The aluminum vessel’s twin engine design makes her highly maneuverable. A 5-foot draft and 19-foot vertical clearance allow work in many areas inaccessible to larger vessels. The flexible layout of her deck area, spacious pilothouse, and below-deck laboratory can accommodate a variety of endeavors and a full range of equipment. A 3000-watt inverter allows operation in silent mode for hydrophone work. Even with engines running, noise levels are low, creating a suitable environment for lectures and demonstrations. Steps leading to a transom well and a water-level swim platform facilitate diving operations. A heated cabin and freshwater shower further add to diver safety and comfort. Features such as a 6,000-pound static load capacity hydraulic U-frame and two hydraulic winches help researchers deploy a variety of scientific equipment.
A U.S. Coast Guard inspected vessel, she is capable of carrying 39 passengers on day trips and 6 scientists on overnight cruises. The R/V Gulf Challenger is based at the Judd Gregg Marine Research Complex, also home to its captain and first mate.