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Posts Tagged ‘pollution’

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Moth, skiff, and Red Bull Youth AC Anarchist Ian Andrewes checks in from his Nacra 17 action in Rio after 2 weeks of ‘the most effective training camp he’s ever been part of’.  It was also a trip that featured the disturbing sights of toxic sludge, a navy burial at sea right off the harbor mouth, and a fireworks display that sent a yacht club’s members fleeing for their lives; in other words, a typical month in Rio. We dig Ian’s take on the dilemmas of an Olympic trialler and we hope you do too.  Thank him over here, or over here.

When I first came down to Brazil in August after a last-minute decision, it was to compete in the AqueceRio Olympic Test Event. Everything was moving quickly and it wasn’t until my hour-long cab ride back to the airport that I found myself looking out the window, realizing I hadn’t spent enough time in this place. I didn’t understand what made Rio so unique or the way it manages to stay on just this side of total madness. How could I describe it to my friends and family?

I’d get another chance when we came back down this month, and I was determined to learn this place better and try to decide how I truly feel about the controversial waters Guanabara Bay. The Bay has been called one of the most beautiful places in the world, with absolutely perfect sailing conditions, and it’s been described as one of the most polluted and horrendously disgusting bodies of water in the world, completely inappropriate for any waterborne activity.  And both are correct.

My first day back this trip, one of first things I noticed was the lack of trash in the water compared to last summer; conditions that had required a rudder or board cleaning every 50 meters then.   Much can be attributed to the odd garbage scows, roaming the water like giant aquatic Roombas and scooping up everything in their path, including the odd junior in an Opti.  It struck me as a wonderful improvement, but then I started to notice the water color – not the brown of the typical estuarine bay, but the thick, particle-choked haze of the untreated sewage flowing directly into our racing area.

I do believe this place is seriously sick. The waters are not just dirty; they are toxic and poisonous. Every day thousands of dead fish have been washing up on the beaches like its the apocalypse – their rotting bodies adding to the already pungent aroma of raw sewage at low tide. The ones that aren’t quite dead flop around in an epileptic dance of rainbow-hued oily sludge and sand right until their death.

I have noticed a decrease in the amount of garbage in the Bay, but there’s still plenty of work to be done, and I think all the sailors are hoping their organizations keep the pressure up.

Rio is a strange place, difficult to compare easily to other cities I know. Favelas rule the politics despite being made up of the poorest squatters and the nastiest criminals. Some people seem to pay taxes, but most don’t.  In Niteroi, just across the bay, you find multimillion dollar houses along the waterfront, immediately adjacent to squatting families living in shacks made of driftwood, corrugated steel, and dock scraps.  But of course the shacks are loaded with electricity, satellite TV and running water courtesy of the welfare system…All of this disparity and more yet nobody seems all that disgruntled.

In fact, most locals I’ve met seem generally quite happy. Maybe they complain about a politician’s decision or about the bad traffic, but the conversation never seems to carry on past that. Maybe something in the water gives these people such a cheerful disposition.

We’re all hoping that the Olympics will help to shine spotlight the environmental issues in Rio, and that the public attention leads to improved sewage treatment and pollution control, not for us but for the people of Rio.  They deserve better.

As sailors, we need to promote and encourage change that extends far beyond this event.. I will keep coming back to this place as my captivation with the scenery and the strangely pleasant locals only makes me want to see change sooner. I hope each trip down to this gauche city in Brazil will show that steps are being made in the right direction and that it’s not too late.  I’ll keep you posted.

 

December 24th, 2014 by admin

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We still cannot for the life of us understand what is going through ISAF, the IOC, and the dozens of governing bodies’ minds when it comes to the dangerous levels of pollution that even Brazil admits it won’t be able to solve as promised to the IOC by 2016, much less this summer’s Test Event.  As of Monday, the problem became not just dangerous, but life threatening, when Brazil’s most respected health institute said this morning that 3 of 5 test samples on the Carioca River (which flows directly into the bay) tested positive for KPC-enzyme producing bacteria, also known as ‘superbugs’.  Resistant to almost all modern antibiotics, treating these critters can require extremely toxic chemicals, treatments that can be even more destructive than the infections themselves.  Don’t think this is a big deal?  This shit makes MRSA look about as serious as blue balls.  And we still haven’t heard word one from any of our sport’s supposed caretakers…

Anyone still think the IOC and ISAF have the sailors best interests at heart?  Check the AP story here; now including quotes from a long time Canadian Anarchist!

