READ THE STORY: Have you seen the big boat off Santa Cruz this week? Here’s what we know
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Have you seen the big boat off Santa Cruz this week? Here’s what we know

Locals from the Eastside to Natural Bridges have gotten an eyeful of the R/V Sally Ride this week. What in the name of “Squid Game” has it been doing out in Monterey Bay?

Just what is that big boat that’s been roaming Monterey Bay the past couple weeks, generating curious comment all over social media?

If you guessed research vessel, you’re on it. Or maybe you’ve seen the R/V Sally Ride before — she’s no stranger to the waters off Santa Cruz.

Here’s what we know about the ship.

What is it doing here?

A team of researchers led by Brian Haus of the University of Miami is working on a field study of air-sea interactions funded by the U.S. Navy, the Coastal Land-Air-Sea Interaction (CLASI) project — a “multi-institution effort to better understand coastal weather phenomena and improve their forecasting for public, economic, and national security interests.”

Haus told Lookout that the Sally Ride has been spending time surveying the waters off Santa Cruz ahead of a return trip next May and June. Between June and October, the team was working the central and south parts of Monterey Bay in the vessel owned by the U.S. Navy and operated by Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.

The CLASI project involves a number of buoys both farther out in the bay and in shallower waters closer to shore, monitored via satellite.

The R/V Sally Ride winds up its current trip to Monterey Bay on Sunday — but the vessel is slated to return next spring.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

How many people are involved?

There have been as many as 44 people on board — researchers and crew — during the Sally Ride’s time in the bay; they’re from the University of Miami, the University of Minnesota and Ohio State University, with the Monterey-based Naval Postgraduate School and Naval Research Laboratory Monterey as local participants.

How much longer is the ship here?

This trip is just about over — it’s scheduled to end Sunday in Monterey after beginning Oct. 2 in Alameda.

After that, the Sally Ride heads back south — but we’ll see it again next year.

What’s it been like aboard?

Coming to Monterey Bay is always a highlight, Haus said, “with the most spectacular marine life I’ve ever had the pleasure to observe.”

And the Sally Ride is typically much farther out to sea, said Keith Shadle, an oceanographic technician from UC San Diego.

Oceanographic technician Keith Shadle works the crane pulling research buoys out of Monterey Bay.
(Courtesy Keith Shadle)

“Honestly it’s great, because we are within cell phone range so everyone is on their phones talking with family and staying in touch with the world,” he said of being within sight of Santa Cruz and Monterey. “We are normally not this close to land so we have to rely on our ship’s internet, which leaves something to be desired.”

So there’s definitely been bandwidth of some binge-watching, said Shadle, whose duties have included working the crane pulling research buoys out of the bay.

“No ‘Squid Games’ normally save for times like these where we have cell signal,” he said, noting that he’s been at sea as long as 49 days, a much tougher voyage than this two-week mission. “I have to be careful when I tell folks I’m on a science cruise, as it’s definitely nothing like a vacation. We are a science workboat.”

Oceanographic technician Keith Shadle's view of from the Sally Ride's crane of a research buoy pulled out of Monterey Bay.
(Courtesy Keith Shadle)

Should we paddle out and say hi?

Locals have given the Sally Ride a welcome reception, Haus said, but as with Monterey Bay marine life, it’s advisable to give a wide berth to the vessel named for the first American woman to travel into space.

“Best not to head directly out,” Haus said, “because we are trying to do steady transects to map the bottom topography at very high resolution and having to make course corrections makes it more difficult.”