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Old 16-11-2010, 21:50   #1
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TransAtlantic Cardboard Model Boat ?


I am a 6th grade teacher, my school does project-based learning several times a year, and some colleagues and I are now starting a week long project about boats. We are studying some basic scientific principles and building model boats out of two-ply craft cardboard, hot gluing them together and varnishing them until very waterproof. The prototypes I made look good, float well and seem quite sturdy. They can be from six inches to a foot and a half long. They have a weighted keel and a wooden dowel mast with wire stays and tyvek sails (the hard-to-tear stuff they make priority mail envelopes out of). Best of all they can take almost any (monohull) shape you can cut out. With forty kids making two each, the cost is working out to about $1 per boat.

For lack of venue and time, the kids will not really be 'sailing' their boats, but rather testing them on different aspects of displacement, cargo and balance, as well as for artistic and historically authentic qualities. But all this boat-building has got me thinking....

What if, as a fun extension to the project, we build a top-of-the-line 1-foot cardboard boat with a nice long keel filled with quarters? We rig it with twin tyvek headsails on little whisker poles. We fill it with letters from the kids to various countries on the distant shores of the Atlantic. I go out to the jetty on Breezy Point, NYC, some days after the project is finished and when the wind is blowing out of the Northwest. And I cast her off.

What are the chances the boat will actually get somewhere far away? 1%? 10%? It will be self righting, more or less self steering (dead downwind), and small enough to avoid any major stresses on the hull. I could even put a layer of epoxy instead of varnish for longevity. Will it be eaten by curious sharks? Or eventually stove by an open ocean wave? Or will it wash up in Portugal in a few months?

In Penobscot Bay, Maine, my crew and I found an actual message in a bottle last summer, sent by a 13 year old kid from New Hampshire. It had floated for two months in a plastic gatorade bottle. The kid was ecstatic when we texted him as he had requested. Now I'm thinking it would be fun to try the same thing, but give the bottle some legs.

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Old 16-11-2010, 22:10   #2
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One way to give this project legs would be to have cruisers from around the world promise to keep an eye out for the boat. We could orchestrate that pretty easy from this end, especially if your colleagues shared some photos and a potential itinerary with us.

If nothing else, you've got a college professor from California who is willing to help rally the CF members to respond to your students' work. PM me if this sounds interesting. I'm certain we could get cruisers from such places as Singapore, Yemen, and Australia to participate. If nothing else, you could get a good geography lesson out of this.
cruising is entirely about showing up--in boat shoes.
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