RECENT LEGISLATION is threatening to essentially repeal the Clean Water Act as we know it. The House passed H.R. 961, dubbed the “dirty water bill” in May of 1995, a bill that among other things would repeal requirements under the Coastal Zone Act to reduce polluted urban runoff along our coasts, allow industry to decrease their efforts to control point source pollution, and waive federal standards for municipalities that claim they can’t afford to upgrade sewage treatment facilities. By eroding current safeguards for our ocean and coastal waters in favor of industry, I had to ask myself, what will our oceans be like after 1996? I don’t claim to be an environmental ringleader, but I
In my five years of World Cup travels, along with countless spectacularly beautiful images, I have seen some pretty disturbing sights. Of these, the face of Micah Buzianis and other friends and competitors lying pale faced in a hospital bed with bacterial infections that doctors couldn’t diagnose with any certainty. Or how about screaming along in 30+ knots and cruising into a slick patch of raw sewage? It is virtually unavoidable in certain sailing venues. Windsurfers want to “get wet”… to play on our magnificent playground. In some places this is still possible. Nevertheless, our dream is currently on shaky ground.
I realized that I couldn’t just stand by as industrial and municipal polluters, coupled with state and local officials, helped representatives craft bills that are nothing short of a formal assault on the health and safety of our marine eco-systems. I had to make a statement for my own peace of mind and hope that the domino effect would place greater pressure on our elected representatives.
Although the idea of a Gulf Stream crossing had been in my mind for sometime, now I had a moral reason beyond simple achievement to approach the crossing. The logistics of such an endeavor; 60 miles of open ocean with strong current and unpredictable weather, precluded the actualization of the plan. However, the solid support of my sponsors transformed wishful thinking into viable action.
Jantzen activewear, who has raised in excess of $750,000 through their own clean water campaign over the last five years, was keen to support my crossing with a $3,000 donation. Yellow Strawberry Global Salons’ and Show Management were also quick to demonstrate that social responsibility is directly in line with their company goals by donating $5,000 and a 1996 Rybovich Sport Fisher chase boat, respectively. I earmarked the funds that I raised for National Week of the Ocean and MSUS (Marine Science Under Sails), both South Florida based non-profit marine education organizations.
To raise additional funds, my crossing was spearheaded by a Yellow Strawberry / Clean Water promotional booth at the Ft Lauderdale Air and Sea Show the weekend prior to the crossing. I spent two days at the show and of over one million spectators present, a measly six concerned visitors found the gumption to make a donation, for a whoppin’ total of $70. On the way home from the show, tears of frustration crystallized into ice cold rage, and deepened my resolve to make a public success of the crossing and to promote the underlying cause that, as I had just experienced, so many appear oblivious to. Perhaps there was an environmental revolutionary in the making after all.
The crossing was intended to be a team effort with my brother, Kevin, a former Olympic class sailor. Armed with easterly 15-20 mph weather predictions for the following day, on the 16th of May we boarded our luxury chase boat and set off for Bimini, in the Bahamas. The pristine Bimini shore almost detracted from the cause I was set to further. I was reminded how easy it would be to just hang out in Maui or South Africa and forget about the real world…maybe that’s what the monsters of irresponsibility bank on as they lounge in their mansions, far away from the toxins their empires are divulging. I prayed for a safe journey as we stepped on our boards.
“I don’t claim to be an environmental ringleader, but I realized that I couldn’t just stand by as industrial and municipal polluters, coupled with state and local officials, helped representatives craft bills that are nothing short of a formal assault on the health and safety of our marine eco-systems.”
Three hours and 17 miles into our 60 mile sail, the already light wind dropped to near nothing. Kevin was having trouble moving at all on a 7.0 m2 sail and a 293 cm board and I wasn’t exactly pushing the speed barrier with my 6.6 on a 277. Bearing no affinity to the realm of longboards, I had earlier dismissed Kevin’s suggestion that we bring them along, just in case. Whoops, sorry Kev. At any rate, foolish decisions aside, limited to our hi-tech world cup oriented race gear, my little brother’s fifty pound weight disadvantage saw him plugging along at a wee pokier pace than I was managing.
Twenty miles out from Bimini, the frustrating reality of the situation became apparent. Kevin and I were forced to make a difficult decision; either I continue on solo and possibly complete the trip, or neither of us would reach land before dark. Kevin felt there was really no choice; the important thing was that I finish in order to maximize media attention and increase awareness for our cause.
What a bro! I know how bummed he was, since retiring had nothing to do with being tired, but for want of the proper gear.
I floated downwind for the next five hours, alone above the bottomless gulf, packing only a Power Bar and a hand held GPS (Global Positioning System, donated by West Marine) which I had no clue how to operate. My supposed chase boat was barely visible, cruising somewhere on the horizon behind me most of the way. They were busy chumming, so thought it best not to create a feeding frenzy near the shark paranoia queen.
“No way am I gonna make it,” I thought as I concentrated intensely on not falling into the deep blue hungry creature pit below. My hands and back were not happy and I was having a hard time sitting back, relaxing and enjoying the ride. Where the hell am I and how many more hours of this do I have to endure?
Most fortunately, and ever so timely, ten miles from my destination off the Ft. Lauderdale coastline, divine intervention blessed me with an extra five knots of wind and shift in direction. I could make it…if the wind held and I kept pumping like mad that is. My good fortune held and I reached Pompano Beach, 7 miles north of my target, at 7:15 pm in just under nine hours, with fifteen minutes of daylight to spare. I was feeling dangerously relieved. The only anti-climax was that I was there alone, but seeing Kevin, Darrell, and the whole crew waving and hooting from the chase boat was exhilarating…we did it… life was good.
Our mission continues far beyond an isolated event. In fact, Kevin and I are planning to make the crossing again, just to set the record straight and satisfy his goal. Still, the most effective force in protecting our oceans from weakened environmental legislation at the hands of narrow minded, self-seeking special interest groups, is us; the people who care about our lakes and rivers and oceans. If we sit back while these polluters destroy our playground, we will lose it.
Cancel social irresponsibility on the part of major corporations and government officials with your action. Prevent clean water from becoming a mirage in an increasing desert of despair. HR 961, which was originally slated to be voted on by the Senate last fall, has been tabled temporarily but still lingers among the desks of our elected. So, please educate yourself, research your vote before electing representatives and make sound decisions based on your knowledge.
Without our collective action, the nightmares of the “plastic bag catapult”, having your primo board marred by an oil slick or even being struck down by a mystery rogue virus spawned by polluted waters, could so easily be tomorrow’s reality.
For more info on Clean Water contact:
Center for Marine Conservation’s
Ocean Action Hotline: (202) 775-2775
Surfrider Foundation: 800-743 SURF
Or to find out how your local
representative voted: (202)-335-3121