UPDATE: Apparently IOC has more important things to deal with than the health and safety of its athletes.  Time for a gorgeous new Lake Geneva HQ building!

December 15th, 2014 by admin

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As lakes thaw and boats get loaded back into the water, take a minute to get your brain around this chart.  Maybe this year, you’ll stop throwing cigarette butts over the side, or letting crew get away with tossing aluminum cans in the sea?  Everything lasts a lot longer than you might think it does, so keep it all on the boat.  Source: NOAA

April 8th, 2014 by admin

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UPDATE:  In response to this story and the volume of emails received by Key West Race Week organizers, Amendment No. 1 (NOR 2.4) permitting elastic or wool bands for spinnakers has been withdrawn.  Kudos to all of you who reached out to them, and for Peter Craig for doing the right thing; it’s up to all of us to make sure our own regattas follow suit.  Even if you don’t take it seriously, note that the USCG does, and just one photo of a banded kite will land you a DSQ and a good chance of a nasty fine.  Your competitors aren’t going to let you get away with it either; if their hoists are tougher because of Rule 55, yours had better be, as well.  

Key West Race Week Chairman Peter Craig last week further cemented his reputation as the most out-of-touch race officer we know, issuing a NOR amendment that directly contradicts the kind of environmental responsibility so embraced by not only ISAF, US Sailing, the America’s Cup and basic common sense, but by dozens of the sport’s newest sponsors and supporters.

We’re talking about Craig’s amendment last week of Rule 55, the prohibition against tossing trash into the water that ISAF clarified earlier this year as including sail stops – rubber bands or wools. NOR Amendment No. 1 suspends this ban, specifically allowing both “elastic and wool bands” to be discarded into the pristine, federally-controlled No Discharge Zone of the Florida Keys.

There’s been plenty of discussion of Rule 55 already, but even the most pollution-loving dickbag would agree that tossing dozens of rubber bands into some of America’s most environmentally sensitive waters ain’t the right thing to do. And biodegradable wool stops are no solution at all; maybe suitable for racing out in the ocean, but a few dozen big boats just a couple of miles offshore throwing dozens of wool stops into the sea at every mark rounding is not only nasty for the reefs; it’s against both Federal and Florida Law, with major fines and penalties.   We’ve all seen the required pollution placards on our boats, specifically telling everyone that trash doesn’t go in the water; did you really think the laws that keep you from throwing coffee grounds or orange peels into the sea somehow allow you to toss rubber bands or rope strips into the same water? And what does the USCG think about all this? Is it really possible that KWRW included this info on their Marine Event Permit?

The biggest new source of sponsorship for the sport worldwide is coming from either clean energy/green manufacturing companies or businesses looking to associate themselves with the environmentally friendly image that sailing represents. And here comes Key Waste, screwing not only the reefs, but also the hundreds of events, classes, and organizations that have worked so hard to create awareness and educate sailors and the public on being good custodians of our playground on the water.

What do you think of this policy? Should we just tell the reefs, wildlife, EPA, and USCG to harden the fuck up, or does Key West Chairman Peter Craig need to man up and tell his competitors to learn to set a kite without training wheels? You can comment here, or e-mail the organizers here.

UPDATE:  SA’er dcsheb notes that other races aren’t much better; for instance, the Sydney-Hobart similarly alters Rule 55 to allow ‘banding/tying of spinnakers’, and while open ocean distance races may cause less environmental impact than buoy races next to coral reefs, we still don’t understand how, in this day and age, anyone thinks tossing rubber bands or synthetic fiber over the side is any different than a cigarette butt or a plastic wrapper.

 

December 30th, 2013 by admin

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