The Pirates of Micro-Plastic
A Story of Environmentalism, Sex, Adventure, Sailing and Storms
-Sailing a 26′ sailboat from Alaska to Panama-
By Captain Hoock
Ode to a Sailor
Bring me that horizon with it’s fiery glow
Just me, the mountains and creatures below
The wind as my lover
The stars as my guide
On through the mysterious dusk I shall glide
The hustle and bustle of town far behind
Looking for nothing, yet something I will find
The shoot of a star?
A strange creature on tail?
Or the breath of some god caught up on my sail!
The mountains my master, my mistress the sea
I left them all for her and she set me free
The salt of her waves
The laugh of her shore
I shall love till I breath no more, no more
Each morn I greet the sun with a hearty Arrg!
At night when it sets I’ll watch from afar
Oh the colors I’ll see
of no man could tell
The hues of heaven, the shades of hell
When rations are low and whiskey is drained
I’ll eat of the fish and drink of the rain
The sea she will care for those who’s lives they have gave
to dance in her waters and float on her waves
I’ve given up much to live in this way
sweet tears have been shed as I sail on my way
Each port that I pass steals a piece of my soul
My heart is bursting but never whole
Wish me not away my friend
We must all sail to our separate ends
I live on in your hearts your legends, your tales
Of a man, the sea, and his wandering sails
So bring me that horizon with it’s fiery glow
Just me, the mountains and creatures below
The wind as my lover
The stars as my guide
On through the mysterious dusk I shall glide!
-Poem by Chill Sea
What dose it mean to be a mariner, a sail bum, a pirate of popular culture?
Our boat is small and the ocean bigger than any one person’s imagination. Over everything else, we lived for those moments when every wave breaks over the bow at such a pace that you can hardly wipe the salt out of your eyes, snow blows sideways and the waves toss up the hand of Davy Jones himself; hold on, hoot and holler “Yeee Haaa!” We stayed alive for those moments when we see our dear old friends, so their smiles may bring tears to our eyes.
We created an ambitious goal for 2010; to sail 10,000 miles of the Pacific West Coast of North America and conduct surface trawl sampling for micro-plastic debris and hold beach cleanup events with proper waste disposal in every state and country along the Pacific Coast.
This outrageous, true story, describes the adventure of Captain Hoock and many friends as they sailed ¼ of the way around the world in a 26 foot sailboat with no previous sailing experience after graduating from college. In this thrill packed story, lessons learned are given in detail for the education of others. Hold fast for this wild ride of an adventure story.
We set out at first light, our mission; to further scientific knowledge concerning the transport of micro-plastic debris in oceanic waters, prevent plastic from reaching the ocean and remove it from coastal areas.
In the legacy of so many scientific endeavors, we aimed to use the spirit of adventure to further scientific knowledge and use our knowledge to make the world a better place. Our intent is to capture the imaginations of countless people and inspire a sense of environmental responsibility worldwide.
This sailing adventure can be described as moments of pure tranquility, interrupted by sheer terror. “Never let go, never give up,” is the moral of this story. It is in our greatest hopes you will join us in our quest through the sea.
Chapter 1: Arr a pirates life for me!
I’m in Petersburg, Alaska, running guns and fine Panamanian rum. How did I get here, I ask myself; I remember the journey well…
I set out at first light solo. This was my first long distance multiple day sailing experience. The Jolly Rodger, a capable small sailboat of 26 feet, was packed to the gunnel with guns, rum and equipment for adventures to come. I had to sell my hunting rifle, pistol and a shot gun. I knew along the epic sailing trip to come, I would not be able to bring them, as I would be passing through the boarders of many different countries. Inevitably they would cause more trouble then their worth. Later I certainly found that to be true and am thankful I got rid of them. I had decided Petersburg, Alaska would be the perfect place to run my guns for a number of reasons. The community of Petersburg is a small fishing town in Southeast Alaska with no roads in or out, typical of most towns in Southeast AK. The town is on an island nestled in temperate rainforest surrounded by towering mountain peaks in a Norwegian style fjord. Much of the town is of Norwegian heritage, and they love to drink like Vikings in this town. In all seriousness they even have an annual Little Norway festival centered around drinking like Vikings. Supported by the fishing fleets currency of salmon, this town is well to do. There is no gun store in Petersburg and in lies one reason for choosing this town. The other reason, a girl whom I am wild about, who’s radiant personality I desire the company of. It’s hard to describe the love of a sailor’s heart, but for this girl, I would describe it as deep as the sea and willing to cross oceans for.
Though it was first light, I will not kid myself on being the first boat out of the harbor in Juneau Alaska, as I had spent until the wee hours of the morning in a dingy harbor bar over run with drunk college students from the university above. Patrons who want to be winter sport athletes, fishermen, hairy mountain men and women populated the bar… I took great entertainment in their company and still do to this day. I identify with their wild, uncertain and undirected behavior. On this night I was somewhere between being one of them and drifting into the life of a sailor, the man, the sea, and his wandering sails.
