Sacred Heart Star of the Sea

Sacred Heart School


1st Voyage

  • January 20, 2019 - Press Release

    CONTACT: Jim Farrell, PR First, 781-681-6616,

    Sacred Heart School students build research vessel for launch in Indian Ocean
    Once completed, mini-boat to be transported to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute

    KINGSTON, MA. Students at Sacred Heart School (, a private, Catholic, co-educational school in Kingston for students in preschool through grade 12, are presently engaged in a unique and exciting program that is literally making waves!

    Under the direction of Clair Lombardo, Chair of the Science Department, students are putting the final touches on Sacred Heart’s first school-built mini-boat research vessel – “Sacred Heart Star of the Seas” – for eventual launch in the Indian Ocean.  The boat will be equipped with a weighted keel, a sail, and a solar panel attached to a GPS.

    Once completed over the next several weeks, the vessel will be transported to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, where students will tour labs where underwater research vessels are being developed; from there it will be air freighted to South Africa where it will be utilized by a team of scientists boarding the Thomas G. Thompson, a U.S. Navy Global Research Vessel.

    A research team aboard the Thompson comprised of scientists from the U.S., Germany and China will conduct research on the ocean floor and along slow-spreading ridges.  The team will launch the vessel from the Marion Rise in the Indian Ocean in February.  Sacred Heart’s mini-boat will be carried by the powerful Agulhas Current and eventually reach land in India, Australia, or perhaps beyond.

    “Sacred Heart Star of the Seas” includes a “message in the bottle”, letters written by students at the Elementary School, as a means of sharing the story of its creation with whoever finds the boat once ashore.

    The collaborative project has involved Sacred Heart students from elementary to high school.  The opportunity to explore what Woods Hole scientists call “the blue planet” came to Sacred Heart in large part through Henry Dick, a senior scientist at Woods Hole and husband of Sacred Heart English teacher Winifred Dick.

    “The ocean is one of the final frontiers on planet earth.  Much of the floor has not been mapped, and our understanding of fundamental processes – such as the formation of the ocean floor – is not fully understood,” said Henry Dick, the chief scientist on the Woods Hole Indian Ocean cruise project.  “Biologically, geologically and physically, the planet’s seas are an incredibly complex system of wind, waves, current, life and resources that are yet poorly known, but offer hugs benefits to mankind. I am delighted that our expedition out to map previously unknown seafloor will also contribute to Sacred Heart School’s understanding of the winds and waves through which we sail.”

    About Sacred Heart School
    Sacred Heart School is a private, co-educational Catholic school system, providing educational opportunities for students from preschool through grade 12 for
    35 communities throughout the South Shore and Cape Cod. As a sponsored ministry of the Sisters of Divine Providence, Sacred Heart School welcomes students to a learning community which is academically challenging, and rooted in the Gospel.  Students develop critical thinking skills, engage in service to those in need, and deepen awareness of global perspectives. Situated on 100 acres in Kingston, MA, the Sacred Heart campus encompasses an Early Education Center, Elementary School, and Middle- High School. The school offers a strong liberal arts curriculum and cutting-edge technology programs in combination with extensive athletic, arts, and extra-curricular activities to ensure students a well-rounded education. Founded in 1947, the school has seen many changes since its inception, including the recent construction of a $2 million Science and Innovation Center, upgrades to the Observatory, the addition of a large organic garden, and extensive beautiful athletics fields and facilities. The campus is in use throughout the year as the site of many sports events. Sacred Heart also offers several vibrant summer programs focusing on academics, leadership skills, and traditional athletic programs. Sacred Heart is also home to Camp Morningstar, a long-standing recreational camp with sailing, swimming, sports, games and field trips. Sacred Heart is proud of its near 100% college acceptance rate at outstanding schools in the United States and around the Globe. Sacred Heart is led by President Sister Myra Rodgers, CDP, High School Principal Dr. Michael Gill, Elementary School Principal Shaun Morgan, and Early Childhood Center Interim Acting Principal, Sarah Chick. Sacred Heart School welcomes students of all faiths and diverse backgrounds. The school is committed to developing the whole student, offering an independent school atmosphere and top-tier academics. The Sacred Heart School campus is located at 251-399 Bishops Highway, Kingston, MA 02364. For additional information about the school, please visit or call 781-585-7511.

