Monday, June 30, 2008

Junk PSA #2: A Plastic Filled Ocean

Straight from the source: Marcus with #2 out of 8 video PSAs: A Plastic Filled Ocean.

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

South by Southwest

June 28th, Somewhere....southwest

In fact, the images below show more or less exactly where JUNK was 2 days ago, according to the NOAA tracking buoy on board.....

Our bearing is consistently between 190 and 210 degrees, at about 1knot of speed. Averaging 25-30 mile days, we are clawing our way away from North America. The wind and current want to send us to Panama, which wouldn’t be all that bad, but we have other plans. Maybe we should ask nicely.

A few days ago, on June 25th, we had a very close encounter off the coast of Guadalupe.

The morning breeze was sending us down the eastern side of the Island. Then at the southeastern point the wind died. A few minutes later, the wind quickly turned around and began blowing us toward the island. For the next 8 hours we performed a 4-mile diameter loop, returning to the same dreadful spot close to the jagged coastline. As dusk approached, we picked up speed and began rushing toward land. “This could be the end of JUNK!” we said, as we packed our dry bags with essential gear, like radios, GPS, satellite phones, sleeping bags and a handheld water-maker. The next few hours we sat on pins and needles watching the coastline come closer and the wind teasingly bend south. Eventually, we skirted south and picked up speed to two knots.

We asked for an adventure.....

We’re now three days beyond Guadalupe, heading South-southwest. The trade winds are ahead to pull us west, rather than the coastal current to pull us east. Either way, JUNK will sail for another month or two in an effort to bring plastic trash in the sea to a broader audience. Hope you’re enjoying the ride as much as we are. Read more!

Beans, corn, or peas?

Its a good thing Joel's a creative chef...

Keeping the canned goods in a milk crate in a gap between the pontoons was perhaps a mistake. Waves ripped the labels right off! So now meal prep has become a guessing game. Seems the majority of them are: BEANS!

And more beans.....good thing they're starting to catch more fish! This morning a nice sized group of Mahi Mahi were following the boat, with Joel hanging over the edge trying hard to catch a non-bean protein source. Read more!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Heading for open water

Often the coastal zones present the biggest challenges for JUNK is thrilled to leave Guadalupe behind and head for open waters.

Here's Joel - on camera for the first time - with the JUNK video report:
Read more!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Clearing Guadalupe, record speeds last night!

June 25, 2008

We’ve just turned a new corner – the south point of Guadalupe Island. To celebrate, we're eating a sample from our first batch of fish jerky, washed down with a celebratory shot of Patron gifted by our friends at the Sundiver 2. The flying fish taste a bit better than the Catalina Island Blue Perch - much better fresh.

We'll be making lots of jerky from now on to supplement our dwindling cache - photo here shows our first batch, drying in the saline wind. All of our greens are gone, as expected. We’re down to our "mystery cans" (more about this later), dry goods, and lots of cheese. We’ve got four massive blocks of cheddar. Two are in a mesh bag floating in the cool ocean behind us.

Guadalupe Island is roughly 15 miles long and 4 miles wide. For the last 200 miles we’ve drifted practically due south toward it. Yesterday we were five miles and bearing down on the north point. “Which way do we go?” we asked each other. Going west meant faster traveling, but the risk of being pushed ashore was greater. Going east meant a safe trip, but unexpected wind and currents. We flipped a coin, “East it is!”

Steep slopes of brown sand and rubble cascade into deep blue water. The island’s tall mountains create an imposing silhouette against the setting sun. We give a 4-mile buffer between Guadalupe and JUNK. The wind shifts to the northwest, giving us the joy of downwind sailing and a record 2.9 knots. We will skirt around this island in no time. At 1:00am Joel wakes me up, “Can you give me a hand with this spinnaker?” There’s no wind. It fell from 2.5 to .3 in the blink of an eye. The mountain, even at 4 miles, blocks the 20 knots of wind we need. It would now be up to the current.

At .3 knots we would clear the island in a couple of days, as opposed to tomorrow morning as we'd hoped - another example of humility at sea. The ocean does what it wishes. We are largely along for the ride....

Soon, the wind picks up again, and we’re making south point a few hours after sun up. As land fades behind our stern, we look ahead to the next rock rising above the water. Where that is, we don’t really know. Read more!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

JUNK PSA #1: The Age of Disposables is over

JUNK's first PSA from Sea - the first in an 8 part series on the mission behind the mission.

