Journeys across the Pacific

Cmdr. Alain Balmaceda, commanding officer, and Lt. James Heuser, operations officer, both of the Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast are presented a mini-boat aboard the Steadfast in Astoria, Ore., Feb. 7, 2018. The mini-boat built and created by middle school students from Cedar Park Middle School in Beaverton, Ore., as part of a international science project involving multiple schools from Oregon and Japan. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Levi Read.

Cmdr. Alain Balmaceda, commanding officer, and Lt. James Heuser, operations officer, both of the Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast are presented a mini-boat aboard the Steadfast in Astoria, Ore., Feb. 7, 2018. The mini-boat built and created by middle school students from Cedar Park Middle School in Beaverton, Ore., as part of a international science project involving multiple schools from Oregon and Japan. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Levi Read.

Story by Petty Officer Levi Read.

A small-boat crew from the Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast prepares to launch the mini-boat Pacific Lotus off the coast of Baja, Mexico, March 2, 2018, as part of an international science project involving students from various schools in Oregon and Japan. The mini-boat Pacific Lotus is one of 6 mini-boats launched off at various points along the western shore of North America that have solar-paneled GPS trackers built into them to help students track the journey in hopes of the boats making it across the Pacific Ocean to Japan. U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast.

A small-boat crew from the Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast prepares to launch the mini-boat Pacific Lotus off the coast of Baja, Mexico, March 2, 2018, as part of an international science project involving students from various schools in Oregon and Japan. The mini-boat Pacific Lotus is one of 6 mini-boats launched off at various points along the western shore of North America that have solar-paneled GPS trackers built into them to help students track the journey in hopes of the boats making it across the Pacific Ocean to Japan. U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast.

During a recent transit down the Western Coast of the United States, the Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast, a 210-foot medium endurance cutter homeported in Astoria, Oregon, encountered heavy seas with swells averaging 12 to 15 feet for numerous days. Regrettably some unsecured mugs and the content of a desk or two paid the price as the cutter violently pitched and rolled while transiting down the coast. However the crew was able to secure the Pacific Lotus, a mini-boat entrusted to them by a 7th grade class from Cedar Park Middle School located in Beaverton, Oregon, preventing it from being damaged before its intended purpose.

Five classes in Oregon each constructed two five-and-a-half-foot-long self-righting fiberglass mini-boats equipped with GPS transmitters—one to launch from the United States and the other to send to their partner class in Hachinohe, Japan for launching from the Japanese Coast.

The goal of these boats is to teach elementary and middle school students from two countries, Japan and the United States, each of which lie on opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean to better understand the ocean, currents, wind and the atmosphere. An additional goal of the students was to learn more about each participating countries culture through a cultural exchange without ever leaving the classroom.

Five classes in Oregon are participating in this project with Hachinohe, Japan, partner schools:

3rd grade Hilda Lahti Elementary School in Knappa with partner school Tanesashi Elementary School

4th and 5th grade Richmond Elementary School in Portland with partner school Kanehama Elementary School

6th grade Otto Petersen Elementary School in Scappoose with partner school Tanesashi Elementary School

6th grade Astor School in Portland with partner school Okuki Elementary School

7th grade Cedar Park Middle School in Beaverton with partner school

Okuki Elementary School

Click here to view an active boat map.

Each student in the classes was assigned a writing project introducing themselves, their school, city, and state/prefecture. Using these introductions students in each class were paired with their “Mini-Boat Mate” who they have been communicating with weekly.

While the boats are at sea, students will track their boats movements. Using real-time data on ocean currents and weather, students will share their predictions on where the boats will go next, and hopefully create lasting friendships.

Crossing the Pacific Ocean is a treacherous business for even the most experienced mariners and biggest ships, so what must it be like to cross the world’s biggest ocean for 10 mini-boats driven only by the mercy of the ocean currents and wind.

Lt. j.g. Hanna Jansson, an officer-of-the-day aboard Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast, a 210-foot Medium Endurance Cutter homeported in Astoria, Ore., looks at the mini-boat Pacific Lotus, after the Steadfast crew was presented the boat by middle schoolers from Cedar Park Middle School in Beaverton, Ore., during a tour of the cutter, Feb. 7, 2018. The mini-boat will be launched during the Steadfast crew's next patrol as part of an international science project involving multiple schools from Oregon and Japan, where students are learning about ocean currents and weather patterns. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Levi Read.

Lt. j.g. Hanna Jansson, an officer-of-the-day aboard Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast, a 210-foot Medium Endurance Cutter homeported in Astoria, Ore., looks at the mini-boat Pacific Lotus, after the Steadfast crew was presented the boat by middle schoolers from Cedar Park Middle School in Beaverton, Ore., during a tour of the cutter, Feb. 7, 2018. The mini-boat will be launched during the Steadfast crew’s next patrol as part of an international science project involving multiple schools from Oregon and Japan, where students are learning about ocean currents and weather patterns. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Levi Read.

