Dodging the Path

Before we state anything else, it’s important that we mention how sad we are for all of our friends, colleagues, and partners in the Northern Leewards. The devastation of Irma and Maria have not only left millions from the Virgins to Puerto Rico, St. Martin, Anguilla, St. Barth’s and Dominica without proper shelter, food, water and medical care – they have put an enormous dent in livelihoods. We had not yet returned when Irma struck, and watched with horror as she laid to waste homes of friends, places of work, and much of the natural beauty in places we have come to call home. In all that our vessel miraculously has survived with marginal damage, for which we are most thankful. Our hope is to return to St. Croix and begin helping with music education in schools that have been badly damaged in the region as soon as possible.

Toppled trees lie on a tennis court after Hurricane Maria battered St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands September 21, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake –

We’ve been a little quite over here, and with good reason. The past month has been overstuffed with news and world events and yes, weather. There’s an inherent cost of doing business involved in spending long periods in the Caribbean – and the law of averages say that sooner or later your number will come up. This season, we have seen a completely new breed of weather event, one that reared its’ ugly head for the first time in recorded history. Regardless if you believe climate change is accelerating due to human activity or not, what is undeniable fact is that a very small portion of our human population is disproportionately feeling the effects of a changing trend in weather.

Many of our friends know that we went through Hurricane Sandy in 2012, lost our home and decided to pull up stakes and start the sailing life. We’ve actually made the joke that it was the best thing that ever happened to us. Sandy was hard, but pales in comparison to the logistical nightmare facing this region now. Although we are very glad we weren’t back on St. Croix to experience Maria, it has been really difficult hovering in NJ/ NY watching this from afar. We are “doers,” stuck with very little capacity to do. We’ve engaged in some fundraising with varied success, tried to be a communication hub for people when needed, but without a great deal of resources it is very difficult to make any headway with this issue, especially when you are struggling yourself. If we had things to fix, things to lift and move it would certainly be simpler. Life is rarely simple.

As of now we’re slated to head back to St. Croix as soon as we get the green light from the organization we will be working with there, CMCArts (they operate the museum in Frederiksted, St. Croix). The original plan had us working with children from the Arthur Richards school there, one of many throughout the area that is now uninhabitable due to the damage left behind. We hope to still work with the same general group, but things are constantly flexing and changing, which we will need to flow with. Beyond that 4 week “artist in residency” we hope to alter our schedule this season and work with affected kids in 4 week capsules rather than performing. To support that, we are currently seeking partnerships with organizations throughout the region putting efforts into rebuilding and reconstruction.

Reality for us is that many of our regular haunts are gone –  Marina Cay, Teres Veho, Zen’it Beach – too many to number. It would be completely inappropriate to hold our same route and look for gigs in these areas, and would feel equally out of place for us to cut and run to unaffected areas (Antigua, Martinique/ Guadeloupe, etc) and continue performing in the same manner we have done for the pat 4 years. So we’ll figure out how to help in some way…schools in many areas have been badly damaged, in some cases leaving children to continue classes in tents. We can at the very least come and supplant a music program where theirs may be on hold, possibly even aid to replace instruments and equipment when we can figure out what the exact need is.

There’s still a record to mix (from our tour in Colorado), there are still some events coming up later in the season. We’ve still got new material to record in NY before we leave – and we’ll make sure to post our whereabouts and goings on when appropriate. Things have changed, and we intend to change with them for the better. In the meantime, we’d like to express our thanks for all of the support over the years, and wish you all the very best. Be well, and take good care.

 

Stell and Snuggs

“LandYacht” Tour 2017 Kicks off!!!

Fair Winds from the LandYacht “Whispering Wheat” on the macadam seas of the Eastern seaboard! – we’ve got her all dolled up and ship shape, there’s lots of new material we’re bringing along with, some songs and some instrumental pieces, some fun new merch and we’re really excited to hit the road and share all the new music with you all. Our schedule is fantastic – great venues and enough time to get a few days at Sleeping Brotherhood Studios in Denver, CO with our good friend and partner Kyle Jones. Yes , yes – that means we’re working on a new recording project!

   We’ve had many requests from our friends asking for a new record – unfortunately, that is not part of the plan. We’ve decided to change gears a bit and rather move to releasing singles and video projects throughout the year. This format is a great fit for our lifestyle – gypsies that when not on the sea hit the road. It’s part of how things are going in the biz…all the kids are doin’ it and it saves on waste. We’re stoked to have a new focus – change can have a real positive effect on our work if we let it!

 When we get to Colorado we’ll be doing most of the shows with either a trio or quartet – with Scott Messersmith on percussion along with Keith Moseley from the String Cheese Incident and Eric Thorin on bass. It’s really a reflection of how the new recording project will go – a slightly larger format than “Vela,” with an expanded percussion section, bass, and many more surprises. Colorado is really where we first got into producing our own music, and it will be great to be back home at the console again with Kyle.

 

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Photo: James Dewalt Gold Hill Inn, Colorado 2016

  The leadup has been real busy – what with #onecupatatime, our stint from Scotland to Spain with Cpt. Steven on “Falco” and all. These breaks are all really important, though – very few bands or musical acts are on tour for 4 years with no real breaks, and we needed a bit to digest our experiences into new material and just refocus ourselves a bit. This tour is gonna be great, and we’re biting at the bit to get it rolling. Make sure to share the schedule with friends and keep up with us on FB and Instagram for Live Video feeds from shows and sessions, right along with some  surprise material.

 

We’re heading West…See you at the shows!!!

 

Stell and Snuggs

  

Sailing in Scotland, and “speaking out loud” against Plastic Pollution

Donate #onecupatatime

As you can see, we’ve been busy. 10 days ago we were in St. Croix – we laid the boat up in 22 hours, including stepping the mast. Catherine’s got a small below waterline repair that needs a dry-out period before attending. After a show in NJ, and in NY, Snuggs is here in Scotland jumping on the transit of @clubfalco from Copenhagen to the Mediterranean Sea.

We started a campaign to reduce plastic pollution: #onecupatatime

Several days ago was #worldoceansday, and on this day our parternship with the Moorings really came out. The team there decided to formally announce their support in their newsletter, so big shouts to Ian and the rest of the crew at The Moorings for believing in us – without solid partnerships we’re “dead-in-the-water.” Here is the LINK.
As pristine as Scotland is, it is no stranger to this plastic thing. Reality is, there are so few places, if any, on the entire planet that are. Of course the marinas here have some floaters – every single one does. It’s not like folks are just tossing plastic in the sea, it’s all accidental. I guess we should call it neglect – but until we stop using them entirely we’ll have to include ourselves in that pile of humanity. Saints to waste we are not, and it would be impossible to say that we’ve never had a single thing fly of the boat at one point or another. We’ve all got to get next to that fact, accept it and move forward.


A big deal here is the “take-away” food spots – fish and chips so huge and delicious you just gotta have it. That means lots of styro-foam and plastic forks. I will say that most of the places have a choice for a sweet printed cardboard box, but you better be specific and clear about it. If not, you’re getting the foam. There are plenty of areas in the states that are the same, and it never fails to stun me that we as humans are still even using the stuff. It goes to show how these things become so engrained as acceptable, the amount of time it takes to make changes just seems insane. Are we addicted? Complacent? It’s really hard to tell, and only shrouds the issue in further contention as to where the blame lies. A piece of advice – we start with ourselves and the choices we make. And how those choices affect others, human or otherwise.


Even though you expect a good pint in a glass here, we’ve managed to bump in to a couple of busy nights where the plastic comes out to play. I actually had to turn down some cask ale due to this as I hadn’t brought my own mug with me – my overly-romanticised view of the region just couldn’t stand the thought of anything other than the perfect pint. At least there was a security guard spending much of his time collecting the spent vessels, prior to their decommissioning.
One use and that’s it – how the heck did we get her as a race, so afraid of a little beer in the bottom tainting our “clean” mouths that we couldn’t possibly reuse the thing for the night. Oh no. My mouth is sacred – right. I wonder if you did the math for the night here, the cost of all the cups and of the percentage of the security guard’s wage in dealing with them, and compared them to washing how that would work out? Saying no to the pint wasn’t fun, but I had a nice whiskey instead served in glass. No one here in their right mind would be so daft as to serve that in plastic, that’s just plain sacrilege! Next time I won’t forget the mug – I’ll deal with the odd stare or two and enjoy the hell out of that pint knowing I’m on the level.
That’s what makes the campaign of #onecupatatime so important – it’s not but the location – everywhere in the world has this damn problem. It’s about the source of the problem, and that is us. We’ve got to stop saying “Screw it, I’ll save myself the effort” and see the backside of that equation. Just like any other there is an equal sign in the middle, and what goes in must come out. We’re just so busy making a buck or looking cool that we aren’t willing to jump two steps forward. It’s truly ridiculous and not changing anytime soon. Humans have become lazy in our technological advances. We just hire someone else to deal with it, and in the process of these things being recycled or disposed of “properly” the stragglers that get away are wreaking havoc in our waters – from the busiest cities to the most remote islands on earth.


The slow advances we have made are not nearly enough nor are they moving at a good enough clip. In this we ask for your help – not only to donate but to share and help us spread the word. We don’t want to do this thing perpetually – we want to prove the impact of a small decision by taking a sample group and providing them with a tool to use, one that no amount of social media hash-tagging is going to convince em to just “bring along on vacation.” We want to prove that plastic isn’t some system that we have to beat, it’s a material that we have allowed ourselves to become married to due to its inexpensiveness. It’s cheap, and when we over use it we become cheap, while still spending more money and resources on the material itself. It’s cheap in the mindset, which migrates through other behaviors as well.
It is the worst when we are having the most fun – on vacation, at a concert, at a bar that’s just “too busy to wash” or concerned about safety and breakage. We can’t leave it up to businesses, we’ve got to show them what we want. We want our bevvies! We want ’em tall! And when we’re dealing with the next morning, we want a clear conscience no matter how foggy the mind.

Thanks for being a part of it – bottoms’ up!!

Team One Cup

THE PASSAGE:

What a stunning part of the world these Isles are – the sights and people of Scotland and Ireland are absolutely incredible. Rugged, yet still with a sweetness likened to the morning dew. While transiting the Caledonia Canal we made through Lochness, and lucked out with 15 knots of wind on a dead run, wing-on-wing with the pole out. Falco crossed Lochness well inside of 3 hours. Epic.
After a night in Fort Augustus (about midway through the 60 mile system), we hit the next section and took a nice little dip in Loch Lochy – this of course after we realized we had run out of cooking fuel and a post-dip hot tea would be put of the question. A nice lunch of cold haggis and scotch will substitute anytime in my book. After a 2 second swim we kept on moving, and made the entry to Neptunes Ladder round 6pm. This is the last set of locks before you exit the canal.
Once we popped through the locks it was 30 some-odd nautical miles to the port of Oban (pronounced “O-ben), the “seafood” capital of Scotland. Very nice city, and as usual the people are colorful as they come. Speaking of color, enter “Eric the Fiddler,” whom we met at a lovely pub on the backside of town. A few pints later the stories were simply amazing – the man is a bit of everything from a linguist to an engineer, and we shared some lovely tunes with yours truly playing some ill-acquired spoons. Myself along with the rest of this delivery crew – Cpt. Steven, Jesse, and Dillon – we were real lucky to have had the privilege of the man’s company for a bit. A real taste of the country.
After Oban the winds pushed us on to Belfast about 115 nm South through the Sea of the Southern Coast of Scotland (how’s that for a mouthful?). No lie, charts call it by name. We know Belfast and it’s rich shipbuilding history (birthplace of the White Star Line, of “Titanic” fame), and while I was in the back of my mind expecting a bit of a dingy, blue-collar industrial type town, I was immediately smacked in the face by a truly interesting and happening little city.
The port entry is tight, but you roll through a vibrant shipping and ferry dock zone – one whole which is currently devoted to the construction of wind generators, the big-un’s. These folks aren’t like us Americans – they love to see their seasides dotted with windfarms that steadily unlatch this small country from the teet of fossil and nuclear power, all the while putting good shipsmen (or Ulstermen as they are referred to) to work sans hazard pay. The pic looks like some kind of giant aliean musical instrument – what the organ in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” should’ve been.
The only marina for small private vessels is adjacent to the Titanic Museum and a stadium. For you old Rock n’ Roll buffs out there, Stone Roses was playing the night after we arrived. Just about 5 – 10 minutes walk from the city proper, it is a great stop off point in the region I couldn’t recommend it enough. The marina is really inexpensive and well-kept, and such a short walk into town makes this a night-owl’s delight. Top that off with an extra few hours of light in the sky due to the high altitude and there is no limit to the trouble one can find if one wants…


So now we’re in the Isle of Man – 4 dudes on a boat, no-less. Isla des Mano, Quatro des Mano awaiting some more wind to get further South and start losing the layers. For the time being, though, we’re all having a great time – lots of hot tea and coffee going around at sea and toasty scotch and whiskey ashore with Northern Gannets, Muir and gulls a plenty. Now if we could only figure out how to land a fish…

To Be Socially Responsible While on Tour

imageHaving been back on the island nation of Grenada for several weeks, we’re abut ready to start heading North again for our 4th season of tour. It’s been a lovely stay here, and we’ve had some great shows, met many wonderful folks, and even have teamed up with some fantastic fire dancers out of France for some performances…all in all, not too shabby of a first go at things here. This island has a great many things to experience – waterfalls, rainforests, fresh foods a plenty – but nothing nourishes the soul like an in-the-gut human reality way outside your comfort zone.

When we returned to Catherine, nestled in the mangroves of Hog Island safe and sound thanks to close friends (Andi, Kirin, and Mark get some love here), we started getting her back together and of course, figuring out how to keep food on the table. At one show on Hog Island, at Roger’s, we bumped into an old acquaintance who asked if we would come and play at an orphanage on the island, the Queen Elizabeth Home for Children in St. Georges, one of Grenada’s largest cities. Being career artists, it is not every day that we have much “extra” to give to charity other than the skills we posess and art we make. When it comes up, it usually ends up our honor to do so.

 

Arriving we met about 20 kids, ages 3-18, who were welcoming, fun, affectionate, and some musically quite talented – all had the same effect, and that was one of pure warmth that is inspiring. I was personally expecting them to possibly be a bit reluctant to our presence, as visitors generally come and go at an orphanage for various reasons, but quite the opposite occured. They asked questions, goofed off with us, listened to some music then made some of their own. The whole time we felt we were seeing a different kind of family – one who’s main bond was not blood or a last name, but that their parents for one reason or another weren’t “around.” We have since gone back again, and hope to do so again before we head off – having no parents directly in their life has had little effect on their ability for compassion, which is a testament to the human condition and something we could always use more of.

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Our point in this post is not to parade a good deed, but more to suggest a course of action. Positive exchanges between human beings self-propogate, leading to outbreaks of happiness and fullfillment so infectious that they must be passed on. That positive energy leads to such self-confidence one may head down a path of enlightenment, taking actions that fulfill the self and those around you. Respect, laughter, a real purpose that is right – just a touch of the ingredients necessary for us meager humans to do a better job of living with and learning from each other, all races, all walks. The effect we may have on another, especially a child, may have repercussions that last beyond our time.

Ps.  If you are interested in supporting this orphanage with a donation, please hit us up with a message and we will send you the details.❤️

Cheers

Christel & Jarad

Modern Day Gypsy

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“Gypsy”

Not something you pretend – nor is it any sort of joke. Depending on who you are, the very word brings a host of emotions. For some, thoughts of traveling to and fro without any hangups, for others visions of no good bums avoiding real jobs and real life. For some it evokes family – one where the roots were pulled up in some distant place and there was no choice but to set off in search of a prosperous life elsewhere. One thing is for sure, the real world is not in books, not in maps, not in your mailbox or here on the web. It’s wherever you are at any given moment – and as a free human being on this planet, I get to choose when and where that place is.

Like every other life choice, this one has it’s consequences. When you make your bed, you’ve got to sleep in it. No consierge to complain to, no labor board to help you. You must make everything work or be miserable and go back to the box, beholden to a boss, a train schedule, the banks. This is not for us – we know. We were there for many years, struggling to keep food on the table while chasing our passions. Like being a drunk with only vinegar to drink, the taste quickly sours and the gut becomes rife with discomfort.

We certainly didn’t set out to become gypsies of any sort. We both grew up in the bosom of America’s great dream, nestled in our beds under the watchful eye of our families we experienced only that which they and our surrounding society desired us to. Our setting off was quite the disturbance – first demanding answers to why-how’s and where-to-fors, then harboring a somewhat disconserted attempt to comprehend the nature of our journey. In it, we’ve learned volumes about ourselves, our families, our upbringing and our society as “modern Americans.”

Truth is, maybe I’m a conspiracy theorist of sorts, of possibly a soul born at the wrong time. I enjoy real freedom and all the struggle that goes along with it, the end of which one reaches into their pocket and pulls out a group of skillsets that you never imagined were coming to you. As necessity is the mother of invention, willingness will drive out competence every time. In my estimation, freedom gets you to a place that most often presents itself as a conundrum – at times choices must be made to simply “deal” with the ramifications of the freedom you’ve chosen. In our case, boat life trumps all.image

Safety of family and crew, seaworthiness of our vessel – all are tied up in a neat little package of “get to work and fix it NOW or you don’t make the next port.” That’s how we live, how we support our lives. Food, parts, musical gear, funds for the goods that we sell, consumables that the vessel requires; and I haven’t even mentioned the calls and emails yet. The ones that get the gig, convincing everyone from the small venue owner to the festival committee that we belong on the bill. Our experience of boat life has truly been a great window into the mechanics of the “have-to’s and the have-not’s,” and the lot of baggage that goes along with. What it has not meant is borrowing what we do not have, taking what is not ours, and complaining when things do not go our way.

If freedom means nothing else, it is a testament to will. Pitting yourself against the “odds” that your peers may bring up and realizing that life is tough no matter how and where you conduct its detail. And with the 1,000 ways there are to “skin the proverbial cat,” the most valuable lesson is to realize for yourself which way best suits your happiness, the one that will allow you to become the individual you see when you look at the mirror and only wish you could throw a line to and pull through to stand next to you and then to meld with, blending both the reflection and reality.

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Photo: Sam Neels

What is it that begets freedom? Money and wealth? Family? Societal staus? Education? What if it were just the ability to make the descision you deem best at the time without having to answer to anyone but yourself for it? Such a simple thing, it seems, but a complicated path no matter what society you live “in.” In some the mere reading of a particular book will get you thrown in the kettle. In others, the more ridiculous you act it seems the more you are rewarded – humanity’s rhyme and reason have beeon quite off for some millenia. There are so many permutations of this – thin vs fat, white vs brown, poor vs rich. That will never come to an end, nor will the changes in what is thought of as desireable to any given society.

What also never changes are the possibilities that come when individuals shed the norms and make an attempt to just be human – to live, to forage, converse and produce from within their souls and minds a thing unique to their own experience – no ads, no sponsorships, no awards and no glory. Existance at its simplest. We then have to look at our universe as a thing upon which we have a profound effect, where our interactions with every aspect of it mean something like a map we leave behind for those who remain.

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Photo: Jan Hein

In our wake, the wake of the gypsy, we hope to leave our humanity with a sprinkle of art to remind those we encounter of their own. We are living proof that if you put in the hard work, you too can pay the bills.

cheers,

Christel and Jarad Astin

Stell & Snuggs

Plastic, plastic, plastic…

   On a day off, we decided to have a nice family day snorkeling off Great Dog, an uninhabited island just North of Virgin Gorda in the British West Indies. This place has a world renowned reputation due it’s natural beauty, and certainly not without reason. After a few weeks of our regular performance schedule and a 2 week visit from some friends we were definitely in need of some family time – and the snorkelling was fantastic. The overall condition of the reef was pretty good and the time with the fam just priceless – that is, of course, until we decided to go to the beach. 

 
   I could see there was some “debris” on the beach from where we moored the boat, so were not expecting a pristine beach excursion by any means. I was not expecting to be so appalled that I would spend the next two hours with my family gathering up all the debris into one pile and creating this sign. We all felt it – the giant cosmic “Why!!?!?!!” that screams through your brain when there isn’t someone available to beat senseless in blame. The worst part? What we were looking at was just one small beach on one tiny island in one minuscule part of the world. Truth is that this shit is going on EVERYWHERE.

   
       You’ve heard of it, I’m sure, everyone has. If you say you haven’t you’re lying or ignorant or both. There’s no excuse for not knowing anymore aside from purposefully putting the blinders on to avoid any sense of responsibility. And while we can easily place blame on others to say that we’ve no part in the problem is an equally appalling set of self imposed lies. That you’ve either never or absolutely no longer purchase, own, or use any products that could be associated with disposable plastics is a near impossibility even in the most remote parts of the world. Even the Maasai in Africa are handed bottles of drinking water by some ignoramus with the Red Cross or what-have-you at some juncture. There’s so much to go around we’ll figure out a way to give it away in a remote African desert, for cryin’ out loud! 

  

  
   It is a thing that bothers me to no end, our endless lack of responsibility with plastics as a species. We know how to stop it but lack the will to do so. Hell, there was a time before plastics – a mixture of old and new techniques of shipping and storing things would could get us moving in the right direction. But no, why reusable when you can go disposable? I hate to sound ungrateful, but even through our experience with Hurricane Sandy I found myself terribly focused on the waste. Already there was enough waste just from the damage done – drywall, furniture, carpeting, you name it. On top of that we were handing out thousands of disposable soup cups, coffee cups, lids and utensils every day. That was just our crew, and it went on for months. On top of what we were doing there were the Occupy folks, the Red Cross, Church groups, and many others. Every one with the best of intentions, the ramifications of which having been left up for discussion at a later date.

  
   We’d accept another heartfelt delivery from churches, VFW’s, fire departments, even some of our friends from out of state, all who organized truckloads of donations, and sure enough there would be cases upon cases upon cases of bottled water. Gazillions of bottles, caps, and of course the stupid wrapper that tells you it’s water inside and how many friggin calories it has. I mean really? Are we that friggin thick in the head that we actually need to be told that? Or could we possibly try to go without that extra layer of plastic for a minute and just call it “Bottled water from some source. Safe and drinkable.” As I understood our situation with Sandy, the water supply in NYC was at no point in jeopardy. Still some of the cleanest of any city in America, with some minor accesibility issues during the power outage phase. Yet the bottles of water flowed with unceasing numbers, so many in fact that we actually had a difficult time giving them away. And here some of them are, right in the BVI on this beautiful beach. (If you’re wondering what my beef with bottled water is, look no further than the Ohio-Nestle public water battle)

  
   Alright, your right. There’s no way for me to know that any one of these bottles here on this very beach came from NYC. There’s no way to know that it ain’t, either. And if you’re “cool,” maybe you’re thinking a little bigger than your backyard when it comes to plastics in the sea. Maybe you can picture a bottle cap landing in the ocean and making a trek in the currents South in the Labrador, then North to East in the Gulf Stream halfway to Europe, then in some gyre and heading South again for months, maybe years, then finally making it’s landing on this very beach. Whether true or not it is a possibility given what little we know about the larger scale currents of the sea, and I certainly think about my hand in it often.

  
   This whole problem goes right to the core of our work as performers – aside from the medical field, what business is more wasteful with disposable plastics than the food/ beverage/ entertainment industry? From a beach bar to a stadium the attitude of “well, this is a one-time event, soooo….” is prevalent. Even artists who claim to be enviro-friendly/ conscious on their tours are full of crap. Yeah, ok – you made the caterer purchase compostable plastics for your crew backstage. Except they aren’t going to be composted at all, are they? NO. Your caterers were up at 5 am making your crew breakfast, and didn’t stop until WELL after the last roadie head out of the theatre. You really think they’re in the mood to gather up all that compostable crap you made them buy and find a proper place to take it? Both doubtful and unreasonable to request. To all major artists who are touring with their enviro-blinders on: figure that portion of your rider out yourself, or remain an ass. We provision our own vessel while touring, why the hell don’t you? Only then can you claim your enviro-consciousness, only when you are in control of the ENTIRE process, start to finish. 

  
   There is not much any of us can do but share this problem with each other, every day that we think of it. Is it just about the percentage of seabirds with plastic in their gut growing from 10% in the 60’s to an estimated 95% now? Is it about those horrible scenes of various sea life entangled in webs of varying forms of plastic doomed to die of drowning or asphyxiation? Is it about the ginormous islands of plastic waste found in the gyre currents of EVERY ONE OF THE WORLDS MAJOR OCEANS? No – It’s even bigger than just the trash – or dare I say, smaller. 

  
   Now we’ve discovered that all that stuff just breaks down and breaks down until it is nearly microscopic in size. And what happens to it then? Out of sight out of mind, right? If nothing can get trapped in it, and it’s that small, what harm could it do? If you aren’t yet aware, the majority of the Earth’s biomass is held up in the planktonic life of the world’s oceans. At certain points of the year, nearly 90% of the planet’s oxygen is produced by phytoplanktonic life. Microscopic plants, freely floating in the sea, and they’re much more efficient at doing photosynthesis than all the plants and trees on land in the world by a longshot. The zooplantkonic life bed – the beginning of the “animal side” of the food chain – depends largely on that phytoplankton for sustenance. And it is on the zooplankton that all the remaining life of the sea depends in one form or another. And there’s your basic ocean food chain lesson in a nutshell. 
   You’ve read this far, so you’re intelligent – let’s not bore you with unnecessary details. You know what happens if one portion of the food chain collapses – and the lower the portion of collapse, the larger scale the effects will be. As it just so happens, the damn zooplankton are EATING THE DAMN MICROSCOPIC PLASTIC!!!! What in the hell does that mean!?!! Another great “we don’t friggin know, but rather than stop it let’s just wait and see, shall we!??!?” Speculations as to the effects range from clogged gut (uh, death) to reduced ability to procreate to somehow allowing all that microscopic plastic to make it’s way up the chain to collect in the tissues or blood streams of the larger animals in the sea – fishes, whales, dolphins, seals. All those critters we seem to care so much about and will stop at nothing to save – except that plastic bag, that wrapper, that toothbrush, TV, and so on ad nauseum. 
   Naysayers are of course on the scene already – thanks to the accessibility of the internet any arse with a smartphone can set up a blog. Damn, I miss the days before the internet. But any reasonable human being can be nothing but shocked and possibly even a bit concerned at these findings. What you should be even more concerned about is how difficult it really is to make even a small attempt to go plastic-free. Try it – go to your grocery store and try one shopping trip that doesn’t bring ANY plastic into your home. It is sadly a nearly impossible task, nearly no matter where you are in the world. The reason? Plastics are really useful, and altered our species ability accomplish everyday tasks so greatly that we are nearly unable to conceive of human life on earth without them. It is the very thing we desire most that in the end may poison us – irony at it’s best. 
   And now for my disclaimer – I’m as guilty as the next chump. My family lives on a sailboat made of plastic. Hull? Plastic. Sails? Plastic. Water and engine hoses? Plastic. Gaskets? Plastic. Seat cushions? Plastic. Foam in my mattress? Plastic. Lines, halyards, sheets? Plastic. Navigational aids? Plastic. Life preservers? Plastic. Hell, it you stripped our boat of all plastic all you’d have left is a mast, engine block, BBQ grill, a propeller and shaft and some winches and pulleys. None of that shit floats well on its own, that is for certain. But these things have an extended service life, and when cared for properly can easily last as long as their wood and metal counterparts. Although not permanent in nature, they would not be    classified as “disposable.” And that is the keyword of the day, folks. 
  Let’s discuss the word “disposable” for a moment, shall we? If you’re still reading you either give a crap or want to hit me in the head with a rock, and on the latter I wish you good luck. Here is the Webster definition: 

1. an article designed to be thrown away after use.

   Ex. “don’t buy disposables, such as razors, cups, and plates”

   I love the grammatical example given by Webster – really choice for this discussion, no? “Thrown away after use…” Hmmm… Where away? Away from ourselves, that’s where, for someone or thing else to deal with in whatever manner. We’ve used it for it’s little purpose and just don’t care what happens to it. That’s the problem right there, the conundrum of disposables. Thankfully we are at least beginning to recycle things. Let’s face it, though, we clearly are doing a crappy job. How crappy is it, really? Unknown. Yup. We have a better idea of how many galaxies and stars there are in the universe than how bad this really is. Estimates of the plastic “island” within the North Pacific gyre ALONE range from the size of Texas to TWICE the area of the continental US. You read it correctly. Go on back again and re-read it. That’s what you would call a major discrepancy. It is primarily due to the microscopic bits I discussed earlier, which cannot yet be detected via satellite imagery but only via water sampling. And that is only one of the aforementioned “plastic islands” out in the seas of the world. The island is the part we see, but the plastic “sediment,” which may sink or float depending on the type, is the real unknown. 
   So what do we do about it? I can’t speak for you – you’re going to do whatever you’re going to do, and I can’t hold your hand or admonish you for whatever choices you make as an individual. Know this, though – the choices you make DO have an effect, no matter how small. A discussion on this subject with your friends and family will have an effect. Simple decisions, like “no, I’ve got my own bags,” or “please don’t double bag those,” or better yet how about just putting the apples in your cart without that super thin, worthless produce bag that you are going to tear open as soon as you get home anyway? I’m always amazed at the number of comments by cashiers and baggers at a grocer on the latter two. Yes, I can make it work with just one bag if I forgot my own, and yes, I am going to wash those apples anyway and don’t need the produce bag. Is there some form of ecoli on your countertop that I should be made aware of, or do you clean the place somewhat regular? Oh, good – because nearly everything in here is edible, and keeping the place clean should be a bit of a priority. Thanks. 
   No, I can’t change you. I can’t even change the world – sorry optimists. But I CAN change my habits and at least greatly economize my use of plastics wherever possible. In many cases, doing so is going to both save me money and/ or drive me to consuming healthier foods with less processing and packaging. I always say to folks that are interested in this subject that if you’d like to find an immediate source of economic waste in your life (meaning money down the tubes), look in your trash. Are you unnecessarily replacing cell phones, computers, TV’s, and the like? Do you dote over your children in excess and constantly purchase new plastic toys as opposed to maybe finding some second-hand ones and engaging in more of a “trade” system? There are great resources out there set up by folks who really give a deuce about this where you can find good quality and well cared for items in these departments – ebay is just one of them, but a great example. Whether they give a care or not about the environment, they put re-use on the map as a major economic driver – nearly 18 BILLION dollars in net revenue for 2014 – this of course doesn’t account for the used/ new differentiation, but is a TON of cash regardless and larger than the GDP of many countries. This is significant any way you shake it. And most of the things I’ve ever bought from ebay came to me in re-used boxes and packing materials. Not so much as a solution as a good start, and I’ll take it for now. 
  

  
The real underlying question is this: do we want change, or do we want TO change? 

That’s up to each and every one of us, and for those decisions we will at some point be held to account, so let’s all be better by doing better. 

Thanks for reading. 

Contact!

Our good friends! Today is the day we leave Atlantic City and head South. We really can’t express our thanks enough for all the support and love in the past year – now we spin all that energy into something wonderful. Music, Love, and a Freedom we’ve not yet experienced. There are some ways we would like to keep you all posted on our progress and location (ahem….should you wish to book us…). First, here is a link to a live map that gives our location: https://share.delorme.com/JaradAstin . If you’ve received an email from us looking for work and don’t here back right away, a quick look at this might tell you why. We hope to transit from Hampton Bay, VA to the BVI from Nov4 to Nov18. Leave us an email and we’ll get back as soon as possible! Next, we are traveling with the Salty Dawg rally – loaded with over 100 vessels full of folks looking for a change of pace. The rally website is loaded with information, including live tracking and much more, and can be found here: http://saltydawgrally.org/fall-2013-salty-dawg-rally/ . May the wind be at your back, may the sun shine warmly on your face, and may the rain fall gentle upon your fields. More to come soon!Logo 2

Many thanks to our friend, Chris Klein for the amazing artwork!!!