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SC News

Students in SC, Ireland Connect Through Voyage of 'Miniboat'

West Cork Coast Road Ireland
Angelo Failla
FILE - West Cork Coast Road Ireland

Four years since it was set to sea, Harbor View Elementary School students are awaiting the return of a small wooden boat called the HVES Cruiser from Cork, Ireland.

The 3-foot-long "miniboat" was launched in the Atlantic Ocean on May 10, 2017, as part of a project led by Lisa Laughlin, who was a teacher of gifted and talented students at the time. After 154 days at sea, the boat landed on the shore of Duvillaun More, a remote island off the western coast of Ireland.

It was later found by a man whose sons attended the Drumgallagh National School in Ballycroy, Ireland, and taken there. The students at the school dug through the contents of the boat: a painting of the South Carolina flag, a handful of coins, recipes for Lowcountry favorites, a GPS tracker and notes from students at Harbor View.

A multiyear friendship between the people of Ireland and the students at Harbor View on James Island had begun.

Now, the boat is in Cork, Ireland, a larger city with about 210,000 people, fully repaired for its voyage back to Charleston.

The boat has become rather famous around the country. Irish news organizations, The Irish Times, Coast Monkey, the Connaught Telegraph and the Mayo News, have all written about the small craft, and Lord Mayor of Cork Joe Kavanagh sent a video to the Harbor View students about the boat.

"Hopefully we can all get together someday and meet face to face," Kavanagh said in the video. "Well done to everybody and thank you so much for this wonderful initiative. You should be so proud of yourselves."

Kavanagh and the Cork City Council, along with boating and arts organizations in the city, have partnered to create an art project to add to the boat before it sets sail. Primary, or elementary, students throughout Cork are being challenged to submit art that will be added to a collage to decorate the boat.
Laughlin, who is now the school librarian, said the boat has been able to survive this long through people who took an interest in seeing it return to sea. The Drumgallagh National School didn't have resources to repair the boat, so Mike McGlynn, a miniboat enthusiast and uncle of one of the Harbor View students, traveled from his home in Boston to Ballycroy.

He then took the boat to Cork where it underwent repairs by researchers at the National Maritime College of Ireland and boat enthusiasts at Walsh Boat Works. It was through those repairs that the boat regained life and is now prepared to make its return voyage.

Those who are interested in the boat are able to track its journey on the Educational Passages website. Laughlin now has the entire school involved in updates about the boat. She also has made sure that the now- middle school students who were part of the first class to set the HVES Cruiser to sail are included in the process as well.

"It incorporates science, weather, culture," Laughlin said. "You can pretty much tap into any (lesson) with it."

Throughout the process, the students in Ireland and at Harbor View have remained connected by sending letters back and forth. The letters have opened up the students' eyes to the world, Laughlin said.

In the letters, the students wrote about their favorite soccer players and pastimes. They also described the wildlife in their areas and what made their homes famous.

"It lets them view the world as a much smaller place than it seems," Laughlin said. "They realized how much in common these people all the way across the Atlantic have with them."