Seakeepers expands programs

Sep 30, 2014 by Capt. Denise Fox

The ocean is the lifeblood of Earth. It drives our weather, regulates temperature, and ultimately supports all living organisms. Yet there is so much of it that is still yet to be understood.

The International SeaKeepers Society has recently expanded its efforts to engage the yachting community in oceanographic research, conservation and education. The society was founded in 1998 by a small group of yacht owners alarmed by the deteriorating conditions of the seas and who recognized the oceans’ critical importance to Earth’s sustainability.

Members of SeaKeepers include influential leaders who believe that the best way to protect the environment is to protect the oceans. The society is thus deeply committed to finding real-world solutions to the problems now plaguing our seas. Its membership includes entrepreneurs, yachtsmen, corporations, divers, scientists and concerned citizens building a global effort to help restore and protect the world’s oceans.

As a private/public collaborative effort, the society focuses on critical ocean issues in cooperation with government agencies, other like-minded organizations, the academic community, and the public. SeaKeepers is also expanding its membership base to professional captains and crew, set to begin Oct. 1.

Following are a few more details on a few of SeaKeepers’ programs.

Discovery Yacht Program

One of the biggest hurdles for oceanographers is the infrequent availability of seagoing vessels to do their research. Using yachts for scientific discovery is a great way to benefit the oceans we love. SeaKeepers has compiled a list of many research programs in need of vessels worldwide. The Discovery program joins world-renowned scientists with world-class yacht owners to further the study of ocean research, giving a yacht owner and his crew the rare opportunity to meet and engage with influential marine research scientists.

It is a unique and cost-effective platform for researchers and a fulfilling one for the owner and crew. However, there is a need for more yachts to participate.

Drifter Deployment Program

Drifters are monitoring devices that float on the surface of the ocean and extend 5m into the water column. They observe and transmit sea surface temperature, current velocity, latitude and longitude, and time, using the Argos satellite to communicate and transmit scientific data. Additional sensor options for data collection include air pressure, wind speed and direction, and water salinity. This date is then transmitted to NOAA for analysis and applications.

Drifters help researchers identify patterns of marine debris accumulation, assist in hurricane prediction models, and provide uniform quality control for aging satellites.

Deployment from private yachts expands the reach of the global drifter array. NOAA has an urgent demand for drifter deployment outside of global shipping routes, especially in data-poor areas such as the South Pacific, West Africa, the Indian Ocean, Western South America, and Western Mexico.

A yacht owner can purchase a drifter to deploy in an area that the yacht will be voyaging and the drifter data can also be monitored online. Like the Discovery Yachts Program, participation in the drifter program also merits a 501(c)3 tax benefit to the yacht owner.

Examples of participatory yachts for expeditions include Tiger shark tagging onboard the Penny Mae, genome sequencing with Copasetic in Bimini, coral reef research expedition with Miss Phebe II in the Dry Tortugas, drifter deployments with Fugitive, Valkyrie and Meduse, and environmental educational opportunities for children onboard Defiance.

SeaKeepers searches year round for philanthropic and like-minded yacht owners interested in actively contributing to marine science and conservation. If you own or know of someone who owns a potential Discovery Yacht, or would like to participate in the drifter program, contact SeaKeepers Director of Programs and Policies, Angela Rosenberg, at [email protected] or +1-305-448-7089.

As a veteran yacht captain and ocean conservation advocate, I propose to all yacht captains to ask their employer if they would like to make their yacht available for scientific research in times of non-charter or owner use. I also suggest to all yacht crew to take actions to help preserve our fragile oceans. It can be as easy as making a conscious effort to stop using as much disposable plastic as possible and using cleaning products that do not harm our oceans and waterways. Or participate as a volunteer with one of the many foundations that need help for research.

Maritime crew earn our livings on the world’s oceans and waterways. That’s all the more reason to do our best to protect the environment we so love and appreciate.


Capt. Denise Fox is a veteran yacht captain who is active in the promotion and participation in marine environmental conservation and education. Contact her through her web site,