Trash Doesn't Stand A Chance

By Susan Shingledecker

Every year, the BoatUS Foundation awards grants to groups across the country. This month, we spotlight the Rozalia Project, whose founders are cleaning up from the shore to sea floor.

What do you get when you combine an enthusiastic underwater archeologist, a 60-foot offshore sailboat, 15 energetic interns, more than 1,000 excited youth sailors, an underwater robot, and two 100-plus-pound Newfoundland dogs? You get the Rozalia Project for a Clean Ocean, whose mission is to find and remove marine debris from the surface to the sea floor through action, technology, outreach, and research.

Photo of Rachael Miller and her husband James Lyne, founders of the Rozalia Project training youth

This exciting new nonprofit has been partially funded through the 2010 BoatUS Foundation Grassroots Grants program. (For more information on Foundation grants, visit Rachael Miller and her husband James Lyne, founders of the Rozalia Project, are sailors. Rachael is the former executive director of the Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center, a U.S. Sailing trainer, and an underwater shipwreck tour guide in Burlington, Vermont. James has traveled the world sailing as a member of the 2010 U.S. Sailing Team in the Star class, and is a professional sailor and coach for the Americas Cup and Olympic games. They both grew discouraged at the amount of debris they were seeing in harbors around the world, decided to do something about it, and launched the Rozalia Project. In July 2010, they acquired their mother ship, American Promise, from the U.S. Naval Academy where she was being used as a sail-training ship for the midshipmen.

Getting The Right Equipment

Designed by Ted Hood, American Promise was made famous by Dodge Morgan for his 1986 record-breaking solo round-the-world voyage. After a refit at Scarano Boat Building on the Hudson River, American Promise is now Rozalias base of operations, enabling them to move from location to location and operate far from shore for extended periods.

Technology is a large part of the project. Rachael works with VideoRay to develop training and certification programs for remotely operated vehicle (ROV) pilots, training everyone from Navy Reserve Explosive Ordinance Disposal Units (think underwater bomb squads) to volunteer search-and-rescue organizations on how to use VideoRays ROVs. Onboard American Promise, they have two ROVs capable of diving to 1,000 feet, equipped with BlueView imaging sonar, a manipulator arm, and side-scan sonar allowing them to explore the sea floor and remove debris. But it isnt all high-tech; ask Rachael and shell tell you some of their most valuable tools onboard are the pool skimmer and the kitchen tongs!

In 2011, the Rozalia Project, with their lovable Newfoundlands Hickory and Smudge aboard, kicked off their Trash Tour, visiting community boating centers throughout the Northeast starting at Scarano Boat Building on the Hudson River near Albany, New York, and ending in the Gulf of Maine. The Trash Tour is a traveling road (or waterway) show that removes ocean trash, and works with kids and adults to show what happens to trash after it disappears. At each stop, youth sailors get the chance to explore the 60-foot American Promise, discover the sea floor near their sailing center, remove sunken debris, and talk about the broader issue of trash in our oceans.

BoatUS Foundation staff joined the Rozalia Project last summer in Boston at Courageous Sailing Center and Community Boating Boston. The passion that the Rozalia Project team brought quickly transferred to the kids as they discovered piles of aluminum cans, candy wrappers, sunglasses, and more unique items, including a bronze Herreshoff anchor and a historic milk bottle. Over the course of eight weeks in 2011, Rozalia worked with nearly 1,500 individuals and removed 12,500 pieces of debris from the water. The 2012 Trash Tour kicked off in April in Annapolis, Maryland, and is already off to a great start. During the mid-Atlantic leg of the Trash Tour, the Rozalia Project exceeded last years participation numbers, and engaged more than 1,500 people. For more about the Rozalia Project and the 2012 Trash Tour, visit

The Trash Top 10

Take a look at what have been the most prolific items of trash found on our shorelines over the past 25 years, according to the International Coastal Cleanup:

  • Cigarettes and cigarette filters
  • Food wrappers/containers
  • Caps and lids
  • Cups, plates, forks, knives, spoons
  • Plastic beverage bottles
  • Plastic bags
  • Glass beverage bottles
  • Beverage cans
  • Straws/stirrers
  • Rope

Many of these products are directly connected to food and beverage consumption, and some manufacturers are working toward solutions. When cleanup volunteers reported encountering wildlife entangled in six-pack holders, ITW Hi-Cone, a leading manufacturer of six-pack rings, modified their design to enable the rings to split in half more easily, and moved to the use of photodegradable plastic that breaks down within weeks of exposure to sunlight. Coca-Cola, a financial supporter of the International Coastal Cleanup, has been a leader in package-recycling research, and in 2009 launched the first-ever, 100-percent-recyclable PET plastic beverage bottle, made partially from plants. Before this, plant-based plastics, while beneficial in reducing petroleum use, were a challenge to the recycling waste stream.

The BoatUS Foundation is combating marine debris by rolling out a Guide To Participating In Cleanups For BoatUS Towers And Marinas, and by continuing our partnership with Keep America Beautiful, another national organization engaged in litter prevention. Through this effort, weve engaged nearly 200 marinas to develop targeted cigarette-litter-prevention programs. Also, the Foundations Reel In and Recycle fishing-line recycling program has built and distributed nearly 2,500 fishing-line recycling bins around the country to help keep used line out of our waterways. Talking trash may be a bummer, but some artists have found a dazzling way to make that conversation easier. See page 56 for a celebration of the work of talented people who have something to say about the amount of garbage found on our beaches.

How Can You Help?

So you dont have your own underwater robot? Your help is still vital. Each September for the last 25 years, the Ocean Conservancys International Coastal Cleanup gathers volunteers around the world to clean up beaches and waterways. As boaters, we can access areas that others cant. Visit to find a cleanup location near you. Last year nearly 600,000 people around the world committed just one day to the cause in the month of September, collected more than 9 million pounds of debris, and cleaned 20,000 miles of shoreline. Your effort really can add to this success. 

The BoatUS Foundation, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization devoted to implementing projects that keep boaters safer and our environment protected, is independently funded by donations from BoatUS Members and by grants.

— Published: August/September 2012

Look What I Found!

On a fishing trip a few years ago, Pete Borowski and his son Paul caught a surprising specimen. We were using my sons 18-foot Carolina skiff, recalls Pete Borowski. The Caloosahatchee River, which runs through Fort Myers, Florida, has at least five large bridges crossing it. The winds were ripping that day, gusting to 25-29. Boat traffic was heavy. Late in the day, we were in a ÔNo Wake zone when we saw a large white floating object. Thinking it was a capsized boat, we motored over to lend assistance. It wasnt a boat, after all, but a new twin-sized mattress still encased in its plastic covering!

Photo of Paul Borowski and the mattress he found floating in the water

We couldnt leave it floating there, so we pulled it onto our front deck. Our guess was that someone [desperately in need of a knot course!] had forgotten to tie the mattress to their car, and the wind had launched it off one of the bridges. Of course, Paul needed to pose for pictures. We call it being comfortable while fishing! Everyone passing us gave us some pretty strange looks on the way to the boat ramp. We told them we were spending the night!

Meanwhile, near Naples, Florida, litter cleanup volunteers Mary Ann Simms and her crew of Clark and Jackie Adams, and Mark and Leigh Cyr found an unusual piece of trash when they took part in Ocean Conservancys International Coastal Cleanup last September. The 100-pound safe they hauled in was floating in the backwaters of the Gordon River, near Naples, creating a boating hazard. It was already open, but the authorities still came by to check it for possible identifying marks. Last year in Collier County, Naples, alone, over 1,200 volunteers participated at 17 coastal, beach, and underwater sites, collecting 4.55 tons of litter.



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