It’s been an amazing journey for The Crimson Tide, a five-foot unmanned sailboat originally launched by the Morristown-Beard School 6th Grade Class as part of the Educational Passages program in December of 2012.
During its journey, the boat first washed ashore in Guernsey, an island in the English Channel off the French coast of Normandy in February of 2014, after nearly 450 days at sea. From there, a fisherman repaired and re-launched the boat and it landed again in April of 2017…this time in Les Sables d’Olonne, a seaside resort town in western France.
Now, after traveling more than 4,000 nautical miles and being restored at a marine vocational school in France, the boat has returned home to Morristown-Beard School, where those MBS 6th Grade students are now seniors, just a month away from graduation.
“We are so excited to have this project come full circle and have the boat back on campus just in time for Commencement,” said Middle School Geography teacher Lisa Swanson, who helped to coordinate the project. “Our students’ enthusiasm for The Crimson Tide was infectious from the very first days of the project, and we have launched a 6thGrade sailboat every year since.”
The idea to participate in the Educational Passages program came from former MBS trustee and parent Joe Robillard, who read about it in a sailing magazine. The program educates youngsters about ocean winds and currents by launching unmanned boats built by vocational high school students in Maine. Each boat is equipped with a GPS that transmits to a satellite so the students can track its journey on the web.
“After I finished the article, it took about three seconds for me to pick up the phone and see if we could bring this to Morristown-Beard School,” said Robillard, whose idea was quickly embraced by Headmaster Peter Caldwell and Middle School teacher Lisa Swanson. With help from Mr. Robillard, The Crimson Tidewas originally launched on December 1, 2012 near Charleston, South Carolina.
“In addition to teaching students about ocean currents and wind, the project is exciting because it provides a backdrop to teach everything from physics to world languages,” said Mrs. Swanson. A significant aspect of the project hinges on the hope that students can connect with their peers across the globe when the boat reaches a foreign shore. When The Crimson Tide was retrieved off the coast of Guernsey, for example, it set up exciting new learning opportunities as MBS students connected with students there via skype. Middle School French students also began an ongoing penpal adventure with students from France afterThe Crimson Tide landed in Les Sables-d’Olonne.
Subsequent MBS sailboats have landed in Spain, Florida, the Shetland Islands, and the Orkney Islands in Northern Scotland.