  • January 2019 - Student Preparations

    Henry Dick, a senior scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and the chief scientist on the cruise comments, “The ocean is the last frontier on planet earth. Most of the floor has never even been mapped, and our understanding of fundamental processes – such as how the ocean crust forms – is not fully understood. Biologically, geologically, and physically the planet’s seas are an incredibly complex system of wind, waves, currents, life, and resources that are yet poorly known, but offer huge benefits to mankind.

    One area of immense interest is understanding the movement of their surface waters. The movement of water masses, both vertically, and on the surface is a critical control on climate and weather. Launching the Star of the Seas mini boat in the middle of the Indian Ocean will make a small but important contribution to understanding a huge range of important concerns from what controls the great Indian monsoons to where it’s best to go fishing in the ocean deeps. I am delighted that our expedition to map previously unknown seafloor will also contribute with Sacred Heart School to understanding the winds and waves through which we will sail.”

    Some pictures of the boat being assembled and prepared:


    The whole school was involved in the process:

    The miniboat was brought to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution at the end of January:

  • February 14, 2019 - Miniboat shipped to South Africa

    The science team for the cruise is heading to South Africa next week. They shipped the miniboat ahead of time and have all the materials they need to seal up the hatch and send her on her way.

    The students of Sacred Heart even wrote some letters to include inside:

  • February 21, 2019 - Marion Rise Cruise Website Now Live

    The Cruise website is up! Check out for daily updates.

  • February 25, 2019 - Wicked Local Article Published

    An article was published in Wicked Local about Sacred Heart’s miniboat mission. Click here to read the article, Sacred Heart students build research vessel for launch in Indian Ocean.

  • March 12, 2019 - Miniboat now aboard the R/V Thomas G. Thompson

    The Star of the Seas is now aboard the R/V Thomas G. Thompson, awaiting deployment!

    Read the full blog post at 

  • March 22, 2019 - Launched

    The little ship Star of the Sea was released at 08:45 UTC March 22, 2019. The location was 40 degrees 09.7658 minutes south, 45 degrees 14.5124 minutes east. You can watch the launch video here:

    To read more about the Southern Ocean currents, check out this cool article on the Cruise blog:

  • April 2020 - Approaching Australia

    The miniboat started sailing east towards Australia in April, and by June 17 she was about 30 nm from Australia, but started sailing south down the Leeuwin current for a couple of weeks. On June 23, emails were exchanged with potential rescuers in the area, and many students are now watching to see if the little boat will land in Geographe Bay, or will sail out down the coast further. Stay tuned!

  • June 27, 2020 - Recovered in Bunbury, Australia after 463 days at sea!

    The Sacred Heart Star of the Sea miniboat sailed into Dalyellup, Bunbury, a city in Western Australia after 463 days at sea! The full story and pictures follow…

    As the boat was sailing into Geographe Bay, the wind forecast was steady and we predicted a landing just south of Bunbury. The email group had grown since last week, and a few people headed down to Bunbury to try and recover her as she landed. To the right you can see the search area map, as predicted based on the GPS reports they had available. Special thanks to Bill Power for the following report and for leading this rescue mission.

    For some, it was a round trip of 12 hours from Perth, and although it was unsuccessful (read on further to hear why), it was still fun. There was a group of 3-14 people on the beach (3 families from Perth and 1 family from Bunbury), and quite a few back at home keeping watch and tracking via this website. We also got in touch with the City of Bunbury and the Shire of Capel – One of the City Councillors from Bunbury came down with his family to help search (Todd Brown and wife Rochelle, daughters Bella and Scarlett). Part of the on-beach crew is pictured below. From left to right: Ella Power (holding Havi Macdonald), Bella Brown, Todd Brown, Emerson Power, and Lincoln MacDonald (holding Koa Macdonald).

