By Holly Paterson
Executive Director, All Hands Alliance
Headquartered at 11 Waites Wharf in Newport RI, All Hands Alliance is a grassroots, nonprofit organization with the goal of engaging and inspiring the boating community to clean up our oceans and waterways. We hope to make a difference in attitudes about marine pollution and also preserve boating as we know it for future generations.
At All Hands Alliance, we’re not driven by a single ideology. The problem is just too big and widespread to say, “We have found the one way to do this, follow our instructions.” Instead there’s really no wrong way to do it, and “we’ll all do it together” is our mantra. We have started our ambassador program to encourage participation, and anyone with a mind to help and put in some effort is a welcome member of our team.
The problem of pollution and litter is at once both local and global. When we look at the sea around our boat, all that water is connected to the water halfway around the world in the middle of the Indian Ocean, or on the shores of Southern California, from the coast of South Africa to the south coast of France. We care about the sea that we can boat on, our local waters, but we also, by extension, care about the waters that touch everywhere else. And we want those local boaters in those places to care about it, too.
That’s where the power of the sea’s influence comes in. We feel the ocean inspires everyone who gives it the chance, from the time we were very young, wading in the tidepools at the beach, to later on, when we had many of our first adventures, sailing or driving a motorboat, fishing and exploring on our own. At All Hands Alliance, boaters are the natural leaders of the movement we envision, since we carry this influence in our hearts, and enjoy sharing the sea with our children and friends.
Since they see the problem firsthand, boaters, sailors, cruisers, anglers, paddlers – anyone who really enjoys being on the water – are the key to join our membership and be proud to fly the flag. The chances of them seeing marine trash and debris, and being able to do something about it, are much greater.
And we all know the problem is real in the Northeast, and particularly in Long Island Sound. Around the world, a lot of marine trash comes from land-based sources—in fact as much as 80 percent of ocean plastic waste is thought to come from shore—as rivers and streams wash litter into the oceans. This waste stream has an impact on the Sound from both the Connecticut and New York shorelines, both densely populated areas.
Being an All Hands Alliance Ambassador means dialing in your awareness of your surroundings. Good boaters are always looking for obstacles that pose a danger to their boat, so their eyes catch sight of dead fish, an occasional branch or a piece of lumber, and probably more plastic bags, styrofoam debris, Mylar balloons, and plastic water bottles than they can count. Now, instead of just turning their heads back to the course, we’re asking people to act as if their favorite hat had just blown off, and turn their boat safely to pick it up.
We think the best way to achieve a real impact is to act in a way that other people will see, and understand, and emulate. If boaters bring their kids on board and start picking up trash, the kids will understand that it is the right thing to do, and it will even rub off the friends they bring along. If the kids want to play an active role, we have an All Hands Alliance Junior Ambassador program that may teach them to pay more attention to their surroundings, and in turn make them better boaters.
You can encourage your friends at your yacht or cruising club to join in, and also your marina or town dock. Talk to your dockmaster or manager about participating, and encourage them to fly the flag and place placards around the facility with information about membership.
That’s the most important part of what All Hands Alliance is working to do: Starting from scratch, we want to build awareness. Marine debris is a worldwide problem. There’s no wrong way to clean it up and encourage other people to help out. Spread the word, scan the seas, and, when the crew spots something, swing her around and pick it up. To join our mission, please call 401-324-9252 or visit allhandsalliance.org. ■