Monday, June 25, 2007


Those with a deeper interest in Navigation will relate: navigation begins with knowing your boat's strengths and weaknesses.

Junk is fastest when running downwind, but can make progress with the wind on her beam. The rhumb line bearing from our current location to Honolulu is 254.8 degrees.

The bearing is the direction, North=0 or 360, East=90, South=180 and West= 270. So 254.8 is West Southwest. Since the ideal wind for Junk comes from straight behind, we want wind coming from our reciprocal bearing. To calculate the reciprocal of 254.8 degrees, subtract 180--gives us 74.8 degrees or East Northeast. Since Junk can sail 90 degree off the wind, we can add 90 degrees to 74.8, and subtract 90 degrees from 74.8, to get 164.8 degrees and 347.8 degrees.

Is anyone's head spinning yet?

So....we need winds between approx 75 degrees and 350 degrees, roughly 3/4 of the compass! Only in Southwest, or zero winds are we slowed, during which time we drift, read, cook, work on boat projects, blog, and rest...

Next key: knowing where the favorable winds are. At times, we may even reroute our course to seek better winds and better time.

One of the best ways of forecasting the winds within a month is to use a pilot chart:

This here was for the month of June. The circles with radiating arms are wind roses. The wind frequency from any direction is proportional to the arm's length, while widths indicate the frequency of wind speeds blowing in that direction. Do you see the small blue dot on this chart? I drew this next to the closest wind rose. Shows mostly North, Northwest and West winds, with speeds between 4 and 6 on the Beaufort scale.

We're hoping for stronger winds -- tricky to make an efficient beam reach with light winds.

The next step is to look at the wind roses nearby, to see which where the favorable winds are coming from. South Southwest has a very long North Northwest arm with a wind frequency range of 4-6 on the Beaufort scale. From there, a North Northwest wind will allow us to sail Southwest into the even more consistent easterly, or "trade winds", used by ship’s in the 1700’s to sail west across Atlantic and Pacific trade routes.

The blue arrows, representing current direction, point in a westerly direction. The more solid the line, the greater consistency in the current direction. The arrow's tail indicates speed.

We also use the chart plotter/GPS to navigate - essentially an electronic version of the paper chart.

The GPS interfaces with the chart plotter and indicates Junk’s position, as a black triangular shape on the screen. We use the chart to avoid hazards - islands, rocks or shoals with breaking waves. As the saying goes “The ocean is not that dangerous, it’s the hard parts around the edges that will get ya”.

The chart plotter shows our Latitude and longitude, our Course Over Ground (COG), and our Speed Over Ground (SOG). While sailing, we can experiment with different sail trimming configurations, comparing COG and SOG to monitor improvements.

The charter plotter also allows us to pick a waypoint to assess our bearing and remaining distance, and acts as the screen for our AIS system.

In short, extremely helpful tools. Read more!

Monday, June 18, 2007


We’ve cast ourselves away on a raft in the Pacific Ocean to the mercy of wind and waves to talk about the stuff that floats our boat – disposable plastic waste. Our Synthetic States are awash with plastic trash. Recycling programs are largely inefficient, comparing manufacture to post-consumer recovery. Plastic production and packaging industries are reluctant to curb the making of disposable plastics, considering the 100% growth in plastic production over the past 20 years, largely due to single-use disposables. By 1980 we were making more plastic than steel. But unlike the stone, iron, bronze and steel, the Age of Plastic is forever. Plastic was designed to be non-biodegradable and resistant to degradation, and so it is here to stay.
Earlier this year, Joel, Anna and I were half the crew on the 6th expedition of the ORV Alguita, with Captain Charles Moore, to study the accumulation of plastic trash in the North Pacific Gyre (NPG). The NPG is a clockwise rotating mass of the ocean surface, roughly twice the size of the United States, extending from 500 miles off the California coast to 200 miles east of Japan. It’s like a toilet bowl that never flushes. We’ve found exponential growth in fragmented plastic particles, from .002g/m2 in 1999, .004g/m2 in 2005 and conceivably doubling again three years later in 2008. We have yet to quantify that data, but it’s visually more dense than ever, leaving us with a sense of urgency to address this problem.
Anna and I had talked about building JUNK months earlier. Getting to know Joel during the 2008 expedition sealed the deal. Quickly our project began to take a life of it’s own as the sweat and support of dozens of people and companies poured in. Joel and I are the lucky sailors that get to live on board. JUNK floats on the same kinds of plastic trash we found in the gyre, including 15,000 plastic bottles, and over 5,000 plastic bags woven into rope. Used masts, airplane parts, and netting were harder to find. In 2 ½ months JUNK became seaworthy.

Just beginning our journey, we already see floating plastic out here.....

Plastic waste leaving coastal watersheds drifts with the current into the North Pacific Gyre, as we may also. Or it drifts back to shore, as we may as well. What we are sure of is that our consumption of disposable plastics negatively impacts the marine environment and is becoming a human health concern.

We’ve cast ourselves away to begin a dialogue about solutions. Please visit the Algalita Marine Research Foundation for facts about plastic in the marine environment and Heal the Bay to see what legislation is heading your way. Read more!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Evolution of JUNK

PART I: Collecting JUNK

PART II Read more!

