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Fifth-grade students, along with their teacher, attended the christening ceremony.

PMG PHOTO: SCOTT KEITH - Students Hunter Hill and Hannah Piano hold the S/V Second Wind, a miniboat that will launch June 30, weather permitting. For Yvonne Lewis's fifth-grade students at Columbia City Elementary School, the coronavirus pandemic wasn't enough to stop them from completing an ambitious in-person project this school year.

Lewis' class built a miniature boat that is scheduled to be launched for a voyage across the Pacific Ocean on June 30, weather permitting, about 75 miles off the coast of Garibaldi.

At a school ceremony held Thursday, June 10, students christened the S/V Second Wind, a miniature craft they hope will reach Japan.

Students at the school have been working with the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria to launch the boat, which is roughly 5 feet long.

Nate Sandel, the museum's education director, said the boat will be launched from a charter vessel out of Garibaldi, along with a companion vessel built by students at Dwight D. Eisenhower Elementary School in Hazel Dell, Washington.

The Columbia City students hope the boat will arrive in Japan. While it's a straight shot across the Pacific, the ocean does have some natural obstacles, such as coral reefs and atolls, on which ships can run aground.

Sandel told students at Thursday's christening, "It was a difficult year, but you were the bright spot in my year."

He praised the work that Lewis' class did to build the miniboat.

"Everybody was pitching in to help everybody else," Sandel said. "The teams were in charge of the decisions, but all the other classmates would just come out of the woodwork, show up and help them accomplish their goals."

Lewis echoed his sentiments.

"In a school year where anything could happen, these fifth-graders have pulled together," Lewis said. "This hands-on activity of building a boat has brought empowerment, shown perseverance and teamwork by a group of students who will be finishing their elementary years here at Columbia City Elementary next week."

Lewis continued, "The project captivated all learning styles during the construction. Each student showed their own strength. They showed their interest, their ability to grow and learn."

The boat's name, S/V Second Wind, was suggested by student Izak Hanks. Lewis said it's an appropriate name for a boat built during a year in which "we've all had to catch a second wind and keep moving forward."

Hanks explained how he came up with the name.

"We were all having a tough time and we needed a second wind. It just came to me," he said.

The ceremony also included a Japanese christening poem, a cargo description, attaching of flags and a salt purification.

Other students described their feelings to the Spotlight.

"It's been an amazing experience," said fifth-grader Hunter Hill. "It was great having these people here help on the boat — I was happy I got to do it."

Elijah Adams, another fifth-grader, said, "It's honestly exciting. We all really wanted to see if this is true, if a boat from Oregon can go all the way to Japan."

Since the Columbia River Maritime Museum's miniboat program began in 2017, over 1,000 students have launched 28 miniboats from both sides of the Pacific Ocean. These miniboats are tracked each day. So far, the boats have traveled a collective 73,000 nautical miles and counting. Those interested in sponsoring the miniboat program can contact Nate Sandel at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 503-298-1987.

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