Around the Americas crew leaves Sunday for Western Hemisphere circumnavigation

Captain Mark Schrader is no stranger to adventure sailing, but this expedition is different.

On Sunday at noon, Schrader and his crew will set out from Shilshole Bay Marina in Seattle in the 64-foot steel boat Ocean Watch on a 24,000-nautical mile journey clockwise through the Northwest Passage, down the east coast, around Cape Horn and back to Seattle.

It’s a journey few have made—only about 100 ships have ever traversed the Northwest Passage, though the melting Arctic ice pack is making the trip increasingly accessible.

The expedition is also ambitious in another way. Dubbed “Around the Americas,” it aims to raise awareness about the troubling state of ocean health and mobilize people to help. Schrader hopes the project will be the catalyst to cultivate a new generation of marine conservationists.

“My hope is that people will understand that the ocean is absolutely key to our health and well-being,” said Schrader, 62. “We want to reach millions of kids, primarily.

“But we also want people of my generation and the in-between generation to become activists and understand that if the ocean isn’t healthy, we’re toast in a number of different ways. If we’ve advanced that, we’re successful.”

Captain Mark Schrader is leading "Around the Americas," a circumnavigation of the Western Hemisphere intended to raise awareness about marine conservation issues.

Captain Mark Schrader is leading "Around the Americas," an expedition intended to raise awareness about marine conservation issues.

Around the Americas is a collaboration between Pacific Science Center, the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory and Sailors for the Sea, a Boston-based nonprofit founded by David Rockefeller, Jr.

The 13-month expedition will take Schrader and crew members David Logan, Herb McCormick and David Thoreson to 30 ports in 11 countries. At each stop they’ll provide ship tours, demonstrate the scientific equipment being used and host educational events focused on the impact of global climate change on marine environments.

Along the way, scientists will join the expedition to conduct research projects ranging from water sampling to studying jellyfish populations and measuring solar energy. Using a 64′ boat as a research lab presents challenges around space and power use, but Schrader said Ocean Watch was chosen partly because its nine-foot draft allows it to access places larger research vessels can’t, such as openings in the ice pack along the Northwest Passage.

“We intend to go to a lot of different places and do a lot of exploring,” he said.

Since education is an integral component of the project, teachers will join the expedition along various legs. Bilingual curriculum materials and a K-8 teacher’s guide developed by Pacific Science Center will be freely available on the “Around the Americas” website, likely in late July.

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The Northwest Passage is a world away for a farm boy from Nebraska who studied in a one-room schoolhouse.

Schrader left Nebraska at 16, moved to California and got involved in Berkeley’s social activism of the 1960s. He became fascinated with the ocean and twice sailed solo around the world, in 1982-83 becoming the first American to singlehandedly circumnavigate around the five Great Capes.

Through sailing he met Rockefeller, a philanthropist and avid sailor. Schrader was thinking about a trip through the Northwest Passage, and he and Rockefeller developed the idea of combining sailing, education and science to increase awareness about marine conservation. For Schrader, it was time to move from ocean enthusiast to sea steward.

“Sailors and boaters use the water, but we haven’t been active in trying to tell people what’s wrong and what we can do to help,” he said.

As departure day approaches, Schrader’s main worry is meeting critical weather windows to get through the Northwest Passage in August and around Cape Horn in December and early January. Few vessels attempt the fearsome passage around the cape from east to west, commonly referred to as “the wrong way” since it requires traveling against prevailing winds and currents.

“The scheduling is a concern, because sailboats and schedules don’t work well together,” Schrader said. “If we can make those two ends work, I’m not so worried about the in-between.”

Ocean Watch will be open to the public between noon and 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 30 as part of Shilshole Marina’s Open Boat Weekend.

13 Responses to Around the Americas crew leaves Sunday for Western Hemisphere circumnavigation

  1. Ocean Watch and its crew are currently in Cambridge Bay.

    Check out http://www.aroundtheamericas.org for the latest updates re: the vessel’s location. Great images and log entries — like being on board and getting a sense of what the crew is observing and experiencing day to day.

  2. Tim Johnson July 10, 2009 at 8:20 pm #

    Mark used to live in land-locked Neligh, Nebr so as a former classmate of his I wish him a safe and fruitful voyage. Maybe the Elkhorn River in Neligh got him thinking about water but regardless, I’d like to share in his adventures so this website will have to do. Hope you can make our next big HS reunion. Tim Johnson

  3. Norb and Ruth Hattendorf June 1, 2009 at 8:12 am #

    Thoreson. Sorry I mis-spelled your name. Norb

  4. Norb and Ruth Hattendorf June 1, 2009 at 8:10 am #

    David Thorsen, Ruth is an Algona classmate of your mother, Judy. We have followed your progress and stopped in at Shilshole in late April but couldn’t find Ocean Watch. The habormaster told us he was unaware of the expedition!!

    Sorry we have missed you. We are in Poulsbo (6-1-09) on our way up the Inside Passage to Skagway. A 100-day summer trip aboard our 25′ Ranger Tug, “Two If By Sea.” We’re from Boulder, CO, and visit your mom in Green Valley every March.

    Fair winds and following seas to you and the crew!

    Norb and Ruth

  5. Herman and Nancy Ford May 30, 2009 at 8:15 am #

    May your trip be safe and fun. We are still sailing Sea Tern, the Cape Dory 36 formerly named Sotto La Stelle. You helped us buy her 15 years ago – remember? We are glad to learn that you are back at sea.

  6. Siebe Noordzy May 29, 2009 at 9:54 am #

    Have fun while completing your next adventure!
    Were happy to help you out.

  7. Madeline Powers Beery May 29, 2009 at 7:31 am #

    Mark and Dave -

    This is important and timely work. We look forward to hearing of all the young, and old minds that you change. And we’re very interested in the research you are doing on the trip. As a sailor, raised on Lake Okoboji waters, that Dave knows well, and now a kayker in Seattle, I value the waters and the lure of nature. As an environmental health professional, I know the critical importance of keeping our waters clean, and maintaing the delicate ecosystem that exists in the water.

    Good luck first getting through the Northwest Passage west to east… and then the Cape.

    You will be on our minds. Dave, we can’t wait to see your amazing photos of this venture. They will be awesome we know, as were yours from your last sailing venture across the Northwest Passage.

    Madeline Powers (PowWow) Beery

  8. Rob Stirrat May 29, 2009 at 5:47 am #

    You cannot keep good men down. May you have calm seas, fairwinds and most important , have a great time . Will follow your progress with interest.

  9. Ian Wienburg May 29, 2009 at 5:34 am #

    To Mark & Herb: You guys never fail to amaze me. If only for making me so envious of dreaming and then catching those dreams. Good luck, fair winds and enjoy!

  10. Paul Gelder May 28, 2009 at 11:25 pm #

    Good luck Mark and Herb on your latest adventure!
    We will be following your progress with interest from London and Yachting Monthly’s land-bound office by the River Thames!
    Paul Gelder

  11. Todd Johnson May 28, 2009 at 6:52 pm #

    Best of luck in this important effort, Mark!
    Todd Johnson

  12. Bill Pinkney May 28, 2009 at 6:42 pm #

    God Speed to Mark and his crew,
    Mark’s Valiant 47 Lonestar was the boat that carried me on my solo circumnavigation (1990-1992) he was also a mentoron the voyage. It’s gopod to see that he is still meeting the challenges of not only the sea but raising awareness of the plight of the Oceans.
    I look forward to following their progress.
    Fair winds
    Captain Bill Pinkney

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