Friday, May 25, 2007

FAQs: is it safe?

Shifting Baselines Director Randy Olson asks Marcus asks a number of questions on many peoples minds.

Q1: What's the worst case scenario?

M.E.: Besides falling in or getting run over, the worst case scenario is that plastic trash continues to fill our oceans.

Q2: I was expecting you to say, "we end up lost at sea." Isn't that the worst case scenario?

M.E.: We've filed that scenario right next to, "killed in a car crash on the way to the launch," which is about equal probability.

Q3: What makes you so confident in the seaworthiness of the raft?

M.E.: One word ... "redundancy."

Q4: Which means ...?

M.E.: That everything is backed up at least once. It's the key to safety on a journey like this. We have three GPS units, 2 satellite phones, 2 VHF radios, IPERB Coast Guard Beacon, and 3 months worth of food and water. And when it comes to flotation, we have more than just two -- we actually have 12 pontoons, so if one were to rupture we can easily stay afloat on the other 11 while we fix it.

Q5: Is this the most dangerous crossing anyone has ever attempted from California to Hawaii?

M.E.: Well, I'm not the first to raft this passage. In 1958 4 men drifted on a 20 ton wooden platform without even any sails from Hermosa Beach to Hawaii! They didn't have any of the incredible technology we'll have - no GPS, satellite telephone, or the five gallon bucket of Hershey's kisses I've packed away. We anticipate it will take 6 weeks for 1.5 tons of JUNK to sail the same distance.

Q6: Are you worried about getting caught in a hurricane?

M.E.: We're going at the best time of the year for weather - May/June. It's when most people try to schedule this journey. There's always a risk of severe weather at sea, but the hurricanes generally tend to form off Baja and move north if the water is warm. To our advantage, this year the water has remained unusually cold off California which greatly reduces the likelihood of a hurricane moving up. But if one hits, our only choice is to hold on till it blows over.

Q7: Do you have enough experience for this journey?

M.E.: Yes, we both do. Joel Paschal, my sailing partner, and I met in Hawaii earlier this year as crew aboard the ORV Alguita. We traveled with Captain Charles Moore 4000 miles across the North Pacific Ocean to quantify the accumulation of plastic trash.
It was on that expedition that Joel, Anna Cummins and I talked about the project "Message in a Bottle". We designed our raft and planned our journey under the watchful eye of Captain Moore, an experienced sailor having crossed to Hawaii and back over 10 times.

Q8: What's the risk of getting run over by an ocean liner?

M.E.: The risk is slim, but not impossible. We will be crossing through shipping lanes. Our redundant radio equipment and AIS, which allows ships to identify each other, will keep us and other ships in communication. Also, our 20 sailboat masts used for the deck, and aluminum airplane fuselage for a cabin, creates an enormous radar signature. We have a better chance of being seen by big ships than typical fiberglass sailboats do.

Q9: Don't you think if the raft were to be lost at sea people like Jay Leno would have a lot of fun with it - to say that two guys went out to draw attention to the problem of plastics in the sea and ended up adding another 15,000 plastic bottles to the problem?

M.E.: Well, as I've said, the risks of the raft not making it are the same as any other sailboat. But more importantly, let's look at the facts. Over 10,000 pounds of plastic trash enter the oceans every day from just the city of Los Angeles. Our raft has a total of about 350 pounds - a drop in the bucket. If adding that relatively small amount more of plastics to the oceans is enough to get the issue talked about on national television its absolutely worth it, because right now, virtually no one is giving this issue much thought. It has to start somewhere.

Q10: But still, in the end, anyone venturing out into the open ocean is risking their lives. Why are you doing this?

M.E.: Yes, we are risking our lives, but the issue of petroleum-based plastic and our national dependence on petroleum, warrant urgent action. My quality of life, the future of our nation's economy, environmental quality, and human health, are at stake. I remember 17 years ago, as a young Marine in the Gulf War, standing in Kuwait City covered with drops of oil from the burning wells, saying to myself, "Why have we done this?" James Baker, former Secretary of State, the man that sent me to war, said recently, "We had a written policy that we would go to war to defend secure access to the energy reserves of the Persian Gulf." THIS IS NOT WHY I CHOSE TO SERVE MY COUNTRY!

This expedition aims to alert my nation to the plastic marine debris issue, the legislation that will cure this plague, and the corrosive national policy toward energy that fails us all. Read more!

Junk Sponsors

Airborne Technologies, Inc.
Aquarium of the Pacific
Aqua Resorts
Avalon Rafts
Burbank Recycling Center
Captain Planet Foundation
Chico Bag
Close The Loop, LLC
Explorer Satellite
Green Drinks
Heal The Bay
Herb Machleder
Kainoa's Bar
Long Beach Marine Electronics
MUSE Elementary
Ocean Detox
Packaging 2.0
Shifting Baselines
Skyscrape Foundation
Solar Design Associates
Sundiver 2
The North Face
Ullman Sails
Waikiki Aquarium
Whole Foods Market Read more!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

On Board: Sponsors, Schools, and Friends

This project would not be possible without the help of many wonderful sponsors - all of whom support our mission.

