R/V Robert G. Brownlee



Marine Science Institute's 90- foot research vessel, the R/V ROBERT G. BROWNLEE is the first ship designed and constructed specifically for the safety and science of elementary and high schools students on the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento River Delta. In November of 1998, the R/V Robert G. Brownlee replaced our old ship, R/V Inland Seas, that served close to 300,000 students since the Institute began in 1970.




Design Philosophy


According to Captain John Cristich, designer of the Brownlee: "After more than 25 years of association with the Marine Science Institute, I have been allowed to develop a ship to replace the valiant ship, Inland Seas, which has served so well. The replacement challenge was not just to replace her abilities, but provide much more - now and in the future.

We required a ship that has the highest quality of design while meeting all American Bureau of Standards requirements, and all U S. Coast Guard safety standards, for a 90' vessel rated at 100 tons. The Robert G. Brownlee will bring to MSI qualities that will greatly exceed the past. She will be licensed to carry seventy-four passengers plus crew. There will be substantial reduction in maintenance and operating costs.


"Most important is the simplistic interior that gives the students a "ship-feeling" that they will take with them when they go back home and to school. The design carries with it an overall reasonable cost of construction for the complete ship. The ship was built by one of the foremost workboat builders on the Pacific Coast, MARCO Shipbuilders of Seattle.


"This project will finally fulfill a long-time dream of mine. I have built many vessels of all types in all parts of the world, but the Brownlee is my pride and joy.

- Captain John M. Cristich, Consulting Marine Engineer Fallon, Nevada






For almost 30 years, our old ship, the R/V Inland Seas, safely and effectively extended the classroom experience for thousands of students on the San Francisco Bay. Over time, the demand for our programs has grown significantly, our program offerings have expanded, and the maintenance costs of the ship have increased. Because the Institute's ability to grow was limited by the inflexibility of the old ship and lack of available classroom space, the Institute constructed a larger and more modern vessel named the Robert G. Brownlee to honor and memorialize a long-time friend and supporter.

This ship is the first fully functional research vessel built for the unique conditions of the San Francisco Bay and the safety of our young scientists. Based on almost three decades of experience, the ship's design meets the educational needs of the students and enable the crew to take them to the far reaches of the Bay - from the familiar South Bay to the Sacramento River.


At the center of the Institute's expanded operations, the new ship has become the keystone of the programs. This new vessel has twice the learning space to accommodate up to 70 students. It also provides access to live marine animals which are so important to our land-based programs. The new ship has enabled us to serve 42,000 students each year through both ship and land-based programs.


The new ship provides:


   ~ Additional capacity for young scientists on our shipboard programs
   ~ Reduced school transportation costs and travel time by sailing to ports
       in San Francisco, Richmond, Rio Vista, and Antioch throughout the year
   ~ Research labs supporting elementary, high school, and college programs
   ~ Increased summer Marine Camp programs; Lower maintenance costs
   ~ Lower cost per student
   ~ Wheelchair accessibility
   ~ Bay-wide operations and monitoring opportunities




Features of the Ship



Pilot House

The raised Pilot House provides the Captain with maximum, panoramic visibility for safe operation of the ship. From the wheel, the Captain can see over the Observation Deck to the students pulling in the trawl net.


Observation Deck

With the Observation Deck almost 15 feet above the water, up to 25 people will have the balcony view of the regional wetlands and of the science classes underway on the Main Deck. With binoculars, students can also perform bird counts during the Voyages.



For close-in maneuvering at the dock or at sea, the Captain can transfer the controls of the ship to one of three remote steering stations. The Brownlee is equipped with three, 20-person rigid buoyant apparatus and two, 15-person life floats. The Brownlee will also have a full complement of 103 adult and 70 child (under 90 lb.) life jackets.