Ocean Watch boatPhoto: Sarah van SchagenSomewhere off Canada’s Pacific Coast, the wind is filling the colorful octopus-adorned sails of the Good Ship Ocean Watch as it weaves its way clockwise around North and South America on a “voyage of discovery.” Manning that ship is a crew of seasoned sailors, educators, scientists, and writers — with a singular, overarching goal in mind: “raising awareness about important ocean conservation and marine science issues.”

But Around the Americas isn’t your average awareness-raising campaign, Captain Mark Schrader explained as his crew readied the boat for their inaugural launch May 31 from Seattle’s Shilshole Marina. “We’re trying to do more than just say ‘hey, there’s a problem here.’ We’re trying to say why it’s a problem, here’s what the problem is, and here’s what we can do to mitigate it.”

To that end, the crew will be doing much more than hoisting sails and conducting research experiments. They’ll be making more than 30 stops along the 25,000 mile route to invite people aboard, give presentations in local schools, and host public forums. They’re also encouraging local ocean conservation groups to use their arrival to champion what’s going on in their community, Schrader said.

To further the reach of the Around the Americas voyage (“to the people of Iowa!”), the educators at Seattle’s Pacific Science Center have developed a K-8 ocean science curriculum that will incorporate data from the journey and be accessible online in Spanish and English.

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And the journey doesn’t end at the last port of call. The legacy of the trip will continue in the form of a book by writer Herb McCormick and a documentary by filmmaker Lazslo Pal.

“All of this is successful and all of the money spent is worth it, we think, if we have an exponential reach after [the launch],” Schrader said. “If this gets into not two schools, but 200,000; if this [message] starts reaching millions of people.”

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