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Students seek help in recovering self-steering sailboat

It’s the kind of science project any nautically minded middle-school student would love: Launch an unmanned “drifter” vessel, then track its progress as it crosses the Atlantic, gathering data.

In June 2012, students at John Winthrop Middle School in Deep River, Conn., launched a 5-foot, 45-pound, self-righting, self-steering and self-tending sailboat and research vessel to chart the currents of the Atlantic as part of the Educational Passages program, which began in Belfast, Maine.

The voyage has gone well. The vessel, named Charger, has logged more than 16,000 nautical miles and seen more of the world than many people — Newfoundland, Wales and Portugal, then back west across the Atlantic to Guyana on the northeast coast of South America.

University students in Portugal relaunched Charger in June 2014 after it reached Portuguese shores.

The problem is, Charger is now stuck in Guyana and cannot be relaunched because its battery and GPS unit are dead.

“We are trying to get the boat back here to Connecticut to effect repairs and relaunch and continue its amazing journey,” said Andy Colloton, founder of Shipwright Technical Services, a high-end marine consultancy business in Essex, Conn. Colloton has offered to help coordinate the recovery effort.

“The students are looking to get the boat back, make all repairs and return it to the water to continue the research project,” he said. “Local marine interests to the school district have offered assistance in repairs and upgrades once the boat has been returned.”

Anyone who would like to assist in Charger’s recovery is asked to contact Colloton at

Click here to watch a video of a Portuguese commercial boat crew re-launch Charger at sea.