Skyscrape Foundation
Burbank Recycling Center
Kashi Cereal
Ecousables Read more!



Two eco-mariners are sailing a raft built of junk to help call attention to a major oceanic environmental problem – the accumulation of plastic trash in the seas.

WHY IS THIS PROBLEM IMPORTANT: The huge volume of plastic trash now drifting in the oceans interrupts the feeding of marine life (birds choke on plastic trash, plankton ingest microscopic particles of plastics) and plastics release toxins into the water.

In the North Pacific Gyre, north of Hawaii, there is now more plastic, by weight, than plankton. It’s a huge region of circling currents that concentrate the debris, thousands of miles from land.

The Algalita Marine Research Foundation sponsor of the voyage, is studying the problem. An increasing number of environmental groups are backing legislation to cut back on the use of disposable plastics. Heal the Bay, another major sponsor of the voyage, currently runs a major program on the problem of plastics in the sea. The journey is intended to help call attention to these projects.

June 1, 2008 from Long Beach Aquarium

ARRIVAL IN HAWAII: August 27, 2008 (current estimate) in Ala Wai Harbor, near Honolulu, Oahu

THE TWO MARINERS: Dr. Marcus Eriksen, Joel Paschal, with Anna Cummins as ground support.

PURPOSE OF JOURNEY: To call attention to the growing problem of plastic trash in the Pacific Ocean

THE RAFT: 30 feet long, built on six pontoons filled with 15,000 plastic bottles, deck is made of salvaged sailboat masts, cabin is the fuselage of a Cessna airplane, the vessel has 4 sails and can make 90 degrees headway into the wind.

SPEED: roughly 2 knots, equals about 50 miles per day

FOOD: They brought several months supply which has been supplemented with mahi mahi and squid they have caught along the way


MOST DANGEROUS MOMENT: Driving to the Long Beach Aquarium on the day of departure (everything has been smooth sailing since then)

THE BAD NEWS (and a major headline): After nearly 3 months at sea, NONE of the 15,000 plastic bottles have shown much sign of wear and tear, showing how incredibly durable these plastic are that wash into the sea.

SPONSORS: The project gained initial support from the Sky Scrape Foundation and the Burbank Recycling Center which provided most of the 15,000 bottles. However, Patagonia also gave over 1000 Nalgene bottles that are being phased out of their product line due to concerns over chemicals in the plastics. One of the sponsors, Eco-Usables has developed a stainless steel safe alternative to plastic water bottles. Students from Santa Monica High School and the Environmental Charter High School helped stuff the bottles into the pontoons, and MUSE Elementary provided support. Additional sponsors include Kashi Cereal, LA Green Drinks, Patagonia, Shifting Baselines, Solar Design Associates, MUSE Elementary School, and North Face. Read more!

About Us

The Algalita Marine Research Foundation presents the JUNK team:

Dr. Marcus Eriksen
(323) 395-1843
marcuseriksen at

Joel Paschal
(765) 430-7004
joel.paschal at

Anna Cummins

(310) 998-8616
annacummins at

Dr. Marcus Eriksen

The man with the plan. Since 2005, Marcus has dreamed of doing a modern day Kontiki-style voyage, on a raft built from plastic bottles. After returning from Algalita’s recent Gyre voyage, he felt that the time was now. In March, Marcus, Joel and Anna dove in full speed.

A Gulf War Veteran, Marcus believes strongly that he has felt a cause worth fighting for – sustainability.

Full bio here, including alter ego Commando Weather Man.

Joel Paschal

Just 6 months ago, Joel was minding his own business in Hawaii. For the past 3 months, he’s been living on a boat in Marina Del Rey, designing and building Junk, to set sail June 1st.

Resident filmmaker and self proclaimed "freelance errand boy". Joel previously worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, where he spent 4 months at sea studying marine debris. He "just couldn't get enough of trash", and volunteered to help design, build, and sail Junk, all in 3 months time.

Joel will be documenting Junk for a future documentary.

Anna Cummins

Though aboard in spirit, her body will be very much on land. Anna will handle ground support - maintaining communications, press, and blog, while eagerly awaiting calls from Junk, and experimenting with reusable bags for distraction.

Anna joined AMRF as education adviser in 2007, after many years of fascination with the plastics issue. She will join Marcus for the next phase of Message in a Bottle later this fall - a West Coast outreach tour, from Vancouver to Mexico....on amphibious bikes. Read more!

Monday, April 2, 2007

Sponsorship Opportunities

Support JUNK's message across the Pacific

We are seeking like-minded partnerships to support our Message in a Bottle project, a 3-part campaign to bring public attention to plastic debris. Though our current phase, JUNK is underway, we are still seeking sponsors to bring the raft and its sailors home, and to continue generating media/public awareness.

In addition to mention on our site, recognition at our Hawaii and Los Angeles events, media recognition, and other PR benefits, we will display company logos on JUNK's sail for the voyage into Honolulu. (We will bring these out to JUNK 24 hours before the Oahu arrival)

To discuss sponsorship opportunities, contact annacummins at Read more!