YachtWorld Foundation: Why We Started it & Chose SeaKeepers as Beneficiary

Jessica Muffett tells the story of Yachtworld.com’s non-profit arm and its first grant recipient, the International SeaKeepers Society.

A favorite chore cruising our sailboat down the Baja coast in 1978 was tying our seven pairs of blue jeans to a line and dragging them behind our boat. Laundry day was as easy-breezy as running the washing machine, a lazy chore that suited our general reason for cruising in the first place. Salinity was low, the water pristine, and they cleaned and dried beautifully. Is the water clean enough to do this today? I don’t know. Surely not in some parts of the world where, for example, there is a swirl of plastic garbage the size of Texas.

We’ve all heard the alarms from mariners around the world who have observed firsthand the declining conditions of the oceans. It is up to us who love and rely on the seas for our recreation, adventure, and livelihood to focus as a team on this problem. As I explained in the initial press release (YachtWorld Creates Foundation To Further Knowledge and Protection of Oceans), YachtWorld.com started the YachtWorld Foundation in 2010 to help pull this team together. As the non-profit arm of YachtWorld.com, the Foundation will raise awareness to help protect the essential habitat we all love and share.

Over 2.5 million boaters visit our website every month looking at 115,000 boats for sale in 143 countries that are represented by 2400 yacht brokerage houses and their 10,000 individual yacht brokers. Plus, we have 150 employees in 6 countries around the world eager to contribute their time. Together we can help raise awareness of our oceans’ declining health and share concrete ways to contribute to the solution.

As we got started, we asked ourselves if there were already established organizations who shared our goals. Might we partner with them, increasing their reach through our communication and networking skills? A colleague turned me onto the International SeaKeepers Society. SeaKeepers was started in 1998 by a group of superyacht owners in Monaco who were horrified by the deterioration in the condition of the oceans. They asked scientists how they could help. The scientists wanted something only vessels cruising the worlds’ oceans could provide—data collected through continuous sampling, particularly from more remote areas. SeaKeepers responded by installing a revolutionary monitoring system on members’ yachts that collects sample data and transfers it via  satellite to the United Nations Global Telecommunication system, where the data is disseminated free to the world scientific community. The monitoring system has since been deployed in some 90 locations around the world, from private yachts to cruise ships, freighters, car ferries, research vessels, government sea buoys, a lighthouse—even a jet ski.. (For more details, read our February story SeaKeepers Society: Climate Custodians.)

When I first spoke with SeaKeepers Chair Michael Moore, I asked him how our foundation could best help. He said they wanted to spread the word to the millions who visited our site, and to our members around the world—the type of exposure only YachtWorld.com could bring to the table. So that’s what we’re doing in our first full year of operation—working to generate broad exposure for a worthy organization and relying on those of you who learn about SeaKeepers to decide how you can help: through finding yachts to carry its equipment, by serving as a volunteer, or by donating funds.

Before we agreed to make them our 2011 grant recipient, we did our due diligence. It was quickly apparent that over the years SeaKeepers had already been vetted by an impressive list of volunteers, members, and award recipients, including such names as Jean-Michael Cousteau, Paul Allen, and Prince Albert of Monaco. They were clearly an organization we would be honored to support, and we pledged $100,000+ of advertising and promotion.

SeaKeepers recently started development of a unit appropriate for smaller vessels. SeaKeepers CEO Dean Klevan said the future candidate vessel could be a 50 foot cruising sailboat. Their goal is to have 500 vessels using this new technology by the end of 2012, helping to collect oceanographic and atmospheric data around the world. Your contribution is urgently needed as the oceans are at a tipping point. Funding is used for critically needed research. For example, SeaKeepers is taking a lead role in the installation of hydrocarbon sensors to study the extent of the Gulf spill.

Their Nine Initiatives for Personal Action has great ideas about personally making a difference. I’m working hard to incorporate them into my life—bringing home less plastic, and buying only sustainable fish for dinner. It’s not easy to save the oceans, but I like to think I’m helping future cruising generations clean their blue jeans the easy-breezy way. For more information, please visit the SeaKeepers website.

Jessica Muffett is the founder of YachtWorld.com.  

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