As the sight of land disappears, there is one word in particular that resonates that of disconnect.
We are finally sailing, as smoothly as possible, and sensing the elements that we would not usually notice in our everyday lives on land.
We now adapt to wind direction, temperature, sunlight, balance, and starry nights. For our first leg out of Recife, we were motor sailing slightly into the wind. The moment we turned off the engine, Sea Dragon was overtaken by silence and harmony. For Stella, this moment was when the boat truly came alive. For Sarah, her moment was when she had her hands on the helm, while the sun was setting in the background. For Lisa, it was having those moments of silence during our night watch, realizing that her everyday work life was very far away. For me, it was when Emily told me to not look at the compass to keep on course, but to look up at the sky, and use one of the million stars to guide my steering in the right direction. Let me repeat that so it can sink in. I was steering this million-dollar beauty using the millions of stars above me as guidelines. Now that is connection.
Intermission  (sorry, had to go tighten the mainsheet, back now).
Now, as I was saying, as I write this blog, the entire eXXpedition team is feeling both disconnection and connection, and each member may be feeling it in many different ways. It may be disconnect from family, a stressful job, a demanding relationship, or other issues that we left behind on land. Thanks to the physical distance we have from these issues, we can step back and re-evaluate our actions. Get rid of the ones that don’t serve us and appreciate the ones that do. The eXX ladies have disconnected from land, but are now connected to the ocean on a whole different level. This leads me to ask my grand question that I have been struggling with as a marine biologist and water lover for a long time.
Intermission 2 (sorry, just saw a pod of dolphins swimming by. Ok, back.)
I believe that disconnect is a key player in the destruction of our ecosystems and resources. It is the kink in the hose that stops the source from getting to the other end. It is the lack of a bond formed between humans and other organisms. It is a person or group that cannot quite understand the issue, possibly due to ignorance, cultural values, and/or education backgrounds.
My biggest passion in life is sharing and communicating the beauty and complexity of our oceans with the world. Yet, I agree that you cannot protect what you don’t know. But when you know, you can at least choose to do something. This is where conflict starts to build up inside me. A couple years ago at an international coral reef conference, I was shocked to see that fried fish was being served for lunch, labeled “reef fish”. Just “reef fish”, no specific species name, no way of knowing if that fish was endangered or not. Then again at another marine biology conference, fireworks on the beach were launched during the opening ceremony. The following morning, I walked past all the firework debris that was waiting to get swallowed up by the sea. If we, the scientists, have the knowledge and interests, but still can’t get it right, how can we expect others who are disconnected (and lack time, money and resources) to want to care?
The way I see disconnect is divided into 3 groups: scientists, outdoor enthusiasts (such as sailors, hikers, campers, surfers, divers and swimmers), and city dwellers aka society.  In an ideal world, these three groups would break down their barriers, and learn to collaborate to promote better exchange of information.
One suggestion to bridge these disconnects from science to the outside world is to put more emphasis on science communication & outreach, and shift the existing focus from individuality and egocentric driven research. Today, some scientific institutions still fuel competition amongst researchers for funding, such as number publications and the status of their scientific journal publication. Science should be made available to all walks of people and should aim to be easily understood and accessed by the general public.
For the outdoor junkies, they already have their hearts poured into it. That is half the battle. Providing them with citizen science projects to deepen their knowledge about their surroundings would also improve the way that they interact with their environments. As a surfer myself, I cannot wait to buy the SmartFin, currently only a prototype, but designed by a surfer dude out of New York. This will bring surfers closer to understanding their beaches, waves and the importance of testing water quality, enabling them to make better consumer and travel choices, and allowing them to investigate the issues may be happening at their local surf break. I myself am particularly connected to this issue because it directly affects my backyard. After any rainfall in Southern California, surfers are recommended to wait to 72 hours before entering the water, in order to avoid sicknesses caused by sewage waste and runoff from land that flows out from the jetties and pollutes our oceans. When rain comes to SoCal, there is no diving, no surfing, and no bathing. That breaks my heart.
For the city dwellers that don’t often have the chance to live close to water, forests and mountains, disconnect plays an even larger role. Worrying about money seems to be the number one concern before anything else. Also, working a 9-5 job often doesn’t leave much room to enjoy the great outdoors, or to question nature’s most beautiful creations. Lastly, environmental problems are not as visible in the city. Trash seems to disappear somewhere, and a wining and dining and shopping lifestyle continues to be the norm. Most city dwellers give themselves only a week at the most, if finances permit, to enjoy the outdoors and take a resort vacation to lounge in the sun and sip piña coladas out of straws, one of the most polluting plastic items found our beaches today.
Tonight’s team discussion will be kicked off after reading this blog, allowing one another to dig deeper and discuss how we can bridge this disconnect between humans and their environment. This expedition voyage is an example of bridging the disconnection between different countries, different educational backgrounds, and different skill sets. During the next 18 days at sea, we must connect with one another, regardless of talents, personalities, backgrounds, and languages. We are now 100% connected to the deep and vast blue sea. Our science projects will also put our team in direct contact with the issue of plastic pollution. We have disconnected from cellphones, and apps, and now share tiny sleeping cabins. We now cook for each other, collect scientific data together, face personal challenges together, and survive together against the elements that will follow us until we reach land again in Guyana.
I am positive that this voyage will shape us to become less disconnected with what truly matters. I am positive that eXXpedition is leading the way to bridging some of these gaps.
Readers, please share your stories about what brings you closer to the outdoors and how you avoid feeling disconnected from the natural world. We would love to know!
Watch Team 3 – Rachel, Stella, Sarah, and Lisa
Finalmente chegou a hora de despedir a terra e agradecer tudo que a cidade do Recife ofereceu. Desde as palestras na Escola Santos Dumont, na ABA, na UFPE e na EIA, até as conversas com as motoristas de táxi achando que agente era maluca de fazer uma viagem dessas só de mulheres, nos fomos super bem recebidas e deu para sentir que fizemos bastante amizades e relacionamentos com os brasileiros que também querem preservar a natureza e ao mesmo tempo promover a saúde humana e do meio-ambiente. Finalmente estamos velejando, do melhor jeito possível, aclimatizando aos elementos da natureza, como o vento, temperatura, sol, equilíbrio, e as noites estreladas. Para chegar à distância necessária para começar a coleta de dados, tivemos que usar o motor durante as primeiros milhas náuticas. Na hora que desligamos o motor, chegando ao nosso trajeto desejado, caiu a ficha. O silêncio e harmonia embarcou no Sea Dragon.  Para Stella, esse momento sig nificou o momento que o barco voltou viver. Para Sarah, ela sentiu a conexão na hora que pegou a direção nas mãos para velejar. Para Lisa, foram as noites de tranquilidade e reflexão, só com as estrelas e o mar no horizonte. Fazia tempo que ela não parava de pensar em trabalhar. Finalmente, para mim, foi ontem a noite quando estava tentando seguir o trajeto certo e aprendi como usar uma estrela como referência para manter a posição da vela.  Estamos totalmente desapegadas de tudo que agente vivia na terra. Agora o nosso veleiro Sea Dragon, está deixando levar, e está tranquilamente em paz, levando 14 mulheres em uma aventura do Brasil até a Guiana. Até logo Brasil! Obrigada por tudo!