Most people wouldn’t be excited at the prospect of receiving 96 tons of trash, but a crowd of Sausalito well-wishers were elated to see their ship come in with a fresh haul from the North Pacific Gyre. Arriving under sail, the 140-ft vessel KWAI passed under the Golden Gate Bridge on Saturday, July 23, completing a 45-day garbage-trawling expedition that started in Hawaii. KWAI docked at the Bay Model in Sausalito Tuesday and Wednesday, July 26-27, for visitors to tour the boat and view the unloading.
“No smell, surprisingly. The material was well organized, mostly in cargo bags,” said Andy Stock on seeing the huge haul of trash. Stock is a San Francisco-based sailor and commercial fisherman who toured KWAI on July 27. “Hard work for what they believe in. Truly satisfying. It’s a cause well worth supporting; they do a lot with a little.”
The dockside visitors included California Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, who toured the boat and viewed the unloading. KWAI will still be seen for at least another week anchored in Richardson Bay, with plans afterward to repeat its mission.
KWAI is a reincarnated cargo ship, built in Germany in 1950 and outfitted with a sailing rig in 2005. The vessel was purchased by the government of the Marshall Islands for the purpose of offsetting the nation’s carbon footprint, and is currently leased to the nonprofit Ocean Voyages Institute of Sausalito. It is ketch-rigged, with an auxiliary engine, but with the stated goal to use the engine as little as possible.
“Sustainable sailing cargo is what we’re all about. We’re able to stay at sea 55 days without running out of fuel,” said KWAI’s captain, Locky MacLean, who points out that the vessel uses only a small fraction of fuel compared to comparably sized vessels, thanks to the sails. “We are always sailing, even when motorsailing.”
“Garbage is not a time-sensitive material that has to be on a tight schedule, so sail power is fine for this,” said Chris McKay of Ocean Voyages Institute, which coordinated the expedition. “Pulling plastic by burning carbon is just nuts. So if you can do this by sail, it’s a real win.”
McKay describes the Pacific Garbage Patch as “a floating city of garbage,” and admits that each haul might only make a small dent in the patch. However, “I think a lot of it is about building awareness. And the crew actually are doing something. They’re going to keep going back and forth, and it will take a long time, but at least it’s some progress. You can remove this plastic, turn it into construction products or energy. The main part is getting it out of the ocean and back to shore.”
The science behind finding ocean garbage is surprisingly sophisticated. KWAI’s crew, the shoreside team at Ocean Voyages Institute, and partners including NOAA and the University of Hawaii, rely on both satellite images and GPS trackers from volunteer sailors who spot and tag fields of debris.
“People want to do something worthwhile, and sailors help us by taking our trackers,” said Mary Crowley, who founded Ocean Voyages Institute in 1979. Crowley herself is a lifelong sailor who has logged thousands of sea miles in places like the Caribbean, Galápagos, Panama, Pitcairn, Scandinavia, and West Africa. The OVI network of volunteer sailors even included several crews from the recent Pacific Cup race from Hawaii to San Francisco. “Sailors tag the trash, then we look over the radius and find all sorts of other debris and nets. The trackers have been beacons leading us to more areas.”
KWAI’s work is ironically aided by so-called “ghost nets,” which are jetsam from fishing vessels, abandoned and left floating in the ocean, where they passively collect trash that accumulates over years. KWAI slows its speed when approaching a ghost net, which requires some work because the boat has no reefing points, so entire sails have to be changed and hoisted for different speeds and winds. The boat pulls alongside the trash to haul it out of the water, like a carefully orchestrated Crew Overboard maneuver.
“You have to climb up; everything is old style, physically intensive,” said Captain MacLean, who adds that many of the crew’s hauls have been made while moving and entirely under sail. “We have to be pretty handy with the grappling hook.”
“Ocean VELCRO®” is how Captain MacLean describes the ghost nets. “It’s actually quite useful. They act like a magnet for smaller debris, like plastic toothbrushes and Crocs.”
Captain MacLean says that his experiences have pushed him to reexamine his consumer habits, even saying that after seeing so many plastic toothbrushes in the ocean, he opted for a bamboo toothbrush. He is no stranger to the sea and environmental activism. Locky MacLean has been a professional sailor for over 20 years, and was even spotlighted on the cable show Whale Wars.
