Mini sailboat built and tracked by Rhode Island students salvaged near Balancing Rock, Digby County



DIGBY, NS – A five-foot sailboat built by Greg Rowe’s class at Burrillville High School in Rhode Island, USA, needed a little help from officers from Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans when it ended up on the ground.

Stuck in rocks and tangled in seaweed, the craft was tracked just south of Balancing Rock on Long Island in Digby County.

The small sailboat built by Greg Rowe’s environmental science class at Burrillville High School in Rhode Island ended up just south of Balancing Rock on Long Island in Digby County.

Rowe, a high school environmental science teacher, said BHS Roweboat was launched off F / V Terri Ann, 80 nautical miles south of Nantucket, on June 23.

His class built the boat from a kit designed by the nonprofit Educational Passages, of Kennebunk, Maine.

The students built the boat, filled it with messages and keepsakes, set up the solar powered GPS unit, and arranged for it to be sent out to sea to ride ocean currents and wind. .

The class was able to follow him, even during Tropical Storm Elsa, although the weather event caused considerable concern to the trackers.

“The storm was really a concern because we were hoping we had put the boat together well enough to survive and not sink,” Rowe said.

“I thought the mast could be torn off, that the boat could tip over and snap in half, but it survived,” he says.

He adds that it was interesting to compare the current data with the wind to see the impact of the wind on the trajectory of the ship.

On July 10, the small boat had reached 6.38 knots.

After sailing the coast north of Yarmouth, BHS Roweboat entered St. Mary’s Bay on July 13.

Rowe began to contact various organizations and individuals for help with a possible recovery.

“Everyone was so receptive and ready to help. We were on Facebook posts, whale watchers were on the prowl and tried using webcams from Nova Scotia to see if it was close, ”he says.

The BHS Roweboat track.
The BHS Roweboat track.


She continued on her way sailing to Church Point in Digby County, where many were watching on a webcam near St. Anne’s University, and from nearby Fisheries and Oceans offices in Meteghan, using GPS. The boat ended up navigating by the webcam overnight, as recorded by the GPS track.

Larry Peach, the tourism manager for the Municipality of Clare, said when Rowe contacted him he believed it would result in an engaging social media post. Maybe someone had spotted it in the Cape Saint Mary / Mavillette Beach area since it was floating nearby.

“There was a lot of interest online. It was a pretty cool coincidence to follow two sailboats heading for St. Mary’s Bay at the same time – the Bluenose II and the Rhode Island mini research vessel, ”says Peach.

On July 14, the mini-boat made landfall on Long Island, just south of Balancing Rock.

Contacts were made immediately through emails and phone calls. Jim Manning of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center / National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration put Rowe in touch with Megan Carver of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, whose team managed to retrieve the mini-boat just hours after it landed.

    Zach Velleca with the <a class=sailboat that the environmental science class at Burrillville High School in Rhode Island built.” data-enhance=”true” src=”” srcset=”,format,enhance 847w,,format,enhance 1694w” style=”height: auto; width: auto;”/>
Zach Velleca with the sailboat that the environmental science class at Burrillville High School in Rhode Island built.

After 21 days at sea and 1,610 kilometers traveled, BHS Roweboat had completed its first voyage.

Mathew Drewes, a Fisheries and Oceans Canada field officer, called Rowe with the news, saying there appeared to be little damage. After his recovery, he added that DFO would organize a ride for the small sailboat aboard a fishing boat from Pubnico Harbor to Georges Bank where his adventure could resume.

The data it collects will be used to examine ocean currents, weather conditions, bathymetry and more.

Rowe says he’s really not sure how the boat will behave when it’s placed back on Georges Bank.

“Originally, the hope was that she would go to Europe on the first trip.

Once she started approaching the Bay of Fundy, interest shifted in another way. “It would have been great to see how she would have traveled there and how fast, with the crazy tidal changes.”

Now everyone has an opinion on where the boat will go – which makes the project great for students, faculty and anyone watching at home, he says.

“It was a hectic, crazy, fun, stressful and very rewarding project,” he says. “It’s almost like having another child.”

Rowe says the main reason he wanted to share the story with the media is the help provided by so many Nova Scotians trying to get the boat back.

“My neighbor here is from Toronto and when I told him the story he said, ‘Of course they helped me. They are Canadian.


To continue following BHS Roweboat, visit this link.

Rowe also launched an Instagram page – bhs_envsci – to document the project, as well as others.



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