Friday, October 30, 2009

Another Plastic Bag Car Launch

Fascinating to me is how unconscionable some people are about throwing trash out their car window. Second time in a week I had to stop and wait for traffic to pass so I could pick up the abandoned bag that was launched out of a car window This one ended up being blown into an area on Kerr Ave where many other unwanted one-time use items have landed. Until we put a value on this one-time use trash, people are going to continue to launch it anyway, anywhere, anyhow. What is tragic is often times there is still some food substances on these items and little critters go out in the road to check it out and then BAM.

So if you know of anyone that is a trash launcher can you asked them not to do it? Even food that will biodegrade is a problem for animals looking for a bite to eat. It could be their last.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bags under my eyes

Lately, there have been a lot of plastic bags crossing my patch. Last week, I was talking to my son on the phone when I saw one launched out a car window. It went straight up in the air like a hot air balloon, then floated down only to dodge traffic. Even though I was enjoying my conversation with my son who is off to grad school, I had to hang up. He wanted to know what was the matter and laughed when I told him it was because of a plastic bag let loose on the street, right near a storm drain. His laughing doesn't bother me because I know, deep down, he appreciates my willingness to stop on my bike to go pick it up.

In 2007, we used 60,000 plastic bags every 5 seconds in the US alone. That's 720,000 every minute. There ya go, now I know why they've been floating around on the streets. OMG, imagine how much more it might be today if people didn't start bringing their own to the store. Awesome people!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Plastic Trashed Yearling Sea Lion

(Kamilo Bay Hawaii -Photo by Ron Sanford) Over the past year I've been compelled to educate people about the issues of plastic pollution in the ocean or anywhere for that matter. That urge has not subsided since I returned from the Big Island of Oaho Hawaii. What I witnessed there should never happen. The beach does not have sand, it has plastic confetti. I fear without any relief from our one time use plastics nor a reduced amount of plastic litter on our roadsides, we will have to get used to plastic integrating into our sand and soil. And as humans many of us can probably deal with it okay. But its the ones that don't use plastic that are most inflicted by it.
When I returned from the North Pacific Garbage Patch, I had one more item on my wish list. I wanted to go to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center to talk to them about the impact of plastics on marine animals. No one had to say a word, what I saw spoke volumes. I witnessed a rescued yearling sea lion that nearly died because it had just one strand of fishing line around its neck. One line cut into this sea lion's neck a few inches laying open the skin all the way around her neck. Nothing should have to suffer this way. Nothing. Fortunately for her there are programs out there that try to protect as well as rehabilitate unfortunate animals like this one. The kick is she was swimming where she belongs amongst such things that do not belong. These plastics, like fishing line, don't degrade fast enough and are so durable it takes years for it to weaken enough to break, by then animals entangled have expired. If you would like to learn more about "Segway" and the wonderful people that helped her check out and tell them thanks for me.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What do plastics and cockroaches have in common?

When I was in college my entomology professor said, “If bugs are your friends, you will never be alone.” That has gotten me through many a bug infestation, and I’m seeing something similar with trash. No matter where I go, trash and litter seem to be right there with me.

I went to the grocery store yesterday with Quinn, my four year old son. I carried him across the parking lot, and when we almost into the store he said “Mommy! Litter!”

Litter is so prevalent that I have to prioritize which pieces of litter I pick up so I don’t die or cause accidents. Plastics are a top priority to pick up. Paper products are lower on the list. Litter in a busy parking lot is further down on the list because the safety of my small children has to come first.

Quinn had spotted a paper bag that had been decorated to look like a pumpkin, and it was pretty far away. I told him we'd get it on the way back because we’d pass right back by it, and it really looked as if someone might have forgotten it. He said, and I kid you not, "If Ms. Bonnie were here, she would pick it up."

I guess I’ve taught him well.

We turned around, walked back across the parking lot, and picked up the paper bag, which was crudely painted to look like a pumpkin and had a paper leaf attached.

