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Fool Hardy Thrill Seekers or Concerned Environmentalists?


  • Fool Hardy Thrill Seekers or Concerned Environmentalists?

    On April 10-13, 2014 you can make that determination for yourself at the Strictly Sail Pacific Show at Jack London Square. Where you will meet Matt Rutherford and Nicole Trenholm, who will be putting themselves at risk to further data monitoring on ocean plastic levels and acidification.

    When you think about it, would YOU drop everything in your life to warn others about the state of our environment? Where, besides the obvious financial burden, YOU are also putting your life at risk from chance encounters with rogue waves, slightly submerged debris from tsunamis, super storms or a host of other things which could cause you to die?

    Nicole working with the Ocean Research Project

    That is what these two brave souls are doing. But, why are they doing it? The first response is that if our oceans die, we die, end of story. The second is that we lack the depth of data to truly understand how plastic levels are currently affecting our oceans.

    Their goal is to advance OUR knowledge base of the abundance of marine debris located on the ocean's surface and the potential impacts to human and marine environmental health.

    They will be surveying approximately 7000 miles of ocean from San Francisco to Japan, and will be using a high speed trawl net to collect vital data. They will sample extensively outside of gyre systems demonstrating the extent of this problem. Samples will be collected for persistent organic pollutants (POP) including PCBs and pesticides which will be analyzed by the University of Tokyo. A Baltimore laboratory will research the function of microbes amongst the plastics through DNA extraction. Post expedition citizen scientists and students are invited to participate at hands on lab analysis days and through the developing partnership projects with a Maryland Public School STEM Program and Baltimore Underground Science Space.

    Some of what we do know:

    Almost 90% of all floating materials in the ocean are plastic. Plastic is one of the most harmful pollutants because it does not readily break down in environments (Rudd, 2008).

    About 250 billion pounds of plastic pellets are produced annually around the globe. Much of this plastic will end up in the oceans, with only 20% of plastic coming from ships or offshore platforms while the rest is either blown, washed or dumped into the oceans. Researchers found that in the middle of the North Pacific there are six pounds of plastic for every one pound of algae. Plastic pellets act as a magnet for toxic chemicals such as DDT and PCB's creating poison pills for many marine life forms. Marine debris, especially plastic, kills more than one million seabirds and 100,000 mammals and sea turtles every year (Leahy, 2004).

    Matt is no stranger to taking chances, as he was the first person known to complete a non-stop, single-handed, voyage around North and South America.

    During the first leg of his trek, Rutherford broke a record by single handed sailing the smallest boat in history through the Northwest Passage. Once through this northern passage, Rutherford sailed down and around storm-tossed Cape Horn and completing his record breaking journey in 309 days after sailing 27,077 miles at sea.

    Matt and Nicole will be sailing on a new Harbor 29, which is generously being loaned to them by the boat's builder. The new Harbor 29 is a pure daysailor with bigger cockpit than the successful Harbor 25. The large cockpit and semi open transom with tiller will make Matt and Nicole's monitoring job easier with the extra room.

    She has been named Sakura which in Japanese means Cherry Blossom. She is a fast boat with a Sail Area/Displacement ratio of 26, but she is anything but fragile. With a big spade rudder and bulb keel for stable tracking, 45% ballast to displacement ratio, self tacking jib on track and a host of sail controls, she will allow Matt and Nicole more time to focus on their important job at hand. She is fitted with a sink, head with pump, ice chest, and a 15 HP Yanmar saildrive.

    We constantly hear nowadays how, to quote Chicken Little, “the sky is falling” to the point that we become deaf and numb to the state of our environment. I hope that if you are reading this you might take a few minutes to think about, What If? What if, the claims about ocean acidification and plastic pollution are true? What if, the data gained from expeditions like Matt and Nicole's shows a picture that does not look good for the continuation of humanity? What would you do? What could you do? These are questions we need to ask ourselves, because if this is where we are headed, we must find a solution to this problem, or go the way of the dinosaur.

    On April 14, Matt, Nicole, and Sakura (Cherry Blossom) will be leaving the docks at the Strictly Sail Pacific Show. Headed on their expedition to open our eyes on the actual state of one of our oceans in real time.

    On April 14 in 1860, the first Pony Express rider arrived in San Francisco with mail originating 11 days earlier in St. Joseph Missouri. Matt, Nicole, and Cherry Blossom's trip is estimated to be a bit longer at 65 to 70 days. They will have a tracking device on-board which will give us the opportunity to watch their progress, daily, on their website homepage at Also, on their homepage will be their weekly blog with information and tales of this exciting journey. The blog is expected to start a week or so before they leave. You are cordially invited on April 14th to join the flotilla which will be escorting Matt, Nicole, and Cherry Blossom through San Francisco Bay and out into the Pacific.

    At the Strictly Sail Pacific Show at Jack London Square on April 10 -13, 2014 from 1pm to 4 pm you can meet Matt and Nicole in person. On April 11 starting at 6 pm everyone is invited to Cherry Blossom's “Coming Out” Dock Party. We hope to see you there!

    Matt, Nicole, and Cherry Blossom's thoughts toward this expedition is; “We are excited to be back out to sea, it's our home away from home”. We hope you will be able to follow this adventure and add your thoughts and comments on Facebook and Twitter.

    By Rick Klimovich
    Inland Sailing Company
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