Cruising with a Cause

Chris Bone was en route to the Philippines when an unexpected detour led him to the idea of OceansWatch.

Chris Bone was en route to the Philippines when his crew had an unexpected change of plans. He found himself alone in a coastal village in Papua New Guinea. With the boat on a hook in the harbor, a local man named Robert started to show Chris around. After a few days, his new friend invited him to visit a village he referred to as his spiritual home. Chris locked up the boat, checked the anchor, and piled into a bus with Robert. Several hours and a banana boat ride later, Chris found himself in the village of Keng.

With no itinerary to stick to, he let the days unfold one by one. He explored the village, the garden plots and the reefs. He talked to the villagers about their lives. Just beyond the veneer of paradise, a different reality started to emerge. He heard stories about drinking water being scarce and the need for basic electricity. Men talked about it becoming harder to catch enough fish to feed their families. The women shared that they wanted to send their children to school but couldn’t afford it. They asked him if he knew of any solutions.

Chris realized that, even if he didn’t have the answers already, he could help find them. The need became clear. Sailors were cruising pristine oceans and wanting to give back while villagers could use a helping hand: The idea of OceansWatch (oceanswatch.org) was born.

Eight years later, Chris and his wife, Julia Alabaster, have led skilled volunteers and sailors to work with more than 30 villages in Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. Their projects have helped the people to sustainably manage their fisheries, earn a sustainable income to pay for school fees, and adapt to the challenges of climate change.

For more information on OceansWatch and to find out how to get involved, visit their website at www.oceanswatch.org.

Britt Basel
Britt Basel