Five foot unmanned sailboat makes it across the Atlantic to Guernsey

February 18th, 2014 by Richard Lord

Paris Broe-Bougourd, while fishing on his 22 foot Mitchell in the Little Russell (the passage between Guernsey and Herm Island) on the morning of 16 February 2014, came across a barnacled five foot-long unmanned boat with a skeg (a long stern keel with 10 lbs. of lead ballast), which he recovered from the sea.

Laminated to the deck of the unmanned boat was a faded image of pupils from a class at the Morristown-Beard School in New Jersey, USA along with contact details, and directions in English, French and Spanish to visit a Northeast Fisheries Science Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration web link to monitor the boat’s location.

Crimson Tide began its journey across the Atlantic off Charleston, South Carolina on 1 December 2012 and arrived in the Little Russel on 16 January 2014 (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

Crimson Tide began its journey across the Atlantic off Charleston, South Carolina on 1 December 2012 and arrived in the Little Russel off Guernsey’s east coast on 16 January 2014 (click image to expand – ©RLLord)

The unmanned Crimson Tide sailing boat was built by vocational high school students in Rockland, Maine.

This type of boat, which weighs 36 pounds, is fitted with a forward sail that can pull it through the water at a speed of up to 6 knots.

Its oceanic journey is the idea of sailor Dick Baldwin from Belfast, Maine, who set up the Educational Passages initiative, which according to the website has launched 28 small unmanned sailing boats since 2008.

Old Town Elementary School released a boat off Cape Hatteras, which sailed to Ireland and now decorates a pub, where it is used to raise funds for battered children.

Other ‘Educational Passages’ boats have been retrieved in Portugal; Granada; and Nova Scotia, Canada.

The unmanned sailing boats have a GPS unit mounted on the centre line of the deck towards the stern, which sends out a signal to a satellite every two hours.

The leaded skeg keeps the boat upright so that the boat’s location can be transmitted.

The location can be tracked by school students and anyone else in the world with internet access.

The cost of monitoring the location and speed of a boat is about US$20 per month, and the boat with all its equipment cost $1,500.00 to supply.

The deck of the Crimson Tide without mainsail with a photograph of the Morristown Beader School class and information about the Educational Passages project (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

The deck of the Crimson Tide, without its forward sail, with a photograph of the Morristown-Beard Middle School class, and the pupils signatures, and information about the Educational Passages project (click image to expand – ©RLLord)

Joe Robillard, a parent of a pupil, and a trustee, at the Morristown-Beard School in New Jersey, read about ‘Educational Passages’ and suggested the concept to the Headteacher and to Middle School teacher Lisa Swanson.

They thought it was a wonderful idea to enthuse and engage pupils in a diverse range of subjects including oceanography, weather, geography, map reading and navigation, boat building and design, the use of sensors, and when the boat reaches a foreign shore, learning about the boat’s destination, and the language spoken.

High School students use the project as a vehicle to learn about international relations.

Each school year learns and applies different knowledge from the project.

A faded photograph of the Morristown Beader School class in New Jersey, USA (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

A faded photograph of the Morristown Beader School class in New Jersey, USA (click image to expand)

Dick Baldwin visited Morristown-Beard School with the boat to introduce ‘Educational Passages’ to the teachers and pupils. He writes “our main purpose in doing this is to encourage students to further their studies. I think we have found a very fun & exciting way to help kids learn about oceanography, earth science, geography, and get some great international relationship experiences.”

The Middle School students named and personalised the boat with their autographs, and Joe Robillard launched ‘Crimson Tide‘ on the inside edge of the Gulf Stream near Charleston, South Carolina, USA on 1 December 2012.

Crimson Tide‘s arrival in Guernsey waters after the island experienced a series of storms and huge seas is testament to the sturdiness of these small boats, which have been known to survive waves whipped up by hurricane force winds.

Directions to website in three languages to track the unmanned sailing boat (click image to expand)

Directions to website in three languages to track the unmanned sailing boat (click image to expand)

Crimson Tide had lost its sail, and the lid to a circular compartment on deck, which can accommodate messages, USB sticks, a t-shirt, or whatever the students wish to place there. The compartment was empty so anything placed in there was presumably lost at sea.

During its 442 day passage across the Atlantic, Crimson Tide’s skeg and hull acquired some pelagic gooseneck barnacles, Lepas anatifera.

The goose barnacle, Lepas anatifera, on the keel of the unmanned sailing boat Crimson Tide that took over two years to cross the Atlantic Ocean (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

The goose barnacle, Lepas anatifera, on the keel of the unmanned sailing boat ‘Crimson Tide’ that took 442 days to cross the Atlantic Ocean (click image to expand – ©RLLord)

Dick Baldwin’s ‘Educational Passages’ programme is working now with the the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to help understand Atlantic salmon migration in the North Atlantic.

Some Atlantic salmon released from a hatchery are tagged with a tiny ultrasound transmitter.

Newer ‘Educational Passages’ boats are being fitted with an ultrasound receiver on the keel, which sends out a signal if it comes within half a mile of a tagged Atlantic salmon to help researchers map Atlantic salmon migrations.

Crimson Tide began its journey on 1 December 2012 and was recovered from the Little Russel by Paris Broe-Bougourd on 16 January 2014 (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

Crimson Tide began its journey on 1 December 2012 and was recovered from the Little Russel by Paris Broe-Bougourd on 16 January 2014 (click image to expand – ©RLLord)

‘Educational Passages’ has a 2014 spring programme and plans to launch more unmanned sailing boats from the east coast of North America, from Portugal, and from the Canary Islands into the North Atlantic; from California into the Pacific Ocean; and also possibly from locations in the South Atlantic.

Dick Baldwin hopes ‘Crimson Tide’s’ journey isn’t over.

“We can send you a new mast and sail,” he writes.  The battery in the GPS transmitter should probably be changed.

“If we could get her re-launched well southeast of England like off the Azores or Canary Islands (perhaps from a ship leaving Le Havre), it should sail on to the Caribbean and then back to America,” he writes.

 

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