    And a picture of the lovely beach we were walking on for much of the afternoon…

    They arrived about 2pm at the Dalyellup Beach Lookout (see map which shows this location). We looked at the GPS track, and based on the information we decided to check the northerly half of the Maiden reserve area, so we were walking up there from about 2:30 pm until we got an update from PAT (about 3:45) which alerted us to a likely landing down near the Surf Club. By the time we got down to the Surf Club it was about 5pm, but we had not known at the time that she had already landed at this point… so we had a look then headed into town for some dinner to replenish our energy and hungry stomachs. When in town we noticed Cassie’s advice about the actual confirmed landing site (she had sent an email update), which is about 800 m south of the Surf Club. It was shortly after 5:30pm. So we went back and had a look with the help of the Surf Life Saving Club personnel. It was dark by then, so it was great to have torches/flashlights from Todd Brown and family, and also the help of the Surf Club folks. Here is a picture of the visit to the confirmed landing site coordinates at about 7 pm:

    Pictured (left to right) are the surf club buggie and 3 club members, then Bill Power, Emerson Power, Scarlett Brown, Rochelle Brown, and Bella Brown.

    So why didn’t they find the boat? Read on!

    As Carol Smith and her husband Brian (pictured on the right) were on the beach a couple kilometers from the carpark with their dogs Ally and Snow playing catch the evening of June 27 (about 3:51pm), they noticed a large hull coming in on a wave. When it landed, they were able to scrape off the barnacles that were attached to the keel and lift the boat onto the roof rack of their four wheeler and brought it home. The sail and mast had been completely removed before it landed, but otherwise the boat was in pretty good shape for how far it traveled!

    They called the number that was on the deck of the boat which on the other line was Educational Passages Director Cassie Stymiest, who had been awaiting word on a successful recovery of the miniboat after checking the GPS reports all night. They also opened the hatch and laid out the notes and trinkets that were inside (there was some water inside), including a rock from the mantle (more on this above)! Carol is excited to share the story and trinkets with her students because it turns out that she is a Year 2/3 teacher at a Australind Primary School! Another coincidence is that she and Brian were married at the Star of the Sea Catholic Church in Perth. With the boat they found washing up named Star of the Sea, they are very excited to connect with the students that built it and launched it from the US. Here are pictures of Carol and Brian’s rescue of the miniboat:

    We thank everyone in Western Australia for helping to find and rescue the miniboat. Now plans are in the works to connect classrooms so check back for more about those adventures!

    News channels quickly picked up the story following the recovery:


    CONTACT: Cassie Stymiest, Educational Passages, 207-619-1259,

    Student-built unmanned miniature research vessel from Massachusetts lands in Australia

    KINGSTON, MA. A 5.5 foot long unmanned sailboat (miniboat) built eighteen months ago by students at Sacred Heart School in Massachusetts, has landed at Dalyellup Beach, near Bunbury, Western Australia.

    Educational Passages, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to connect students around the world to the ocean and each other, has reached a new milestone with the first landing and recovery of a miniboat in Australia. The boat, named Sacred Heart Star of the Sea, was built from a kit in 2019 by students at Sacred Heart School (, a private co-educational school in Kingston, Massachusetts. Under direction of teacher Ms. Winifred Dick, students from Elementary to High School were involved in the process and left over 50 letters inside the hatch for the finders. “The students were captivated by the opportunity to write letters that would be placed in the hold, sending their own message in a bottle to an international audience,” Winifred said.

