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)

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