Pity the fisherman or sailor who staggers on deck in the morning and through bleary eyes sees a 100-foot-long water spider coming at him...

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NEW YORK — Pity the fisherman or sailor who staggers on deck in the morning and through bleary eyes sees a 100-foot-long water spider coming at him.

No cause for alarm. It’s Proteus, a so-called Wave Adaptive Modular Vessel designed for everything from military uses to biological studies, ocean exploration and sea rescue.

Daniel Basta, director of the National Marine Sanctuaries for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, said the lightweight, low-cost and modular craft is well-suited to scientific and environmental purposes. The spindly catamaran can travel 5,000 miles — farther than across the Atlantic — on one 2,000-gallon load of diesel fuel.

Proteus made its first appearance in New York on Thursday, the fourth leg of a tour that began in San Francisco and will end in Washington, D.C.

Although the U.S. Coast Guard had been alerted to the craft’s presence, it sent a small patrol craft to check it out.

Ugo Conti, an Italian-born engineer and oceanographer who designed Proteus, was aboard a chartered harbor cruise boat during his creation’s star turn Thursday.

He and his wife, Isabella, are the co-founders of Marine Advanced Research, a Silicon Valley, Calif., firm that built the Proteus for about $1.5 million, Isabella Conti said.

The craft is 100 feet long and 50 feet wide and rides on metal and fabric pontoons that have hinges and shock absorbers to flex with the motion of the waves, which helps it to skim over the water at a maximum speed of 34.5 mph.

Its crew cabin is suspended like a gondola from its four-legged superstructure.

Proteus does have pleasure-boat potential. It can be fitted with different types of detachable cabins that can accommodate anything from a honeymooning couple to 12 passengers.