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Todays menu: Rudderfish

June 22, 2008

We’re beginning to feel wind coming from the north. We can sail 90 degrees off of the wind and head west, just in time to hopefully scoot around Guadalupe Island 65 miles away. South from there we enter the tradewinds, where wind and currents are more predictable.

We’ve made the most of these last four days of sunny stagnation. Joel found a short circuit in the electronics. I made three more mini-pontoons and placed them under the raft. But yesterday morning we awoke to a fresh sight, FISH!

By noon three were flopping on deck. Joel whipped up a mean curry with coconut milk. I strung up a filet for drying. I’m sending a photo of the fish we caught. Can anyone tell us what it is? We’re calling it a Rudder Fish. Later in the day we spied two Flying Fish hanging out below, and a large mackerel darting at the sardine-like schools that mill about.

Joel and I are getting along well. We’ve settled into a pattern of sleep offset by 6 hours. He stays awake late, and I get up early. It works well so far. It’s now 8am so he’s sleeping and I’m typing. The sails are full, with wind on our beam. We’re heading southwest at the moment. Till next time.

Read more!

Friday, June 20, 2008

A visit from the Coast Guard

An update from JUNK: winds are just barely whispering, giving our sailors time to entertain visitors as they drift - including a very intrigued Coast Guard plane.

Some Northwest winds are expected to pick up in the next few to our ears.
June 21st
We left Los Angeles three weeks ago. We’re 300 miles away...2000 to go. At this moment our primary concern is clearing Guadalupe Island, 100 miles directly in front of us, due south, the direction of our drift. If we had wind we would sail west, but no wind and sunny skies makes for a slow paradise. Nothing to do...nowhere to go.

We dove under JUNK to inspect last week’s placement of mini-pontoons. All seems well – some expected shifting, and a host of new passengers. A school of palm-length fish hovered below me while I added two more pontoons, tied knots and cut loose ends. Topside, Joel repaired the stove. Later that day we had visitors.

Curious critters have paid their visits. First a fur seal swam by, indigenous to Guadalupe Island, they can venture 100 miles from land to hunt, or check out JUNK.

Two black-footed albatross gently swam for hours behind us. Every time we came close to the rail, they’d approach, stare and appear to be waiting for us to do something.

Nothing to do...nowhere to go.

Then the Coast Guard showed up.

The U. S. Coast Guard, flying low in a C-130, circled us several times, each time banking in tighter circles.

“Uhh, sailing vessel this is Coast Guard aircraft circling above you, over,” our radio cackled.

“This is JUNK,” I responded. Joel and I wore grins from ear to ear.

“We’ve never quite seen anything like your vessel. What’s it made of?” they asked. We gave them the laundry list of materials: Cessna 310 fuselage, 15,000 plastic bottles, 20 sailboat masts, and 5000 plastic bags woven into rope.

“Do you guys have a website or something?” another voice inquired. After a few moments of polite introductions, the Coast Guard began asking the standard questions for any vessel, about life jackets, radios, sail plans, emergency equipment.

“Before we go do you guys need anything?” they asked.

“How about a weather report?” I replied. Far south from where we are is the breeding ground for tropical storms. They rarely come our way to warmer waters, but sometimes a hurricane will bend toward Hawaii. They came back with no information worth worrying about. We should have asked for a pizza.

They bid us good luck, fair winds and following seas. Before circling one more time, they gave us a phone number to call in case of an emergency. Like 911 for the high seas. Soon our last visitor for the day was gone.

The moon rises, the sails hang like curtains, the sea is gentle. We hope for wind. Read more!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Video from JUNK: Ships log #2

Our second video from JUNK. Marcus explains how they spot other boats, which "sometimes sneak up on you...."

Collision with an ocean liner ranks high on a list of boaters' worst nightmares. To avoid this, Ships carry an AIS receiver (Automatic Identification System)-- mandatory safety equipment that allows ships to communicate their location.

Marcus also tells us how JUNK's configuration helps ward off seasickness. A fantastic feature for our two sailors.... Read more!

