Galway school’s mini boat found 3,000km from home

Bjørnsen family and friends discover the treasures inside the mini-boat Seoltóir Na Gaillimhe – the Galway Sailor. Photo: Marine Institute

Students of Kilglass National School in Ahascragh undertook an epic sea voyage without ever having to leave home, courtesy of the unmanned mini sailboat called ‘Seoltóir Na Gaillimhe – the Galway Sailor’.

After being set loose on the waves back in June, the Galway Sailor was recently found by a family in Norway, washed up on beach over 3,000km from where it set sail.

The Bjørnsen family and their friends were holidaying on the Lofoten Islands, above the Artic Circle, when they found the boat at Bunes Beach, bearing with it the miracle of Taytos.

Mr Lars Bjørnsen said his daughters were thrilled to discover the mini boat washed up on the remote Bunes Beach.

“Our neighbour had found the boat and my three girls were so excited to join him to open the hatch of the boat to see the Irish messages and ‘treasures’ inside.”

Steep mountains around Bunes Beach on Moskenesøya island, Norway

He said that they were able to read most of the letters that the students at Kilglass NS had written, though some had gotten a little wet.

His daughters were especially pleased by the Irish crisps and sweets, which had survived the voyage intact and delicious.

Bunes Beach is quite isolated on the western side of Reinefjorden on the Moskenesøya island, Norway. You can only get there by ferry and then have to walk 3km to the beach,” Mr Bjørnsen further explained.

“It is a beautiful beach in a bay surrounded by mountains and steep ridges. However, not many people get to go there on a regular basis.”

“Therefore, the fact that we found the Galway Sailor mini boat, that had made its way into the bay and then washed up on the shore with little structural damage is amazing for such a small boat.”

The Seoltóir Na Gaillimhe – the Galway Sailor boat was given to the children of Kilglass NS by the Marine Institute as part of Explorers Education Programme.

The boat was equipped with a sail and satellite tracker, and decorated by the children who painted artwork and good luck messages on its hull.

Kilglass NS students with mini-boat. Photo: Andrew Downes

It was launched by the Marine Institute’s RV Celtic Explorer near the M6 Data Buoy, in the Atlantic Ocean during a scientific survey in June.

Mick Gillooly, Interim CEO of the Marine Institute praised the Explorers Programme as an excellent way of getting the community engaged with understanding the ocean, and how it influences our lives.

Mr Peter Kane, who was the school teacher leading the project at Kilglass, said that the last they heard from the boat came when it reported its position as being near the Faroe Islands.

“We didn’t know whether the boat had been damaged or was still drifting with the currents and winds.”

He said that it was a “mini-summer miracle” that the boat was found, and thanked the Bjørnsen family for the messages they sent back to the kids in Galway.

“Everyone at Kilglass National School are so delighted with the news that our mini-boat ‘Seoltóir na Gaillimhe‘ has been found in Norway.”

He added that their little boat being found so far from home highlights “how the ocean connects us all”.