Cruising for a Cause
One of the great things about sailing is that no two sailors have to set out for the same purpose. Some sail for the love of speed. Some sail for the love of gadgetry. Some, to be with friends and family. To see new sights. For intensity. For tranquility. For Columbus it was exploration. For Desjoyeaux it is competition. But for the crew of Khulula and Can Drac, it’s about benevolence. They are using their boats to make a difference and spread global awareness about issues involving the Earth’s most precious resource: water.
Khulula is halfway through a three-year research journey, circumnavigating the globe in search of littered seas and dirty beaches. On board, the surfer/sailor team of Hugh Patterson, Ryan Robertson, and Bryson Robertson are collecting data on ocean pollution, hoping to shed light on the seriousness of the issue and use their findings to ignite international change.
Can Drac is using its journey to raise funds for clean drinking water in Africa. The husband/wife crew of Franc and Andrea Carreras hope to travel 6,300 miles across the Atlantic and see over 20 countries, raising money to promote awareness of the worldwide lack of clean drinking water.
These boats have more than just wind in their sails—they are powered by a desire to make a difference. They’re cruising for a cause.
Did you know that in the middle of the Pacific there exists an area roughly the size of Australia that is saturated with over 100 million tons of garbage? Or that hundreds of shorelines in the Pacific are ankle-deep in litter? Or that this massive garbage accumulation is not only dirtying the beaches but threatening to deplete the oceanic marine food chain altogether?
As Hugh Patterson, Ryan Robertson, and Bryson Robertson began to learn these horrific facts while living in Vancouver, Canada, they got an idea. What if they took a few years off to sail around the world? While they were at it, why not sail for a cause? As the wheels began to turn, they wrote, “Before settling down…why not go out with a noble cause, on a bold and ambitious mission of education to make a difference in the world by addressing a serious issue?” Well, why not?
So they began their journey. They created a website, oceangybe.com, and pooled their money to outfit Khulula, their Tradewinds T40. They set off from La Paz, Mexico, in July 2007 in search of gnarly waves, new people, and dirty, dirty seas.
What they found was astonishing. Only two years into their three-year journey, these surfer/sailors have already realized that ocean pollution is far worse than they imagined. In Indonesia, Bryson said, “villagers walk down to the beach at low tide, deposit their daily refuse and wait for the tide to take it away.” Ryan explained this as “a prime example of cultural lag” because while the local habits have not changed for generations, the nature of their waste has. “Historically, the trash was coconut husks, bamboo, and banana leaves, now it is plastic and polystyrene,” explained Ryan, “but unfortunately they still get rid of it the same way.” In Cocos Keeling Island in the mid-Indian Ocean, hermit crabs made their homes in washed-up film canisters and the garbage was ankle-deep. In a 10-meter area alone, the crew picked up over 300 sandals and 150 water bottles.
Beach after beach, ocean after ocean, they found similarly disturbing collections of garbage and realized that the worst part was that no one else seemed to know. “Many educated people have no idea how polluted our oceans are,” said Bryson. “We hope that by educating the individuals they can make big changes.” In every port they report back to their website to increase awareness. They realize that the root of the ignorance is that the oceans are easily out of sight, out of mind. “The oceans are so remote and visited by so few, it is hard to even discover these things,” said Ryan. That’s why they see it as their personal mission to spread the word. With awareness, they hope, will come a movement to limit personal litter and eventually, a movement to increase global conservation. “We cannot continue at our current state for much longer without severely shooting ourselves in the foot,” said Bryson.
They have spent the first half of the journey building a foundation of knowledge. As three young guys with no outside financial help, they’re proud to have made it halfway around the world. Now they’re working hard to share their findings in schools and promote coverage through media and legislative outlets. Within the next year they will visit the North Pacific Gyre which Hugh believes “is a big goal that promises to be very interesting.” When they get back home, they plan to share their findings through school visits, a documentary, and perhaps even a website where cruisers can learn more about recycling policies in different ports.
In the meantime, they will continue across the Atlantic in an expedition that Bryson described as “just a dream and the desire to make it happen.”
To learn more about oceangybe, check out these links: