This little boat started out in Barbara Morgan’s middle school class in Westbrook, Maine, one of 5 boats the Sebago School Alliance sent out in the Fall/Winter 2013-14. It was launched on 2 December 2013 off Georges Bank along with one other boat (shown in the 1st picture below) by Bro Cote, a lobsterman out of Hyannis MA. Several other boats were launched about the same time off the Mid-East coast of the United States and off the Canary Islands. We had hoped these boats would make the complete circle the Atlantic Ocean and, as you shall see, this one has and then some. We anticipated it would make landfall in several places and hoped the finders will contact us, repair our boat as needed and send it back to sea to continue its voyage. You can follow the tracks of this boat here.
On 12 November 2014, after sailing across the ocean, it rode surfed some 6 meter seas and crashed on the rocks of Portugal. It was recovered in an joint effort by the local authorities, the local company Ocean Puzzle, Ltd., the Portuguese Institute for Systems and Robotics, and the Marine Environment & Technology Center of the engineering school Instituto Superior Tecnico. She was repaired and refitted for another sail. The complete story of that recovery is posted here and a great video here.
In early June 2015, with the help of multiple vessels out of Lisbon including a 230′ four-masted sailboat, an arial drone, and lots of fanfare, she was released, sailed down the entire coastline, and was recovered prior to entering the Mediterranean Sea.
In September 2015, thanks to Luis Sebastiao, she was refurbished again and loaded on the cargo vessel “Monte Brasil” on its way to Madeira Island (see photos below) and, thanks to Raquel Costa, a relaunching was arranged. Finally, with help from Luis in refurbishing multiple transmitters, it was released on 28 Jan 2016 so her track can now be seen with2016 boats as well as on the original map. The TV report on this launching can be seen here14 minutes and 27 seconds into the broadcast featuring both Luis and Raquel.
A set of short very professional videos were produced by our Portuguese colleagues as follows:
- MADEIRA island launch
- GOOD BYE moment, swimming with the WEST, launched by VERA CRUZ (APORVELA):
- LISBON Brief story + Dick comments + symbolic launch
- WEST TAKES PORTUGAL TO THE WORLD – 1st video
The adventurous West has already made her way back across the Atlantic, turned the corner in the Gulf Stream in May 2016, headed back east, and in mid-August 2016 approached the Emerald Island. As the story gets even more intense, we document the conversation chronologically as follows.
Aug 13th, 2016: Luis and Rachel notified several Irish mariners to be on the lookout. Luis email reads:
“Dear Daniel, dear Edin, dear all,
Some of you don’t know me, my name is Luis Sebastiao, I’m with the Institute for Systems and Robotics of IST, Lisbon, Portugal, working with António Pascoal (in CC). We have an urgent request for you, in case you or someone you know can help us. The story is long, you can read more about it (see below), but essentially:
* In the scope of an educational program called Educational Passages – USA (coordinated by Dick Baldwin in CC), with the support of NOAA – USA (contact James Manning in CC) a little unmanned boat with a sail called WEST has made an impressive voyage including one stop in Portugal (that’s why we are involved).
* WEST is approaching Ireland very quickly. She could land tomorrow (Sunday) or not… it all depends on the winds and currents, she is NOT controlled.
* You can get WEST position twice per day here: http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/drifter/drift_ep_2016_1.html
Tonight at 20:05 GMT I will receive an updated position (which is posted to the public website 1h later). It will be possible to make a new forecast… The wind seems to be changing (http://www.windguru.cz/int/index.php?sc=47737&sty=m_menu) Anything can happen, let’s see.
It would be awesome if someone can help and pick WEST before she gets destroyed during the landing… Can you help or maybe you can try and find someone that can help?”
Multiple people responded. Pierre Purcell, for example, has notified “Radio Kerry” with the following message:
“I would be grateful for any assistance Radio Kerry can give bringing attention to either fishing ,Sailing or pleasure boats to keep an eye out for it as it heads our way . Anyone out on the beaches or coastline over the next few days might also keep an eye out and if found washed ashore please contact Radio Kerry or ( your friend in research station you mentioned who might link up with Raquel Costa in the US) or myself.This could be a great schools project to track a number of these little boats crossing the Atlantic.There is loads of info attached here if you have time to look and could make an interesting story. As a Director of Irish Sailing I am heavily involved in a programme called Try Sailing and we have introduced around 3000 new people to the water already this year if you can give a plug . Tralee Bay Sailing Club has participated with 70 clubs around the country. We are very excited about our Irish sailor Annalise Murphy in the Olympics and keeping our fingers crossed for her over the next few days, so be sure to give her a mention. Finally this little boat means a lot to the owners so anyone finding it so we can relaunch it on its way around the world will be much appreciated. Yours in Sailing, Pierce Purcell 087 2793821″.