We finished our shopping and where checking out when the cashier offered Quinn a cookie. I told her we were in the store about 4 seconds before he hit the cookie bin so he was all set. Then she asked another cashier to get a balloon for him – she was really going out of her way to be nice to us - but I had to tell her that I don't take balloons. She looked a little off, and said, "Oh, sorry." I told her I really appreciated the thought, but I have seen and plucked too many balloons and balloon strings from the ocean. She looked surprised, and said how she tries to be green and she'd never thought of that before. She’d never seen the impacts of her very sweet and completely well intentioned offerings of balloons. But they are a real problem; I’ve seen them washing in here in North Carolina and in Bermuda. We saw balloon parts in the North Atlantic Gyre, and Bonnie saw the balloons that were found in the stomach of a sea lion. It’s no trivial matter, these balloons.

When we’d finished checking out, I had to explain the paper bag pumpkin that was in the cart. We have recycled the paper bag and the newspaper stuffed inside.

Trash is everywhere. Sometimes, it can turn into a meaningful experience for everyone involved.

If trash is your game, you never have to look to far to make a difference.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Warm Welcome Home

Thank you Algalita and friends for the warm welcome home. Marieta Francis and Jeanne Gallagher - you two were a sight for sore eyes. Along with many others including Jeff's parents, Kent and Kathy Ernst. The last few miles in, I sat on the bow ready to video any sea lions or dolphins sightings so I could send a picture back to Vicki Rivenbark's class at Holly Tree School back in Wilmington, NC. The only thing we saw as we neared Alamitos Bay was plastic trash making its way out to sea as we headed in. Things like Styrofoam containers, chip bags, bottles, and even a soccerball accompanied by a bottle. But the most disturbing was actually witnessing a seagull pecking at a floating plastic bag. "It looked like we were back in the gyre." Lindsey turned to me and said, "This is where it all starts."

Thank goodness the Algalita supporters where out there to distract us. It was all too overwhelming to see so much trash in its origin - land. It played out like a scene in "The Twilight Zone." I, personally, felt like our trip out into the gyre was some kind of victory, only to return to business as usual. The jaded twist to the end of our journey.

It's going to take a lot more people, like Marieta, willing to lend a hand not letting plastic pollution go out to sea. I do have a better ending to our last night together though. We left Avalon early Tuesday morning after a dinner the night before at the The Lobster Pot. The waiter asked us where we would like to sit and Lindsey, spying a table for six elevated by a handful of steps into the back of a sawed off boat, said "How about there?" We all looked at the stern nestled up against the wall, shrugged, and climbed the stairs. Why not, what was one more meal elbow to elbow enclosed by the sides of a boat.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Day 29 Monday 10/5/09

Noon Coordinates 32 47.708N 118 18.320WWhen I woke for my last morning alone on the ORV Alguita, it was anything but. Gwen, who does the watch before me, decided to stay up with me due to the problems Lindsey and Jeff were having with the auto pilot. The wind kicked up to over 40 knots causing the auto pilot to fail. The only way to handle the situation was to change course, and if need be steer. There was no beating into the winds. It would also require a sail change from the genoa jib to the staysail, but the captain didn’t want to risk someone getting hurt or blown overboard by the assaulting winds so we traveled off course at 10 knots per hour getting nowhere fast. Bill, who comes on after my shift, was also up due to the outlandish banging under the ship. Few could sleep.

Gwen, who takes good care of this blogger, often times let me sleep in an extra 15 minutes. Today it was an hour. I didn’t change my watch when we sailed into the Pacific Daylight Saving Times yesterday so when I looked at my watch at 0345, I figured I was ahead of the game. It was actually 0445. Not letting on that I was late, nor did she try to wake me, Gwen had just started the tea pot on the stove for me.

