Sailors taking action for the environment in 2011

Sailors for the Sea, Ocean Conservation2011 has been a great year for Sailors for the Sea and we would like to thank all of our fans, supporters, and volunteers for helping us have a successful year.

Sailors for the Sea engages boaters around the world, encouraging them to learn more about ocean health and to become environmental stewards. Sailors for the Sea highlights in 2011 include:

The results: cleaner oceans, smarter boating and healthier harbors.

To maximize these opportunities, we hope you will contribute to Sailors for the Sea. Your fully tax-deductible charitable gift will have a powerful impact on our ocean conservation goals.

The Crew at Sailors for the Sea

Share with us: What was your favorite memory on the water in 2011?


Plastic Pollution: Have you caught a bag fish lately?

Plastic bag in oceanThe not so illusive bag fish.

Seaweed, plastic bags, balloons, all of these items have been blamed for slowing a boat down. Whether or not this is due to an anxious sailor, the fact is plastic debris is becoming more common then ever and it can slow your boat down. For our first Sailing and the Environment post we thought about plastic bags and different ways they have proven to be a foe to the boating community.

For any boat with an engine, a plastic bag can prove to be a costly problem. The water intake can suck up plastic bags, which causes overheating and leads to serious damage if unnoticed.

In some harbors, sailing through the current line can be similar to visiting the local dump. This affects racecourse tactics, as extreme current relief is needed to make it worth sailing through the debris and risking what may catch on your keel.

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Some sailboats have tried to combat these problems with innovations such as the kelp cutter. Melges 32’s, 24’s, and 20’s, all have a thin blade on the front edge of the keel, when the boat feels slow, the smallest crew member leaves the rail, pulls the blade up and down to cut the debris and clear the keel. A great innovation but does it work with a plastic bag?

We recently caught up with Moth sailor Anthony Kotoun after just finishing a race in Miami. Anthony said, “Plastic bags can stop us faster that any other debris in the water, and when you are sailing at 20 knots anything you hit is dangerous.” During the event almost every sailor ran into a problem of having trash caught on their foil. For the moth sailor this is a timely incident. To remove the trash they flip their boat or stop and sail backwards. Plastic bags have also proved to cause more serious problems than losing a race. Moth world champion Bora Gulari seemed to have the worst luck with the bag fish, his first run in caused his rudder to rip off. A second incident, with an unidentified culprit, caused a severe crash where he ran into his shroud, cutting his face and requiring medical attention. Seeing as bag fish were everywhere, they seem like the #1 suspect. To read more about the sailing at this event check out Mach2mothusa and scroll down to the middle of Sailing Anarchy’s home page.

So what can you do?

  • The moth fleet tries to pick up the bags they have encounters with; even if they are hoping the guy in 1st will slow down.
  • Ban the plastic bag, in your home, on your boat, at your marina! As a boater reduce the risk of having bags fall into the water by never using plastic bags.
  • Have a trash pick up plan for your regatta or sailing club. Whether this means having pool cleaning nets with the race committee for trash that floats by or dedicating an hour when sailors contribute their time to clean up a beach, no matter how much trash you remove, it all makes a difference.”

Tell us: Have you had any run-ins on your boat with plastic bags? What do you do to help prevent this problem?

The Global Ocean Forum

The Global Ocean Forum recently announced that oceans and coasts have taken a prominent role in the discussions leading up to the Rio+20 Conference (UN Conference on Sustainable Development) to take place June 20-22, 2012, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Over 50% of all Member States, and all political groups and regional preparatory outcomes, recognized oceans or ocean-related information in their input submissions to the Rio+20 compilation document. Member States highlighting oceans in their submissions included both developed and developing countries, and spanned all regions of the world.

Common concerns included addressing the effects of climate change on coastal communities, the special needs of small island developing States (SIDS), loss of marine biodiversity, pressures on fisheries, the need for ocean-related capacity development, and addressing marine pollution. For some States, proposals to improve the institutional framework for sustainable development included support for strengthening Regional Fishery Management Organizations (RFMOs), and the implementation of the Mauritius Strategy and the Barbados Plan of Implementation.

Thanks to the Global Ocean Forum for sharing this exciting news.

What do you think? Are you surprised that 50% of the member states are concerned about their oceans? Would you have thought the number would be lower or higher?

Sailing and the Environment

When talking to people about Sailors for the Sea, we are often asked how sailing has a negative impact on the environment. As sailboats use wind to power themselves, and about them could be harmful to the environment?

The simple answer is that modern sail boats, from an eight foot Opti to the three hundred and five foot EOS, all make an impact on the environment. One easy example is the large diesel engine on the 305 foot boat that is needed to leave the dock. For the Opti, the coach boat, safety boat and parent boat following the kids up and down the race course burn fossil fuels. Since not having these engines to help the sailboats would be a big safety risk, we educate boaters ways to reduce the engines environmental impact.

On this blog we will make weekly posts under the category Sailing and the Environment about the different impacts today’s boating community can make on the environment. Each post will also share ways to reduce or eliminate this problem.

Racing at the America's Cup World Series in San Diego

No matter how big or small your boat can make an impact on the environment.

Share with us: Do you feel boating is environmentally friendly? Have you ever considered the impact of the sport? Please share in the comments below and also mention any topics you may want covered!

What happens to your donation?

Q. Where does my donation go when I give to Sailors for the Sea?

Where you donation goes when you give to Sailors for the Sea

We all depend on healthy oceans for food, jobs, recreation, and solace. The ocean, once considered inexhaustible and resilient, is quite fragile and finite. Our programs work to reduce boaters impact on the environment and help alleviate the stress put on our waterways from overfishing, acidification, floating garbage, and pollution.

