Kids' sailboat completes epic goodwill mission
IT braved stormy seas and the start of the hurricane season to complete an unlikely but epic voyage from the east coast of the United States to an isolated Irish beach.
A tiny sailboat containing goodwill messages from children in the US state of Maine has landed on the west coast of Ireland, more than a year after it was launched.
The four-foot craft survived at least two hurricanes on its journey of more than 4,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean. A farmer stumbled across the unique vessel after it was washed up on a Co Mayo beach.
It was launched by the American children, who had been taking part in a school club. Michael Cafferkey discovered the sailboat at Fahy Strand in Ballycroy on the west Mayo coast.
The strand is better known as the location of a shipwreck from the Spanish Armada in 1588.
Inside the sailboat were messages of goodwill from children at Old Town Elementary School in Maine. The children, aged eight to 11, are members of the K Kids Club, run by Kiwanis International, a group that aims to foster leadership skills and self-esteem among youngsters.
The children, working under the direction of local teacher Mary Bagley, raised $600 (€427) to buy the sailboat and equip it with GPS (Global Positioning System).
"We earned the money by selling Christmas cards, serving a spaghetti supper and running a school store," Ms Bagley said.
The boat was one of five similar craft which were launched by a marine academy training ship on the east coast of the US on June 19 last year.
Using the GPS, the children were able to track the boat's movements on the internet, but lost contact on November 19 last year when the GPS failed. By that stage it had travelled north along the east coast of the US, crossed the Atlantic and was last located 300 miles north of Spain.
Ballycroy farmer Mr Cafferkey said he had no idea what he found when he picked up the boat.
"It had letters from the children, some of them saying the boat was to go to Ireland. There were also little badges in the boat from their club. It had the name the K Kids Kruiser.
"I sent them an e-mail to tell them I found it and I've heard back from them. They are going to get back in touch with me to arrange to get the boat back," Mr Cafferkey said yesterday.
Speaking to the Irish Independent from Maine, Ms Bagley said it was more than she had hoped for that the boat would arrive in Ireland.
"I said all along that I wanted the boat to go to Ireland and it is wonderful that it has actually landed there.
"We are thrilled that the boat has been found in Ireland and we now hope to raise funds to get it back," she said.