Pirates, Promises and OceansWatch

Oh, my! Adventures on the open sea

This week introduces OceansWatch to you. I met Chris Bone, the founder of OceansWatch with his wife Julia over summer. They are based in Whangarei but have a world-wide organization dedicated to environmental and cultural care. I was struck by their dedication and clear, focused action. I think you will appreciate their work, and invite you to add any resources to their latest effort.

In Joy, Becky

OceansWatch: Healthy Oceans and Sustainable Island Communities


Chris Bone, the CEO of OceansWatch has a heart of gold. He might not say that for himself, but when you read his story, it sounds like a quest. Chris spent many years of his life sailing all over the Pacific with his yacht delivery company. During these years he saw much degradation of the environment and poverty. This contrasted strongly with the expensive yachts that were visiting these places. He knew that sailors have many skills and resources that could help these people and the environment. In 2007, after being left at Karkar Island, in Papua New Guinea, by his crew who feared pirates, he was asked for help by that island community. He knew with the help of others he could make a difference and said: yes, I will help and will come back next year.

Five years later, Chris kept his promise to the people of Karkar and has extended into an international organization called OceansWatch with projects based in the Pacific and Caribbean. Chris has attracted many people to help him who are as passionate as he is about conservation and communities.

Chris finds it hard to say no, thinking of the big picture with a strong go for it attitude. OceansWatch receives inquiries from many countries in the Caribbean, Asia, Pacific, and Indian Ocean. Chris says, If people show up in my inbox I try to find out what we can do to help.

So What Does OceansWatch Do?

In partnership with coastal communities, they develop marine conservation plans, sustainable livelihood projects, and support primary school education. It is a registered charity (NZ, USA, Australia, and the Solomon Islands) and an international not-for-profit organisation that works with sailors, divers, scientists, and the public to help the environment and coastal communities in developing countries.

There are three main focus areas for OceansWatch: Marine Conservation, Sustainable Livelihoods, and Education. All three focus areas are held together by the vision of Healthy oceans and sustainable island communities.

OceansWatch has a bottom-up approach with the intention of the communities being the driving force and OceansWatch providing the skills and resources to empower them and build their capacity to achieve their aims of a sustainable future.

Current Projects

OceansWatch is involved in a few different projects, go to their website to see the latest. One project began when they heard that loggers had arrived on Rennell Island in the Solomon Islands, where OceansWatch had recently assisted a community to implement a Marine Protected Area. The loggers are trying to persuade the people there to let them take out 80% of the trees. That would have been a disaster. The forest provides so much for the people including shelter from hurricanes, food, fuel, timber, wood for canoes, and many other things. Without the forest, the land would degrade and the soil erosion could ruin the reef. The unemployment rate on the island is 95%, and with no one being able to earn enough for school fees, the loggers make this very tempting. OceansWatch is hoping their Moana Arts alternative livelihood project will counter this temptation.

OceansWatch developed the Moana Arts program as part of their sustainable livelihood projects. Through this program, the local craftspeople can sell their crafts and products in developed countries. OceansWatch buys the handicraft from the artisans at a fair local selling price. They then sell them at markets in New Zealand and Australia. All the bags and carvings carry the name of the artist and have information about them so people can know where their money is going. All the profits are returned to the artisans. As part of the Moana Arts program, OceansWatch wants to encourage a savings scheme so that if there is a natural disaster such as a hurricane then the community has some resources to cope.

In the next few weeks, (at the time of this writing) OceansWatch will be setting off for this year's expedition in Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands, from their headquarters and home in Whangarei. The yachts will be equipped with scientists, divers, and a whole lot of gear. This year they are expanding on work already begun, especially focusing on a 30,000ha Marine Managed area in an isolated area in the Solomon Islands.


OceansWatch recognises the importance of respecting each other and the people in the communities where they work. They invite people from all walks of life, race, sex, or age to enrich their shared experiences as they fulfill their vision. They value positivity and having great experiences. They recognise that there is ample evidence that climate change, overfishing, pollution, and other human effects on the environment, have already compromised the world's oceans. They believe the time to take action is now, to alleviate and reverse these ecosystem pressures.

Challenge and Reward

Chris would love to see this not-for-profit organisation go global, helping every developing Island Community that can be reached by yachts.

His devotion to OceansWatch has a cost. Chris says "It's been very hard especially for my wife and children as I am away so much". He acknowledges the hard times, as well as recognising that he has the power to make the world a better place. He facilitates the opportunity for people to give through OceansWatch in their own unique way and now feels a strong responsibility to continue with this in spite of any difficulties because the world urgently needs organisations like OceansWatch.

Adding Your Energy

How can you become involved in this fantastic organisation? OceansWatch runs on a shoestring compared to many organisations but they do have operating expenses. Last year they operated all of their International programs for less than the cost of a single Overseas Aid advisor in Papua New Guinea.

They are always happy to receive donations, whether it be monetary or even a yacht. They still always need volunteers, especially for the Solomon Island project, such as nurses, sailors, divers, marine conservation graduates, or Permaculture experts. Have a look at this link to learn more about being a volunteer.

There is a huge resource of cruising yachts sailing around the world. These yachties can work with OceansWatch to assist them with projects or to deliver cargo to and from various islands, especially where affordable and realistic transportation options do not exist for the locals. Reach out to your yachtie friends by sharing this opportunity to take part in a useful and meaningful opportunity.

Better World

OceansWatch facilitates a model in which people from different economic realities can work together towards a better world and healthier oceans.

In 2012 OceansWatch was selected as a finalist for the World Expo prize. The theme of the Expo that year was "The Living Ocean and Coast" and they were 1 of 10 international finalists. About 7 million visitors were expected to attend the World Expo in Yeosu, Korea, from May 12 to August 12, 2012.

If he didn't know it when he was dropped off on Karkar Island, he knows it now. OceansWatch has changed me a lot. I now fully live my life's purpose. I have met many fantastic people and it's made me more spiritually aware. While the pirates did not eventuate, there was gold to be found, a heart of gold.

From You

Re: Finding Your Voice

"I have a special song I sing every time I run a nasty rapid. It calms me and allows supreme concentration. I fully appreciate the American Indians' songs of celebration, war, death, I fully understand how the singing works to feed the spirit and calm the body."



"Don't ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."
~Howard Thurman
About the author

Chris Bone

Professional Yacht Skipper

Chris is a professional yacht skipper and runs a yacht delivery company- Pacific Yacht Deliveries. He has been an environmental activist for many years, including 2 years as a skipper for Greenpeace on the yacht Vega. His background also includes organic farming and consulting, and marine marketing consultancy.