Luckily, it was a late Alaskan winter morning with dawn not occurring before 9 AM. I felt slightly sick due to the copious quantities of honey mead grog I had consumed. The remembrance of her face drove an urgency to getting out of my v-birth rack. The boat was warm and dry, I had an electric heater running off shore power cooking away. Looking at the frost covered plexiglass hatch, I knew even the most simple comfort of heat would soon be left behind. Using my camp stove I made a quick breakfast of eggs and coffee. After gearing up in my foul weather gear, I scrambled to stow everything for sea. I knew one thing, on this winter day it would be rough out. I have had through trial and error experienced all my belongings and important equipment being shifted around in rough conditions. That may not seem like such a big deal until your boat is literally thrown on its side and all of your stuff comes crashing down. Aside from making a mess, things may get broken, or even block you from getting to what you need in a life threatening situation.
Lesson Learned: Stow, Lash, Go. It’s simple but critical that you are organized and your stuff is secure, otherwise your stuff may put you in a life threatening situation.
The last step in getting ready, I climbed out of the cabin. Crunching frost under my feet I pattered up the frozen harbor ramp to the public restroom. My little boat did not have a head (bathroom). The harbor was still. It was just after dawn. Back to my boat, I cast off all my lines pushed of from the pier with my body weight, then jumped on the boat.
I was off. Before long the air freshened, becoming a brisk wind against me. The wind was accompanied by a bone chilling sleet filled rain. Committed to the idea of sailing I was tight hauled with the jib and main in an up wind tack. This type of sailing does not produce fast reward or instant gratification. As you are moving forward though the elements, the wind is amplified by your own speed. Along with the wind, the rain is amplified; it oozes down your back and penetrates your waterproof pants as you sit. Through all this misery, after each tack, you may only find yourself a few hundred yards forward of the last tack. Slow, painful and cold.
Not late in the day I found myself becoming tired, chilled to the bone and lonely. The memory of the girl I was off to see was not with me at this moment; I was shivering on deck, hopelessly cold, clutching the tiller, trying to maintain a strait course, nodding off. I slapped myself across the face, jumped up and knew, “More energy! That’s the answer.” Taking a bite of rope, I tied the tiller and snuck down below. A Snickers Bar found me in good faith. Back top side I watched a few fishing boats pass me over a couple of hours. Their destination most likely the same quaint little fishing village as I was heading. Later, I came upon their desperate hide out. They had all anchored together to wait out the wind.
Their anchorage honestly sucked. It was an exposed rocky hide out, providing them a surely restless night. Not room for one more boat. Until recently in life I never identified with fishermen. This was not that day. Across the waterway awaited a beautifully protected safe harbor and I wanted it. At the opposite end of the Fjord lie my destination, and I wanted it! This moment I could vividly see that warm drunken goofy smile sharing a bottle of rum with me. I could feel the warmth of her, laughter filled, flushed red cheeks, through the pouring rain beating down on the boat. Was this exuberating feeling powering me through this hard situation or luring me into danger? I suppose both may be true.
Passing the desperately huddled fishing boats I pressed on into the main channel. This channel was at the mouth of the mighty Taku Inlet. The Taku Inlet is host to the largest glacier of the Juneau Ice Field. The 110 mile long glacier creates it’s own wind. Warm air off the sea rises, giving way to cold dry air pouring off this massive ice field. As that warmer air lifts, it cools, forcing the moisture out of itself. The resulting rain is instantly frozen by the sub zero glacial winds. This freezing rain coats everything and conducts all the warm feeling from your body.
The winds approached hurricane force. To my favor the seas had only a short fetch and could only summon 6 to 8 feet in height, but it was a steep 6 to 8 foot sea at a 1 second interval.
Every wave broke over the bow at such a rapid pace I could hardly wipe the freezing salt water out of my eyes with my near lifeless skeleton hands. Then I realized I was not going to make it to my much desired harbor on that tack, perhaps I was even losing ground. Unacceptable! I tied the tiller again, started the motor and forced my cold soul to action. Quickly, I dropped the fore sail and struggled to bundle it. Securing the fore sail requires being at the bow. In such conditions I can only describe the feeling as a cross between a roller coaster and a bucking bull. However, when solo sailing if you fall overboard, you die. Next, the main. The main came down whipping and beating wildly in the wind. My frozen hands struggled to maintain control of the ice laden sail. One knot at a time it was secured.
Under power of my 9.9 horsepower motor, I steamed ahead. Gaining slow, slow ground every wave continued to wash over my deck. The harbor grew near. In the final moments the unthinkable happened, my fuel tank ran dry. I had 20 more gallons of gas aboard, but this was not a good moment. I cursed to myself as I drifted back, rummaging through my cockpit hold for my Jerry Jugs and tank. The boat violently rocked back and forth. “Fuck, fuck” was all I could say. Then I spotted a buoy from a commercial king crab trap. I steered for it and grabbed it. The trap held me straight long enough to sloppily pour enough fuel into my tank to get me to my safe harbor.
