VIDEO: Vancouver mayor meets up with Mini Boat makers virtually


Eisenhower Elementary fifth graders work on their vessels that will sail to Japan

VANCOUVER — It’s been a few months since we last heard from the Columbia River Maritime Museum (CRMM) and their Mini Boat program, which often works with Vancouver Clark County schools. That’s because they’ve been hard at work, inside and out.

With the introduction of the Mobile Mini Boat Workspace, a trailer that can travel from school to school, CRMM has been able to work with students outdoors during the pandemic.

Eisenhower Elementary School fifth graders were doing just that this week, with each team leading its portion of the project. The goal is to send their 5-foot sailing vessel “Destiny” across the Pacific Ocean to land on the shores of Japan.

Students work excitedly on the exterior of their Mini Boat. Photo by Jacob Granneman
Students work excitedly on the exterior of their Mini Boat. Photo by Jacob Granneman

This week the public relations team set up a high-profile Zoom meeting with the mayor of Vancouver, Anne McEnerny-Ogle. 

“Please let us know how we can help with anything. I enjoy the opportunity to meet with you and your students,” the mayor said. “It looks like they’re doing just fine. Congratulations!”

Ann Kirkendall’s class has been working on the project for the last few months. It involves learning about ocean currents, launching points and navigation. The boat, once it’s launched, will have a GPS unit that allows it to be tracked on its voyage across the ocean.

“So it’s been really neat, because we have this beautiful outdoor space that we have outside my classroom, and we set up tents if it’s raining, but kids are able to work outside and work in small groups,” Kirkendall said. “We’ve been able to keep all the safety protocols going and make progress as a small group. Only half of [the students] come on Monday, Tuesdays, and half of them Thursday, Friday. Then on Wednesdays, it’s been our Mini Boat day.”

So far no Mini Boats have actually made it all the way from Japan to the states, or vice versa, but the students at Eisenhower are hoping to change that. They are finishing their boat right now, and packing the cargo hold with items from home.

The mayor encouraged students to reach out to the city of Vancouver if they wanted any items to represent the area in the cargo hold for the students in Japan.

“We have a sister city relationship with Jōyō Japan, and we exchanged quite a few items,” McEnerny-Ogle said. “If there’s anything that we have here in the city, that you would like to put in your cargo, let us know. We have a number of different things and we also have hand crafted items from the Native American artists here in Vancouver.”

CRMM Educational Director, Nate Sandel works with Eisenhower Elementary students on the hull of their Mini Boat. Photo by Jacob Granneman
CRMM Educational Director, Nate Sandel works with Eisenhower Elementary students on the hull of their Mini Boat. Photo by Jacob Granneman

Nate Sandel is the educational director with CRMM, and he travels with the trailer to all the schools using the program. He said it’s been difficult to adapt during the pandemic, but as the weather continues to get better, and case numbers drop with students allowed to go back to in-person, the program is coming back to life in an amazing way.

“We are going to be launching four boats this year, three from the United States and one from Japan,” Sandel said. “I’m actively trying to get that boat to Japan, and so I’m begging with Delta to let them fly with it in the cabin. But it’s actually going to go on display at the City Hall [in Japan] before a fisherman from that town takes it out.”

Students work in teams to do different jobs when creating their Mini Boat. The public relations team relays information and writes letters to community leaders, the media team documents the entire process, the deck team works on decorating the boat, the quartermaster plots the course the boat will take from the launch point, and everyone gets to pitch in with ideas for the sail.

Sandel is shown here helping a student apply a custom-made decal to their boat’s sail. Photo by Jacob Granneman
Sandel is shown here helping a student apply a custom-made decal to their boat’s sail. Photo by Jacob Granneman

Wy’east Middle School in east Vancouver, recently launched their boat at the beginning of last year. After some 4,500 miles of ocean, it washed up in the Marshall Islands late in 2020. It is currently being repaired, and we’ll hopefully be relaunched to continue its voyage towards Japan.

To learn more about the Mini Boat program and the schools getting involved, as well as the history of the museum, visit their webpage here. You can also follow them for live updates and live videos on Facebook

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