    The miniature research vessel was brought to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in January of 2019 by a delegation of teachers and students who also toured the Deep Submergence Laboratory. There they met WHOI scientists and engineers including Dr. Henry Dick, Chief Scientist for cruise TN365. The miniboat was later air freighted to South Africa and brought on board the Thomas G. Thompson, a U.S. Navy Global Research Vessel. The cruise TN365 was an international (USA, Germany, China) collaboration seeking to test different hypotheses for the origin of the Marion Rise. “This project promotes the critical mission of generating interest among students in the three-fifths of the planet that is still largely a mystery, and in recruiting the next generation of scientists who will continue ocean exploration ” said Henry. As part of the shipboard party’s educational outreach mission, classrooms were also connected onboard through satellite connections, and a daily blog at provided updates to the public with scientific research and geology of the ocean floor. The Teacher at Sea, Ms. Theresa Williams, conducted interactive sessions every day with classrooms throughout the world offering tours of the ship, sharing scientific research and fielding questions from students. Her students at the University of Wyoming Lab School were also connected. Theresa helped add the final finishes to the miniboat; she installed the mast and sail, turned the GPS on, and sealed the hatch with messages inside.

    The boat was launched on March 22, 2019 near the Marion Rise. It sailed for 463 days over 8,000 nm (about 15,000 km) and landed on June 27, 2020. The boat with its treasures and messages inside was brought first to Australind Primary School at the beginning of July. The teacher there, Carol Smith, and her husband Brian, found the boat while they were on the beach walking their dogs. “We saw it coming toward shore and read the message on top that said to contact Educational Passages. When we found out that the boat’s name was Star of the Sea we couldn’t believe it because we were married at the Star of the Sea Catholic Church in Perth nearly 30 years ago.” At the school, students got to see the boat first hand and open the hatch that revealed in addition to letters from the students of Sacred Heart School, there was also a postcard from the ship’s captain and a sample of the Earth’s mantle from the seafloor of the Indian Ridge that was collected during the cruise. “It was so exciting to open the waterproof compartment and see all the letters from the students, the GPS, and rock treasure from the research cruise. Being a Primary Teacher, it was a privilege to share the Sacred Heart Star of the Sea’s long and interesting journey with all the students at school,” Carol also said. Her students are now replying to the letters with their own and plan to connect to the students in the USA later this year.

    The students back at Sacred Heart School were quickly contacted and seemed enthusiastic about the connections. Ms. Dick said that “many students were hoping the boat might circumnavigate the globe, and even though it didn’t we couldn’t have asked for a more successful voyage. As a teacher, I’m very excited for the students who now get to connect virtually half a world away.”

    Weeks before its landing, the researchers, teachers, and others came together via email, and considered the boat’s position as revealed by its GPS signal, which was reporting hourly to the Educational Passages website. Leading the charge were Drs. Mike Cheadle and his wife Barbara John, who are both geologists at the University of Wyoming. They were both instrumental in bringing the program to Sacred Heart School. Their first miniboat (the Jackalope) was actually built by students in Theresa’s class in 2016, and was the first launched in the South Pacific. Just a week before the Sacred Heart Star of the Sea was approaching Australia, the Jackalope had landed in a new country on the other side of the world—Vanuatu.

    Since 2008, Educational Passages has worked with teachers and students around the world to launch 145 miniboats which have sailed collectively over 700,000 nm (1.2 million km). “We do our best to make sure we are not contributing to marine debris, by building strong boats and working with local communities as they approach shore. After all, the more we know about wind and currents, the more we can track the things it transports,” said Ms. Cassie Stymiest, Executive Director of Educational Passages. “This program is an important initiative for helping people to better understand our close connections with the ocean, and each other,” she also said.

    As the Sacred Heart Star of the Sea was approaching Western Australia, Michael and Barbara reached out to their friend Dr. Bill Power, a geologist there. Bill helped track the boat for two weeks, and when it neared Bunbury he notified the city council and others in Bunbury who joined the search team. The Sacred Heart Star of the Sea started to get famous with students before it even landed. By the time the boat was nearing shore in Geographe Bay, Bill and three other families were driving down to the beach on a recovery mission. Late changes in wind direction made the boat take a more southerly course than was originally predicted, and it turned out that Carol and Brian Smith were on hand at the exact location where the boat landed. They recovered the boat at about 3:55 pm local time on Saturday June 27.