Lesson Learned: If you are running an outboard as your motor, have two fuel tanks and keep them both full. It is way easier, safer, and more environmentally friendly to switch between tanks than refuel at an inevitable bad moment.
At the mouth of Taku Harbor a rainbow arched across the entrance gleaming the good omen of being in the right spot at the right time, beckoning me to come in to safety. A safe, placid harbor awaited me. I tied up to a state of Alaska maintained, emergency storm relief float. And huffed to my self “god.” I climbed below deck exhausted, with no patience to cook. Another Snickers Bar and bed I decided. After eating my Snickers Bar I crawled to my bed. It was soaking wet. Every wave that had washed my bow had penetrated between the deck and the haul. I felt like crying, but where would that get me? I decided to crawl into my wet sleeping bag with all of my wet clothing and wet rain gear on. It was the only option I had. Alone, desperate and cold.
As I climbed into my v-birth bed, water squished out of my foam pad mattress. Water sweat down the bulk head. My sleeping bag felt as if it had been stored in a cooler full of ice water. As I laid in my bed shaking I tried wiggling my toes to keep blood flowing in my lifeless frozen feet. I hugged myself tightly with my hands in my armpits. Though I could only manage a shiver out of my hypothermic body, my mind was racing. I was worried about what the following day would bring. Would I make it? Could I make it? I had used a significant amount of my fuel getting to the harbor. I calculated that I was only about 1/3 of the way to Petersburg and had burned about ½ of my fuel. I had told everyone I would. I had told everyone I knew that the coming summer I would set sail on an epic 10,000 mile journey. Was I bound to fail before I even started, I wondered. Needless to say, I did not sleep well.
The next morning, still desperately cold, I awoke at 5 am to beat the wind, in fear of it coming against me with such force again. In the previous day I had burned much more gas than I counted on. If prevailing conditions persisted I would not have enough fuel to reach Petersburg. Climbing out of the cabin I was surprised to find my bay frozen over. In darkness the mornings calm was shatter with the bow of the Jolly Rodger crashing through the ice. She was built a tough bitch back in 1969. Her haul was made of nearly ½” thick fiber glass. The ice was not too thick, it split open like an egg shell producing the most satisfying noise. This brought a great smile to my face, the first one of the otherwise cold and hard trip.
Back in the channel the winds began to pick up with the same intensity as the day before, only this time going my way. With a glimmer of hope I decided to lift the main. To do this I tied the tiller on course, and proceeded mid ship to the mast. I pulled away at the main halyard, then the tiller slipped. Under sail power of the main the boat turned for up wind taking a wave abeam. Desperately holding on to the rope that runs up the mast to the sail, I was flung overboard. Every ounce of muscle in my fingers gripped the rope clutching it for my life. My foot caught the life line rail of the boat, and with the strength of all my core I pulled myself back aboard. Quickly, I tied off the main. The winds intensified. Under just the main I was surfing the tops of the waves in an epic down wind run making 7 to 9 knots. Adrenaline pumped through my veins, it was not lost on me that I nearly died moments ago.
Lesson Learned: Only raise and lower the main running up wind. If not the sails luff to down wind and catch your rigging. Jumping halyards (which is vector pulling them) is the fastest way to run a line, but leaves you the most vulnerable and unstable.
I was excited to finally be making ground, and making ground fast. Passing by the mouth of Tracy Arm there were several large icebergs. These mountains of ice crash into each other with such tremendous force they could easily crush the boat. In this down wind run I was able to dodge around them, negotiating the maze like minefield of ice with ease. I felt great, free and relieved that was going to make it! Now that I was surfing a down wind run, I could not stop. I sailed the day away into the night.
That run carried me surfing down wind for 80 miles doing 7 to 9 knots under only a single sail. As I rode with the waves surfing, I felt the bow of the boat never touched the water. Her keel sprayed steady as she cut each wave below riding her stern.
Night fell on Frederick Sound and the wind subsided, but I was close. So close I could taste it, I had to make it the rest of the way that night. How could I not? I started up my little motor again, then secured my main. Motoring along bioluminescence filled my wake with a magical sparkle. This amazing glow looked like a thousand green fireflies beneath the placid black surface. My bow wake was a shimmering, sparkling, green glow, and an intense green spiral was shooting off my prop. I felt as if I was in a dream on a different planet. With 20 miles to go I decided on continuing through the night. I was wild with excitement to see an old love residing in the town.
The girl I yearned to see is beautiful beyond words. She is so smart, funny, tough, and wild as the night. Her eyes twinkle the excitement of all the bioluminescence in the sea, her smile is contagiously unacceptable. Her laughter is endless. As beautiful as she is she is also sexy and wild. I remember the night we first met and how, running into the ocean naked, wild she is. I could not stop thinking about how I wanted to run my fingers threw her radiant blond hair and embrace her in an epic kiss. She is so sexy that just the thought of kissing her makes me excited. It’s hard to describe the love of a sailor’s heart, but for this girl, I would describe it as deep as the sea, worth crossing oceans for and spending any number of cold, cold nights at sea.
Like us on Facebook to stay updated with more released from this story.