International Marine Mammal Project

Thursday's Child Sails for Whales

Earth Island News

International Marine Mammal Project

Although I missed the record by about a day, I did make it to Japan on this, my third attempt to break the solo sailing record of 34 days, six hours from San Francisco to Tokyo, arriving in Misake, Japan on June 4, 2001 aboard my 60-foot ocean racer Thursday’s Child.

The first sail in 1997 ended about 300 miles from Tokyo with the capsize of my trimaran Naiía. The second attempt in 2000 ended in Hawai’i with a broken rudder.

All three sails were undertaken to raise awareness in Japan of the brutal “drive fishery” that continues to kill 20,000 cetaceans annually. Many of the surviving drive-fishery dolphins are sold into captivity to supply the growing number of “swim with dolphins” programs around the world.

While in Japan, I met with the director of the new killer whale facility at the Nagoya Port Aquarium to make the case against captivity of orcas. Unfortunately, the director stated clearly that the aquarium intends to buy orcas and open a commercial whale show. Nanami Kurasawa of Dolphin Whale Action Network in Tokyo is leading a gallant fight to prevent the opening of the Port Authority’s new “whale jail.”

My longtime sailing buddy, Scott Shaffer, joined me in Japan for a double-handed return sail to Victoria, Canada. The 25-day crossing followed the shorter Great Circle route just south of the Aleutian Islands. We sailed on to Orca Lab, Paul Spong’s whale research station at Vancouver Island in British Colombia.

We dedicated the return sail to the campaign to free Corky, a female orca who was captured in 1969 when she was four years old. We are asking that Corky be retired from Sea World San Diego and reunited with her family pod in the waters off British Columbia.

Volunteers from Orca Lab joined the Thursday’s Child crew for a “Fate of the Orcas/Free Corky and Lolita” tour of British Columbia ports. The tour ended in Victoria with a parade of 15 whale-watch boats led by Thursday’s Child, all flying parts of the “Free Corky” banner made by children from around the world. The tour featured open houses on board Thursday’s Child, TV interviews and the distribution of educational materials from Earth Island’s new Orca Restoration Campaign, ORCA (see accompanying story).

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