Enda Nolan from “Coastway Surveys” in Ireland responded with:
It looks like a very interesting project. Looking at the current tides she could land somewhere between Lahinch and the Dingle Peninsula on the Wild Atlantic Way. I see you have a contact in Kenny’s Pub in Lahinch http://www.kennysbar.ie/ We will be flying a fixed wing drone off the Irish Coast in the area late next week so will keep an eye out for it, I’ll keep an eye on the next location update, if you need help with the media let me know.” He left us a website to visit under “wildatlanticway“.
Aug 14th, 2016 0221Z: Later that evening, Luis updated the now growing email list with the following email:
Dear All, It is always a pleasure to see the quick reaction and enthusiasm that this educational project receives. Thanks to you all. And sorry I could not send this e-mail around 20:05 GMT as I had expected to do. In reply to Dan: yes, as you pointed out, with sail position, WEST indeed runs pretty much before the wind. The current also plays a role as we all know, and when the wind is low the current becomes more significant. Enda, Pierce – talking to the media is a great idea. I totally leave it to you, either to involve them right away in order to let more people know about WEST and increasing the probability of a safe landing/recovery or do it later when there are local schools involved, hopefully interacting with the American and Portuguese schools. Again to summarize + quick notes/simple calculations:
- WEST reports her position twice per day at 08:05 and 20:05 GMT. ~1 hour after the reports the position can be checked here: http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/drifter/drift_ep_2016_1.html
- WEST latest reported position on August 13, 20:05 GMT was: -11.27491, 52.46399 The closest point on land is 32 nm away from that point (Inishtooskert island, Dunquin region)
- WEST latest 36h average speed was 1.7 kn and average course was 085 If WEST would keep its average course and speed then she would head approx. towards Ballynunion, 59 nm away and would arrive on 16-8-16 03:34
- Where WEST is really going to I cannot say… :) Anything is possible…
- It looks like the wind will be very weak (~4 knot) and pushing WEST towards North this Sunday: http://www.windguru.cz/int/index.php?sc=47737&sty=m_menu The surface current seems also to be weak (~0.04m/s) and pushing WEST towards East (https://earth.nullschool.net/#current/ocean/surface/currents/orthographi…)
- I think the average speed will get lower and lower and she not go towards Ballynunion. Instead she will go North, and the landing (if she lands at all) will take place not before Monday 12h.
Having said this, let’s wait for the next GPS fix and hope WEST chooses a nice area to land with local students & teachers eager to be involved. :) We will keep you posted (please let us know in case you want your e-mail removed from this “almost spam” list. :) ) Kindest regards and… good luck for WEST! :) Finally: it is never too much saying this: if anyone attempts to recover WEST remember: safety first! (you can see the recovery when she landed in Portugal here:https://vimeo.com/128238338, more videos here: http://www.emepc.pt/en/kit-do-mar/west)
Enjoy your Sunday,Luis
ps1: see/share our latest about west post here https://www.facebook.com/dsor.lab.isr.ist/
ps2: if she doesn’t move much in the next 12h then I will not send an update today (you can always track her here: http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/drifter/drift_ep_2016_1.html)
Aug 14th, 2016 2100Z: We heard from a few more Irishmen. Gerald Dooley reported “quite dramatic course change in the last update” and pointed to the NOAA tracking site. Derek Flanagan from the Irish Coast Guard reported in a few minutes later with “Hey Guys,Can you make sure you keep us updated on the Position? We have requested the Navy to try and locate tomorrow if they a vessel in the area. I am forwarding position reports to them. Regards,Derek. IRCG.”
It was interesting to see what appeared to be some Gaelic as a footnote in Derek’s email as follows: “Tá eolas sa teachtaireacht leictreonach seo a d’fhéadfadh bheith príobháideach nó faoi rún agus b’fhéidir go mbeadh ábhar rúnda nó pribhléideach ann. Is le h-aghaidh an duine/na ndaoine nó le h-aghaidh an aonáin atá ainmnithe thuas agus le haghaidh an duine/na ndaoine sin amháin atá an t-eolas. Tá cosc ar rochtain don teachtaireacht leictreonach seo do aon duine eile. Murab ionann tusa agus an té a bhfuil an teachtaireacht ceaptha dó bíodh a fhios agat nach gceadaítear nochtadh, cóipeáil, scaipeadh nó úsáid an eolais agus/nó an chomhaid seo agus b’fhéidir d’fhéadfadh bheith mídhleathach.”
Aug 15, 2016 0034Z: We got other reports from Rachel and Luis with new positions. Luis writes:
“Many thanks for your help. It would be awesome if the Navy can locate WEST. Please tell them to take pictures! The Portuguese and American students would love to see their boat again and make new Irish friends. Yes, I’ll keep you posted. Tomorrow morning (~7h30 from now) I will send the 08:o5 GMT updateYes indeed. You know what? I think that WEST likes to play some tricks on us! ;).