“Plastics will break down if you leave them long enough; then they’re really dangerous, as microplastics.” Captain MacLean describes a twofold threat from plastics in the ocean: first, as a threat to the food chain when plastics are ingested by fish, then second, a threat to ocean plankton’s ability to absorb carbon and produce oxygen.
KWAI is one of several iterations of cleanup boats procured by Ocean Voyages Institute over the years. This is their largest vessel to date, and they’re planning for another. To crew, track, or learn more, visit the OVI website at www.oceanvoyagesinstitute.org.
Local sailor and Washed Up Yacht Club organizer Adam Katz alerted us to a new plan by the Treasure Island Development Authority (TIDA) to restrict access to the beach in Clipper Cove to swimmers only. The current plan is to string buoys saying “Boats Keep Out” offshore from the beach. This would reduce the anchorage size in the most protected corner of the cove and, as currently drafted, would not allow cruisers in Clipper Cove to dinghy into the beach.
Apparently, the plan came up in a recent TIDA meeting to propose a “Protected Water Use Area” that would become a recreational swimming area by restricting waterfront usage to swimmers only. We’re not sure if, when, or how this might be implemented, but the buoy design has already been created. This could restrict access to SUPs, kayaks, youth sailors from Treasure Island Sailing Center, and small sail- and powerboats, as well as cruisers who want to dinghy ashore.
The Washed Up Yacht Club’s annual Clipper Cove raft-up is one of the more popular gatherings for local sailors in the cove, but the cove is used by many other clubs and individuals who enjoy this beautiful Bay Area cruising destination.
Like the bridge over the Oakland Estuary, these initiatives appear to find momentum before connecting with the boating community. We appreciate readers’ taking a moment to bring these waterfront challenges to the attention of our other readers so everyone has an opportunity to participate in public comment.
In the big picture, it’s unfortunate that all the municipalities that ring the Bay build their city halls so far from the Bay. Oakland, San Francisco, Alameda and most other city halls can’t see the Bay from their offices, so it appears they forget its importance to the region when planning local infrastructure. We’re thinking it’s time for members of the sailing community to create a “take a supervisor or city council member sailing day” so we can remind legislators of the recreational activity that has existed for all their citizens, but which is threatened by their ongoing waterfront redevelopment plans.
We wonder again if any boaters were involved in the development of this new “swimming area” on the edge of one of the Bay Area’s best anchorages.
Fully loaded for cruising, and in turnkey condition. Request more information and a viewing appointment.
Each year, Galilee Harbor in Sausalito hosts its free Maritime Day festival — a celebration of the town’s rich maritime history, right on the shore of Richardson Bay — and this year is no exception. The annual event has only gotten bigger and better, and is a day for the whole family (whether sailing or non-sailing) to get on board and have a salty, good time.
This year’s event includes a wooden boat building demonstration by Arques School of Traditional Boatbuilding, the annual dinghy dash (which is a lot of fun to join), tours of historic vessels, and a free boat ride aboard Galilee Harbor’s SV Carodon.
There will also be the ever-popular artist booths and marine flea market. (No, you will not be able to buy seagoing fleas, just some really interesting and fun sailory knickknacks and “stuff.”) You can even enter the Olde Tyme Jar Raffle and be in the draw for prizes donated by local merchants.
But if all that sounds just too energetic for a Saturday by the Bay, you can just relax and listen to live music while sharing yarns, food and drinks with the locals. And you might even catch sight of Galilee Harbor’s resident great blue heron on the Mono Street Marsh.
When: Maritime Day is on Saturday, August 6, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Where: 300 Napa Street at Bridgeway, next to Dunphy Park, Sausalito.
Remember to bring a hat, and enjoy the day of live music, boat rides, fish ‘n’ chips, homemade pies and adult beverages, on the Sausalito waterfront.
Galilee Harbor Community Association is a cooperative, liveaboard community dedicated to preserving maritime arts and skills and providing affordable housing on the Sausalito waterfront. Located at 300 Napa Street at Bridgeway, next to Dunphy Park in Sausalito.
Lightning and Fury in Chicago to Mackinac Race
You could say that no one predicted what happened in the wet, windy and wild Chicago to Mackinac Race presented by Wintrust, but that’s not true.
