When a group of Rye Junior High School students in New Hampshire set sail a roughly five-foot-long boat into the Atlantic in October 2020, they were not sure what to expect. While some were optimistic it would wash ashore in Europe, many believed the tiny vessel, called Rye Riptides, would get destroyed along the way. On February 1, 2022, the skeptics were proved wrong when the partially dismantled boat washed ashore 8,300 miles away on a small island near Dyrnes, Norway.
The path to the Rye Riptides' incredible 462-day journey began in August 2018 after the school's then fifth-grade science teacher Sheila Adams purchased a boat kit from Educational Passages. The Maine-based non-profit organization's mission is to increase environmental literacy through the study of oceans. Construction began in earnest in February 2019. Each of Adams' fifth-grade classes worked together to build the fiberglass boat that came with a handsewn sail and a GPS transmitter.
Once ready, the boat's cargo hold was filled with photographs, fall leaves, acorns, New Hampshire state quarters, and a face mask signed by all the students. The kids were brainstorming ideas to decorate the vessel's exterior when the COVID-19 pandemic caused their school to shut down. Adams asked them to submit their pictures online and forwarded them to Cassie Stymiest, Executive Director of Educational Passages, to scan them on the boat.
The Rye Riptides was launched into the Gulf Stream off the coast of Florida by the crew of S/V Corwith Cramer and the Sea Education Association on October 25, 2020. Thanks to the periodic pings from the boat's GPS tracker, Adams and her students were able to plot its trek across the Atlantic Ocean on a map. However, on September 30, 2021, after sending a notification from the same altitude as Ireland, the transmitter went silent. The students thought the boat was probably destroyed by massive Atlantic Ocean waves.
But they were wrong. On January 30, 2022, exactly four months after the last transmission, Stymiest got an update — the Rye Riptides had landed ashore west of Norway's Smøla Island. She reached out to a local school, asking if they could assist in the vessel's recovery. The request, posted on the school's community page, caught the attention of sixth-grader Karel Nuncic.
On February 1, 2022, Nuncic and his parents traveled to the small island by boat to retrieve the vessel. It was beaten up and had lost its mast. However, the Rye Riptides' deck and cargo hold had remained intact. The sixth-grader cleaned off the barnacles on its surface and took the boat to school to explore its treasures with classmates. A few days later, an excited group of Rye Junior High School students connected virtually with the Norwegians to discuss the discovery and ask questions about their lifestyle and culture.
While the Rye Riptides' 8,300-mile journey ranks amongst the longest achieved by an Educational Passages boat, it is not a record-breaker. That credit goes to the Sacred Heart Star of the Sea, which sailed from Kingston, Massachusetts to Bunbury, Australia — a distance of 9,320 miles — in just 463 days!