In December 2013, a North-American school from Westbrook released a small sailboat (1.42m long) to the Atlantic. Completely dependent on winds and currents, and equipped with a GPS tracking device, WEST sailed for almost an entire year and came ashore in Portugal, near São Pedro de Moel.

Several Portuguese entities connected to the sea cooperated in order to recover the boat and to create an educational project whose primary goal was to re-release WEST in the Atlantic.

WEST Portugal 2015 // Making-Of Part 1 (English) from WEST Portugal on Vimeo.

Video produced by Valuma

WEST - The Whole Story
When in November 2014 WEST came ashore at São Pedro de Moel’s beach, it wasn’t much more than a wrecked hull with no sail. But this outer look was hiding an amazing story that began almost a year earlier, in the other side of the ocean. 

WEST was baptized by students from a school in Westbrook, Maine (U. S. A.) and launched in the ocean in December 2013, as a part of the North-American project “Educational Passages”. It sailed throughout the Atlantic, always monitored by the students who had equipped the boat with a GPS tracking device. Almost a year after being released, WEST came ashore in Portugal, near São Pedro de Moel.

Luis Sebastião is a researcher from Instituto Superior Técnico (IST) who works with marine robots. He knew about the imminent arrival of WEST to the Portuguese shore through the coordinator of “Educational Passages”, Dick Baldwin. The researcher immediately involved colleagues from MARETEC, who ran some simulations to predict the exact point where WEST would land. He also contacted Jorge Barroso, from Ocean Puzzle, who coordinated things at a local level.

Captura do West 4   West após dar à costa

In November 12, 2014, with the cooperation of the Captain of the Port and the local lighthouse, WEST was rescued from the sea. It had crossed the Atlantic Ocean and sailed almost 11 thousand miles. This long journey took its toll on the boat who lost the sail somewhere along the way and reached land in terrible conditions, with some crustaceans attached to the hull.

WEST was finally in safe hands, so it became easier to gather the efforts of different entities in order to start a proper rehabilitation of the boat. Ciência Viva, Kit do Mar-EMEPC, IST/ISR, IST/MARETEC, Valuma and Ocean Puzzle came to join the initiative and together they created the project “WEST takes Portugal to the World”. Early on, this project had the support and sponsorship of the European project “Sea for Society” and of two local companies from Nazaré: DL-Publicidade e SILCAR.

Under the guidance of Kit do Mar, fifth grade students from two schools of Nazaré (EB 2,3 Amadeu Gaudêncio and Externato Dom Fuas Roupinho) were involved. After the recuperation of the boat in the SILCAR shipyard, each school had to paint one side of the hull and write a message in Portuguese and English for the boat to carry in its next travel.

Pinturas WEST EB23 Amadeu Gaudencio   Pinturas WEST Ext Fuas Roupinho

Classes were divided into groups of students, who produced different proposals of decoration for the hull. One thing united every project: there was always some mention of Nazaré and its culture. The best projects from each school were selected and students got the chance to paint their ideas directly on the boat. In the end, WEST became a true masterpiece.

On May 19th, the renovated WEST was officially presented in a ceremony at the Pavillion of Knowledge, in Lisbon. This event was attended by students from the two schools and included a skype connection with the Westbrook school, who had launched WEST in the Atlantic 17 months earlier. Teachers and students from this school were incredibly moved when they got to see their boat completely renovated. The presentation of a video (produced by Valuma) that summed up the entire project was even able to get some tears from both sides of the Atlantic.

The only thing left to do was to get WEST back on water, and to see if it could cross the Atlantic yet again. On July 6th, WEST was launched in the river Tejo by the historic sailship ‘Santa Maria Manuela’, in an event that involved students from the two schools who participated in the project.

Images: ISR/IST

TVI news report:

After this symbolic launch in the river, WEST was taken by another historic ship, Caravela Vera Cruz, to be released in open sea. Aboard this mission were 8 high school students, who were a part of another Kit do Mar project: “Bridges between School and Blue Science”.

Photos: Rui Costa (Aporvela) e Kit do Mar

But WEST’s story wasn’t over yet. Instead of going to America, the small boat “decided” to come right back to Portugal.

MARETEC immediately predicted that WEST would land near Algarve, and a team of five, including people from EMEPC and IST, went to its rescue aboard a boat from Mar Ilimitado. Hopes of finding WEST weren’t exactly great, but in June 21st, at 6:15 a.m. it was finally seen navigating peacefully in the sea.



With the goal of getting WEST back to America, it was found that Madeira would be the best place to release WEST in the right route.

By the end of September, with the full support of the "Transinsular" shipping agency, WEST got to the Madeira archipelago aboard "Monte Brasil". 

WEST was finally put back in the water, right at the beginning of 2016. As usual, Kit do Mar was able to engage local schools, so we had two schools from Madeira (EB23 Dr. Horácio Bento de Gouveia and EB23 da Torre) participating in WEST’s launch.

By January 26th West was launched near Funchal, after the specific indications from IST/MARETEC and support from IST/ISR. The event was held aboard NRP Schultz Xavier, and had the full support of the Science Department from the municipality of Funchal.

WEST was released and is navigating the Atlantic. Will it be able to get back to America?

Watch RTP News Report (at 21:00)


After its launch in Madeira, WEST sailed throughout the Atlantic. After courageously passing through the Bermuda Triangle, it came pretty close to America. But the winds decided that WEST should go back to Europe.

By August, seven months after its release in Madeira, WEST neared the coast of Ireland. In Portugal, EMEPC and IST/ISR were following the boat’s path and immediately launched the alert so that the irish marine community would be prepared for the imminent arrival of WEST.

It was the start of an extraordinary interaction between Portuguese, Irish and Americans. All of them cooperating and working together for WEST’s recovery.

Enda Nolan, from Coastway Surveys, proposed to fly a drone to look for WEST near the coast. Derek Flanagan, from the Irish Coast Guard, was able to put the Irish Navy under notice. And Pierce Purcell, director of the Irish Sailing Association, contacted Radio Kerry so that the alert could reach as many as possible.

But despite everyone’s best efforts, WEST was unstoppable and passed Ireland from the north.

After all, its destination was Scotland. By the end of August, WEST reached the island of North Uist, near a little village called Knockintorran. New contacts were made and it was Jeremy Howarth, from a local Bed & Breakfast, who found WEST and delivered it to a local school. The funny thing is that this island of North Uist owes its name to an ancient language, old norse, where UIST means… WEST.

The North Uist school welcomed WEST and has already presented it to the students. They are going to work on this little boat in Arts, Science and Geography. The final goal is to get it back on the Ocean, so it can continue its journey.

Want to know where's WEST? Look for the number 161320162.

Know all about WEST's journey.

Get to know the north-american project "Educational Passages"

Check out how the winds and currents are moving


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Telephone: +351 213 004 165

Fax: +351 213 905 225

Information on the Continental Shelf Extension Project:
Email: info@emepc.mam.gov.pt

Rua Costa Pinto, N.º 165
2770-047 Paço de Arcos - Portugal



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