Monday, June 16, 2008

June 16, day 16

We’ve cleared Bishop Rock, a subsurface mountain 100 miles west of Tijuana, Mexico, that barely reaches the surface. There’s one shipwreck there already. We don’t want to be the next. We snuck around it by a mile at 4:00am without much affair. Now we’re on to Guadalupe Island, 190 miles away.

“So, what’s our speed?” I ask Joel. He’s keen to check coarse and bearing every so often to measure progress.

“2 knots!” he exclaims. We’re making roughly 30 miles per day, which is better than expected considering the current and wind are not in agreement. The wind has been consistently coming out of the west, 90 degrees on our starboard beam.

In 1958 DeVere Baker and crew of three rafted across the Pacific aboard the Lehi IV in an attempt to show that Mormons could migrate across oceans, and were likely the original settlers of Polynesia. Though his theories didn’t win praise, he proved that the California/Hawaii route could be made on a long float. Don McFarland was one of the crew. He found us online and came to bid us farewell on June 1st.

“We had to deploy our pilot chute to avoid hitting Guadalupe Island,” he said, adding, “and bring an extra harpoon.” They fished, collected rainwater, and sat for 69 days to get from Redondo Beach to Hawaii. We hope we make it sooner.

©Peter Bennett/Ambient Images

From here it’s 650 miles south to get to the latitude of Honolulu, and 2000 miles on longitude. As a crow flies it 2100 miles. We can’t help going south. The current and wind have decided that. Our goal is to make the most of our sails. We keep beating west, hoping to make the curve into the tradewinds.
Then, with the wind at our stern, we should make good time. Read more!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Junk heading South!

Two wonderful updates from JUNK:

They are making Southwesterly progress -- AND no one has lost their lunch yet.

8:00 pm June 15th: Junk has made its way to Bishop's Rock, an underwater peak near the infamous Cortes Bank, roughly 100 miles West of San Diego, and 40 miles Southwest of San Clemente.

Equally uplifting was the news that neither Marcus nor Joel had suffered any seasickness yet. On our last voyage, both were especially prone.....

Though the swells in the last few days have ranged from 4-8 feet (10-15 the week before), JUNK seems to float right on top of the waves, and somehow absorbs much of the potential heaving motion.

Here's Marcus working on an art project involving a spoon, while Joel sets one of the pontoons.

Their goal now is to make it far enough South, to catch the West-heading currents towards Hawaii. The arrows on this map show these Hawaii taxi currents - the arrows angling gently towards Hawaii, a few tiny dots far to the west....

Though the winds are blowing East, Marcus said Joel's sail configuration allowed them to push a bit West while heading South. Keep it up Joel!

Standby for words and images from JUNK tomorrow. Read more!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Junk Under Sail: Log #1

First trip account from JUNK: Marcus and Joel coming to you live from the Pacific, on 15,000 plastic bottles.

Read more!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Photos from mission Nalgene Bottle

As promised, some images from Monday's bottle-sealing mission. All 8 of us worked steadily to get the job done, and now Junk is under sail, waiting for the winds to blow her West.

1: Sealing and bundling bottles:

2: Stringing Nalgene bundles into mini-pontoons:

3) Wrapping mini-pontoons in netting, and stitching tight w/ rope:

4: One by one, saddling pontoons w/ dive weights, sinking under JUNK, and lashing them to the raft - Ray and Kyaa survey the work done, and the work that remains:

And finally, bidding JUNK adieu yet again. She is currently caught in a tug of war - yesterday sailing 30 miles Southwest, and today getting pushed right back where she started. I hear Captain Moore's words loud and clear: "Sailboats don't have ETAs, they have destinations...."

Read more!

We're Sailing!

After a week of relentless storms, cold water repairs, and canned beans, we're thrilled to be underway!

Yesterday we rigged the jib and mizzen sails, slipped a few mini-pontoons in strategic spots under the raft to boost buoyancy, and spent a couple of hours getting JUNK’s junk stowed in buckets and bags.

We said goodbye to San Nicolas Island as we pulled anchor and drifted east. “Let’s get the spinnaker up,” Joel said, well aware of the kelp beds ahead and hundreds of sea lions and elephant seals barking less than a quarter-mile on the island’s shore. The current and wind were in opposite directions, making our net progress less than 1 knot. As we approached the southeast point of the island I could hear the crashing waves growing louder. Every time we turned away from the island, the sails lost wind. Suddenly, a north breeze from around the island swept us away, and soon we were heading south.