    Plans for bringing the miniboat to other classrooms in Western Australia are now in the works, and the group will be looking into repairing and relaunching the boat as well. You can read the full story, see pictures, check the track, and see where the miniboat goes next at

    About Educational Passages

    Educational Passages is a 501c3 non-profit whose mission is to connect students around the world to the ocean and each other. Teachers purchase kits with boat parts and supplies, and students build them, fill them with messages and trinkets, install the provided GPS, and send them out to sea to ride the ocean currents and wind. Students follow the track on the miniboat’s very own webpage, and teachers integrate ocean currents, geography, and other topics into their curriculum to connect the miniboat mission. When the boats land, the sticker on them says to bring the boat to a nearby school and connect classrooms.

    For additional information about Educational Passages, please visit or call 207-619-1259.

  • Voyage 1: Complete!

    Click tabs above for the full story of the voyage.

2nd Voyage

  • The Great SHSOS Miniboat Tour 2020

    After an amazing recovery story, 463 days at sea, and almost 15,000 km of ocean sailed, the Sacred Heart Star of the Sea Miniboat is now heading to local schools in Western Australia. Special thanks to Carol Smith, Bill Powers, and Todd Brown for all of the coordination of this tour!

    July 2, 2020 – Australind Primary School, Australind 

    First up is a visit to finder Carol Smith’s class at Australind Primary School. Carol said that the students were really excited to learn about the boat and its voyage.


    July – City of Bunbury Council are going to display it in their foyer over the school holidays, then Bunbury Senior High school students will host it.

    August 12 – Blue Gum Montessori, Bibra Lake

    August 13-17 – Fremantle Library – Public viewing


    August 18-21 – Back to Blue Gum Montessori, Bibra Lake

    August 22-23 – Fremantle Library – Public viewing

    August 24-28 – Fremantle College – Years 7-12, High School

    August 30-September 6 – Fremantle Library – Public viewing

    September 7-11 – TBD

    September 12 – Blue Gum Montessori “fun day”

  • December 2020 - Repairs at Fremantle College

    An update provided on Facebook:

    Here’s the text from the post:

    Repairs to Sacred Heart Star of the Sea are underway at Fremantle College, located in Beaconsfield, Western Australia. David Bennett from the Marine Studies Program sent in this update message in Mid December. Schools are closed until late January, Early February in Western Australia.

    From David Bennett at Fremantle College:
    “Lots of work has happened on the boat. We separated the deck from the hull to check the extent of the work and this is the current status:
    • Separate deck and hull and inspect – completed
    • Repair front/port hull hole – completed
    • Repair rear/starboard cracking – completed
    • Re-attach and reinforce mast socket – reattached, still to be reinforced
    • Re-attach internal bulkheads – underway
    • Dope-coat hull and prime – underway
    • Renew floatation foam – TBA
    • Refit deck to hull – TBA
    • Paint final coat – TBA
    • Reattach art – TBA
    • Gel/clear coat – TBA
    • Manufacture mast and sail – TBA
    It’s actually not as bad as it looks: most of the repair work is done and I expect to have the boat back together by the end of this week. Then we can take it from there.”

  • May 2021: Pen pal program continues

    The students from Sacred Heart School in Kingston, MA continue to connect through letter writing with students in Australia who found their original letters in the boat’s cargo space. Here is a picture of them with some of the letters they received:

    Meanwhile, plans are in the works to get the boat relaunched in Australia!

  • July 2021: Marine forensics and repair of the Sacred Heart Star of the Sea

    There has been a massive amount of work happening to repair the Star of the Sea miniboat. So many community members have come together in Western Australia to make it happen, and for that we are grateful. Our biggest thanks goes to Mr. Bill Power who has connected us all and leads the initiative.

    Another big thanks goes to Fremantle College and all the students and teachers who helped repair the hull, mast step, and repaint the boat. It looks great!

    We’d also like to thank marine forensics expert William West, who investigated the damage of the miniboat to provide a little more insight into what may have happened during the miniboat’s voyage across the sea. His interpretation is as follows:

    Thanks to Brett at Windrush Yachts who donated a carbon fiber for the new mast. The new mast will be shorter than the first, and reinforced with a stainless steel rod thanks to a donation from Stirlings Performance Steels.

