After several months crossing the North Atlantic, on the morning of 24 June 2017, she apparently crashed on the rocks of a sparsely populated area of the Scottish Outer Hebrides. Captain Jay Stewart, a strong advocate for the miniboat project, managed to contact a local name Dotty who replied to his notice with “It’s a hike over the hills and down to the rocks. I’ll try my best to retrieve it, but the rocks are high and dangerous, there’s not much access to the Ocean, it’s blowing 40-45mph today. ”
After a few more attempts were made locate the boat, it appears the Sheilds Surfer is likely in many pieces scattered along the coast. As Capt Jay noted in an email to Scotland on 26 June, “I write to tell you that we believe that the Shields Surfer has been lost. Based on the fact that she has not broadcast a GPS fix since 0748 on 24 June and that she was in extremely close proximity to the cliffs at that time. We know from conversations with Dotty that the weather there on Saturday morning was not conducive to a small fiberglass boat surviving an interaction with the cliff faces. Also, Dotty passed along a photo of a small book floating in the ocean that was taken from atop a nearby cliff yesterday. The photo shows a yellow book sealed in a small plastic bag. This is a book about Delaware wildlife that we included for the finders (students) in our cargo payload. The cargo payload was secured in a watertight compartment inside the miniboat hull. Hence, if that cargo is now adrift, the hull was surely breached and would have lost buoyancy. As you can imagine, our school and our students are delighted that our little boat made it to the Isle of Harris, but disappointed that she did not make it safely ashore. From the moment we started contacting folks there on Saturday morning, you have all been absolutely amazing. Your willingness to help strangers with such a project has truly been heartwarming and we hope to still connect the children in our school with the children in the Sir Edward Scott School. We will work on a plan for that and contact you with details. Meanwhile, perhaps you can share contact information for an administrator at the school?
We will be posting information on our school Facebook page and also writing a story about our experience for our local newspaper. We will send you links and photos as that develops. If you have any photos of the folks who searched, please send those along so we may include them in the story. While the Shields surfer may have broken up and sunk, her cargo may well be adrift along your coast. All the cargo was sealed in either plastic bags or plastic food storage containers and could still be buoyant. The cargo included a stuffed animal, t-shirt, computer jump drives with information from the school, small books, etc. Any recovered cargo that makes it to the Sir Edward Scott School would be considered a small victory! Once again, we want to say to you and your kind community that we are so grateful for your responsiveness and efforts. The more than 700 children of Shields Elementary and the greater community here in Lewes, Delaware is going to be so excited to hear about all the events of the past few days.”
If she is never found (or found in irreparable shape), we will remember that the Shields Surfer demonstrated her ability to sail by making one of the fastest crossings in Educational Passages history.
With help from the Delaware Bay and River Pilots, Shields Surfer was deployed by the now-experienced Bermuda Islander.
The students of Shields Elementary are very excited about all the possibilities the Regatta offers: tracking multiple boats that were launched at the same time, possible scientific discovery, and hopefully new cultural discoveries!
Richard A. Shields Elementary is a K-5 public school in the beautiful seaside town of Lewes, Delaware. All of the schools’ students are going to be involved with the MiniBoat project and enjoying the opportunity to learn more about weather, ocean currents, geography, and hopefully to connect with students in another country!