Fully equipped Florida research vessel a ‘Swiss Army knife’ of boats


This past spring, the Florida State University Coastal & Marine Laboratory took delivery of the 64.75-foot-by-21.5-foot R/V Apalachee, an aluminum catamaran built at Geo Shipyard in New Iberia, La.

The lab is located at St. Teresa on a lonely stretch of Highway 98 where Apalachee Bay forms a sweeping curve of beach that joins the Florida Panhandle to the pan. Apalachee is a well-equipped platform for scientists and students to conduct marine research on extended cruises along the Panhandle and in the deep water of the Gulf of Mexico.

The vessel has wet and dry labs, a McElroy/Catchot winch, Hydra-Pro knuckle boom crane, swing davit, dive platforms on each transom, hydraulic A-frame, Zodiac utility boat, 450-gallon-per-day Aqua Vista watermaker and dive support system. There are seven berths and two heads. The boat’s speed of 20 knots will save on transit times to offshore locations, time that is better spent conducting research.

“Geo worked off the architectural plans but they did intuitive things that really improved the boat,” said Capt. Rosanne Weglinski, who, as captain, engineer and deck hand, draws on a long career as a shrimper and 13 years in the oil patch off the coast of Louisiana.

Apalachee is powered by two John Deere 6135 SFM-2, 13-liter, six-cylinder mains with Twin Disc MGX-5114 SC gears at a 2.5:1 ratio. Electrical power is supplied by two Northern Lights 30-kW generators.

“The knuckle boom crane is a great benefit to us,” said Weglinski. The crane is used for lifting shoreside equipment and supply transfers and for deploying the Zodiac utility boat offshore. “And the dive platforms on the transom lower to water level and allow us to do research work right at water level.”

In mid-July, Weglinski was readying Apalachee for a 10-day deepwater shark research cruise, lead by the Marine Lab’s Dr. Dean Grubbs, associate director of research. For that cruise, the knuckle boom crane was put to good use lifting a long line winch onto the 780-square-foot aft deck. The winch, used for hooking sharks, is bolted to the deck utilizing a grid of built-in bolt downs.

“It’s a Swiss Army knife boat and I’m a Swiss Army knife captain,” said Weglinski.

Capt. Rosanne Weglinski at the wheel, with Furuno radar and John Deere and Twin Disc engine controls.

Among the modern amenities aboard R/V Apalachee is the galley, left, which serves mariners and scientists during extended research cruises in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico.

The bow of the research vessel’s starboard pontoon.

R/V Apalachee’s 2-ton Hydra-Pro knuckle boom crane

The controls for R/V Apalachee’s 2-ton Hydra-Pro knuckle boom crane, including directionals for boom-up, boom-down, arm-in, arm-out, etc.

Each of the boat’s pontoons houses a John Deere 6135 SFM-2 13-liter six-cylinder main engine.


By Professional Mariner Staff