Dick Baldwin, after completing his lifelong dream of a solo sail, launched Educational Passages as a project to interest youngsters in the sciences of the world’s oceans. Educational Passages offers a program in which school groups build and rig model ships which are then launched into the Atlantic from Maine, Florida, Bermuda, and even the Canary Islands. The boats are then tracked by satellite via GPS transponders attached to the models. The beauty of the program is that the students can track the course of their models from their own computers via the internet. Dick Baldwin will bring a model ship and talk about the program at the Camden Public Library on Thursday, April 24, at 7:00 pm, as part of the Library’s Maritime Month.Maritime Month is supported in part by Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors magazine.
“We use unmanned mini-sailboats equipped with GPS tracking devices to study ocean and wind patterns and much more,” said Baldwin. “These five-foot mini-boats need no outside assistance and will sail directly downwind month after month. As these boats travel the oceans of the world to faraway lands students will have the opportunity to learn map reading, geography, earth science, oceanography, naval architecture, boat building, international relations, and meteorology.”
He added, “We have now launched 40 different boats and have many exciting voyages to talk about. These boats usually survive hurricanes and will sail for thousands of miles unassisted. The excitement really builds as these boats make landfall and people of all ages and walks of life become involved. They fix the boats up as needed, add messages and trinkets in the watertight compartment, and send it back out to continue its voyage.”
The idea started in 2008 with small satellite transceivers mounted on the deck of miniature sailboats designed to journey with the ocean winds and currents. Since then it has grown with new boat designs, new partnerships, and more importantly, with an expanded audience. There are now people of all ages tracking the boats and involved in various stages of education, launch, recovery, and outreach. Clubs, schools, libraries, individuals, and foundations have all joined in the “mission.” All the boats currently at sea can be tracked at this website.
When each boat is launched no one is sure where it will end up and what it will encounter on its voyage. “We hope to continue to expand and provide knowledge and adventure to the next generation of sailors,” says Baldwin, “but also provide thought-provoking exercise to budding mathematicians, meteorologists, marine scientists, naval architects, informational technologists, and the web content producers and journalists who bring you this information.”
Maine Maritime has been an avid supporter of this program from day one. “In 2009 MMA launched our four mini-boats as well as two drifter buoys. When the ‘K-Kids Kruiser’ from Old Town, Maine, landed in Ireland it was transported to an Irish middle school. The kids skyped with the students in Old Town. This mini-boat was then put on display in an Irish pub.”
The models are 56” long, and are molded in the same way larger boats are produced and provide a very economical and inexpensive way to teach boat-building skills. It also teaches these skills in a very time efficient way as these 5-foot boats can be laid up and molded within a few days. Educational Passages is indeed fortunate to be working with Mid-Coast School of Technology and a state of the art boat-building company such as Lyman Morse in producing these boats. We anticipate this relationship will continue to grow.
When Mark Fitzgerald, noted naval architect in Camden, Maine, heard about our program he immediately recognized the potential it had and told us “I don’t think you guys have a clue as to how great this program could be. I’d like to design a boat for you.” He designed us a beautiful 56” boat which was debuted in the summer of 2012. He also helped us improve the strength of the self-steering rig and has significantly improved boat speed and performance. Mark’s new boats have sailed up to seventy-eight nautical miles per day which is phenomenal for a 5-foot unmanned sailboat.
What Makes This Program Unique?
It’s a school wide project from grade school through high school including schools of technology. Vocational students produce the boats from naval architect drawings and foreign language students will be talking to students abroad to arrange for their boat’s rescue or recovery. Grade school kids will learn as their boats follow the courses of the early explorers to the new world. This program includes school assemblies and Maine Maritime Academy Day where students deliver their boats to the captain, tour the academy, and meet with admissions.
What is Educational Passages?
Educational Passages was started by a sea captain, a physical therapist, and a medical researcher. We now enjoy the support of many talented individuals and respected organizations including a naval architect, sail makers, professional boat building company, teachers, marine museums, the Maine Maritime Academy, two universities, NOAA, a harbor pilot association and many others. We are all volunteers with a goal of encouraging students to continue their studies and develop their careers, and we have started to work on becoming a non-profit organization.