Harry Miller cleared debris off West Coast shores during a sailing trip around Vancouver Island. (Photo - Jonty White)

Harry Miller cleared debris off West Coast shores during a sailing trip around Vancouver Island. (Photo - Jonty White)

Tourists clear debris near Tofino

“We weren’t looking for enlightenment, so to speak, but we were looking to contribute in some way.”

A group of tourists recently teamed up with Surfrider to spice up a two-month sailing adventure with some rewarding volunteerism.

New Zealander Harry Miller, 26, moved to Victoria roughly three years ago where he lives on a sailboat with his partner Sarah White. When three of his friends—Sebastian Suckling, Jonty White and Kieran Horsbourgh—decided to visit from New Zealand, the group set their sights on a voyage around Vancouver Island.

“We hadn’t sailed around the Island before,” Miller told the Westerly News. “We live on a boat because it gives us access to adventure readily. We can move our house wherever we want and my partner and I are very adventurous.”

While planning their journey, the five sailors looked for opportunities to transform into a travelling volunteer crew by seeking out local non-profit organizations.

“We wanted to offset our trip a little bit. We’re on a sailing boat so we don’t really have much of an impact anyway, but we wanted to do something along the way and we decided beach cleanups were probably the easiest thing to do, especially in the kind of places we were going,” he said.

Miller got in touch with Victoria’s Surfrider chapter and received some super sacs to fill with debris and, when they ran out of sacs while cleaning Vargas Island, they got a hold of local Surfrider Pacific Rim Chair Michelle Hall.

“Michelle was very supportive,” Miller said. “We called her in the morning and by the afternoon we had a boat come out and drop off a bunch of new sacs to fill.”

The team was thrilled with the amount of debris they were able to remove from Brooks Peninsula and Vargas Island.

“We weren’t looking for enlightenment so to speak, but we were looking to contribute in some way and I feel like everyone really appreciated what we did,” Miller said. “We felt quite accomplished when we came back down to Ucluelet and everyone said, ‘Oh wow. Well done’…We did a substantial amount of cleaning and it was quite rewarding.”

He hopes locals take advantage of the opportunities around them.

“The Surfrider Foundation is really doing a good job and I admire the effort that goes into this. Michelle works so hard, as do all the volunteers. I encourage people to look up the Surfrider Foundation, find out what they’re doing and get involved,” he said.

The crew planned to spend a few days in Ucluelet before sailing through Barkley Sound and back to Victoria and expected to do a bit more cleaning on their way out.

“We’ve got a couple of super sacs left, so we’re going to have a look,” Miller said.

He added he “100 per cent” plans to make volunteering a fixture of his adventures from now on.

“It’s a new beginning,” he said.

Anyone looking to help out their local Surfrider Pacific Rim team can reach out to VolunteerCoordinator@pacificrim.surfrider.org.