The next morning, after another fix comes in, he sends a little map (see below) and reports: “It looks like she might not land in Ireland at all… let’s wait and see if the Navy is lucky :)”
Later that same day, Rachel sent us news that the Marine Institute and the entire Ocean Literacy Network of Ireland is now involved with the rescue mission. A long string of emails including Angela Stevenson, Tom MacSweeny, Ana Noronha, Margaret Rae, Patricia Killian, and then most recently, Aodhan Fitzgerald, the Research Vessel Coordinator. Aodhan, for example, reports: “As discussed we will monitor its position (it seems to be getting closer to us ) , The celtic Voyager will be off the west coast next week so may be in a position to pick up , if its gets closer we can possibly use our RIB to recover.” Ana responded that “This little boat has been rescued in Portugal and relaunched, but the Atlantic keeps sending it back to Europe..“.
On Aug 16, 2016, with the mini-boat headed away from the coast, it looks like it may not be landing in Ireland at all but, who knows, she may decide to turn around.
On Aug 19, 2016 there was an email exchange between Luis and Derek concerning another boat, “The Red Storm”, that was showing up as landed in Ireland. This other boat has already been recovered and is being prepared for relaunching. We confirmed with Derek that this was not the boat of interest and he replied “Ok that’s copied, was looking at the wrong boat icon on the tracker, Coast Guard Search team stood Down, we see were WEST is, Irish Navy Ships will keep a look out if in the area.”
On Aug 22, 2016, after a few days of sailing all points of the compass including one long leg along the edge of the shelf towards the Southwest, she headed shoreward once again. As Luis’s email reports “WEST has been “playing around” near Ireland but still has been far from the coast most of the time. This morning she is closer, at 25 nm from the coast (see map below). Last GPS fix (GMT time): 2016/08/22 08:05:49 -10.921569 54.208292. According to the wind forecast I expect WEST to go roughly towards NE for the next 4 days… http://www.windguru.cz/int/index.php?sc=607519&sty=m_menu So, let’s wait a bit more to see what happens, we’ll keep you posted. And thanks for being alert :) Kind regards, Luis”.
On Aug 23, 2016, we heard from Pierre again with “Little West having a ball and having a better sailing season than everyone on this list. Just keep following her and enjoy the fun. Has this group ever put a tracker in a bottle.?? Best wishes on behalf of Irish Sailing Association “Try Sailing” programme. Pierce.”
On Aug 26, 2016, JiM contacted some of the Scottish gov’t physical oceanographers he has worked with as follows: “Hi Sarah & Bee- You can track it (and others) here. This one is special. You can read the full story here. -JiM. PS Are you deploying any drifters this year?” to which Bee responded with: “Hi Jim, What an exciting journey! We have a few ships we operate in Scottish waters, and I will ask them to keep an eye out for West. Based on the write-up on your website, you’re just looking for photos at sea? Or would you like West to be recovered for a little TLC before re-deploying? It’s great to see West has made it into the Slope Current, I expect it will head up to the Faroe Shetland Channel very soon. There’s actually a NATO exercise in the region in two weeks time, called Joint Warrior, where they will also be deploying a multitude of other surface and underwater vehicles (http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/news-and-latest-activity/operations/uk-home-waters/unmanned-warrior). If you think it would help, I can post some details onto the internal project website too. In terms of drifters, we’re thinking of doing some coastal work in the North Sea, possibly. If funding comes through, we’re probably thinking of deploying around 10.Best wishes, Bee”. JiM answered back suggesting they recover the boat if it happens to be sighted. Bee immediately responded with “I’ve contacted a few other collaborators across Scotland as well as the Unmanned Warrior partners, and asked that people get in touch if they come across West, and that it may want some TLC (similar to its Portuguese visit) before being set out again. We have some research cruises in the Faroe Shetland Channel later this year, so could definitely help with that. The journey is definitely interesting, even more so to see what Crimson Cruiser and Scout do when they reach the Flemish Cap region. Best wishes, Bee”
On August 29th, 2016 we heard from Hilda de Pablo, one of our Portuguese colleagues who, after monitoring the weather forecast, was concerned about the potentially dangerous situation we find the little craft. “Dear Dick, Jim and Ariadne (e Raquel e Luis), After our dear adventurer WEST passed the Irish coast, it now seems to be getting very closer to the Scottish coast. In this morning last tracking message it was 25 nm away from the closest point of the Scottish western islands. The strong SW winds (~20-22 kn) that will be, during this afternoon, could push it even closer to land. I believe it would be appropriate to send warning to some contact in Scotland to begin, with some urgency, a possible rescue operation. Best regards, Hilda”. JiM responded by pointing to our August 26th entry above. He noted that, despite having international