It's not just important to dispose of trash properly, it's important to make sure that nothing unintentionally goes overboard either!

Keeping Trash on the Boat

I’ve written a number of articles about trash management, and anyone who has driven by a Wal-mart — or in a less developed country — knows the eyesore that wind blown trash can become.

And many boaters have heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, although there are actually numerous patches.  Somewhat less known are the Atlantic Garbage Patches.  Actually, there are garbage patches in all of the oceans.  While no one has an accurate estimate of the size of these, we know they’re big.  And mostly plastic.

Dead-bird-with-plasticAnd so we all know that it’s important not to throw trash in the ocean.  But this weekend I saw a trailer for a documentary that brought home the consequences of trash in the ocean.  And that made me realize the importance of keeping every bit of trash on the boat.

That is, securing everything so that things can’t accidentally fall into the water.  We’ve all tossed a water bottle into the cockpit, missed and had it go in the water . . . and haven’t been able to recover it.  Or dropped the top from a soda bottle.  Or had an bag of chips fly off the boat in an unexpected gust.  Had a wad of fishing line disappear.

Individually, they seem like little things.  Inconsequential.  But taken as a whole, they matter.  And the images from Midway (a film to be released later this year) — the same island of WWII fame, with only about 60 people living there in the middle of nowhere but located so as to have substantial amounts of plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch wash ashore, show it.

While this film deals with one small island, the problem is everywhere.  And it’s not just on the water, it’s everywhere.  So please make every effort to keep all your “stuff” on your boat, in your car, in your daypack, whatever — and then dispose of it in the best way possible for where you are. If something goes flying accidentally, see if you can recover it.

And if you discover that the local government is just taking trash to a “dump site,” where the winds can scatter it, please try to keep it with you or find an alternate way to dispose of it (while I’m not really a fan of burning, in many places that we cruised, it was the best option).

Midway (the film) is described as:

The MIDWAY media project is a powerful visual journey into the heart of an astonishingly symbolic environmental tragedy. On one of the remotest islands on our planet, tens of thousands of baby albatrosses lie dead on the ground, their bodies filled with plastic from the Pacific Garbage Patch. Returning to the island over several years, our team is witnessing the cycles of life and death of these birds as a multi-layered metaphor for our times. With photographer Chris Jordan as our guide, we walk through the fire of horror and grief, facing the immensity of this tragedy—and our own complicity—head on.

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  • Chuck Burns on Facebook
    Posted at 10 March 2013 Reply

    Thanks Carolyn for sharing this video which I think is a must watch by everyone, not just those of us who go to sea. In 1987 during a pacific crossing from Osaka to San Francisco I witnessed the disgusting spectacle of the Pacific Garbage Patch…thousands of miles from any land is a floating mass of styrofoam, plastics, and other debris. I saw plastic shopping bags, hard hats, styrofoam coffee cups and bottle tops to name a few specifics. How sickening. It brings a lump to my throat to even think about it. But we must do more than think and your effort here and others will change things I pray. Otherwise the scenes of the dead oceans seen in the old movie “Soylent Green” will become our reality.

    I think “Soylent Green” should be required watching for everyone.
    Thanks again

  • Chuck Burns on Facebook
    Posted at 10 March 2013 Reply

    as a further note, I have witnessed several times, unfortunately too late, race boat owners heave the daily trash bag overboard… I don’t sail again with anyone who does that, but I feel even more guilt for not stopping it in time in the first place…

  • The Boat Galley on Facebook
    Posted at 10 March 2013 Reply

    This also made me re-think the practice of marking anchor chain with cable ties. They wear off in time and have to be replaced. And all those little bits of plastic go in the ocean . . .

  • Frances Liz Fernandez
    Posted at 01 November 2013 Reply

    I agree! We stopped using dispoable paper goods because of how much garbage we produced. I love our clean waters and want them to stay that way.

  • Leigh Ann
    Posted at 01 November 2013 Reply

    This also applies to the “cleaners” we use that aren’t pumped out. Please use only environmentally friendly cleaning products that are direct discharged. All of the phosphates in typical products is contributing to the red tides and bacterial growth.

  • Monique Davis
    Posted at 02 November 2013 Reply

    This is heartbreaking. You wouldn’t believe how many balloons and plastic bags we passed while sailing this past year. Even in Greenland, in some of the most remote landscape imaginable, we would stumble upon trash washed ashore.

  • Richard Darling
    Posted at 27 September 2014 Reply

    Thanks Carolyn for keeping this issue in the forefront. After living in the islands for more than 10 years, I am still shocked at the tremendous lack of education or concern I witness on a regular basis when it comes to littering.

  • Al Felker
    Posted at 28 September 2014 Reply

    So sad.

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