Educational Passages, the Belfast-based program that helps students utilize 4.5-foot-long unmanned sailboats to study ocean wind and current patterns, has begun planning for a rally to highlight historical events centered around travel on the North Atlantic Ocean.

The program’s mini-boats would be launched in mid-May from the Maine Maritime Academy training ship State of Maine. Drop-off points would include locations near Nantucket island, to represent the early whaling industry, Plymouth, Mass., to acknowledge the landing point of Pilgrim settlers, Jamestown, Va., representing America’s first colony, and a site in the Caribbean to represent the sugar, rum and slave trades.

“We might be able to arrange to have a boat launched off England or Portugal to represent Columbus and other early sea explorers,” wrote Educational Passages Manager Richard Baldwin in a news release. He said he hoped to connect a launch site off Florida or the Bahamas with a marine historical event in that area.

These sites are subject to change, he said, depending on conditions at the time of launch.

The boats would sail around the Atlantic in a clockwise direction.

“It would not be unreasonable to expect one or two of these boats to complete the entire circle around the Atlantic,” Baldwin said. Currently, four boats are registered for the rally, and Baldwin said he hopes to have as many as 20 participants in the event.

Educational Passages boats sail directly downwind, relying on wind and current power, and need no engines or outside assistance.

The tentative schedule for the mini-boat rally is as follows.

  • Feb. 15 — Last day for sponsors to order boats.
  • April 4 — Boats ready for pick-up or shipping. Students may choose to customize their boats with paint, graphics, messages and instructions for those who find them at the end of their voyages.
  • Late April — Maine Maritime Day. Boats must be in Castine at this time.
  • Early May — Boats leave Castine on the State of Maine.
  • Mid-May — Mini-boat launchings off the State of Maine training ship.

Mini-boats report progress

On Jan. 4 Baldwin reported that Argo, a mini-boat sponsored by students from Islesboro, sent a GPS signal that verified its presence two miles inland on the island of Grenada. A representative of the Islesboro school had been in contact with Grenada school officials and the Coast Guard, Baldwin said. He said he believed Argo was recovered approximately six miles off the Grenada Coast.

Massachusetts Maritime Academy’s mini-boat Marco Polo was expected to be launched in the Caribbean on Jan. 9. Baldwin reported another boat named Bridges is currently in the Caribbean and hasn’t been sailing well. He said he hoped to ask the Massachusetts Maritime crew to “swing by to check her out.”

For more information and to track the progress of the Educational Passages mini-boats, visit the website at educationalpassages.com.

The Herald Gazette Reporter Shlomit Auciello can be reached at 207-236-8511 or by e-mail at sauciello@villagesoup.com.

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