Sunday, July 24, 2011

Kilroy was here

...or I should say, thanks to Kilroy Realty Corporation, Rozalia Project was here (in Boston). This was a big, huge stop of the Trash Tour: full of trash now out of the water, full of kids and adults learning about the problem of marine debris and full of some excellent support that made this week happen.

It all started with a spectacular sail from the Cape Cod canal, along the Mass coast and into Boston. Luckily Will Lippit from Providence Community Boating joined us for the trip and thanks to his presence, we were able to keep the sails up and short tack our way up the last 2 channels into Boston Harbor into 27 knots with just the 4 of us (Smudge and Hickory stayed wedged between the edge of the cockpit and the liferaft so I am not counting them as crew for this trip).

American Promise and Rozalia Project were hosted by Couragous Sailing and their excellent team of instructors and directors. They could not have been more enthusiastic or accommodating and (through no fault of their own) in need of our trash pick up services. The very first evening we were there, Sloane and I walked the docks with the nets and picked up 174 pieces of trash, much of it micro plastic. The next day we rented a car and headed south as I had the honor and pleasure of presenting about Rozalia Project at the Woods Hole Public Library. This little town on the Cape is the home of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Sea Education Association, the Marine Biological Lab and a lot of smart, movers and shakers of the underwater world. One, Jeffrey Brodeur of Woods Hole Sea Grant, arranged the presentation and treated us to a tour of WHOI. We even got to see Alvin (and in a moment of joyous geekiness, we took pictures in the frame of this famed manned submersible) and we met some of WHOI's scientists and underwater technology pioneers. Very cool.

After Woods Hole, everything started heating up literally and figuratively. We were very lucky to have some well needed and excellent help from Susan Shingledecker and Alanna Keating from the Boat US Foundation who joined us on the boat at Courageous (yippee). We ran 2 full-on days with the Courageous Sailing program kids and the Charlestown Navy Yard basin where Courageous operates is a target rich environment. The VideoRay equipped with Blueview sonar and Lyyn image enhancement were working overtime to find piles of beer cans, bottles, a few bilge pumps, some boat parts and a fair amount of big debris. We had over 107 kids and instructors participating on American Promise as netters, tether handlers, sonar operators and copilots. The next day, we kept going with another 80 sailors joining in the trash hunt or coming back for more. Thanks to the Blueview sonar, we were even able to help a dive team locate an old mooring block for future removal (the visibility was so bad, that the diver simply could not find what he was looking for). We did another dock walk in addition to the work underwater and picked up another 593 pieces of trash!

Friday was dedicated to Boston Community Boating and the Charles River. We had visited
CBI last year as part of the pilot program so we knew they had a lot of sailors and another target rich environment and this year did not disappoint. They have a beautiful new dock system and we set up near the Western end. Right from the start we knew this was going to feature our most varied and interesting recoveries yet. In the record 102 degree heat we used the ROV to
pull up: a wind sock, cans, boat parts, a whole outfit worth of trash: shorts, socks, a sneaker
(Nike), baseball cap, belt, glove, 3 pairs of sunglasses (none of value) and a glow necklace. We also scored CBI back a full Mercury mainsail that had been purchased the year before and a 30'+ lifting strap. Our most interesting find of the day however, was a Hood milk bottle that, at our first round of research, appears to be very old. It is stamped 1938 on the bottom and we are still working on ways to confirm its age. We still have some of the micro-plastics to count from the day at CBI but we picked up well over 200 pieces of trash and had around 220 people join us during the day or in the afternoon for the Trash Bash. And we appreciate my parents coming out in the ridiculous heat to check out the operation and even help with the tether and netting some bottles, cans and plastic out of the water!

This was our biggest week yet and we have some important companies and people to thank for making it happen with their financial and in-person support:

Thanks to:Kilroy Realty Corporation
Boat US Foundation
Courageous Sailing
Boston Community Boating
Woods Hole Sea Grant
along with our tech partners (VideoRay, Blueview, Lyyn, Tritech and KCF) this week we...

-picked up 1758+ pieces of trash including an historic bottle, Mercury mainsail, 3 pairs of sunglasses, Nike sneaker and pirate flag
-had 407+ people of all ages participate in the program, help get marine debris out of Boston Harbor and the Charles River and get to connect with their underwater world

If you want to check out more photos from our Courageous stop, photographer Russ Bolt took some great ones. See:

We are now back in Vermont for a little bit of rest and then some solid work on the phone and on the computer. We have some projects that need finishing, people that need talking to, reports to make, a video to edit and we realized it will all be easier on land (and the dogs are thrilled). More later in the week as we look back at this first phase of the Trash Tour and plan for the next which will still be all about trash pick up action but this time with more of a research focus.