There are new challenges ahead. Cortez Bank is a shallow area directly south of our position, with Bishop rock jetting out of the water. The problem there is the breaking waves. Then further south is Guadalupe Island, with it’s jagged coastline. Currently we’re drifting in the direction of Ensenada, Mexico. At the moment we’re fine, just going where the wind and waves take us. The ocean is calm, and workable. It’s the hard stuff on the edges that get you.

Life on JUNK now changes. Joel and I take alternating 4hr. watches - 4 hours on, 4 hours off. While on watch, we monitor our radar screen and AIS (automated information system), which allow us to know who’s in the sea around us.

Joel is still doing most of the cooking. Our last storm 5 days ago, with 50 mph gusts and 8-10ft seas, wiped the labels off of all our cans, making dinner prep an Iron Chef affair - today’s mystery meal, garnered from three bare cans, was black beans, coconut milk, and corn.

The sun sets bright orange. We relax. We’re at sea going somewhere, and hopefully word is spreading about our little raft, and the mission to end the use of disposable plastics. If you have any questions, please send them our way, and check out Algalita to see what research we’re up to. Read more!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Junk has a visit from the Sundiver 2

News from JUNK - late in posting, as I returned late last night from the mission below. Photos will follow tomorrow, but story here lest anyone worry about the quiet blog.

After discovering the ocean-unscrewing-Nalgene effect, Marcus and Joel decided to seal all 1,000 bottles tight, and then refashion them into 18 mini-pontoons before heading to sea. We thought we'd save them a week of work, and join them for a bottle sealing/pontoon-making work party.

So with the incredible help of Ray and Kyaa from Sundiver 2, 6 of us headed out to Junk 3:00 a.m Monday morning. Thanks to the very speedy Sundiver, we arrived at daybreak. On board: Nicole Chatterson, Jeffrey Ernst, Duane Laursen and myself from Algalita, and Josh Steiner and Bryan Lui from Ocean Detox. All were ready to roll up their sleeves and get salty.


From Marcus:
From Dawn till dusk, we worked our hands to the bones. Joel and I were so incredibly grateful for the extra hands - this saved us a ton of time, and we're anxious to get going. We saw some more strange things - in one, a bottle had been unscrewed, a smaller bottle cap drifted inside of it, then the sea screwed that cap back on.

With a half hour to spare before dark, the job was done. JUNK is more buoyant than ever, and ready to sail. As the sun began to set, the team boarded the Sundiver leaving Joel and I alone on JUNK, like they did 6 days ago. Anna and I held hands until the boats pulled us apart. Read more!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Sea's sense of humor

New words from Junk, illustrated by this very exciting action photo of Marcus typing.

Day 6. The winds are beginning to subside, and should clear enough mid week for Junk to forge ahead. Granted, the sea has a mind of its own - with all due respect.

Here's one we didn't predict: the recent stormy seas have been twisting the caps off our Nalgene bottles only, while the other plastic bottles hold perfectly tight.

According to Marcus:
The sea is a master of twisting the caps off of bottles. We have 1000 polycarbonate sports bottles. I can count dozens with loose lids, still attached by their plastic O-ring. We even pulled out two bottles, where the sea twisted both caps off and put one cap on the other bottle! The sea also has a sense of humor. We have a new plan.

The plan: sealing the Nalgene caps with a rock solid cement glue. Tedious, tiring work - here's Joel counting bottle caps in his sleep - but at least gives our captains something to do in the meantime.

Junk's bottle cap issue certainly pales in comparison to the large water bottle crisis outlined in this USA Today article, an excerpt here:

"Plastic water bottles produced for U.S. consumption take 1.5 million barrels of oil per year, according to a 2007 resolution passed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. That much energy could power 250,000 homes or fuel 100,000 cars for a year, according to the resolution.

Cornell University professor and environmentalist Doug James said the irony of bottled water is that it's marketed as clean and healthy when its production contributes to unnecessary environmental degradation.

"Fiji water, for example," he said. "A one-liter bottle is taken out of the aquifer of this little island, and shipped all the way across the world, producing like half a pound of greenhouse gases so you can have this one-liter bottle of water."

A reminder of exactly why we are doing this project. Read more!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

First photos from sea!

