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SEA Currents: SSV Corwith Cramer

September 26, 2019

Ocean Legacies: the Goffinet Family

Frances, Patty and Thomas Goffinet

SEA Semester

Above: Patty Goffinet and Polly Dana board the SSV Westward; Tom Goffinet, Steve Low, and Paul Schlesinger (all W-61); Below: Frances Goffinet (second from right) with shipmates aboard SSV Corwith Cramer; Bottom: a Blue Tube used plastic bag dispenser used for beach clean-ups.

Patty and Tom Goffinet first met while students on W-61. Inspired by her parents’ experience, many years later, their daughter, Frances, also participated in SEA Semester on C-237.  These legacy alumni have chosen to count SEA among their philanthropic priorities, and, through their company, BlueTube, have created a special way to serve as ocean stewards, by ridding beaches of ocean plastic and raising money to support SEA in the process.

SEA: What inspired you each to do SEA Semester?

Thomas: My high school and college mate, Jim Salomon from W-53, came back and said it was great fun. Things seemed simpler then.

Patty:  It took no thought. I learned of Sea Semester from a student who just returned and knew I had to go. I applied immediately.

Frances:  First there was the fact that I exist because of Sea Semester (my parents met on W-61 and went on to build a life and a family together). Then, there were the stories my parents and friend Polly Dana (also W-61) told about their time on Sea Semester while I was growing up -- about swizzle, sea sickness, and the saloon with gimbled tables…it sounded like an adventure, and it really was!

SEA: What did you learn about yourselves, teamwork, etc. while at sea?

Thomas:  I feel strongly that travel, particularly travel that brings one from place to place under your own steam, so to speak (such as hiking, biking, sailing, etc.), gives you a great feel for the earth we live on. I don’t know if I recognized this at the time, but I do see that now. Sea Semester keeps you out of your comfort zone, such that you’re always ratcheting it up. You must. And that is vital to skills-development. That’s such an important part of the program. There’s a great mix of mental, physical and social opportunity for learning on a boat. You don’t often get these three things wrapped up in one experience.

Patty:  Somehow amidst a crew of shipmates with different personalities, we built a community. We made it work. To me, there’s such value in that. It was also ‘real life’, meaning that there was no padding. We were out there, in the moment, with changing conditions, making it work.  SEA gave me confidence. If I can learn how Diesel engines work, how to sail a ship, and navigate by the stars (ok, this is a stretch), then I can do anything.

Frances: One day at sea while I was fumbling with the lines or plotting a course that bore no relation whatsoever to reality, Captain Terry Hayward commented "That girl will have a brilliant career somewhere, but not on a tall ship." I thank Sea Semester for teaching that there are some situations in life that you will be almost 100-percent bad at, and that's okay. If you ask for help, others are almost always happy to give it. I also learned, through bow watches on dawn watch, mid watches reefing something on top of the dog house, and days in the lab with a cornucopia of zooplankton, that the "real world" is more beautiful and more interesting than anything I could watch on a screen.

SEA: What about the program continues to inspire you to be committed donors?

Thomas: Well, we're not the big pockets kind of donors, but consistent. To be truthful, it isn’t just the continued existence and success of SEA that we’re donating to, but also a kind of thanks for putting Patty and me together long ago. (You don’t get that reason very often as SEA isn’t a dating service.)

Patty:  I continue to support SEA because I am very grateful for Sea Semester, (and not only because I met Tom). I love knowing that right now young people are in Woods Hole and aboard ship. They are gaining confidence, making life-long friends and becoming better people.

Frances: I just donated to Sea Semester for the first time. I promise it will be at least a yearly occurrence from now on. I received very generous financial aid from Sea Semester -- I want the same experience to be available to others. And I will talk to Davidson College's new registrar about allowing aid to transfer to SEA. The old registrar that that sailing on a tall ship did not count as "experiencing a foreign culture" -- which shows how little he knew of the world beyond academia!

SEA: You founded a 501(c)3 called BlueTube to encourage ocean and beach stewardship in Florida, and through that organization, support SEA. Please tell us about that.

Patty: I joined SEA on their plastic expedition to the North Pacific Gyre in 2012. It was a fantastic opportunity and great fun to relive my Sea Semester days.` We found plenty of plastic, but most had fragmented into tiny pieces, and it was all mixed in with marine life. There is no way to get plastic out of the middle of the ocean.

Back home in Florida, while collecting plastic that had washed ashore, I came up with the idea of BlueTube (www.BlueTubeBeach.org). These are bright blue containers at beach entrances that hold clean, used plastic bags. People grab a bag, pick up plastic waste, throw it away and stock BlueTubes with their extra bags. With a bag and a reminder, people are happy to keep plastic off beaches and out of the ocean.

Five dollars from each BlueTube purchase goes towards SEA’s excellent research on ocean plastic. SEA students pick every piece of plastic out of every neuston tow and have since the 1970’s. SEA has a motherlode of data on ocean plastic which is the basis for much of what we know about this problem.

Thomas:  Patty came back from a 2012 SEA cruise (focused on ocean plastics) and translated that experience and problem to a scale and a specific solution that she could enact here in Florida. You do what you can, with the resources at hand. BlueTube, Inc. is a small company with a big mission to create clean beaches and plastic-free oceans. BlueTubes are bright blue, easy-to-spot containers that hold clean, used plastic bags. They are installed at beach crossovers so people can grab a bag on their way to the beach, pick up trash and throw it away. Beach-goers also donate their clean, used plastic bags to the container, and the cycle continues. The hope for BlueTube is that each beach will pick up a bag and fills it with trash. Big problems get solved over time by each playing a part within their grasp, in their own community. Individuals pay a modest fee to sponsor a BlueTube, with a portion of the proceeds dedicated to supporting SEA.

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