Flip. A Pogo-stick Inspired Shantyboat, Anyone?

FLIP was designed as a stable scientific research platform.  It’s not a shantyboat.  There’s nothing to be learned here. A boat that floods itself in order to be stable?  That  would be crazy!

Or would it?

RP FLIP (Fl oating I nstrument P latform) is an open ocean research vessel owned by the Office of Naval Research and operated by the Marine Physical Laboratory of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The ship is a 355 feet (108 meters) long vessel designed to partially flood and pitch backward 90 degrees, resulting in only the front 55 feet (17 meters) of the vessel pointing up out of the water, with bulkheads becoming decks. When flipped, most of the buoyancy for the platform is provided by water at depths below the influence of surface waves, hence FLIP is a stable platform mostly immune to wave action. At the end of a mission, compressed air is pumped into the ballast tanks in the flooded section and the vessel returns to its horizontal position so it can be towed to a new location. The ship is frequently mistaken for a capsized ocean transport ship.


The Marine Physical Laboratory of Scripps Institution of Oceanography created FLIP with funding from the Office of Naval Research (TRF). The Gunderson Brothers Engineering Company in Portland, Oregon launched FLIP in June 1962. In 1995, FLIP received a US$2 million modernization.


FLIP is designed to study wave height, acoustic signals, water temperature and density, and for the collection of meteorological data. Because of the potential interference with the acoustic instruments, FLIP has no engines or other means of propulsion. It must be towed to open water, where it drifts freely or is anchored. In tow, FLIP can reach speeds of 7–10 knots.
FLIP weighs 700 long tons (711 tonnes) and carries a crew of five, plus up to eleven scientists. It is capable of operating independently during month-long missions without resupply, being able to operate worldwide but the normal area is the west coast of the United States. The vessel operates out of a home base at the Scripps Nimitz Marine Facility in San Diego, California.


Thanks to Wikipedia.

Originally posted 2012-06-11 20:23:43.

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  1. I love FLIP!!! I remember reading an article about her when she first became operational and thinking what a great idea for a home moored offshore somewhere (yes, even at that young age my favorite books were those by Howard Chapelle and Irving and Electa Johnson).

    Nowadays I look at the concept and imagine a floating community assembled from modules, each module being a FLIP-type column with living and working spaces. Sort of an assemble-it-as-you-go semisubmersible offshore platform. It’s a cool idea, but rather expensive… traditional shantyboats are ever so much more affordable!

    — Samantha

    • I like your thinking Samantha. That’s what crossed my mind too. And like you I remember seeing it decades ago in something. Weekly Reader or something! Yeah.. too expensive… but what a perch. Bryan

    • Hi Samantha,

      Two thoughts… the first is re modular communities. There’s a quirky treatise on TAZ (Temporary Autonomous Zones) by Hakim Bey at http://hermetic.com/bey/taz_cont.html

      The other is a thought for a less expensive FLIP… A large ply girder (4’x4′ or 8’x8’x???) wouldn’t be any harder to build than a regular hull of a given length.

      It looks to me as though the aft hull is the more challenging part… what about leaving it as a square tube, with dogged hatches opening out on four sides to create a deck when flipped. Fabric structures could be folded out to complete, similar to a treehouse opening out from the ‘trunk’. Flexi-spaces within the hull could be adapted to either orientation with ease.

      Might try a different method for changing the Center of Gravity… rock ballast at the bow with water counter ballast at the stern? To flip, empty water, and refill to flatten. The less weight one could live with, the smaller and cheaper all this would be.

  2. This seems to be a viable niche for concrete. Not
    so much ferrocement as simply dense heavily reinforced. I would
    use ready mix with fiber reinforcing and steel mesh poured into
    a movable form. Pour 8 yards worth, then reassemble the form and
    pour again.It wouldn’t take a lot of concrete and mesh to make
    a really big one…But how to launch?
    I imagine something like a long culvert closed at the ends.

    On what scale? Is it going to be anchored or rest on the
    bottom? It seems best for fairly deep protected
    One can fantasize about making your own tropical island
    on a sea mount, but that’s “Shanty boating” for the super rich!
    I quickly end up with a book full of ideas and questions!

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