By CLAIRE TREVETT



Questions hang over the future of the blakexpeditions environmental project inspired by Sir Peter Blake after the announcement that its boat, the Seamaster, is to be sold.



The vessel took Sir Peter and his crew on expeditions to Antarctica and the Amazon before Sir Peter was shot and killed in December 2001.



It has been at Newport, Rhode Island, in the northeastern United States for about a year since a lack of sponsorship ended crew hopes of expeditions to the Arctic, the South Pacific, Southeast Asia and a return trip to the Antarctic.

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With no missions in the pipeline, Lady Pippa Blake decided to sell it and told the Herald blakexpeditions could be "winding down".



"We are selling the boat and that is probably the end of blakexpeditions as it was," she said.



"Peter's two business partners Alan Sefton and Scott Chapman have worked very, very hard over the last year and a half to try to keep it going.



"But I feel that without Peter it is hard to see it keep going and it has come to a natural end."



Sir Peter's blakexpeditions business partner Alan Sefton said the sale had "serious implications" for the project, which had been seeking sponsorship for the past 15 months.



"I'll be back in Britain next week, and then we will get serious about reassessing it and see whether we can make it fly. The legacy is still very powerful."



He said the ideal would be to find sponsorship to buy Seamaster.



But sponsorship hopes with two large companies had fallen through after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the US.



The war in Iraq had worsened things for the project.



Don Robertson - a close friend of the Blake family and a former crew member on Seamaster - said he hoped to have any offers on the boat by the end of this month.



Interest had come from about a dozen people and groups from Australia, Russia, New Zealand, England and France.



"I've spoken already to people who are adventurers, explorers, documentary makers, environmental documentary makers."



Built in 1989, Seamaster was designed by naval architects Luc Bouvet and Olivier Petit to sail polar seas.



It would be sold with much of the equipment used by the blakexpeditions crew, including dive equipment, sailing clothing, and a library of research books and documentaries.



There was also polar equipment, such as sleeping bags, tents and ice-tramping and climbing equipment.



Mr Sefton is in New Zealand working on a book of Sir Peter's log entries and photos.



He plans to return to England next week.



Seamaster's voyage


1997 - Sir Peter is appointed to lead the Cousteau Society, combining marine environmental work with planning for the 2000 New Zealand's America's Cup defence.



2000 - He resigns from the Cousteau Society and establishes blakexpeditions to educate people through his adventure about the world's waters.



2001 - Blakexpeditions makes its first voyage on Seamaster to the Antarctic Peninsula between January and March.



2001 - September to December - Seamaster travels up the Amazon River.



December 5, 2001 - Sir Peter is killed by armed intruders who boarded Seamaster, anchored off Macapa at the mouth of the Amazon River.



August 2003 - Seamaster goes up for sale.