The Coast Guard and the ocean go hand-in-hand, so the Coast Guard’s involvement in this project, however small it may be, seems to be a natural fit. Two of these mini- boats were launched from the Coast Guard Cutters Alert and Steadfast, both 210-foot medium-endurance cutters homeported in Astoria, Oregon. The crew of the Steadfast shared these words in an entry on a blog known as Educational Passages.

As Steadfast continued steaming south, the seas finally began to settle out. After steaming more than 2,000 miles, Steadfast reached its launch destination; a position off the Baja Peninsula selected by the builders of the sailing vessel Pacific Lotus. The launch spot was selected for its favorable winds and currents. The Steadfast crew reported a successful launch on the morning of, March 5. The crew gathered for a group photo, wished the Pacific Lotus farewell, and loaded it into the cutter’s small boat. The small boat got underway and gained some separation from the cutter, and then the small boat’s crew lowered the Pacific Lotus into the water and watched as it started to sail away.

“The crew of the CGC Steadfast wishes the Pacific Lotus a safe passage and hopes for a successful journey,” said Lt. James Heuser, operations officer. “We will be carefully tracking the progress of the Pacific Lotus during our patrol as it moves across the mighty Pacific.”

Cmdr. Tobias Reid, commanding officer, and Chief Petty Officer Adam Greenwald, a culinary specialist, both from the Coast Guard Cutter Alert, homeported in Astoria, Ore., launch the mini-boat Boat-A-Lahti off the coast of San Diego, Feb. 11, 2018. The mini-boat Boat-A-Lahti was built by 3rd graders from Hilda Lahti Elementary School, in Knappa, Ore., and is one of 10 mini-boats that are being launched as part of an international science project and cultural exchange between students from Oregon and Japan. U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Coast Guard Cutter Alert.

Cmdr. Tobias Reid, commanding officer, and Chief Petty Officer Adam Greenwald, a culinary specialist, both from the Coast Guard Cutter Alert, homeported in Astoria, Ore., launch the mini-boat Boat-A-Lahti off the coast of San Diego, Feb. 11, 2018. The mini-boat Boat-A-Lahti was built by 3rd graders from Hilda Lahti Elementary School, in Knappa, Ore., and is one of 10 mini-boats that are being launched as part of an international science project and cultural exchange between students from Oregon and Japan. U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Coast Guard Cutter Alert.

In early February the crew of the cutter Alert similarly launched a mini-boat named the Boat-a-Lahti, 9 miles southwest of the New Point Loma Lighthouse in California.

Chief Petty Officer Adam Greenwald, a culinary specialist aboard the Alert and father of one of the boat builders arranged for the launching. Greenwald reported this at the time of launching

Boat-A-Lahti is underway as of 2115 PST 11FEB2018!
She was launched at position 32*35.89N 117*22.36W.
On scene wind was 140 degrees true at 6kts
Sea swell was 250 degrees true at 2ft and no wind wave was noticed.

The Alert like the Steadfast moors in front of the Columbia River Maritime Museum. Making them an easy target for Nate Sandel, education director, Columbia River Maritime Museum, when he was looking for ways to launch these boats safely. Sandel organized this project, selected the classes to participate in the project, and personally delivered five mini-boats to Japanese schools. He also coordinated a tour of the Steadfast for the Cedar Park class whose students where able to learn about some of the missions of the Coast Guard. After the tour the students presented the Pacific Lotus to the crew of the Steadfast through the commanding officer, Cmdr. Alain Balmaceda.

“We were glad to assist these students in launching the boat that they so diligently put together,” said Balmaceda. “ Anytime we can help young people learn about the ocean, we are going to take advantage of that opportunity. It is important for them to know how the ocean works and what we can do to protect it.”

The crews of the Cableship Decisive and Columbia River Bar Pilots launched the other three boats several miles outside the Columbia River Bar.

If interested the public can join the Coast Guard crews and all the students in tracking the movement of these mini boats through the links provided above or at www.crmm.org.

A small-boat crew from the Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast launches off the starboard side of the cutter during a deployment off the coast of Baja, Mexico, March 2, 2018. The boat crew launched a 5.5 foot long self righting fiberglass boat named the Pacific Lotus built by middle schoolers from Cedar Park Middle School in Beaverton, Ore., which the middle schoolers will track using built in solar GPS panels. U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast.

A small-boat crew from the Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast launches off the starboard side of the cutter during a deployment off the coast of Baja, Mexico, March 2, 2018. The boat crew launched a 5.5 foot long self righting fiberglass boat named the Pacific Lotus built by middle schoolers from Cedar Park Middle School in Beaverton, Ore., which the middle schoolers will track using built in solar GPS panels. U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast.

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