To the editor: Nothing should be more sacred to the sailor than the health of our oceans. That which covers more than two thirds of our planet represents more than the sailor’s playground. It is the most critical environmental resource governing our weather and our atmosphere, not to mention its importance to our global commerce, to our source of food, and to replenishing our fresh water. But as vast as our oceans may seem to be, they are being threatened by the industrial and agricultural activities of mankind both on land and at sea. We, the boating public, need to have a voice to air our concerns and to advocate for protecting the environment of the resource we so cherish.
To this end, a group of concerned sailors was brought together in 2004 by David Rockefeller, Jr. and Dr. David Treadway to brainstorm what steps the boating community might take to advocate for the ocean environment, and from this gathering there emerged a new not-for-profit organization known as Sailors for the Sea (www.sailorsforthesea.org).
The mission of Sailors for the Sea (SfS) is “to educate and empower the boating community to protect and restore our oceans and coastal waters.” SfS is structured as a membership organization, but it also relies on support from the philanthropic community, including both individual donors and private foundations. The organization has recently brought on board a new executive director, Dan Pingaro, who has worked in the public and private sectors for various different environmental agencies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The staff includes several other concerned environmentalists, and the organization also benefits from an impressive board of advisors.
Since its inception, SfS has initiated several projects related to its mission, and several more are in the planning stages. One of its signature projects is known as Clean Regattas, which is a national model program, targeted at yacht clubs, college sailing programs and other regional and national sailing organizations, that promotes an action agenda designed to encourage marine conservation and to raise awareness of marine environmental issues. Another project that has been in the works is a film entitled A Sea Change, supported in part by SfS and scheduled for release in 2009. It builds on the impact and awareness of An Inconvenient Truth and brings to the public the serious issues of ocean acidification and the impact of CO2 on ocean health.
Perhaps the most ambitious undertaking for SfS is the Around the Americas project, which is currently in the active planning and fund raising stages. The project is the brainchild of the world-renowned sailor Mark Schrader and is being jointly sponsored by SfS and Pacific Science Center (PSC) of Seattle. It is being billed as “an educational adventure to protect our ocean home.” Schrader’s plan is to circumnavigate both American continents under sail in a clockwise direction, from Seattle to Seattle via the Northwest Passage and around Cape Horn between June 2009 and July 2010.
A 64-foot steel-hulled sloop is being refitted in Seattle under Schrader’s guidance. He has assembled a crew of three other experienced sailors to join him for the whole voyage, including experienced ocean sailor David Lee Logan, well known sailing writer Herb McCormick, and cameraman/photographer David Thoreson. In addition, the plan calls for putting aboard different scientists and educators for various legs of the journey and streaming video segments of the trip over the Internet via satellite.
As far as we know, no small sailing vessel has ever completed a circumnavigation of the island we call the Americas under sail, and the intent of the project is to call attention to the plight of our oceans in the face of pollution, overfishing, and global warming.
Readers are encouraged to support SfS in this enterprise by becoming members, following Schrader’s progress around the Americas, and getting involved locally, regionally, and nationally in our efforts to protect and enhance the health of our oceans.
—Ned Cabot is a retired surgeon in Boston who regularly voyages aboard his J46 Cielita. He is also a member of the Sailors for the Sea board of directors.