We are still enjoying the amazing crew members’ talks, and yesterday evening we heard from the Norwegian environmental activist, Malin. Malin started her environmental activist career at the early age of 14, and then by 18, she was named Norway’s Environmental Hero after succeeding in her work to stop Hydro’s oil drilling off the southern coast of Norway. Even at her young age, her work has consisted of intense involvement at the intersection of environmental activism and political participation. Questions of where our energies are best directed arise directly from this. Her talk has kicked off an active discussion on board about how individual actions can move and inspire bigger decisions, even at higher political levels.
Month: November 2014
The day ended with a bright moon on the water and each of us sharing what we are grateful for. Reflections on our current journey, as well as tributes to family and friends, were recurring themes. Also, our gratefulness to each other for creating an environment of support, caring, and harmony in our floating shelter, very far from home.
23 00.36 N
40 55.11 W
Today is a very special day: we have reached the half way point in our journey! 1300 miles crossed and we have officially entered the tropics, leaving the Tropic of Cancer behind. Funny enough we were greeted with strong winds, choppy waves and frequent squalls that brought back memories of the beginning of the journey. The helm required a lot of concentration, as the 4 metre waves swiped us sideways.
This weather also meant we couldn’t put the manta trawl out, so we had a documentary afternoon session instead. The theme was on endocrine disruptors and we screened “Endocrination.” We watched carefully as we followed the amazing lobby power of the pesticide and chemical industry in Europe, defending their interests. This investigative film clearly shows how this industry has been successful in highjacking the scientific process undertaken by the European Commission’s environment directorate to regulate endocrine disruptors.
Although it is no surprise of how short-term economic benefits are still prioritized over long-term human health and well-being, it is still troubling to see it so clearly. It also means that consumer education was never so important. Our individual choices are still ours to make. Endocrine disrupting chemicals are present in all sorts of industrial, agricultural, household, cosmetic and food products to name a few sectors. Many of their harmful consequences on our environment and our health are beginning to be understood. So while these substances continue to be unregulated, if there is one message that should be passed on to each of us it is to “learn more, use less.”
As the evening came along, we all jumped outside to get some fresh air of hope and listen to the story of the night. This time it was Sue‘s turn. She spoke passionately and beautifully about community spirit, drawing on her experience at the all-women’s protest in Greenham Common in the 80s. Her presence here is like an embodiment of the endurance of female power, and she eloquently helps us all to feel the strength that can and needs to be drawn from our shared journey. She reads us Joanna Macy and Anita Barrow’s translation of Rilke by moonlight, and we all get goosebumps…
And yet, though we strain
against the deadening grip
of daily necessity,
I sense there is this mystery:
All life is being lived.
Who is living it, then?
Is it the things themselves,
or something waiting inside them,
like an unplayed melody in a flute?
Is it the winds blowing over the waters?
Is it the branches that signal to each other?
Is it flowers
interweaving their fragrances,
or streets, as they wind through time?
Is it the animals, warmly moving,
or the birds, that suddenly rise up?
Who lives it, then? God, are you the one
who is living life?
We have truly formed a community on board Sea Dragon, one where we ebb and flow around, about and amongst each another. The quiet strength that comes from us all is growing day by day, forming something that feels new and brave and exciting. This contrasts starkly with how the trip was often perceived before we set sail. Each and every one of us heard comments like, “A boat of all women – a cat fight waiting to happen! Why would you want to do that?!” Comments that came from both men and women. Where does this come from, and why is it being perpetuated, when our experience here, and Sue’s knowledge of working with women’s groups, indicate something far from that?
– eXXpedition crew, November 26th, 2014
All our meals are made in the galley, and we often gather in the salon to chat. Food scraps are saved in a small pail in the galley and dumped over the side to feed the fishes per regulations. The stovetop is gimbled so that it stays level as the ship rocks from side to side. There is also a small library in the salon with sailing and marine life identification books and also other relative books to our trip like, Plastic: A Toxic Love Story and Garbology. We normally eat our meals on deck in and around the cockpit and the helm.
We have all been winding through diverse and varied landscapes – physical, social, psychological – yet have converged in this one space aboard Sea Dragon, where our similarities and differences are highlighted in sharp relief. All of our purposes and journeys different, yet the same. Serendipity becomes a common theme.
As the moon rises and we settle in to our night watches, we stare up at the sky and around at the horizon.
Overnight, a new passenger joined us on board. One of the Atlantic’s liminal flying fish, existing magically in the borders between air and sea, fetched up on deck – to the great delight of our master dissector, Diana. A late night analysis of the creature’s stomach contents showed an all-natural last meal. There was no plastic visible under the microscope. The fish had fed on small shrimp and fish larvae, such as we had seen in our first manta trawl. It seems that this was a healthy fish, just a little too curious about life on board Sea Dragon.
