The Island has long been a haven for travelers of all sorts. These days, more often than not it is tourists, day trippers and summer residents that populate the highways and byways, shops, taverns and markets of Martha’s Vineyard.

In the past the Island was often populated by those who came from the sea in ships to take rest and refuge before setting off again to foreign ports. Offshore sailors. People who had ventured to faraway ports. Some would stay only long enough to re-provision or repair, or until a threatening storm passed.

Today the tradition of caring for those who come from across the sea remains. There is also a small but cheerful group of offshore sailors who have decided to make the Island home — still venturing off when the chance occurs. A delivery to Antigua on a family-owned yacht, a stint as cook on a ship to St. Thomas. There are some who come and stay for awhile, then leave again with a refitted vessel, off to some distant land.

They become part of the community of sailors, part of the fabric of this place. There is a web of these folks that stretches across the globe. You never know when you might meet a former shipmate — or a future one.

It was in this vein that one day I met Brad Ives, a sailor with strong ties to the Island. I was at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, aboard the Tole Mour after having finished the passage from the Marshall Islands. The ship was being refitted from serving as a medical support ship for the people of the southern Marshalls, to a vessel that would carry at-risk children for adventure, learning and camaraderie. One morning I ventured to the poop deck and a new guy was sitting there. Of course the first thing I did was introduce myself and offer my hand in greeting. We shook hands and I sat down to have a parlay with the new shipmate. “I’m Brad,” he said. As we were in refit mode I asked, “So what’s your job? I am the cook.” “Well carpentry for the most part,” he replied. As we sat and talked lightly I realized he was quiet, though not shy and he showed an air of unpretentious confidence. I felt I had met a new friend. When we discovered we had common sailor friends on the Vineyard, the friendship solidified.

Later Brad and his fiancée April came and settled on the Vineyard for a time. They were involved with shipping lumber from Suriname. A bigger project they were engaged in was to refit a steel vessel from a cargo ship to a sailing ship. And there was a plan. They were planning to take the ship to the Pacific, basing it in Hawaii and serving as a cargo carrier for remote islands — Gilberts, Kiribati and the Cook Islands, among others.

Today, many years later, the sailing vessel Kwai has been working in the Pacific as part of the maritime lifeline for those remote islands, but recently the Kwai also has taken on another task. She was chartered to go to sea and gather plastic. It might seem a strange thing to charter a ship for this purpose, but in fact the problem of trash in the sea, particularly plastic, is growing. On a recent voyage Brad and his crew harvested 40 tons of plastic. When they arrived back home in Hawaii, they learned that it was the largest haul of plastic to date.

So a sailor with strong ties to the Island, on a ship that was partially refitted here, went off to help the ecology of the planet, not to mention the wildlife at sea. I wonder, though, if all that plastic was generated in the Pacific arena. It’s possible that there is trash there that made it from the Atlantic, possibly even from the Vineyard.

The idea stems from a visit I made to Pitcairn island, one of the more remote islands on the planet. On a day off I was roaming in the bush and discovered a bottle dump. In that dump I discovered bottles of the same type I had unearthed on the Vineyard. They most likely came to Pitcairn on a whaler which could easily have stopped or even originated on the Island.

And there’s the rub. Are we participating in the disposal of plastic that ends up in the ocean — the Atlantic, Pacific or Indian oceans? Blobs of wrappers floating around confounding and even killing wildlife. A solution might be to not only buy locally but dispose locally. That would possibly lead to less consumption of plastic because we don’t have a place to put it.

The next time I run into Brad and we set to talking, my greatest wish is that when I ask him what he discovered during his plastic voyage he does not say: “Well, we found a bunch of bags that exclaimed, Buy Local MV!”

Joe Keenan is a roofer and baker living in Vineyard Haven.