Every team needs a mascot, and the Maine Windjammer Association is no exception. Meet the M/B Watershed, the latest addition to Maine’s historic passenger-carrying fleet. Measuring only 4.5 feet long, this unmanned Mini-Boat is part of an educational project designed to engage students in maritime learning.
Last fall, Captain Brenda Thomas, owner of the schooner Isaac H. Evans, urged her fellow captains in the Maine Windjammer Association to support Belfast-based Educational Passages in their efforts to teach the next generation about ocean currents, winds and tides. Since 2009, Educational Passages has launched a dozen Mini-Boats in various parts of the Atlantic, usually with the help of Maine Maritime Academy’s training ship during their annual cruise.
Each Mini-Boat is GPS-equipped and designed to sail away to distant lands on the prevailing winds. Throughout each boat's voyage, students are able to monitor the course, position and speed from their computers. Some boats have not only provided information about weather and sailing routes, but have required international negotiations as well, since beach landings can involve contacting foreign communities in an attempt to get the boats rescued or relaunched.
Most of the Mini-Boats have been “adopted” by schools around New England. The Maine Windjammer Association donated their Mini-Boat to the Watershed School, an independent high school located in Rockland, Maine. According to Will Galloway, Watershed’s Head of School and the teacher who is using the Mini-Boat as part of his 9th grade history class, “This is a terrific opportunity for us to bring our study of the age of exploration up to speed with current trade issues and international relations.”
Catching a ride aboard MMA’s training ship State of Maine during their annual cruise, the M/B Watershed was launched on May 18th near the Azores. Although Watershed suffered a slight mishap during the launch (she was dismasted!), she is providing interesting data as a drifter. Over the course of her first month at sea, she has logged nearly 650 nautical miles, heading steadily south-west along the coast of Morocco.
When asked which Mini-Boat has sailed the greatest distance, Educational Passages Program Coordinator Richard Baldwin cited CPS, Belfast High School’s boat. Launched off Puerto Rica, CPS traveled 8,473 nautical miles over 375 days, through a hurricane, over 30-foot seas and was retrieved 380 miles off the Portuguese coast by the State of Maine. The boat was brought back to Castine, fixed up and relaunched. She is now in the Dominican Republic and still sending position reports.”
Through this unique partnership with the Maine Windjammer Association, the Watershed School and Educational Passages, young people in Maine and around the world via the internet will have the chance to learn about ocean wind and current patterns, map reading, geography, oceanography, navigation, earth sciences, computer technology and much more.
To track Watershed and the other Mini-Boats, visit iboattrack and select a vessel.