Three 4.5-foot-long mini-sailboats built and outfitted by Maine middle school students are on course to points in the Caribbean and across the Atlantic.

Wagner Middle School in Winterport, Reed Brook Middle School in Hampden, Watershed School in Rockland, and Smith Middle School in Glastonbury, Conn., sponsored the GPS and satellite transmitter-equipped craft, which students and staff sailing aboard State of Maine launched last spring at various locations, along with two drifter buoys.

Educational Passages Director Dick Baldwin said in a press release that Reed Brook’s Dirigo Dinghy, Wagner’s Pridetantic, and Watershed, from the independent Rockland high school of the same name, are reliably reporting their speed and positions.

“Unfortunately Glastonbury Middle School’s Team Voyager’s GPS stopped reporting on June 12,” said Baldwin. “At that time she was approximately 35 nautical miles ahead of Watershed and both boats were headed on a nice relatively smooth southwesterly course.”

Watershed was dismasted during launching but has managed to drift or be blown by the winds over 1,000 miles in a straight line course — further than the other boats in the program. Team Voyager and Watershed were launched together, approximately midway between the Azores and Portugal, and are headed west, toward the Caribbean.

Watershed is in the wind and current patterns that the early European sea explorers traveled to the new world and Baldwin said that is why she has been going in “such a nice straight course.”

“She is now well over a third of the way to the Caribbean islands, with 1,800 miles to go,” said Baldwin. “Team Voyager is thought to be approximately 135 miles in front of her.”

Dirigo Dinghy appears to have been caught in one or perhaps several eddies and sailed around in circles for the first month.

“Fortunately she came out of the eddy and has been sailing a nice northeasterly course as we had predicted,” said Baldwin. “The straight-line distance Dirigo has sailed from start to July 16 was 562 miles.” Most of these miles occurred in July, with a recent speed of 2.7 knots recorded.

Pridetantic was launched in the mid-Atlantic, has sailed 870 miles on a fairly consistent northeasterly course, and is currently approximately half way to Europe.

“She could make land fall in Europe this September,” said Baldwin.

“Small boats often suffer breakdowns on long voyages but they are usually able to complete their voyages,” he said. “Who knows what lies ahead for any of these boats. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Educational Passages has two boats that could be made ready for winter launches this year. There has been interest but no commitments, said Baldwin. He said a school in Texas might launch a boat this winter in the Gulf of Mexico.

Baldwin said the Massachusetts Maritime Academy’s training ship Kennedy will be leaving for a cruise in early January, and would probably launch a mini-boat with Cape Cod area schools and be happy to launch another if there was interest. He is also interested in finding a sponsor for a Cape Horn launch either this winter or next.

Educational Passages utilizes the 4.5-foot-long unmanned sailboats to enable the study of ocean wind and current patterns by school or community groups. Designed with assistance from an experienced naval architect, the boats are made of molded fiberglass and are capable of making long ocean passages. They are crafted to sail downwind for an indefinite period and, with GPS and satellite transmitters, will transmit their location and boat speed for up to one year.

To follow the boats on their journeys, visit the website at, click on the “Educational Passages – Mapper” link and choose a vessel. Positions are updated every two hours.

To learn more about Educational Passages, write to Baldwin at, or visit the organization’s booth at the Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors Show, Aug. 12 through 14, in Rockland. The website at is currently under construction, and expected to be available in early August.

The Herald Gazette Reporter Shlomit Auciello can be reached at 207-236-8511 or by email at