Yesterday I was running late too, only that time it was because I was making my way out of the top bunk, a wave came and literally threw me. I fell out of my bunk 4” down landing on the top of my left toes (don’t ask). To add insult to injury I slammed into the side of Gwen’s bed, trashing my leg all in one full swoop. It took a minute for me to rub out the sting. The captain, who has something for everything, came out of his state room with some all natural salve that eases out bruises. It worked on my leg, but the middle toe on my left foot is perhaps broken. Ugg.

We rolled into Avalon, Catalina Island, with a circus show of several sea birds and sea lions. (they swam beside our boat as if so happy to see us!) 3,460 nautical miles later!!!

We walked around the island like drunken sailors though not having a drink. It’s called dock rock. Once on a boat for any length of time and then off, one feels the world rock when while off the boat! We met Faith in the restaurant we had dinner at tonight, a six year old Girl Scout who her and her older sister had accolades for the captain’s work on protecting the oceans. Great to meet both of you!!!

We’re rocking on the island and look forward to seeing everyone at the Algalita Headquarters tomorrow afternoon! Thank you Gwen, Cooper, Lindsey, Jeffy Pop and especially Captain Moore for an experience of a lifetime, but more importantly, allowing me to see the unseen, plastics accumulating in our defenseless ocean.

Hopefully I’ll see many of you tomorrow! Bonnie

Monday, October 5, 2009

Monday, October 5, 2009

Noon Coordinates 30 00869N 121 39.199W

Day 28 Sunday 10/04/09
We are winding down to our last 48 hours on the ship. The air is too cold to sit outside for more than a couple of minutes especially since the sun hasn’t shown its face for more than a few minutes each day. Strange to think a week ago we were melting from the heat. Lindsey went for a walk around the ship and was back in less than a minute. Stiff legged and arms out like a scarecrow she was soaked from head to toe. That didn’t stop the captain who put on his swim shorts and headed to the bow to take on the ocean spray head on. The water is a refreshing 65 a shade warmer than the air.

We have been pinched between the Tropical Storm Olaf (sp) below us and Gale winds above us. The sky wants to rid itself of the stainless steal clouds, but it is a losing battle for most of the day. Tonight they loosened up enough to give us our last sunset. Tomorrow night we will be in Avalon, Santa Catalina Island which will block the view of our final sunset set at sea.

The wind is up and the seas are down to a four, perfect conditions to be traveling an average of nine knots without the restless baseball bats banging below. When I say the wind is up, I’m talking straight up. According to the captain these winds are going to take us all the way in.

By dawn we will be traveling right past Cortes Bank which is about 100 miles off the California shore. This exclusive location has attracted the attention of surfers from around the world. It is said that Cortes Bank has the potential of making 150 foot waves due to a deep canyon that has one wall that stretches to just six feet below the surface creating a reef effect for the waves to curl on. It doesn’t happen all the time, but given the perfect conditions, the surf is up like no other in the world. Surfline’s Sean Collins, crew and surfers waited 10 years for the conditions to be perfect for them to go out and surf there. On 11/26/02, the conditions were ripe and they arrived to find 60 foot waves. Because the captain had the video “Making the Call” from the event, we were able to see it with our own eyes. Unbelievable! Chances are, we won’t see this phenomenon, but from what the captain says, it is a great place to fish for tuna. I’ll keep you posted if either materializes!

Remember to keep Tuesday afternoon open to stop down the Algalita headquarters to view our North Pacific Gyre loot! (email to find out the details)

More later,


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sunday, October 4, 2009


Noon Position 30 19.497N 125 29.114W
Day 27 Saturday 10/3/09
When the sky turns gray the vast ocean turns a dull shade of purple. Today it was purple all day. The sea state remains a treacherous six with the winds in the high 20s and the waves frothing at 10-12 foot peaks. The captain says they are trying to conform, but are still battling a confused state. We repeatedly see Everest-ridged waves whitecap then avalanche, cascading down near vertical slopes, leaving a temporary white stain in its trough. A sight I have yet to tire of. Sometimes the ship catches the wave in its throat causing the white froth to slam into our windshield. It reminds me of home in NY when the wind gets under a car hood full of snow and momentarily blanks the view. It’s a lot less scary on a boat!

