Two “miniboats” created by a local Harvard-Kent School 4th-grade class in 2020 have journeyed across the Atlantic, touching communities all along their journey, with the school – and many more followers – eagerly awaiting an anticipated landfall on the coast of France. Better than any message in a bottle, the miniboats are a fantastic story that has connected multiple schools, students, fishermen, and coastal communities in three countries in a united effort to keep the boats afloat!
The HK Pride and Teal Turtle miniboats were built and ceremonially launched in Charlestown by students in a 4th-grade science enrichment class through an initiative of the USS Constitution Museum and partner Educational Passages, coinciding with USS Constitution’s 223rd birthday. The “miniboats” are 5-foot unmanned boats armed with a solar GPS for tracking online. They also contain letters from the kids who hoped their story would make it across the ocean.
Along the way, communities and school children have rescued the boats on landing, repaired, and re-launched them – with new messages added from local students all along the way.
Their travels have not always been smooth sailing. As hoped, after their initial launch in May 2021 off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, they made their way up the Eastern Coast in the Gulf Stream, on track for the current to carry them across to Europe. But eventually, they blew off course following Tropical Storm Elsa in July and both boats ran aground on the south coast of Newfoundland.
HK Pride was stranded in a remote location at Kent Cove Beach while Teal Turtle landed further west on a rocky island near Burgeo. It took the tremendous efforts of local Canadians who heard about the search through social media to access the locations by boat and finally rescue them. Museum staff traveled to Newfoundland, meeting with 4th and 5th-grade students at St. Joseph Elementary School in Harbour Breton and Burgeo Academy to open the miniboats’ hatches before they were sent on to volunteers for repairs.
HK Pride was taken on by the local high-school King’s Academy, where students in a shop class would fully repair her. Then, it was one more stop at the Villanova School in Conception Bay to visit with schoolchildren and eventually a September 2022 relaunch off the Grand Banks with the help of Maersk Shipping.
Since then, both miniboats have found their way across the Atlantic, where just a month ago, Teal Turtle landed on another rocky shore – this time on the coast of the Azores. The boat, once again, was located with tremendous effort and retrieved by a charter team at Calypso Azores, who scaled a cliff to get her back! Teal Turtle remains with the 8th-grade students at Escola Básica e Secundária da Graciosa. They are working on repairs and adding their messages before relaunching the boat into the North Atlantic.
Meanwhile, HK Pride has sailed past the Azores, leaving her sister ship behind. HK Pride has cruised past Portugal and then Spain and now continues to sail north. After more than 95 days, this sailing ambassador may make landfall on the French coast at any moment!
The miniboats have created a global community – including teachers, students, Museum staff, and community members from multiple countries – eagerly participating in their journey through social media and 24/7 updates from USS Constitution Museum.
Emily Bryant, Education Manager at the Museum who worked with the Harvard-Kent students to build the miniboats, then traveled to recover HK Pride and Teal Turtle and work with students in Newfoundland, explains, “It’s a fantastic story of learning and connection that started right here in Charlestown and brought our public school together with other communities worldwide. We’re so excited to follow the miniboats, as it’s not every day that we all come together to ensure the success of something this special.”
Anne Grimes Rand, President and CEO of USS Constitution Museum, added, “The Museum is excited to provide STEM education to local students that offered online education when schools went virtual. Now our floating ambassadors continue to offer lessons on ocean winds, currents, geography, and international relations. USS Constitution Museum is proud to be a leader in hands-on engagement in our galleries and far beyond!” Visit the Museum’s website to learn more about the boats and continue tracking their position