Friday, December 18, 2015

Las Olas Grande

Update from Lisa Rider taken from the eXXedition blog

Lisa’s hand illustrated birthday card by resident 
artist Stella Marina
"Last night after science we celebrated my birthday with an awesome Pad Thai dinner made by chef Stella and Barbara and I was surprised with a vegan cake with sprinkles and candles to the tune of the birthday song being sung by the crew. It was more than I could ever ask for on a special birthday at sea. I received a beautiful card with a hand drawn sailor chick at sea with a friendly manta ray near by coming up out of a wave to greet her. The card was made with love by our very talented eXXpedition resident artist, Stella Marina, which was signed by the crew and I will treasure this gift and the memory forever.
The crew also celebrated a day of science with no plastic! Our manta trawl micro-plastics sample yesterday collected no plastics visible in our on board microscope. The morning dolphins, being at sea, dinner, cake, card, and the gift of a day without ocean plastic was one very special birthday indeed.
Today, we are making good time still, which is exciting for me because I am super stoked for the trip up the river to Bartica, Guyana. I am not particularly excited about the potential mosquitos, but we have net for that and the sights and smells of the jungle will be a super rad change of scenery including different flora and fauna and potentially different things found within our sample collections and observation data.
Big swells coming through make everyday tasks like making coffee without burning yourself, brushing your teeth without bruising yourself in several different places, or even walking without bumping into any number of obstacles along the way, very difficult, exhausting, frustrating, and the bruising is just unavoidable.
Being on deck when swells come through is exciting and being at the helm even more so. It is like riding up and down mountains of water, like surfing without having to paddle out, sort of. The waves remind me of my sweet surfing social worker at home probably catching waves much north of here in the Atlantic. When we pass big container/cargo ships, we see huge wake swells that look like they would be fun to ride for a bunch of adrenaline junkies – I think I know a few at home that would partake if they had the chance. My uncle G would be all over it.
The key to the big wave party at sea is being on deck. On deck there is, sometimes, a breeze and you can see the waves coming in and the boat going up and over them. You can anticipate the movement and brace yourself, which doesn’t always mean that you don’t land on a hard surface, but at least it cuts the chance down a bit. At night and during science, we are tethered in by our life jackets for obvious reasons. As fast as we are moving, the height of the waves, and the current here are several factors that would make it hard to get back to a woman overboard. We did, however, practice a woman overboard drill a few days ago and I am confident that our crew would be able to recover someone if they needed to. I really don’t think that will be necessary given that the first rule of sailing is to stay on the boat.
Big waves and kitchen work is sketchy and today Katrina and I have cooking and cleaning duties throughout the day. At least the stove is on a gimble which makes the stove top rock front and back along with the motion of the boat. It helps to put on some music to go along with the rocking of the waves. Today, we have chosen a varied selection of strictly 90s music, which brings me back to the days when I was much more of a free spirit than I am now. Back then, I would probably be screaming “weeeee” at the motion of these waves and dying for a chance to be pulled behind the boat by wake board or skurfing board. This reminds me of a time that my husband and I were sailing his 23 footer along the ditch (Intracoastal Waterway) from Sneads Ferry to Beaufort and I had the crazy idea of getting pulled behind on a kayak while at sail. It was a very interesting experience to say the least. Probably not the smartest idea, but I survived with a fun story to internally giggle about when the memory pops in my head.
Waves and going to the head… Wow, what can I say about that?! I really thought I would have better sea legs by now since I have completely forgot what it is like to walk on a nonmoving surface. The head, which includes a shower and toilet in one is about the size of a telephone booth, but not as high. It sort of reminds me of the shower space in an apartment I had once in my early 20s. You basically straddle the 2 ft by 2 ft square of floor with legs to keep from bouncing off each wall while standing for a shower, brushing teeth, or washing hands. Yes, I still bump into the walls no matter what. If it wasn’t plastic and it wasn’t so hot, I might consider wrapping myself in bubble wrap. Maybe recycled tires since they seem to work so well for bumper cars. Bumper cars is exactly what it is like walking through the galley way. I am so glad the tropical sun has tanned my skin enough to help hide the bruises. Maybe these too, I should call beauty barnacles. The beauty barnacles of sailing. It makes me even more impressed by our three full-time sailing crew of women that live for this lifestyle and make it look so easy and graceful. It also makes me laugh at myself and recall my Dad joking about my lack of grace even after he paid for 5 years of ballet lessons in my youth.
At night the big mountains of waves are so incredible beautiful. Stars light up the night sky and the water turns an almost blackish blue. The waves that strike the boat occasionally blast a bioluminescent glow made by the creatures within it making helming that much more magical than I ever imagined. It reminds me of a random kayak tour we got talked into on a dive trip my gal pal, Krissi, and I took in Vieques, Puerto Rico this past year and gives me a smile from the memory of all the good one-liners made on that trip.
While we, eXXpedition, are riding the waves of the Atlantic ocean, I am also wishing my friends back at home good swell and surf weather and sending you all good vibes this holiday season. First in, last out – Surfs Up – Get your Glide on!"
Con mucho amor,
Lisa Rider

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Where in the world is Lisa Rider? Making the unseen marine debris seen

Lisa finding plastics hidden at local marina 9.15
As many of our readers might remember, Lisa Rider, President of Plastic Ocean Project 2016, is out on the Atlantic sample for Plastic Ocean Project with eXXedition. As promised, here is what she has to say thus far on her journey.

