FIT FOR DUTY – Thirty-seven recruits graduating from the Alaska Department of Public Safety Training Academy's Law Enforcement Training Session 1802 take the oath of office this afternoon at the Sheet'ka Kwaan Naa Kahidi. The audience was told that during the rigorous 16-week session recruits lost a combined 200 pounds of body fat. The graduates will be taking law enforcement positions around the state from the North Slope Borough Police Department to statewide Alaska Wildlife Troopers to the Ketchikan Police Department. Speaker at the ceremony was DPS Deputy Commissioner William Comer, who graduated from the academy in 1985. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Blatchley Kids Say Bon Voyage to Ocean Boat

By ABIGAIL BLISS
Sentinel Staff Writer
    A miniature sailboat that washed up on Sitka shores in late February was put out to sea again today, with a boost from Blatchley Middle School students, on its journey from Oregon to Japan.
    The S/V Red, White, and Blue Crew is one of ten unmanned mini-boats built, launched, and monitored through a grant-funded program from the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria, Oregon.

Nate Sandel, education director at the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria, Oregon, left, puts up a sail as Blatchley Middle School sixth-grade students hold the mini-boat Red, White, and Blue Crew this morning on the Petro Marine dock on Katlian Street. The entire sixth-grade class was heading out to St. Lazaria Island aboard an Allan Marine boat for a field trip. On the trip they planned to launch the sailboat, which is equipped with a satellite transmitter, into the open ocean. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)


    All of the ocean-going mini-sailboats were prepared from kits by students in Oregon, but only half of them were launched from the United States. Their destination is the Aomori prefecture of Japan, where three sister schools have partnered with the program. The other five boats were flown to Japan, and deployed from Japanese shores.
    As the boats sail from one side of the Pacific Ocean to the other, students in both countries will be able to learn about ocean currents, new territory, and cultures different from their own. The boats may contain letters from the students to their sister schools.
    The five-foot long fiberglass vessels, while equipped with a sail and a GPS tracking device that provides twice-daily updates on their location, are at the mercy of the wind and waves guiding them along the 4,500-mile journey.
    The S/V Red, White, and Blue Crew was built by a sixth-grade class at Otto Peterson Elementary School in Scappoose, Oregon, and was launched on December 6.
    On February 28, after 82 days at sea, the mini-boat made landfall on Legna Island, 16 miles southwest of Sitka.
    Charter fisherman Ben Johnson found it, and after reading the message affixed, reached out to science teachers in the Sitka schools.
    Blatchley science teacher Stacy Golden quickly responded.
    “I just jumped on the opportunity,” Golden said, who had no prior knowledge of the project. “I thought, ‘Oh, what a cool idea.’”
    Nate Sandel, education director of the sponsoring Columbia River Museum, flew up to Sitka to explain the project to Sitka students and help ready the mini boat for the next leg of its journey.
    The S/V Red, White, and Blue Crew has undergone both operational and aesthetic modifications during its stay in Sitka, Golden said.
    “They dried out the inside of the boat and did some patchwork on the keel,” she said.
    One half of the sail was decorated by students at Otto Petersen, she said, but Blatchley students took it upon themselves to embellish the other side.
    Two of Golden’s classes submitted designs, and voted on their favorites, she said. In the end, five students were chosen to realize their vision for the sail, and all signed their names.
    “It (is) amazing to launch the boat out and sign our names on the sail,” said sixth-grader Aubrey Larue. “When someone gets it, they’ll see our names.”
    Her classmate, Logan Shennett, marveled at the fact that the mini-boat washed ashore in Sitka.
    “It’s like a very low chance of doing it,” he said. “There’s a lot of towns that it could land in. It’s going to be exciting to launch it.”
    Golden said all Blatchley sixth-graders had a chance to learn about the boat and took part in today’s launch. Built by students in Oregon and destined for students in Japan, the boat has integrated Sitka students into a larger narrative beyond their local community, Golden said.
    “All of the sudden, they feel like they’re part of something bigger,” she said.
    A science field trip to St. Lazaria Island was already on today’s schedule for the Blatchley sixth graders. As the kids piled aboard an Allen Marine sightseeing boat this morning, they carried the S/V Red, White, and Blue Crew, with plans to launch it from the mouth of Sitka Sound.
    Golden is headed to a new teaching position next year at Sitka High School, where she plans to help students launch a mini-boat of their own. She said a couple of charter fishermen, including Johnson, who discovered the S/V Red, White, and Blue Crew, will help procure a kit and build the boat.

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