Wy’east Mini-Boat crosses international dateline in Pacific Ocean voyage

Vancouver middle schoolers boat launched from Japan makes it the farthest of any mini-boat to date 

VANCOUVER — It’s official: on Valentine’s Day 2020, a miniature sailing boat built by middle school students at Wy’east Middle School in Vancouver and then sent to their sister school in Japan, has crossed the international date line on its journey across the Pacific Ocean. 

The Japanese mini-boat, S/V KIZUNA GOU is seen here being launched off the coast of Japan in fall of 2019. Photo courtesy of the CRMM
The Japanese mini-boat, S/V KIZUNA GOU is seen here being launched off the coast of Japan in fall of 2019. Photo courtesy of the CRMM

The S/V KIZUNA GOU, has traveled 3,023 nautical miles in its 77 days at sea. This is the first boat sailing from Japan to the United States to make it this far in all the years of the Mini-boat program from the Columbia River Maritime Museum (CRMM). 

“Such an amazing feat! Something kids built in two countries crossed the middle of the ocean!” said Wy’east science teacher, Joe Boken, on Facebook. Boken brought the CRMM program to his students and school last year.

Students at Tanesashi Elementary School in Japan launched the mini-boat back in the fall of 2019, and have been monitoring its travels via GPS ever since. Wy’east students also made their own boat, S/V Liberty, which is set to be launched off the coast of Oregon tomorrow.

The class of Tanesashi Elementary School in Japan is seen here with their mini-boat and CRMM Education Director, Nate Sandel. Photo courtesy of CRMM
The class of Tanesashi Elementary School in Japan is seen here with their mini-boat and CRMM Education Director, Nate Sandel. Photo courtesy of CRMM

The Mini-boat program at CRMM has been running since 2017, and has the mission of teaching students about sailing, oceanography, cultures and teamwork. Each class that participates construct a five-foot-long sailboat, and then outfits it with GPS and solar panels.

“When you give students an opportunity, and you give them high expectations, they almost always rise to the occasion,” CRMM Education Director, Nate Sandel previously told ClarkCountyToday.com. “We were really thinking of how can we engage every type of learner in the classroom? So, do you like to build boats and work with antifouling paint and epoxy, there’s a job for you. If you want nothing to do with anything messy, and you want to get behind the computer and study the science of weather, then there is a job for you. And if you love making videos for YouTube, you could be on our documentarian team, which documented every single step of the process. So by that, we’re finding a spot for every student.”

If all goes well, the S/V KIZUNA GOU could reach the U.S. this summer, in which case it would be the first mini-boat in the program’s three year history to do so.

Columbia River Bar Pilot Captain Dan Jordan is pictured here during sea trials in the Columbia River for the U/S. mini-boats last month. Photo by Jacob Granneman
Columbia River Bar Pilot Captain Dan Jordan is pictured here during sea trials in the Columbia River for the U/S. mini-boats last month. Photo by Jacob Granneman

In the next couple weeks, the Wy’east student who constructed the mini-boat prior to its launch in Japan, will receive official certificates from Sandel. The certificates are the very same ones awarded to sailors in the Navy and Coast Guard when they cross the international dateline for the first time. 

“I’m always looking for opportunities for my students to engage in science and have opportunities to do things that they can say, ‘Hey, that’s cool, I did that,’” Boken told ClarkCountyToday.com. “They’re interacting with a culture that for most of them, they maybe would never interact with, never learn about, never have that opportunity to be able to say, ‘I worked on a project with students from Japan.’” 

To watch the path of each CRMM mini-boat live, visit the Google Earth GPS page. To find out more about the CRMM Mini-boat Program and see more photos and videos of launches and the Mini-boat Summits, visit the program’s Facebook page.

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About The Author

Jacob Granneman is a filmmaker and writer from Clark County. He is a graduate of WSU Pullman’s Edward R. Murrow College where he studied journalism and media production. He has produced documentary stories all over the Pacific Northwest and abroad in Argentina. He has won a regional Emmy and Mark of Excellence award from the Society of Professional Journalists for his film work. His passions range from sharing the love of Jesus, to cinematography, to going on adventures in the most beautiful place on earth, i.e. his backyard. He lives with his wife and son in Vancouver, WA. Proverbs 16:3

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