From superyacht captain to sea shepherd

Photo: Sea Shephard

From superyacht captain to sea shepherd

Photo: Sea Shephard

Purpose

From superyacht captain to sea shepherd

Years spent at sea prompted David Evans to head off on a memorable environmental mission.

By Dominique Afacan | 2 November 2018

David Evans has never been one to take the easy option. Even his first captain’s job was on board Avel, a classic 1896 sailing boat with no engine. “It was a calluses-on-hands job,” he recalls. “It took 20 of us to sail it.” Stints on various other superyachts followed, but earlier this year, his passion for oceanography and sea life saw him putting his hand up for a stretch with Sea Shepherd, a non-profit marine conservation organisation with projects all over the world.

“It all happened really quickly,” says Evans. “I kind of gravitated towards the project, sent them my CV and the next thing I knew they were asking how soon I could start.” Evans knew he could afford to leave Mallorca, where he is based, to slot in a three-month voluntary captaincy – he just hadn’t bet on it happening straight away. “What I left behind was a bit of a train wreck, but it wasn’t life or death, so I jumped on a plane and landed in Santiago,” he says. The campaign began the very next day.

From superyacht captain to sea shepherd

Photo: Sea Shephard

From superyacht captain to sea shepherd

Photo: Sea Shephard

The vessel he was joining was called Sharpie, operating in the Gulf of California and heading up a mission to protect the vaquita porpoise, the world’s most endangered marine mammal. The illegal gill net fishing of totoaba fish (and specifically their rare and valuable swim bladders), has the unfortunate side effect of killing vaquita. As a result, much of the day-to-day work on Sharpie involved finding and removing these dangerous and illegal nets – no easy task.

“We had a ray towing behind us which was three or four metres off the ocean floor, where those nets are,” explains Evans. “If it tangled itself, it broke a little fuse line and that snap meant we knew we’d found a net.” With some nets anchored down and stretching for hundreds of metres, lifting them out by hand was no easy task. “Once it was done, there would be thumbs up all round,” says Evans. Beyond helping the vaquita, Evans witnessed myriad other sea life being rescued as a result of their hard work.

From superyacht captain to sea shepherd

Photo: Sea Shephard

From superyacht captain to sea shepherd

Photo: Sea Shephard

“Some days the nets would be full of dead fish, but often there would be life in them. We had one net with loads of hammerhead juveniles in it which was amazing,” he says. “Everyone was super happy that day as we’d put so much life back into the ocean that was going to be gone otherwise.” There were biologists on board to note and record the various species found in the nets, while any tortuaba found had to be destroyed in front of a government official.

“The crew were all so passionate – often about different elements,” recalls Evans. “One guy was passionate about getting recycling right on the boat, for example. He’d written a whole plan for Sharpie. Others were more passionate about the fish and marine life.” For Evans, it was a combination of everything; along with the camaraderie such relentless teamwork tends to deliver. “I’m still in touch with so many people from the trip,” he says. “We’ve got our own little WhatsApp group so there’s always banter going on.”

From superyacht captain to sea shepherd
From superyacht captain to sea shepherd

Back in Mallorca, Evans has a renewed passion for other environmental projects closer to home. “A lot of this stuff is trickling down into superyacht culture,” he says. “Asociación Ondine have always been on my radar here. Brad who runs it, is a dynamo. It’s all about making sure people know about the marine protected areas across the Balearic Islands – plus they do scientific research for stingrays and run plastic pollution clean ups and school programmes.”

Evans also has the Bertarelli Foundation on his radar, headed up by the owners of Vava II, often spotted sailing around Mallorca. They sponsor the world’s largest marine reserve in the Chagos Islands, helping to protect sea life in the Indian Ocean. Evans also has more than a passing interest in Project REV, an ambitious expedition yacht on a mission to save the world’s oceans. “I’ve stuck my nose in there see if there are any jobs going,” says Evans. “It looks like an amazing project.”

From superyacht captain to sea shepherd

Photo: Sea Shephard

From superyacht captain to sea shepherd

Photo: Sea Shephard

In the meantime, he hasn’t ruled out another stint with Sea Shepherd. “I found the whole experience totally rewarding,” he says. “Since I’ve been wearing the Sea Shepherd t-shirts, I get thumbs up from people from all walks of life. It’s amazing who knows about it and who donates and supports us.”

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