The captain and Bill changed our sails again this morning, taking down the staysail and putting up the genoa jib. The reason why is because we are now catching the northerlies we’ve been desperately needing in order to connect to the north-westerlies that will get us to shore. Bill couldn’t dodge the froth that heaved over the bow, caught him in the back and nearly swept him off his feet. The 68 degree water, about the temperature of the air, felt even colder with the wind chill. The last time we changed the sails the captain had me working the winch table. I’d like to report that dyslexia translates well into the sailing world. I wittingly grabbed a sheet and it just happened to be the wrong sheet and didn’t go unnoticed by the captain. Darn dyslexia. The good news is we are now traveling at 10 knots and it’s looking up that we will port for the Tuesday afternoon welcome home. I’ll continue to keep you posted on the status.

Our on-board marine biologist Gwen Lattin received a special delivery today. A beautiful flying fish flew up on the bow in the night to volunteer itself to science. These fish are even more beautiful than I imagined. Even though I saw them when I was in the North Atlantic Gyre, out here I got to see one up close and personal. (see above photo)

Tonight’s dinner started last night with Jeff brining a plump chicken. It was ready this evening when Jeff plucked it out from the oven along with purple jams, and orange squash. Yep, we’re still eating fresh veggies with two days to the finish line.
The captain slit the outrageously good jams in half then mashed them adding coconut sauce, it’s to die for!!!

We ended the night with a special treat. Jeff made homemade hot cocoa and then we shut off all the lights and with only a coalminer’s headlamp, the captain read us a short story from the book, The Bedtime Book of Sea Stories called “Three Skeleton Key” by George E. Toudouze. It doesn’t get much better than that!
More later, Bonnie


Shawn, Thank you from all of us that you are spreading the word about Algalita's work. I have been lucky enough to go to the Garbage Patch to witness with my own eyes what Captain Moore has been seeing over the past 10 years. I will continue to bring peoples attention to the issue more than ever. Best to you, enjoy the beach for us. Best, Bonnie

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Friday, October 2, 2009

Noon Coordinates 30 08.563N, 128 07.137W
Day 26 Friday 10/02/09
One of our favorite past-times (and there is a lot of time to pass) is watching albatrosses appear as if out of nowhere and escape our gaze the same way. Sometimes, albatross will adopt a ship to follow for a few hours. And, according to Carl Safina’s Book The Eye of the Albatross, an albatross followed a ship for 2,880 miles. Yesterday one came to visit while Bill Cooper and I were sitting out on the stern. We watched it as it appeared from the proverbial nowhere and headed straight for us. It's wings spread wide above the froth-tipped wake. We watched awe struck by the speed at which it came in without flapping its stealth shaped wings. I know I was personally hoping to have a pet bird for at least a day or two. But like a Boing 747 coming in for a landing, it began to drop its webbed feet, first one and then the other as if walking on air. 

We started asking each other what we thought it was doing when it stopped moving toward us and hung suspended over a distinct distance from the boat. We then watched it dip its beak in the water, like dunking for apples. Carl Safina’s book popped in my head and I knew what it was doing. I jumped to my feet and shouted, “No!” We had a fishing line out and on the end of the line happened to be just below the albatross. Bill ran and grabbed the fishing pole and started reeling it in. The bird dove again. Bill reeled faster as continued to make a lot of commotion.  The bird looked up and decided to find out what all the hubbub was about by flying up to the starboard side of the boat. It preformed a few figure eights then went back to looking for the lure-camouflaged hook. But it couldn’t be found, Bill had it all but reeled in. (phew) Fishing gear can catch birds as easily as they can fish so it was a good lesson in keeping an eye on our fishing lines. You never know when you’ll have a desperately hungry bird looking for a freebie and a plastic fishing lure looks good enough to eat 

