Hilda Lahti Elementary School’s student-built sailing vessel Boat-A-Lahti has been launched into the Pacific Ocean. By Friday, the vessel made landfall on the Baja Peninsula.
The miniature fiberglass boat was one of two prepared by students in Melissa Reid and Misty Lindstrom’s third-grade class at the Knappa school in October. Another was sent to Japan late last year to be launched on the other side of the Pacific.
The students, along with several other classes in Oregon, are part of a project through the Columbia River Maritime Museum and Educational Passages, an organization that trades miniature boats around the world to spread knowledge of oceanography, sailing and culture.
Funded through the maritime museum and private donors, the boats are built to withstand rough weather and equipped with a GPS unit that uploads the boat’s position twice a day. A watertight compartment acts as a time capsule carrying mementos from students.
A plan to launch the boat at sea from Tongue Point Job Corps Center’s training vessel Ironwood was denied by the U.S. Department of Labor, said Nate Sandel, education director for the maritime museum. Boat-A-Lahti was eventually taken aboard the Astoria-based Coast Guard cutter Alert and launched near San Diego earlier this month.
Within 14 miles and 10 hours of travel, Boat-A-Lahti washed up on San Diego’s Mission Beach but was taken in by lifeguards with the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.
“You have setbacks,” Sandel said. “That’s what education is, making adjustments.”
The lifeguards towed the vessel out to sea several days later. Boat-A-Lahti traveled south along the Baja Peninsula and by Friday had washed up on a beach in the El Vizcaíno Biosphere Reserve, Mexico’s largest wildlife refuge. The maritime museum will contact officials to relaunch the vessel, Sandel said, or he will travel there to retrieve it.
Boat-A-Lahti has a slim chance of making landfall on Asia, and likely not this school year. The hull carries information in six different languages about the builders and directions for what to do if the vessel is found.
Shortly before Christmas, Sandel delivered Boat-A-Lahti’s sister vessel to Tanesashi Elementary School in Hachinohe, a city on the northern end of the Japanese island of Honshu.
Named East Ocean Friends by Japanese students, the boat was launched at sea several days later by the head of the Minamihama Fishermen Cooperative.
Because of clockwise currents swirling around the North Pacific Gyre, East Ocean Friends could cross the ocean this school year. The vessel has mostly headed east across the Pacific.
Matthew Bola, a spokesperson for Hachinohe, said the Educational Passages program helps connect to different cultures through the bonds of education and science.
“While the project itself will show how science can be applied in an interesting and real-world activity, the communication between the two students will form a bond that will be greatly educational and memorable, far surpassing the realm of just the classroom setting,” he said.
Monitor the progress of Boat-A-Lahti, East Ocean Friends and other vessels at educationalpassages.com