NATO forces mobilized, we may not be able to save our WEST. Dick also responded with “Hi Hilda, et al Good as always hearing from you. West sure is an amazing boat and hopefully we’ll get her recovered. Nobody however has been as determined to do as thorough a job as your Lisbon Group. It looked to me last night she might come down the Northern part of the English Channel. We had one other boat do that which was called Charger. She landed in Whales, was re-launched off a ship leaving Thamesport England and went to Lisbon, was rehabbed and re-launched and ended up in Guyana, South America. I will attach this route and also copy Raquel, Luis, & Joao. Sure hope this adventure has a happy ending – or should I say continues on to………????? Dick” to which Hilda responded: “Hi Dick, Jim et al.,I am also glad for your words. I remember the Charger, the little craft traveled 300 km of Portuguese roads in my car ;) Apparently the wind will bring West closer to the west Scottish coast. If our little craft can get past the first islands further south, then, analyzing google images, the coast becomes less rugged and with more sandy areas. This can be positive for a possible fate of the West, in case no one is able to rescue her while she is still in the water. We’re rooting for her! Hil”
On August 30th, 2016 at 0812Z, we saw that West finally has landed on the Isle of North Uist in Scotland. The nearest village of Knockintorran looked to be a few kilometers away. We immediately launch a effort to coordinate a rescue before another tide arrives. Luis contacted a Marcus Cardew. JiM contacted the nearby Tranquil Sands Holiday Home, Ben View B&B, and the RSPB Nature Center. Raquel and Fernando Silva subsequently got through on the phone to Jeremy Howarth at the B&B who confirmed he and his neighbors would attempt the rescue later in the morning. Sure enough, we got a email a few hours later (14:58Z) with pictures of the WEST laying on her side! See photo gallery. Jeremy reports in with “Hi Jim, My neighbour Graeme & I have found the West. She is to far away from a road to get back here so I am waiting for my wife to get home from work and I can then take the 4×4 to collect. The West must have come in on the high tide this morning and got left in the rocks. She appears not to be badly damaged We have moved her well away from the high water mark and all being well will be in our shed tonight. I will contact our local school which is brand new and takes 109 children form the whole Island of North Uist in The Outer Hebrides Hope the pictures are ok – I am photographed with the boat and black Labrador. Also I have just had a phone call fro Marcus Cardew who is a friend of Luis in Lisbon. Not sure what is to happen to the boat so will keep in shed until advised further. Kind Regards.Jeremy”
Thanks to Kathyrn Manning, a librarian at New Hampshire’s Keene State College who read and was interested in this story, we learn that “Some have given the etymology of Uist from Old Norse meaning ‘west'” . So, it appears that little WEST was drawn there to the little town of Uist!
A week later, Jim Manning, the author of this account, was visiting Dr. Ru Morrison, a colleague with the Northeastern Regional Association of Ocean Observing Systems in New Hampshire. Ru, the Executive Director of NERACOOS for the past several years, is originally from Scotland. When Jim showed Ru the googlemap of the WEST landing on the west coast, Ru stopped him with “Hey, zoom in a bit”. After zooming into the outer Hebrides North Uist, he said, “No, zoom in some more”. Eventually, when he got down to the village where it had landed on the beach, Ru pointed and said, “That’s my house!”
By another coincidence, the Annual Meeting of the European Marine Science Educations Association was scheduled for Belfast Ireland in October 2016 and the EP founder, Dick, Rachel, and some of our USF colleagues all attended. The story of West was told at that conference along with the Lancer which landed in Ireland and was actually displayed there by the your girl who found it.
The story of WEST is not over. After the new year, we heard from Ru Morrison’s aunt Marri. After acquiring WEST from Jeremy, she brought it into “Sgoil Uibhist a Tuath (North Uist School) School Assembly on Friday afternoon January 13th, and will be doing a project on her for the following month, including trying to ship her to the Azores and beyond, with help from local Coastguards. It is a primary school – up to 12 years of age and the children will be doing drawings/ maps/ writing/ and if allowed some will add small paintings to one of the sides. The work will be bilingual Gaelic /English. I am currently preparing some curriculum materials for the school with a geography- based colleague.”
On March 1, 2016, John MacDonald released the Portuguese messages retrieved from WEST’s hull. A leak in the capsule threatened its contents, but the messages were successfully dried and digitized. Click here to access a PDF of the messages.
On July 10, 2017, BBC news was scheduled to film Marri and Ru (who happens to be there on vacation) along with WEST and another vessel, The Lil’ Boat That Could, which had arrived on a nearby island.
Stay tuned as WEST prepares for its next adventure. You can follow her next leg at https://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/drifter/drift_ep_2017_1.html