We have quite the book exchange flying around here.Eye of the Albatross is a favorite , as well as Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin. The captain and Jeff swapped them via careful lobs across the room. Lindsey’s been flopping between reading Julie and Julia, by Julie Powell and Our Stolen Future, by Theo Colborn, Dianne Dumanoski, and John Person Myers. Personally, I think she’s having trouble getting through Julie and Julia, it does seem to be inspiring her to cook though. She’s had Adelle Davis’ 1947 recipe book out a few times. We aren’t complaining! Another way the books are getting around is by falling off the bookshelves. It didn’t start happening until we hit these really high seas and now it happens on a regular bases. You might say, move them. Some have been moved, the others (that keep falling) are because someone thinks they’ve devised a way to make them stay. We’re always devising ways to try to keep things where they belong. It’s an ongoing part of living on a boat. The farthest I’ve gone, personally, is clipping myself to the side of the boat to videotape under the behest of Jeff. And I’m glad I listened. Yesterday, I wasn’t out on the bow two seconds when a huge wave came and nearly knocked me off my feet soaking me from head to toe. With the shot I took, I got a good shot of one enormous beautiful wave.

Today the ocean is more uniform, but the sea state is a good seven. Sails have been up since Monday and it looks like we will be sailing all the way home getting in for our welcome home on Tuesday at the Algalita Marine Research Foundation office. We’ll keep you posted and all are welcome to stop by, say hi and check out our finds.

More later,


NOTE: If you are interested in joining the arrival celebration in Long Beach you can RSVP to Holly ( ) and she will keep you up to date about the plan!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Friday, October 2, 2009

Day 25 Jeffy Pop Popcorn

Noon Coordinates 30 27.277N 130 57.531W
Day 25
As of yesterday, we crossed over into another time zone - Pacific Standard Time - and are now only one hour behind California. The ocean continues to pound the bottom of the boat while rouge waves hit us from all sides. What to do? Make Jeffy Pop popcorn. Jeff is a maestro popcorn popper!

He shakes the pot down while shimmying on his feet to maintain position in front of the stove. There is a whole lot more talent involved then it sounds. Here are a few positions I call “The Art of Staying Upright.” The tripod position is when I lean my forehead hard against the wall while drying off, putting lotion or a shirt. I use the back-stand to pull pants up, leaning the back against the wall provides excellent stability while both hands are working tight pants up and around (induced by all the delicious meals). The hip-hugger is a must while cooking. We all do this, lean our hips against the counter which allows both hands to be working. And then there is the bazooka shuffle used when the unforeseen force of a wave knocks us clear across the room in which case none of the above work. Jeff and the captain do it unconsciously graceful. The rest of us tend to fight it. Bill tried to fight it while doing dishes. He grabbed for the counter but his hands were wet, slipped off and down he went. A few times I tried to be cool and add a little leg dance to it which invariably led to Jeff asking, “Bonnie, what are you doing?” No more leg dance.

So after three days of trying to play my 20 minute game and not spotting one thing in the ocean, I finally asked the captain why. The obvious answer was the sea state, but in the gyre, we were still seeing stuff in pretty rough seas. The better answer came from a simulation presentation on how trash works its way around the North Pacific done by Dr. Jim Ingraham. Due to the California current, the current carries debris from the states south of our current position and sends it toward the Philippines via the Equatorial current. The trash from Japan area comes via the Kuroshio Extension to the Oyashio Current. So we are in an area that plastic pollution is not so apt to be spread around. The captain assured me we’ll be seeing trash from the States as we get closer to shore.

Since I’ve mentioned our wonderful students in the continental US and Canada, I would also like to thank the participation of students at George Washington High in Guam! Great to hear from you and all of you, keep the questions rolling!