Thank you to everyone who made Boston week and the whole Trash Tour to date amazing. More stats and reports to come.

Stay cool.

rzm and the Rozalia Project/American Promise crew

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Ahhhh, success...

So we are just wrapping up programming here at Sail Newport, and I can honestly say it was a great week. Not only did we get to interact with and educate a lot of kids, but we also pulled up an insane amount of trash out of the waters here surrounding Newport. It was incredible to see not only the amount of trash in the water but the forgotten and left behind derelict fishing gear. The Rozalia Project was able to pull 8 massive lobster traps out of the water. Even more shocking was the amount of trash built up in the actual fishing gear and traps; no could have predicted what we found in these traps, everything from beer cans and rubber gloves, to golf balls and PVC pipes. Essentially, there was an overwhelming amount of "trash within the trash." It was probably one of the most gratifying moments I have had thus far with the Project. Even the reactions on the kids' and instructors' faces around us indicated to me that we had shown them something that they would not soon forget. It was a great feeling to be apart of the team to pull those massive under water trash collectors out of the water.

Fortunately, this feeling of success has been one that has seemed to follow us throughout Rhode Island; in the past week we have been through Newport, Jamestown, Providence, and Bristol. While it has been extremely busy, it has also brought us some great kids and lots of opportunities to help communities clean their waters. Amazingly enough, these places while close in distance to each other, I found to be very different from each other. Providence seemed to possess its own kind of energy, and the Community Boating Center it is a wonderful place with an incredibly dedicated staff. Bristol and Jamestown were both quiet places for me, but we made some great finds. At the Herreshoff Museum in Bristol, we were able to take on the slightly different role of treasure hunter. There, employing the ROV and a little bit of diving, we were able to recover a beautiful antique bronze anchor, which we gladly handed over to the museum (it has a permanent home there, go check it out!).


Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Art of Going Slowly

We are just on the verge of our first Trash Bash Celebration for a Clean Ocean here at Providence Community Boating and taking some time to catch up on emails, phone calls, cleaning up the boat (and a little stand up paddleboarding on our new Bic SUP's).

It has been a great and satisfyingly crazy few days. My last post came from the daylight hours of what turned out to be a lovely and smooth, if not slow, overnight trip the length of Long Island Sound to Newport, RI. In some cases slow is good. Slow let us see 20+ firework shows at the same time along the length of the CT and Long Island shores. Slow let us enjoy only the sound of the water rather than the engine. Slow let us sail through The Race (the potentially extremely rough junction of Long Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean) very near slack tide. And slow let us arrive in Newport in the daylight to come alongside at the Museum of Yachting in Fort Adams. Despite the lack of sleep, we were happy to have a full day or recovery and some boat projects as well as time to watch the last start of the Transatlantic Race (go All-American Offshore team!!!).

After that, slow would not be the appropriate word for what has been going on... more like full-on. We had a great day with the kids at Conanicut yacht Club, around 92 of them! Thanks to a swiftly moving current it was not so much about picking up trash though we did recover a piece of dock fender, as it was about the ROV and the issues and problems of marine debris. CYC's director, Meg Myles, has been doing an excellent job integrating marine education with their sailing education and the kids were informed and excited to recognize creatures they had already learned about... as well as have an explore through the eel grass (which looked like swimming through a jungle). In many ways, I would rather fly the ROV around an environment full of fish, crab, sea urchins, starfish, colorful seaweed and little darting winter flounder than loads of trash. Unfortunately, we are not fooled by the clean bay as July 4th, Sloane, Laura and I picked up 2 huge bags of trash from the shores of Fort Adams in less than an hour.

Thanks to James' 5 am wake up and helming skills, we arrived in Providence in time to roll straight into trash pick up excitement with the Community Boating's STEM program (Science, technology, engineering and math) for the morning and then the sailing programs for the afternoon. This was the first stop where we had American Promise alongside a dock and it was very cool. We organized into stations: Laura gave boat tours teaching the sailors about the boat, its history, navigation and life at sea; Sloane led the net brigade recovering lots and lots of trash that was floating by on the fast moving tide and then sorting, measuring and recording the trash and I was in charge of the ROV/sonar/Smart Tether station.

Providence Community Boating was one of our pilot program stops and John and Will and their team of instructors do an incredible job giving the sport of sailing and access to the water to a diverse (and excited) group of kids and adults.

This stop saw us gain a piece of very exciting equipment, The KCF Smart Tether will let us know exactly where we are, where we are going and where we have been with the ROV, a luxury we have not yet had. We are especially excited to have this new piece of equipment going into the Newport stop where we know that derelict fishing gear is a problem. We will be marking the derelict traps we find so that Clean the Bay can come in behind us with their landing craft and pull it out!

