A Million Strokes For The Ocean

Ron Mizutani
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Wednesday - September 10, 2008
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British adventurer Roz Savage
British adventurer Roz Savage rowed to the Islands from San Francisco as part of her three-leg journey across the Pacific to raise awareness of plastic pollution in our oceans

We often teach visitors about Hawaii’s rich history, diverse cultures and treasured island values. But in the past month, several visitors have returned the favor in a very impressive way. They have all gone to extremes to share powerful messages on marine conservation.

It started with Tom Jones, better known as the Endurance Man. Jones came to Hawaii in August with hopes of raising public awareness of plastic pollution in Hawaiian waters. In order to get his point across, the 45-year-old Jones paddled 150 miles around Oahu, biked 134 miles and ran 134 miles in less than 21 days.

“It was no cakewalk, I can tell you that for sure,” says Jones.

But he accomplished his mission and we took notice.

Then, on Aug. 27, two men proved that one man’s trash is another man’s transportation - a boat made completely of junk docked at Ala Wai Boat Harbor. Dr. Marcus Eriksen and Joel Paschal sailed on 15,000 plastic bottles strapped together with aluminum spars. They named their vessel Junk, hoping to bring plastics’ negative environmental impact to the forefront.

“We are poor recyclers, and I think we can go beyond recycling and just remove single-use plastic items from the island all together,” says Paschal.

It took the men 87 days to travel 2,600 miles from Long Beach, Calif., to Hawaii. Along the way they snagged a few pieces of errant plastic bags, proving their mission was a worthy one. Message received.

And finally, on Sept. 1, Roz Savage, a British adventurer, completed the first leg of a scheduled three-leg journey across the Pacific Ocean. The diminutive Savage powered her 23-foot boat, the Brocade, 2,324 miles from San Francisco to Oahu in 99 days.

“It has taken me about a million oar strokes to get here from California,” says an exhausted Savage. “If I were to say one little oar stroke isn’t going to make a difference, I’d still be standing in San Francisco.”

Like the other visitors, Savage took on this grueling challenge to raise awareness of plastic pollution in our ocean.

“What I really wanted to do is let people know they can make a difference - every action counts,” says Savage. “So it just goes to show how lots of little actions add up to make something really big happen.”

Amazingly, Savage found Eriksen and Paschal in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and their meeting came at a perfect time. Savage’s water maker malfunctioned and her backup “sprung a leak.”

“Without the guys from the Junk boat to give me a re-supply, I think I would have died of dehydration a couple of weeks ago,” says Savage.

The 40-year-old Savage stroked her 12,00-pound vessel 11 to 12 hours a day and, in the process, lost 20 pounds. But what she gained was strength and stronger sense of purpose.

“I feel like I haven’t just been preaching to the choir. I feel like I’ve actually made some real converts,” she says proudly. “I don’t think I’ve saved the world, but hopefully I’ve started a few ripples. Every little action really does make a difference and ripples do spread.”

Messages sent. Our job now is to listen and respond.


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