Longtime weather guru Chris Bedford was spot-on. Whether you believed it or not in the pre-race briefings, the squall cells that eventually showed up arrived with a fury in a hurry, hovering over lower Lake Michigan for almost 10 hours while pounding the fleet relentlessly.
With it came 60+ mph sustained winds, rain, hail and more furious lightning than anyone, even the old goats, can remember, with all thunder and fury. Out of 240 boats at the start, only one was struck by lightning; 29 dropped out.
The Chicago Yacht Club’s 113th Race to Mackinac adherence to and leadership on safety protocols and preparation was a major asset to the crews out on the water, who saw enough typhoon-like conditions in one night to last a lifetime.
“I have not seen a crazier show, more lightning than I have ever seen,” exclaimed Jack Howard on the J/120 Jahazi. “It was really relentless, and it was something we haven’t seen in a while,”
Shortly before nightfall, as the boats made their way northward, the first set of squalls hit the fleet with winds seemingly materializing from nowhere, ramping up to hurricane force, with little or no place for boats to hide.
This video was shot by Jeremy Appel of Lafayette, CA, who was sailing aboard Hiwassee, a Farr 395. ©Race to Mackinac Presented by Wintrust
The Chicago to Mackinac Race started in 1898 with a mere five boats. The Mac has evolved into a world-class sporting event. At 289.4 miles, the Race to Mackinac is the oldest annual freshwater distance race in the world. The Mac starts at the Chicago Lighthouse, just off Navy Pier, and continues to Mackinac Island, Michigan.
Mackinac, sometimes called the Monte Carlo of the Midwest, with its horses, fudge and cool breezes, thrives. It lives and breathes for this, and the island’s residents and visitors (fudgies) wouldn’t have it any other way.
Marin County Team in Chi-Mac
Presenting partner Wintrust Bank not only provides a solid sponsorship off the water, but was represented on it when vice chairman and chief lending officer Richard Murphy sailed with the company’s first sponsored boat. Murphy, Nick Gibbens (from San Rafael) and David Normandin chartered Mojo, a Beneteau 40.7, and brought in a seasoned crew partly from Northern California. They won their division after surviving a collision at the start.
Gibbens was born and raised in Bay Area. He grew up in Berkeley and has been sailing on San Francisco Bay all his life. In this, his first Mackinac Race, his trusted longtime sailing companions included Dave Gruver and John Collins, both of Mill Valley, and Doug Johnstone from Marina del Rey. “He is a surveyor by trade and he was our navigator, weather strategist and all-over strategic guru,” said Gibbens of Johnstone.
The crew and boat had only been together for a few days before the race and earned a section win in the Beneteau 40.7 class.
Two Races to Mackinac, Two Daughters
The story last week during the Port Huron to Mackinac Race of Merritt and Scott Sellers, father and daughter, is inspiring and heart-lifting.
They sailed their J/111 nosurprise on the Shore Course, winning the doublehanded class and eventually finishing third overall. They’re from Larkspur and keep a summer home in Harbor Springs, Michigan.
Scott’s daughter Hannah had done the last two Bayviews aboard their J/111, and Merritt did Chicago last year. “I’m going to swap out and have a different daughter and a different experience,” said Scott.
The Sellers’ team finished first in the J/111 Division and 26th overall on arrival to Mackinac in 1 day, 12 hours, 38 minutes. This was Hannah’s first Chicago race. She primarily trims sails on board.
“It was pretty gnarly,” said Hannah Sellers. “It was one of the most intense storms I’ve ever seen, but it felt really exciting to race through that. It was pretty chilly on the boat!”
The first night’s storms wrecked sailors’ nerves, but the fleet’s consensus was that all the safety preparation, practice and pre-set plans came into effect. Natalie J’s owner Philip O’Neil III said, “We expect storms in the summer here in the Midwest.” O’Neil’s TP52 was the first race boat to finish Sunday at 6:17:53 EDT.
“We took our main down when it hit 40 knots. We saw 69 knots at one point. The team had already talked through the scenarios, so when it happened everyone knew what their job was. It was a big deal, but it wasn’t a big deal; everyone jumped in and did what they planned on doing. When it was over, we got back to racing,” said O’Neil.
While this year’s race didn’t break any official records other than the number of Lake Michigan lightning strikes during Saturday night’s storms, it was one of the overall fastest races in recent years.