Local News for Monday 26th June 2017

Miniboats cross the ocean
Three mini mailboats sent to sea by schools in the United States have launched an exciting series of exchanges with island schools, after two of the vessels came ashore in Benbecula and Harris this weekend. The miniature boats, each fitted with a GPS tracking device and loaded with messages from American schoolchildren, form part of an educational programme teaching pupils about geography, earth sciences, maths and technology. The weekend’s strong winds brought the miniboat Shields Surfer ashore on Saturday on rocks somewhere near Huisinis, where it’s yet to be located despite a search by Coastguard volunteers. It’s spent 187 days at sea, since being launched by children from an elementary school in Lewes, Delaware, a seaside community of 2,500 people. On Thursday the miniboat ‘Lilboatthatcould’ came ashore in North Uist, 168 days after being launched by children from Kennebank Alternative Education School in Portland, Oregon. She’ll now join the first boat to arrive, the miniboat West, which landed in North Uist in November last year after drifting via Portugal. Before the end of this term, pupils from Sgoil Uibhist a Tuath (North Uist School) will have completed messages and decorations on the boat as part of a project run with Comunn Eachdraidh Uibhist a Tuath (North Uist Historical Society). She’s later to be relaunched as the project continues, thanks to help from CalMac, who restored and waterproofed the sea-battered boat. In a strange twist, a North Uist descendant, Ru Morrison, is Executive Director of one of the US Oceanographic Institutes which has collaborated on the project. He’s expected to arrive in North Uist next week, bringing a new sail and new GPS trackers to set the West off on her next journey. Meanwhile anyone who finds the miniboat Shields Surfer on rocks north of Huisinis is asked to contact Seumas at Sea Harris, or Stonroway Coastguard.

Island Games off the start
Island athletes were straight into competition from 8am yesterday, when the first events of the 17th NatWest Island Games in Gotland, Sweden started. Christina Mackenzie ranked 16th in the women’s individual triathlon, where the swim was reduced to just 400 metres due to choppy seas and strong winds. She’s in competition again today, together with Kirsty MacPhee, in the women’s individual cycling time trial. The women’s football team were up against a strong team from Aland, and did well to keep the score to 5-2. The men played Greenland and both teams will be in action again today – the women against the Isle of Man and men against games hosts Gotland. There’ll be Western Isles team action on the track, field and in the pool today, too.

Lewis Pipe Band
Lewis Pipe Band came away from Grant Park in Forres disappointed on Saturday, after failing to place at grade 3a in the European Pipe Band Championships. The band said the experience had given them plenty to learn from in the five weeks between now and the Scottish Championships in Dumbarton.

Baby boxes – time to sign up!
Baby boxes are now on offer to all mothers of new babies due on or after 15th August, and mums-to-be are being encouraged to register for a baby box at their next midwife appointment. The boxes contain essential items for a child’s first weeks and months, signalling Scottish Government commitment to give every child in Scotland the best start in life. They were trialled from last year in areas including Orkney, and are now on offer to all mothers-to-be, including the 200 plus babies born in the Western Isles every year. The Baby Boxes are filled with books, clothes, blankets, and other essentials, while also providing a safe space for babies to sleep near their parents to promote bonding and early attachment.

Lewis Camanachd suffered a drubbing at the hands of league leaders Glengarry on Saturday at Shawbost, the final scoreline nil-10 to the visitors.