Two of the earliest collecting vessels owned by the MBL were the Vigilant and the Sagitta. The first was a steamer called the Sagitta, which was an important collecting boat in the early days. Measuring in at thirty-five feet long, the Sagitta was acquired by the MBL in 1890. Named after the arrow worm plankton (Chaetognatha), the Sagitta served as a collecting boat for scientists, students in MBL courses, and collecting teams alike. The Sagitta was the first boat with a hired captain, and it went out twice a week with students on collecting trips (Maienschein, Exploring Life, 142).
Six years later, in 1896, the Vigilant came to the MBL. The Vigilant was purchased from a Portuguese swordfisherman (Maienschein, Exploring Life, 142). With more room on the deck for standing and walking around, the Vigilant was a more popular boat amongst the students. The Sagitta would tow the Vigilant from shore, and from there the Vigilant would take students to various places to collect, like Tarpaulin Cove. Any wind would help the Vigilant’s progress greatly.