Thursday, April 12, 2012

Marine Debris Tracker

Many of us have spent some time in a  boatyard at one point or another. We may have been getting your bottom or topsides painted or have gone through a total refit.  Boats, if you have noticed, dont' look very conformable out of the water.  They have timbers underneath them and stands poking into their sides to keep them from falling over. They kinda look like a beached whale in some Gulliver's Travel movie.

The people you meet in boatyards are truly a bunch of strange rangers.  They fall into a couple categories. You have the do it your selfers. These are the guys or gals who maybe can't afford to have someone do the work for them so they take on the projects themselves.  By doing the work they learn how to best do it and most of the time will help you out if you are doing a similar project.  I claim to be a do it your selfer myself and I am darn proud of it!

Then there are the know it alls.  They come over and watch you working on your project and often say, "Well, when I did my boat I did it this way and that is the correct way to do it". Sometimes you just want to smack these people, just go away and let me do it the way I had planned. If you don't know how to do a project you may need to consult with others in the boat yard. There will be no shortage of opinions, the problem will be to determine which one to listen to.  We have found out through experience that it is best to do a project at least twice. Hopefully the second time you get it right!

The best way to learn how to do a project is to help other people in the boatyard with their projects.  You can really learn a lot by helping others, not to mention making friends. The best part is, if it gets screwed up, chalk it up to experience and note not to do it that way on your boat.

My brother has undertaken a complete restoration of a 1980 Pan Oceanic 46 pilothouse. I have been with him from day one working on this beast so I know about boatyards and projects. You can see the blog of his boat at

In our boatyard we had a guy named Deno. He was the minstrel of the our boatyard. He knew where to scavenge for parts and would give his advice on just about any project you had going.  He had been in the boatyard for about 5 years and was not afraid of tearing into anything.  We were going to replace the diesel engine but had never done one before. Deno said that it is just a bunch of nuts and bolts, nothing to it.

His idea of a full days work was coming out to the boatyard and bolting on one lifeline stanchion and then drinking long neck Budweiser the rest of the day and planning his next project.  Deno's motto was forward progress, every little bit was forward progress towards getting it done, someday.  I think Deno might still be haunting that boatyard in St Petersburg, Florida.

Application: iPad and iPhone
Function: Litter Reporting
Cost: Free

Ok, enough about boatyards. I came across an app that is a little out of the ordinary but is one that will not only help boaters but the environment that we boat in. I am not a die hard tree hugger or Green Peace member but I do consider myself a good steward of the environments that I live and play in.  My Dad taught me to always leave things better than when I found them.  That includes a campsite an anchorage or a park.  Wherever you are you can always do something to make it nicer than when you arrived. 

The NOAA Marine Debris Division has teamed up with the Southeast Atlantic Marine Debris Initiative (SEA-MDI) located at the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Georgia. They have created this great app named Marine Debris Tracker. Their goal is to use technology to reach out to people and give them a tool to help report polluting debris so that it can be cleaned up by local agencies.  Of course if it is toxic leave it alone. If it is not, I am sure they would encourage anyone to pickup debris that is found.

Debris on beaches or in our waterways is not only unsightly but it could also harm the local wildlife or species living in these areas. As boaters or people who enjoy our beaches it is our duty to take care of our own trash and the trash that others may leave behind.

  • Easy to use fill in form to report debris
  • App based reporting tool
  • Selectable database of debris
  • GPS coordinates of debris

The main splash screen will allow you to log in. You will have to create a user name and password to submit your debris reports.

The entry screen allows you to choose what type of debris you spotted and write a shore description about it.  The app only allows you to select one type of debris at a time. It would be nice to have a multi select function to be able to include all the types of garbage that you are reporting.

You can log your event reports and them submit them once you get home or if you are in cell range you can submit them directly.

I am not sure where the data goes once you submit it or who will be notified to clean up the mess.  I assume they have all that figured out behind the scenes.  Just identify the messy places on your neighborhood beaches and see who shows up.

One problem I found was that the altitude reading on the app did not work correctly.  I checked other altitudes on some other apps I have and it appears way off.  The latitude and longitude appears to show correct coordinates of my position. Not sure I need the accuracy to 14 decimal points.

We all want to keep our beaches and waterways looking great. It is pretty hard to enjoy the beach with glass, cans, bottles and trash littered everywhere. If you run into a beach like the one in the picture above there is no way you can clean that up in a day.  The garbage might even contain some toxic substances. It is best to report this problem using this handy app to the local authorities and allow them to organize the clean up by professionals.

Each of us must do our part.  The folks at NOAA and SEA-MDI have made it easy for you to help by simply reporting the problem.  Lets all get on board and help out.

Stay clean out there sailors!

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