Our day then proceeded to continue smoothly. The sun was shining and Sea Dragon was sailing wing-on-wing. This diamond sail combination makes a beautiful sight against the cool blue sky. At 1pm sharp, it was time for our second manta trawl, which we accomplished smoothly in 1 hour 20 mins. Shanley assures us that this is a great time for our second attempt, and we are all pretty excited at the prospect of breaking some kind of record. We’re hoping to be down to 1 hour by the time we reach Martinique – let’s see if we’re up for the challenge!
What was even better than our time was the result of the sample. It brought up 3 fragments of plastic. Although it still feels wrong to find any plastic this far from civilisation, we all felt a bit lighter when the sieves came up almost empty. But stay tuned, and we’ll let you know the count for tomorrow…
Another beautiful sunset cast the backdrop for our evening’s presentation. This time we heard from our second mate, Anne Baker. Anne’s varied background in engineering and psychology, combined with years of sailing, have given her a rich and diverse store of life experiences. She took us through her change making ventures, working for important companies in a range of industries – automotive, airline, food, sports, housing – and her long-term volunteering with the Sea Rangers in the UK. We all listened carefully as she distilled the lessons learned when trying to bring about change through these different environments and challenges.
Intrigued by Anne’s knowledge of human resources, Lucy posed the question of gender balance in high-level positions. For Anne, it seems only slight changes have occurred, as in her experience boards of directors have continued to be mainly male-dominated. This sparked several discussions, but we agreed in the end that the core is to find inclusive solutions where men are partners in improving access to women to decision-making. Also in educating our children about the issue of gender inequality and why it matters. This is not just an equality issue, but rather an investment in a balanced and resilient society, fit for dealing with increasing change and complexity.
Although the conversation was captivating, we had to break it to enter the first night shift in our new time zone. We have been in GMT-1 for three days now, but we decided to wait until today to make our first cross Atlantic time adjustment. We wanted to wait, as we were reluctant to make a change that would ensure we were eating dinner in the dark. Being the masters of our own time, of our own distinct time zone, is just one of the many forms of magic that is occurring on board Sea Dragon.
– eXXpedition crew, November 23rd to November 24th, 2014
Finally after days of rain, storm and strong winds, we made our first trawl. The trawl was an ‘all hands on deck’ task. We put out the trawl in calm seas, travelling at 2 – 3 knots of boat speed. All the path was recorded in detail with Marine Debris Tracker, as were the conditions, like wind, speed, and direction. Everyone watched the trawl with curiosity as is it sliced through the water, resembling an animal gobbling plankton on the surface. The ocean looked pristine and deep blue, but the trawl told a different story.
At around 3am, we spotted a cargo ship just after we emerged from yet another squall and realising that the vessel was less than 6 miles away and bearing straight down on us, our captain Emily picked up the radio and said: “San Fernando, San Fernando, we are the sailing vessels 6 miles in front of you on a collision course with limited manoeuvrability, as we have just one sail at the moment, are you able to avoid us?” Just another night on Sea Dragon crossing the Atlantic Ocean with her rookie crew.
1900 hours 27°08.58N 23°24.63W
2 days of heavy weather and what do we turn to? Chocolate was all too predictable – good job we have a great supply. Trying to remember to clean teeth, check bilges and move safely at unlikely angles has left little time for blogging – but hey, today the sun is out, all 3 sails are up – some less tidy than others – and although many waves have smacked us in the face up on deck from all sides – we’re still smiling! We have even – all 14 of us – been seen on deck today at one point or another, though one or two are still looking for their sea legs.
We’ve started the science too – too rough for a trawl but fine to begin sampling the water and seeing what’s there. We dangled a bucket of water astern to catch a pail, then using a jug and measuring cylinder we proceeded to filter 1500ml of seawater through Jenna’s filtration system, which has 3 sieves of increasingly smaller pore size, to capture microscopic particles from the water column. If there, these particles were then washed off the filters with alcohol and preserved for analysis by dynamic light scattering back in her lab.
Today’s lunch was ‘goodbye to the salad leaves,’ as we made the most of organic but perishable Canaries lettuces. And the opportunity to make guacamole while discussing the effects of endocrine disruptors on the male hormonal system was pretty much the sort of thing we signed up for.
