In November 2022, the R/V Western Flyer was acquired by the Florida Institute of Oceanography and its Host Institution, the University of South Florida. The custom-designed ship was granted to FIO by the Monterrey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) for use as a sailing classroom and platform for FIO’s new peer mentoring program, providing new opportunities for students who dream of a career in Ocean STEAM.
FIO will provide students with a unique mix of at-sea and on-shore training and mentoring opportunities to help build skills in the field of Ocean STEAM. The vessel is purposed for the Peerside Program that focuses on engaging students who typically don’t have access to sea-going platforms. The technologically advanced vessel is increasing access to marine science through at-sea experiences and remote science.
The R/V Western Flyer transited through the Panama Canal to the Gulf of Mexico from California in February 2023. It arrived at its homebase in St. Petersburg, FL, in March 2023. Once settled at its port in Bayboro Harbor after US Coast Guard inspections and Gulf-specific refits, it was officially launched as part of the FIO fleet on July 12, 2023.