Sunday, May 22, 2011

If only the fish could vote...

If you are reading this, you likely already know that we were chosen as finalists in the Boat US Grassroots Grants funding contest. And we are holding strong in second which, in this case, is great as more than just the top vote-getter will receive funding to be announced on June 13.

This past week I was in Brownsville, TX representing VideoRay (the makers of the ROV we use) teaching professors from the University of Texas Brownsville and Texas Fish and Wildlife officers how to put their VideoRay and Tritech SeaSprite sonar to use as part of their joint artificial reef program.

Not only was it great working with a group of bright people motivated to learn everything they can about the creatures of the
sea and how to make them thrive, but I got to check out some of the results of their work. Our first ROV dive site was an artificial reef off South Padre Island. We approached along a tag line attached to the superstructure of the wreck that had been painstakingly cleaned (of chemicals and oil) and then put on the bottom ready to be populated. And populated it was. The ROV was surrounded by hundreds of multiple species of fish as soon as we descended to the wreck. It was beautiful and a great bonus that I was with people who could name every fish (and tell me some cool facts about them as well).

As far as marine debris goes, in this case we were looking for fish instead of trash. We found a lot more fish than trash which was nice though I did see some plastic shopping bags floating around and when we were working in the port, there was the usual assortment of bottles and wrappers as well as plastic sheeting. But mostly this trip was about fish...

So many fish. I wish they could vote. If they knew what we were doing (getting trash out of their environment), I bet they would be psyched to vote as well. But they can't and so I want to to say that we are grateful for all of you that have been taking a few seconds each day to vote and to spread the word. We appreciate every effort on our behalf, on behalf of the fishes and on behalf of a clean, trash-free ocean.


To vote for Rozalia Project's Trash Tour via the web click here
To vote for Rozalia Project's Trash Tour via Facebook, click here

Monday, May 9, 2011

This cup may have killed Nemo's Mom

A friend told me to say hello to Prince when I said I was going to Lake Minnetonka near Minneapolis, MN. I had tucked that comment away while packing the VideoRay, Lynn and Blueview for a visit to the Wayzata Community Sailing Center and a daytime as well as an evening marine debris program.

I had never been out there. And the day I arrived was the first sunny and mild day they had since last Fall which made everyone I met very friendly and happy (they might have been both friendly and happy anyway, but especially so with the nice weather). The Wayzata Community Sailing Center and Wayzata Yacht Club are neighbors and were full of people sailing and working on their boats when I arrived. Under the leadership of Collegiate Hall of Fame coach, Cappy Capper, their High School sailing program has over 60 sailors. And that is who I was going to work with on the following day.

Wednesday dawned sunny and cool with a strong southerly. Nice to look at but not great for underwater work as it stirred up the bottom a bit (lucky for the Lyyn and the Blueview sonar). After putting the ROV back together from travel, Cappy and I set off in a whaler for the other side of the lake to see if we could find trash near the public launch ramp and to see if we could find some evidence of horrible zebra mussels. We have them all over Lake Champlain but Lake Minnetonka just started finding them last year (bummer). The ROV tried to give me a heart attack by functioning intermittently (very unusual) but we were able to fly it around some docks. The bottom had a fair amount of weed despite it being early in the season and very little trash (perhaps for the same reason). No zebra mussels but there were not a lot of surfaces nearby for the zebra mussels to attach themselves to (yet).

WYC has a very pretty and well appointed clubhouse so we set up for the high school
and college sailors there (I love it when I can plug into an LCD projector and it just works without having to conjure up various spells). We managed to fit around 60 people into the club for my Intro to Marine Debris and Rozalia Project presentation and then split into groups for dockside ROV/sonar work and a new activity: creating public service announcements (PSA's). They were challenged to perform one about marine debris in general and another about taking action (since that is what Rozalia Project is about - taking action).

As far as the ROV work went, we did not find any trash! Rocks, weed, rocks, dock pilings, rocks, a sheet pile wall (great on the sonar) and more rocks but not one piece of trash under or near the docks. While it made for less than exciting ROV work, I think that is a good thing...
and we started to let some of the sailors have a hand at flying the ROV themselves (carefully of course).

The afternoon concluded with the presentation of the PSA's. Some of the groups really put some thought and creativity into them and it was fun to see the results. You can see the two best PSA's posted on the Rozalia Project Facebook page by clicking here. The first will make the title of this post make some sense.

That evening, I had the pleasure to give the presentation again to club membership and their families. We had a small but engaged and lovely group who clearly care about the marine environment and love the sport of sailing (as well as swimming). I am grateful to Cappy Capper, the Mike Plant Fund, and the Daniel C. "Shino" Shinozaki Memorial Fund for giving me this opportunity.

Next up... boat work!!! American Promise has already had her foc'sle painted and today we are going through the list to adjust the work plan. Anyone up for some boat work?


Really big PS: back to the comment about Prince. I love Prince. I remember riding my bike to the mall to see Purple Rain a million years ago (I know this is dating myself, but at least I was too young to drive when it came out). On the way from the airport to WCSC, Cappy texted me, "I have something really fun for us tonight." I texted back, "yippeeee." His reply was, "it is
better than yipppeee." I was not sure what could be better than that... until he told me that his cousin, the talented and funny Mark Stewart, is the music director and in Paul Simon's band (plays multiple instruments incredibly - like everyone in the band) and were going to see them that night at a small club in Minneapolis! I almost dropped the ROV (but didn't). The show was AMAZING. Musical talent and creativity was literally dripping off the stage. I was even standing next to a great couple who actively participate in keeping the river clean in Minneapolis. And, getting back to Prince, the show was at First Avenue... where Purple Rain was filmed. So cool.