So, the stats so far are approximately:
In 4 days of programs...300+ people have participated, we have picked up 500+ pieces of trash and have traveled a total of around 300 miles. We are on the verge of our first Trash Bash supported by the Boat US Foundation (yipppeeee, thanks to ALL of you who voted last month) and psyched to keep on rolling, meeting great people, having fun with the kids and picking up a whole lot of ocean trash.

If you or anyone you know are near any of our upcoming stops, we have lots of free and open to the public action:

Tonight (July 7): Trash bash, Providence Community Boating from 6-8pm
Friday July 8: Herreshoff Museum, Bristol, RI: boat tours in the afternoon
Saturday July 9: 10-3 trash hunting with the ROV off the docks
Sunday Jul 10: Time TBA boat tours
Wednesday July 13: 5-7pm Trash Bash at Sail Newport

Hope to cross paths (or wakes) with you soon,

rzm and the American Promise crew (right now: James, Sloane, Laura, Hickory and Smudge)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Spotters and Netters

We are now sailing east away from our first stop of Trash Tour 2011 in Oyster Bay and toward Narraganset Bay where we will visit 4 locations for marine debris programs and trash pick up. I just relocated from the very hot cabin/nav station to the deck and am loving the invention of laptops with decent batteries (it is a hot, sunny day with around 5 knots of breeze). **After writing this, we lost connectivity, so I am now posting after a lovely afternoon of up to 9 knots of speed and much cooler temps. Wind died again as we are approaching dusk and we are going to sail through the night to Newport to get ahead of
some storms forecast for tomorrow afternoon (and sail through the race with a favorable tide).

Thanks to the efforts of the Waterfront Center, Oyster Bay Marine Center and Oak Cliff Sailing Center, it was a great first stop. We had around 136 people participate in the dockside programs and we ran our very first on board program with WFC’s high school sailors.

Thursday morning, we welcomed 4 high school sailors and their 2 instructors/naturalists on board American Promise. After a history of the boat (and tour) as well as an intro to the types and problems of marine debris we designated some sailors as spotters and others as

netters. Before I give you the results, I have to say that we had not seen really any trash during the 2 days of boat work that we had before starting the program. There is a lot of current flushing in and out of the Bay, much of the shore is privately owned (rather than open for picnicking) and the oyster dragging process must get a lot of the trash off the bottom. That said, the kids did a great job spotting and picking up a box full of trash (we are about to weigh and measure it during today’s passage) all in a mere 30 minutes. On the way back, we balanced the low tech (but effective) nets with the high tech and revved up the Tritech Starfish side scan sonar which confirmed our expectations of a flat, uniform bottom (good for the oysters).

We triumphantly motored in to the area where the WFC runs their programs (nets held high) and picked up a mooring next to their oyster dragger turned education/tour boat, Christeen. That afternoon and all day Friday was spent with lots of WFC sailors, their instructors,

and the interested general public. We were using the VideoRay ROV and nets off the dock. We were happy to find that there was not a lot of trash on the bottom near WFC’s docks but there were some critters and some beautiful marine flora. Similar to what we found on the surface, you just need to look hard enough and even what seems like a very clean area of the water will give up its marine debris and we pulled out some plastic, a particularly elusive Bud Light can and a metal water bottle.
The WFC has a very diverse, well run and busy program incorporating marine education into their sailing and paddling programs and we found their young sailors aware of their surroundings and psyched to learn more. There was genuine excitement with each piece of trash we found and recovered and we even had some sailors and locals learn to fly the ROV and help with tether handling.

Sloane did a great job with her first marine debris program and we are now lucky enough to have Vermont sailor, Laura Dunphy, with us for the next week. Laura worked with me over the winter and won a Young Explorers Club grant to join us and study tunicates in Narragansett Bay (as I write this, Laura, Sloane and Hickory are napping on deck in preparation for an overnight sail into Newport).

Before heading for my turn on the helm, I want to say another big thank you to Alicia, Dave and all the instructors and naturalists at the Waterfront Center in Oyster Bay for being our

first hosts, to Oak Cliff Sailing Center for helping to make this happen and for spreading the word (and for some advice on our engine and for taking Sloane out on a classic boat for a Thursday night race) and to the Oyster Bay Marine Center and their launch drivers for the genero

us donation of a mooring and patience as Hickory and Smudge learned to get on and off AP and left handfuls of dog hair in their lovely launches. We appreciate all of the help and genero

sity and are psyched to head into Narragansett Bay for some more boat work, fireworks and best of all, trash pick up and education programs.

Think breeze (so we can keep rolling east under sail rather than motor),


(and the Rozalia Project/American Promise crew: James, Sloane, Laura, Hickory and Smudge)