"Making the unseen seen as it relates to ocean pollution and coastal conservation is as big of a deal to me as the ocean is vast. It’s been a life mission of mine since as long as I can remember. I often explain it as simple pride. I am a proud eastern North Carolinian, but with that pride comes responsibility. Making the unseen seen to me means bridging the gap between our coastal environment health and the significant impact on our own health, the health of our economy, and other things that some people consider much more important than the community environment as a whole. I often wonder if the significance to this is the disconnection many people have from the ocean and the lack of knowledge of just how important our oceans and coastal community ecosystems are to our survival as humans. It is easy to feel disconnected when the problem is not slap-in-the-face visible as it is when you live on the coast and feel the impact on a daily basis, after all, we are visual creatures.

 Being from a coastal community, the ocean is always on my mind. She, the Atlantic for me, has made me who I am, has shaped my career focus, sustains me, keeps me sane, keeps me fit and healthy, and keeps me focused on the road ahead. As a child, I grew up on the Intracoastal Waterway and found myself knee deep in marsh mud on a regular basis as a very small child. The highlight of my summer was playing with periwinkles on marsh grass, canoe fishing with my Dad for Blues and Spots, and heading out to the Banks on the boat to watch the wild horses and here my Dad tell stories of the local maritime history. Clam digging with my neighbor friends was something I grew into around age 8 and scars from oyster shells are prized forever marks that I like to call beauty barnacles. At age 10, I took part in a beach cleanup project for Girl Scouts and found myself hooked on picking up debris. One of our local swim spots was a beach on Radio Island, i n between Beaufort and Morehead City, and it was constantly littered with bottles and glass at the time. Now that same area is littered with plastics and cigarette butts. Now, as a diver, I even find man made debris on the bottom there near the rock jetty.

I learned to sail around 11 years old on small handcrafted dingy boats build at the Maritime Museum in my hometown of Beaufort. It was an awesome experience of channelling the wind and the water and getting a true feeling for channeling mother nature’s gifts. Like this expedition, it wasn’t all rainbows and kittens. I recall my first attempt at sailing which included flipping my boat, getting the mast stuck in mud, and using my full body weight to flip her over by leaning on the daggerboard. I also remember threatening to wear a football helmet due to the boom smacks to the head, but that soon pasted with experience. These experiences toughen you up, my Dad would say – he was right. Around the same time, I started volunteering at the local wildlife rehabilitator, the Outer Banks Wildlife Shelter, in the spring each year for a few years. There I saw first hand the impacts of litter on our native wildlife. Sea birds came in tangled i n fishing line or worse and it inspired me to do more to protect what I had the privilege to grow up and know as home. The following year, I learned to surf in Atlantic Beach by local legend, Buddy Pellitier, and I started to experience, even more, the power of our coastal environment and just how humbling she, the ocean, can be.

In high school, I helped a friend who was a first mate on an offshore fishing charter boat out of Atlantic Beach and for the first time, I experienced being completely out of the site of land. It was also humbling, but magical and strangely liberating. It was incredible. I grew up on flat bottom skiffs in the bay, canoes, and small fishing boats, but I have never gone past the site of land with the exception of the ferry over to Ocracoke Island, and I found it very different. The experience really woke me up to how small I was. A drop in the bucket, I thought. Each day I was on the boat, I had a lot of time to reflect on the ride out and back. Some days a storm would pop up and things would get intense enough to remind me of how humbling she can be. I experienced this later in life as a diver heading out to a ledge or wreck with no land in site descending with blue skies and calm seas only to ascend 20 minutes later to dark clouds an d 6 foot swells. She has a sense of humor sometimes too.
Last night, on watch, Sarah, Emily, Stella, and I were chatting it up about how fair the weather had been and how we might need to make up some speed in order to continue to slow down for science during the mid day and also keep on schedule to get us to Guyana on time. Almost immediately after these words came out of our mouths, her swells picked up, a dark cloud creeped up on us, we picked up speed to 16 knts, and it started to rain. Did I mention her sense of humor?

