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Doing Good

73 OCSC Sailors Have Fun ‘Doing Good’

Wednesday, March 12, 2003
By Dieter Loibner

SAILORS IN BELIZE -The largest group ever of OCSC sailors assembled at The Moorings' base in Placencia, Belize, on Feb. 11 for a flotilla charter in the southern Cayes along the Barrier Reef.

Having fun by doing good was the motto of 73 sailors associated with Berkeley's Olympic Circle Sailing Club who traveled to the small seaside town Placencia in Southern Belize on Feb. 10 for their winter fix of sailing, diving, fishing, and snorkeling.

Not that sailing San Francisco Bay is a model of boredom, but even diehards sometimes like to peel off the sub-arctic foulies for the no-shirt-no-shoes-no-problem lifestyle.

This trip was different from the club's many previous excursions to exotic sailing venues around the world because it had the largest number of participants, and it was the first one to Belize. One thing, however, did not change: the club's program of giving back to the environment. OCSC has formalized its efforts by joining “1% For The Planet,” a non-profit organization that unites businesses willing to donate 1 percent of their annual gross revenue to environmental causes.

Before the group slipped the dock lines of the 12 catamarans they had chartered from The Moorings in Placencia, trip leader Max Fancher handed over a symbolic check to the Toledo Institute for Development and the Environment (TIDE), a local grassroots environmental organization. The funds - a grand total of $6,245 including contributions made after the trip - are earmarked for repairs to a Ranger Station in the Port Honduras Marine Reserve that helps curb Manatee poaching but was damaged during hurricane Iris in October 2001.

"This money will help us continue our mission," noted Wil Maheia, TIDE's executive director, before giving a slide presentation to the OSCS group. "We research and monitor natural resources, plan and manage protected areas. But we also educate and train locals to develop responsible tourism and environmentally sustainable economic alternatives."

The donation was facilitated by Seacology, a Berkeley-based non-governmental, non-profit organization that specializes in projects for the preservation of threatened island enviroments and cultures. "By becoming the first sailing club to work with us, OCSC has set an example," said Seacology's Executive Director Duane Silverstein."We applaud them for helping sailors protect the marine environment while doing what they love most."

After decades of attracting eco-tourists, Belize is beckoning travelers who prefer upscale resorts or charter boats. Business catering to this demographic of Placencia include Francis Ford Coppola's Turtle Inn Resort and The Moorings' base that opened shortly after hurricane Iris came through. Placencia is remote and challenged by logistics, but it is growing, which reflects its rising popularity with tourists who have tired of the spring-break atmosphere in the crowded islands of the Caribbean.

With the prevalent wind direction N to NE during the dry season, sailing is easy inside one of the world's largest barrier reefs, as long as some basic navigation rules are followed to avoid the shallows and coral-patch reefs that lurk a few feet under the surface. There is a multitude of romantic and safe anchorages from which to choose at the end of a sailing day, and the Cayes offer pristine beaches of blinding-white sand as well as excellent snorkeling, fishing, and diving in crystal-clear 80-degree water.

Aside from being relaxed and feeling good about giving to a good cause, what did the sailors take a way from this trip? "A more casual attitude toward thin water," one of them joked. "It took awhile to understand that 5 feet on the depth sounder are no cause for alarm on a catamaran that draws only 3 feet. But going back home, we have to remember that the game is different on keel boats."

And don't forget those subarctic foulies.