, sounder, VHF.

Polar Cirkel polyethylene work boat [x3]

We have three types of small powerboats, namely Polar Cirkel work boats, an Orkney Day-Angler, and an Arancia inflatable which many will recognise from its usual role of lifeguards surf-rescue boat.

These are used in a variety of dive support, student and research project sampling and coastal survey roles. They can accommodate three to eight persons and are either coded by the Maritime Coastguard Agency or licensed by Plymouth City Council.

  • Coxwain
  • Length: 5.96 metres
  • Beam: 2.5 metres
  • Cruising speed: 15 knots
  • Range: 20 miles from a nominated departure point (Plymouth)
  • in favourable weather and daylight
  • MCA Cat 5/ Max P.O.B. 8.
Special equipment: GPS, sounder, VHF.

<p>Students on board Falcon Spirit</p>
<p>Students using equipment on board Falcon Spirit</p>
<p>Sunset on board Falcon Spirit</p>
<p>Students on board Falcon Spirit</p>

On board Falcon Spirit

BSc (Hons) Ocean Science and Marine Conservation student, Jordan, shares her experience of her first field trip on the Falcon Spirit, the University's 13.65 metre survey vessel.

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