    A new sail is also underway by local sailmaker Pete Ripley. He makes a variety of sails for yacht owners and non-profit organizations.

  • January 2023: Ready for relaunch!

    Update from Bill Power, January 1, 2023

    Repairs completed and thanks to all involved!

    Fremantle College (Senior High School) repaired the holes and damages to the hull and the deck and completed an initial re-paint and the creation of the name which appears on the side of the deck (Sacred Heart Star of the Sea).

    While constructing the sail, Pete Ripley and Bill Power noticed that the hole holding the sail was cracking, so we opened the deck and hull again, and reinforced the mast socket with a solid piece of wood. Thanks to Dan Guinn (South Fremantle Resident and woodworker) for helping to build the mast reinforcement, which is a solid piece of lightweight pine, now covered in fiberglass resin.

    Windrush Yachts donated a piece of carbon fiber tube which has become the new mast.

    Pete Ripley (Ripley Creative) constructed the sail and has been instrumental in devising and suggesting launch strategies. He completed the sealing of the deck to the hull after the mast socket strengthening was complete.

    Fremantle Boat Paints donated a small can of antifoul paint for the hull.

    Oscar Naval from Gizmo Cats sponsored the shipping to Tasmania, and also took charge of fitting the new seals for the cargo compartment.

    Australian Longline has taken on the huge job of transporting and launching in difficult, southern ocean conditions. Thanks!

    Ready for Launch

    In late December 2022, SHSOS was shipped to Tasmania, for launch to the south of Australia, somewhere near 50-52° south latitude. We contemplated a few possible launch sites, which included both a northerly launch (NW Western Australia) or the SW (SW corner of Australia) and the launch well to the south of Australia in the Southern Ocean. In the end the Southern Ocean won out because it seemed the most interesting, for two reasons. First, a potential landing in Chile or New Zealand seems particularly exciting. Second, the Southern Ocean is the only ocean left untouched by the mini boat efforts. The other sites were discounted for various reasons. A launch from the SW corner of Australia seemed likely to result in a landing along the cliff-like southern shore of Australia, which is extremely remote and which could easily result in complete destruction of the mini boat. The launch from the NW corner of Australia or from Cocos Island (an Australian island near Indonesia) might have ended the SHSOS in many places in the Indian Ocean.

    Australian Longline has taken on transporting the SHSOS from Hobart Tasmania, south to the launch site. Their vessel (the Antarctic Aurora) and crew will be instrumental in the launch. The Antarctic Aurora is scheduled to be loaded on January 2 and 3, 2023, and if all goes well, will set sail for Prydz Bay, Antarctica on January 4. Along the way, they have agreed to pause and launch the SHSOS in international waters at about 50-52° south latitude.

    The hold of the SHSOS contains letters from three schools, including, Sacred Heart School (Kingston Massachusetts, USA), Australind Primary School (Australind, Western  Australia), and Blue Gum Montessori School (Bibra Lake, Western Australia).

    The boat also contains charging cables and plugs so that the GPS can be charged with any land-based power supply. It also contains the sea-floor rocks placed in the hold by researchers from the R/V Thomas G. Thompson (from the first launch). We have also added a gift from Western Australia, which is a cooking spatula made from West Australian Banksia Timber.

    We now watch with excitement to see where the SHSOS travels next!

    January 9, 2023

    Miniboat away! The crew of the Antarctic Aurora launched the boat at 0500 UTC.

    Listen to the latest Miniboat Traffic Report (and other episodes!) from our podcast for more information about this launch, and others:

This little boat was built by students at Sacred Heart School in Kingston, Massachusetts, USA and was launched off South Africa in March 2019. After 463 days at sea it landed in Western Australia and toured different schools there. It was damaged during landing and by January 2023, repairs had been made and the boat was ready for a second voyage! Read the full story on this page.

Special thanks to contributions from all who have been involved to keep this adventure going, specifically: