Preserving Our Playground

Published on April 10th, 2017

Adam Corpuz-Lahne, Head Sailing Coach at St Francis Yacht Club, is taking on his local pollution problem with action and an appeal.

As San Francisco sailors, we are intimately connected with the Bay itself. When we look at the water, we see things that non-sailors don’t see. We see the foamy current line snaking its way along the shore during a tide change.

The dark spots feathering across the surface of the water tell us that more pressure is coming our way. Beating up the City Front, our eyes tell us that the choppy water a little further offshore means the ebb is a little stronger out there, and maybe we should protect the right.

But with the massive amounts of rain this winter, draining down through the Delta and out into the Bay, we’re starting to notice something different on the water. Along with all the plant matter drifting around in the current, there has been an enormous amount of plastic.

I’m on the water 200 days a year, and while I regularly see bags and bottles floating around, these past few months have opened my eyes to the level of trash that is stored in the streams, rivers, and estuaries of the SF Bay watershed.

In the “never seen that before” category that I fished out of the water in a two-week period: A round plastic IKEA table, four feet in diameter. A backpack, full of trash and mud. A refrigerator door. Two wicker chairs, not a matched pair. Of course, there were all the usual suspects—plastic bags, water bottles, buckets, shoes and snack wrappers.

In the wake of all this, in early March, the StFYC High School Sailing Team gathered at Treasure Island Sailing Center. We spent a couple of hours climbing over rocks, under trailers, and around the parking lot, picking up every piece of trash we could find.

In the rocks we found bags, bags and more bags. Grocery bags, trash bags (ironic), snack bags, along with Styrofoam cups and food trays. In the parking lot we found cigarette butts and bottle caps. In the boatyard we found wads of electrical tape and zip ties, along with scraps of line and bungee.

By the time we were done, we had bagged at least two cubic yards of plastic waste! This was the first “clean-up” we have done, and I can assure you it won’t be the last!

In the meantime, I am challenging my sailors to do small things to help keep our Bay a little cleaner. Most important, and easiest, is not walking by a piece of trash without picking it up. There are ample opportunities for the sailors to pick up a piece of trash before it blows into the ocean.

Please help us out and do your part to preserve our playground. Don’t leave your plastic cocktail cups on the dock. Ask for your drink to be served without that little straw. Encourage your crew to always bring refillable water bottles, and carry big jugs of water instead of 30 little water bottles.

By making these small efforts, and encouraging others to do the same, I hope we can enjoy the Bay together for many years to come.

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