We hope you will support Sailors for the Sea as the only national organization that connects recreational sail and power boaters to ocean conservation.
Info-graphic created by Eliza Becton

Support Sailors for the Sea and get fabulous gifts!

This holiday season three wonderful maritime companies are helping you support Sailors for the Sea while shopping for your favorite boater!

On December 17 & 18 make a purchase with Team One Newport and they will donate 10% of profit from all full priced items to Sailors for the Sea. Make your purchase at theWater bottles from Team One Newport store and Sailors for the Sea staff will be there to wrap your presents for free! When making a purchase online please write the code “SFS2011” in the special instructions when entering your credit card. Not sure what to get? Check out these water bottles from Camelbak – great for Sailors as you can open and close the drinking valve with just one hand.

New for the holiday season, Sailormade. Bracelets made with New England Ropes Sailormade endeavour braceletcustom cordage and a classic Brummel hook in a variety of models for both men and women. Each piece is hand-cast and assembled from either solid brass or bronze in the United States. Made by sailors for sailors and with each purchase, Sailormade will donate 10 percent of sales to Sailors For The Sea! Pictured left the Endeavour bracelet.

Sharon Green reusable bag.

Carry your groceries down the dock in style with Ultimate Sailing’s “Ultimate Green” Reusable Shopping Bag. These bags feature Sharon Green’s amazing photography on a reusable bag made from recycled woven polypropylene. 10% of each bag purchased is donated to Sailors for the Sea.

Around the America’s – The Journey Continues

Over the past month, the Around the America’s expedition experienced two great achievements – the publication of its first book and coverage in the Journal of Geophysical Research – all in relation to the circumnavigation of north and south America from June 2009 – May 2010.

Book cover for One Island One OceanThe first is the publishing of a beautiful coffee table book entitled: One Island, One Ocean: The Epic Environmental Journey Around the Americas. Together the author Herb McCormick and photographer David Thoreson, who were both on board Ocean Watch for the entire circumnavigation, share their compelling story. Their documentation of the 13 Month journey features the beauty they encountered, the people they met who rely upon the ocean, and the ocean health issues that are ever-present when you live on the water. Trash covered beaches, props tangled in fishing line, and runoff of fertilizer were just some of the problems they observed. You can purchase the book on Amazon.

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Also this month, the Pacific Science Center published scientific research from the Around the America’s expedition in the Journal of Geophysical Research. This research was done to help the scientific community to evaluate and understand measurements of tiny particles found in the marine atmospheric boundary layer, the part of the atmosphere that is in direct contact with the ocean. The particles in question, aerosols, scatter and absorb sunlight and therefore have the potential to influence the Earth’s climate. Both the size and the amount of aerosol particles in the marine boundary layer are generally estimated from satellite-based measurements. Because of its path, hugging the coastlines of north and south America, and because of its relatively small boat size (compared to regular research vessels) the 64’ Ocean Watch was able to obtain ship-based measurements of several atmospheric and oceanographic parameters in regions where measurements are rarely available. You can read the full press release  Checking the eye in the sky: do satellites get it right? (PDF) from the Pacific Science Center.

While the journey is over, the legacy of this exciting expedition live on through these two exciting publications.

All photographs in this post by David Thoreson.

Why I Choose Ocean Conservation:

I grew up sailing, starting at age two. I’ve been at it for over sixty years and traveled over 75,000 ocean miles under sail in the North Atlantic the Arctic Ocean, the Baltic Sea, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, the Aegean, the North Pacific, the South Pacific, and the Southern Ocean. From the glaciers of Greenland and Spitsbergen to the wilds of Cape Horn and from the mountains of Alaska to the islands of Greece and Tahiti, I’ve covered a fair amount of the Earth’s oceans. The sea is in my blood. It’s a big part of what makes me tick. And it’s a huge part of what makes our planet both beautiful and livable.


After a career in academic medicine, I took relatively early retirement to spend more time at sea and devote more of my energies to enjoying, studying, and preserving our ocean environment. Seventy percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by our oceans, yet we know more about the surface of the moon than we do about the bottom of the sea. But we, the Earth’s inhabitants, are measurably causing the gradual deterioration of our greatest resource. We are acidifying the oceans due to massive increases in the concentration of CO2 in our atmosphere, which affects the entire ocean ecosystem, from corals to shellfish. We are polluting our harbors and bays with run-off from our farms and factories. We are contaminating the sea with plastic trash and oil spills. And we are depleting fish stocks around the world to dangerous levels that may never be able to recover.


I spent two months sailing in the Baltic a couple of years ago, and I was struck by the virtually complete lack of sea life. In 64 days of sailing, we didn’t see a single marine mammal of any sort. They have nothing to eat. There are practically no fishing boats to be seen in the Baltic and no seagulls, because there are no fish. It is a dead sea thanks to man’s over fishing and pollution.


For the past thirty years I have served as a trustee of the Sea Education Association, which teaches oceanography to college students and offers them the experience of spending six weeks at sea doing research on one of our tall ships as they learn to sail and become directly acquainted with all the issues surrounding the health and benefit of our oceans. And more recently I joined the board of Sailors for the Sea, a non-profit organization that is attempting to educate and engage the boating community as a whole in these same issues.


It’s not too late to act. We must do all we can to save the most precious resource we have on the surface of the Earth. But we must do it now.