More later,


-Hello Jean, We have not felt any of the tsunami as we are out of its boundaries thank goodness. But we have had some rough seas that are unassociated. Unfortunately, we had the maximum sea state for doing our sampling so even though our ratios appear to be much higher. We would have been pleased if the ocean was as calm as it was during 1999. We feel the ratio would have been even higher. The rough seas drive a lot of debris down deeper into the water column.
With 600 more miles to go, we should be back to Long Beach, California by Tuesday we hope! Best, Bonnie

-Hey C A Logan, Thank you for your support to help bring awareness to this issue. Facebook is a great place to get the word out! I asked Captain Moore and his answer is we need chemists to design plastics that are non-toxic, and government policy, like Germany, that mandates a cradle to cradle systems. Also, we need to restructure our planned obsolescence/growth based economy to a Steady-State economy. (check Another need is to create an “Ultra-Walmart” consortium to steer people who want to purchase plastic free products - A warehouse of options at affordable prices. Those are just a few off the top of our heads. Thanks Logan and let us know if you come up with any. Bonnie

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Noon Position 31 22.252N 133 30.147W

Day 24 Wednesday 9/30/09

It’s been a bit maddening to have to stay inside only to watch an occasional monster wave come up over the bow, cruise past our cabin porthole windows, on up another three feet to the galley windows and portholes and then slosh beyond the top of the boat out over the stern. Not that the spectacle doesn’t provoke some oos and ahhhs, but three days of this and I am so ready to get out on the bow to, at the very least, get some really great footage. Getting wet is a small price to pay for great footage. Given that information, you can probably visualize a certain someone with a harness and life vest with a waterproof camera in hand hanging from the starboard side. I didn’t get very far when I was beaten back by the spray. The lens covered in salty drops, I decided to continue shooting from inside. My friends will understand why there are water spots. We’ve gone three weeks with the sea state changing nearly every day, but the last three have consistently been the same - hanging around six to seven. Even though it isn’t raining from the sky, it’s raining from the bow. So we have left the boundaries of the said Garbage Patch without giving it much more than a last glance.

So what do we do? Read, write, fish, and eat. And the people aboard this boat know how to eat! You’d want them on your Iron Chef team. (Not me, I’m more comfortable jumping off the mainsail boom than I am making oatmeal.) The captain’s homemade hot cocoa alone is example enough. The captain’s recipe calls for Abuelita (a bar of Mexican chocolate), Scharffen Berger 99% cacao dark chocolate, milk and garnished with a vanilla stick. Amazing. As far as the fishing goes, the captain caught two Mahi Mahi this morning using squid that volunteered themselves for bate by jumping up on the bow in the middle of the night.

I got an encouraging email from my fellow plastic pollution warrior, Jennifer O’Keefe. The items discussed in the video confirms much of what Algalita Marine Research Foundation has been conveying. Your assignment is to read the message below and then go to the link, watch the video and tell me what you think!

An online video focusing on the science and politics of ocean trash published by the DC Bureau of the Public Education Center ( has recently been posted, highlighting an interview with the Dr. Holly Bamford, Director of the NOAA Marine Debris Program. The video and corresponding article, part of a series titled "Fish and Paint Chips," cover the issue of marine debris from a variety of different angles and interviews. The purpose of is to provide bloggers, individual reporters, editors, news directors and others involved in all media platforms a new resource for stories, ideas and help. Recent research has the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) concerned that the huge quantities of metal, plastic, paint chips and other man-made debris floating at sea, hundreds and even thousands of miles from land, may be working their way into the American diet.

Now here are the links;
(NOAA Marine Debris Program highlighted in "Fish and Paint Chips" Series by DC Bureau.)

Fish and Paint Chips Part I: The Science of Trash

Fish and Paint Chips Part II: The Politics of Ocean Trash

Let us know your thoughts!
More later.