In the afternoon we were having a very merry time, bouncing through the swirl, occasionally getting faces full of seawater, as waves broke over the boat. We were pinching up wind, with Shanley at the helm, making 7-9 knots with 2 reefs in the main sail and both the Yankee jib and the staysail flying. Then all of the sudden, the sheet of the Yankee jib severed in a gust of wind. The Yankee was whipping out of control into the staysail, ripping a tear of 1m of length. This triggered a big commotion, pulling all hands on deck to control the situation and bring down the Yankee and Staysail in. Some stitching is in order for tomorrow.
A quick supper of pasta pesto and buttered courgettes was prepared with delicious sweet papaya from the Canaries as a dessert. The weather for the coming days is strong north-westerly winds, so we have at least another day of beating through the swell. Hoping for calmer seas at the weekend so we can start our daily trawls.
– eXXpedition crew, November 20th, 2014
As we listen to the watch handover by the watch leader, we hand over some smiles to the tired crew about to crawl into their dry and cosy places below. And we get some back. The energy among us is one of companionship and care, as we move deeper into the moody Atlantic. One thing we are all learning or re-learning is that sailing is really about being present in the moment and dealing with change as it comes along.
After five days in Marina Lanzarote, taking part and leading workshops/talks for the Atlantic Odyssey, Sea Dragon and her team of 14 changemakers has finally set sail! After crossing the line with 34 Atlantic Odyssey boats, we set a course between Lanzarote and Fuerteventura heading out into the BIG WIDE ATLANTIC OCEAN!
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Depart: St. Martin
Arrive: St. Martin
Length: 9 days, 8 nights
Focus: Adventure Sailing and Exploring
Join the crew of Sea Dragon as we visit the lesser visited leeward islands. We’ll visit either forbidding Saba or tiny Statia, two of the jewels of the Caribbean. Ever wondered where the tallest mountain in the Netherlands is? You can climb to the top from Saba, also home to the worlds shortest (and possibly scariest) commercial runway.
The diving is excellent too – Saba is world renowned for its healthy reefs and spectacular sea life. If the weather is too rough to visit Saba, we’ll sail on to Statia instead, the first foreign nation to officially recognize the United States after our declaration of independence from Great Britain in 1776. Statia is home to a fantastic marine sanctuary as well as some excellent hiking – descending into the massive trees growing in the extinct crater of “The Quill” is an awesome hike – just look out for hermit crabs falling down the slopes. With luck, we may even be able to find some pottery or blue beads in the shallows of the harbor, remnants of an earthquake that led to part of the town collapsing into the sea.
We’ll visit St. Barths, before a fast downwind sail back to St. Martin. Along the way you’ll learn the basics of navigation, seamanship, knots, and sailing and can head home with your IYT International Crew Certificate.
Eric Loss – Skipper
Eric has been sailing competitively since his time as a a young mariner and in 2011 he sailed around the world single-handed, and told his story in Loss at Sea.
Eric has been Captain on board Sea Dragon since January 2013 and he loves to facilitate the understanding of and connection to the sea for all of those who come on board.
Shanley McEntee – First Mate
Shanley has been all over the world and covered over 40,000 miles on all different types of sailing yachts and loves to do everything from scuba diving to surfing to swimming.
With a degree in Environmental Policy and Marine Science, Shanley continues to explore the world and the different issues mother earth faces. She’s full time with Sea Dragon as First Mate since January of 2013.
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Day 1: Crew arrive in St Martin and board Sea Dragon in Marigot Bay in the afternoon. Time to get settled on board and receive crew briefing that evening.
Day 2: After morning safety briefing, crew will sail from Marigot Bay to Tintamarre. Arrive in time to be able to swim and snorkel in the afternoon. Stay the night at Tintamarre on anchor.
Day 3: Depart early AM to clear customs in Marigot, before sailing on to Saba (or Statia depending on weather). Arrive, clear customs, and enjoy dinner.
Day 4: Day in Saba. Possibility of diving if interested, hiking Mt. Scenery, or exploring this unique island.
Day 5: Sail from Saba to St Barths, spend the night anchored in Gustavia.
Day 6: Enjoy the morning in St Barths snorkeling and/or exploring town, then sail to St Martin in the afternoon. Final crew dinner in Marigot Bay.
Day 7: Morning packing and crew depart Sea Dragon by 11am.
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– 8 nights accommodation on Sea Dragon
– All meals, snacks and drinks on board
– Sailing Instruction
– Safety equipment and foul weather gear
Contribution does not include:
– Transportation to and from St. Martin
– Transportation to and from the boat
– Additional nights spent ashore
– Personal expenses while in port
All crew members will require a passport from their home country that will allow them to travel to/ from St. Martin, Saba/ Statia and St. Barths by sea. Please look into the specific type of visa you need for arriving at these destinations by sea: www.travel.state.gov/visa.