A check of the radar confirmed that we were in the midst of a small storm and we closed the hatches (not a pleasant experience for those sleeping below – It Is Hot!). Perhaps it was Murphy’s Law due to our slip up of fair weather talk or a gift of good karma from her as a thanks for making the unseen seen, after all it was not a bad storm and it helped us pick up speed and make up some time.
Here we are, 14 women experiencing the ocean with no land in sight on a mission to make her seen with hopes that if everyone could experience her magic, her beauty, her power, her humor, her no-talk-and-all-action attitude, and most of all her significance to sustaining all life then perhaps they too would work so hard to protect her and make everyday decisions with her in mind, with us all in mind.
RV Sea Dragon helm - enjoy the ride Lisa
My personal connection to her is obvious. Born with salt water in my veins, growing up with marsh mud up to my knees, a scallop shell around my neck, surfboard under my arm, oyster knife in one hand, and a litter bucket in the other – its just life. The sweet salty air of home consumes me with the feeling of pride, but with that pride comes responsibility.

Now, back at the helm with “Clutch” blasting in the headphones, we, eXXpedition, are on our way in the middle of this big beautiful ocean with no land in site and on a mission to make the unseen seen. “A sailors life for me…”
Con mucho Amor,
Lisa Rider"
Taken from

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Out on the open ocean and into the local establishments

Plastic Ocean Project (POP) has been all over the place these last few weeks, but in a good way. Currently, POP's newly elected president, Lisa Rider, is sailing with eXXpedition  from across the mouth of the Amazon River from Brazil to Guyana. To learn more about Lisa read this article about her work and latest adventure. Just for a taste of the journey she is on, here is what Lisa had to say about getting to Brazil. 

Lisa Rider, front and center.
"I made it to Brazil about 30 hours after leaving NC and along the way I noticed several great recycling programs including twin bins and solar panels at the rest stop in NC off I40, recycle bins at RDU, EWR, SSA, and REC. United Airlines made an announcement on the flight about their recycling program, and when I got to Recife and ended up at a hotel (not my original destination) I found recycle bins in the room and I love that they use refillable shampoo dispensers! Way to go Best Western Recife!" Stay tuned to our blog to find out what she she finds in the open ocean.

As of this week, we have seven local establishments sign up for our Ocean Friendly Establishments initiative with Cape Fear Surfrider, UNCW POP, and Wrightsville Beach Keep it Clean.These establishments agree to only offer straws upon request thus reducing the production and disposal of single use plastics. Ginger Taylor came up with this idea several years ago and this year we hit the ground running. We now  have businesses asking us if they can be certified.

The way we can tell them thank you for stepping up to help is to patronize them. The list provides a spectrum of food from pizza to crepes to fish to Panamanian and everything in between. Check back for we have several more in the works!

Blockade Runner Beach Resort
275 Waynick Blvd,
Wrightsville Beach, NC 28480
This beautiful certificate is a Kim Beller design.
7210 Wrightsville Ave
Wilmington, NC 28403

6623 Market St.
Wilmington, NC 28405

Chop's Deli
7037 Wrightsville Ave
Wilmington, NC 28403

Blue Surf Cafe
250 Racine Dr
Wilmington, NC 28403

Betsy's Crepes
127 N. Front St.
Wilmington, NC 28401

Fat Tony's
131 N Front St.
Wilmington, NC 28401

There is much debate about how our time is swept away because so many of us are glued to Facebook. But there are times when it can be so uplifting with the reality this technology can unite us globally on the things that really matter - clean air, land, water and the preservation of species. We have people reach out to us from around the world sharing thoughts and concerns, and it raises the hope meter. Ulea Wesemeyer Elsenlandschaften from Hanburg Germany wrote "(POP) connects us right away, I enjoy this very much. I think these days we have to think more than ever different. Many people are afraid what will more and more happen, they feel it close to their life and loved ones. There is so much information out there, enough energy of mankind. How do we get the slow, heavy heads rolling. Its changing, many hearts are putting their energy and heart in social and environment issues and build up for the good." She concluded by saying, "We gotta reach the masses. If there is a will there is a way." 

UNCW students at our viewing of
Racing Extinction, Wilmington, NC
Ulea, one of the ways to reach the masses is through documentaries, like Racing Extinction, that bring home the urgency into our living rooms. We need more storytelling that shares the beauty in the world in places most of us will never witness and open our eyes to the underground world that is robbing it from us. So I encourage as many people to have the courage to see the unseen in this film. It is the only way we ALL can know what actions we, as individuals, need to take to stop the ecocide.

A huge shout out to UNCW POP for our fundraiser they ran Tuesday night. We had a large turnout of people who purchased and fill their lockets with plastics from the ocean. We call them Portholes to the Sea - a conversation plastic pollution piece and it represents ones solidarity in the prevention of plastic marine debris. If you would like one too, visit our Etsy page here. While we worked we listened to a presentation by Jenn Salter, NC Coastal Federation, who shared how we as a community can petition our local leaders to put into place a better Special Use Permit that adopts the framework for industries to comply with and/or pass before bringing environmentally Unfriendly industries to our community. It allows the community to be a part of these decisions that may impact the community for centuries both for better or worse.

Presenter Jennifer Salter from NC Coastal Federation
talks to group while making lockets