We just received our first email from JUNK - proof that our solar powered, satellite phone system works! Even amidst continued stormy weather...

Marcus recounts:
Last night JUNK was hit with the worst storm yet, 50-60 mph gusts slapped at JUNK while at anchor near San Nicholas but all the raft did was bob up and down. Still, we've got work to do."

Someone asked about communications from sea: Marcus and Joel have an Iridium phone which allows them to call, email, and send low resolution photos like the ones here. Huge thanks to our communications sponsors Explorer Satellite and OCENS Inc for this - would be a very long 6 weeks without....They also have two broadband radios. And a friendly seal who seems to want to climb on board just offered to deliver short messages back to the mainland.

Getting back to work without an espresso maker on board, brutal.... Read more!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Lightening the load in San Nicolas

Things that came home from San Nicolas: books, bangles, beer, and even a bunny.

After a night at San Nicholas Island Marcus and Joel finally got the chance to survey the excessive number of last minute items friends donated at the departure.

The pronouncement: Junk needed to lose some weight.

Turns out a lot of the well intended gifts exceeded the bare necessities criteria. So they offloaded a number of things onto our friend Jody's boat, including some books that would never get read, a cooler full of cheese and ice, a bunch of knick knacks, a twelve pack of beer a jovial friend had offered up at the last minute, an electric tea set, and even Joel's pet bunny which he had innocently brought along without thinking through the extent to which the high seas might not be bunny-friendly.

The net result is a leaner, cleaner and tighter ship, ready for the high seas. Read more!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Day 4: waiting out the storm

Now that our blogger is back on land, regular updates on Junk's progress on the way. Our two sailors are currently anchored off San Nicolas Island, waiting for the storm to pass, and to hitch a ride on the next south-blowing winds.

After our good byes in Long Beach:

©Peter Bennett/Ambient Images

first order of business was making room for 4 adults in a TIGHT space crammed with 6 weeks worth of supplies. For the first few days, Junk would have two extra crew mates - Nicole Chatterson (Algalita's office assistant) and myself. To give an idea of the cabin size:

Here's Marcus, with a fraction of the stuff we packed in there.

©Peter Bennett/Ambient Images

It was a human jig saw puzzle, w/ some very stiff necks and backs the next morning...

Day 2 of the tow brought our first technical challenges. Both Marcus and Joel had been very concerned about the pressure towing Junk would place on the raft. Designed to float along gently at 1-2 knots, being dragged through waves and wind at higher speeeds would test her limits.

After a sleepless night of slamming along to the tune of Junk's unusual crunching/squeaking noises, we woke to find a small rip in one of the front pontoons, with bottles leaking out onto our deck. For immediate repairs, Marcus dove under the boat to sew the rip, while Joel stitched from above, and crew shoved bottles back into the net.

©Peter Bennett/Ambient Images

The force of the tow tore a small hole through the netting, which Marcus and Joel repaired at sea. This sort of pressure was strictly a function of the tow, and may be the most stress Junk undergoes in the entire 6 weeks.

We arrived intact at San Nicolas Island, and managed to bring Junk crew over to the tow boat for a final hot meal and shower.

Which required shuttling them in a small dingy, amongst sizable swells and approaching gale force winds, a bit hair raising.

All went fine, until the motor fell off the dingy on Joel's return ride, leaving Jeff bobbing about in the pitch black - storm on the horizon. Being a resourceful young man, he hauled the motor on board by the fuel line, and signaled us with his flashlight for a rescue. Marcus then had to leap from Alguita's stern over to Junk - all in all, a dramatic send off..... Read more!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Junk Raft Departing for Hawaii

Read more!

Junk Underway!

Amidst tremendous energy from a cheering throng, Junk set sail Sunday for Hawaii. We couldn't have asked for a more perfect send off - a wonderful crowd of friends, supporters, and media showed up to wish the journey well.

©Peter Bennett/Ambient Images

©Peter Bennett/Ambient Images

After a somewhat eventfull, mildly dramatic tow to San Nicolas, we left Marcus and Joel last night, anchored down by the Island to wait out some wicked winds. Details and photos to follow.

©Peter Bennett/Ambient Images

They were both in great spirits overall, having seen Junk weather her first major test, and eager to begin sailing solo. The adventure begins. Read more!