Back in April, when I was sitting comfortably in my house in Austin telling friends and co-workers that I was putting my life on hold for the next 4 months to join a sailing expedition from Hawaii to California while a “crazy Frenchman” swims 300 NM through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – the only words I felt some people heard were “Hawaii” and “sail.” Which sounds like a pretty great vacation.
Often times the real reason for this expedition – raising awareness to the unseen affect single-use plastics have on our oceans – fell to the wayside. That’s not to say that this is not a concern of these very well-intentioned people, but it was more so the allure of escaping from everyday life that clouded what I and nine others were about to embark on. To be fair, had roles been reversed, my mind would have jumped to the same conclusion.
If I did have any allusions that this was going to be an extended sunset sail through the Pacific, that misconception was erased on my first night aboard “I Am Ocean” nearly five weeks ago. The two adjectives that popped into my head that evening were ‘hot’ and ‘cramped’. Now that we’re a week into the expedition, I can add ‘constantly rolling.’
This boat was built for speed, not comfort. Every space onboard is used to its fullest. There are no creature comforts here. All four sleeping cabins, two aft and two mid-ship, which are the size of most walk-in closets, house our crew of ten (I’ll let you do the math on that), our minimal belongings and all of the food we’ll need for the remaining 80-odd days we have left at sea.
The saloon and galley, where we cook, eat and do all of the non-sailing work is at a perpetual lean depending on the current tack and it is generally 20 degrees warmer than the fresh air on deck. If you dare explore the bow of the boat you’ll find one head (bathroom from those uninitiated to sailing life) and our science lab which still has look of an airplane lavatory if you were to replace the mirror, soap and toilet paper with viles of collected plastics, science protocols written on a mini whiteboard and all of the science supplies we’ll need for this expedition.
There are also two more cabins which hold a hodgepodge of gear, tools, food and our two luxury items on board: a refrigerator and a freezer – which are smaller than anything you’d see in a college dormitory. Finally, the last space on board is the sail locker. This is a triangle space at the bow holds our sails and extra lines. It is also a makeshift crew confessional booth. Here, the crew can climb up to the video camera stationed in the corner and record their thoughts each day. I learned the hard way that attempting this procedure on a rough day is a potentially vomit inducing endeavor.
While life on board it hard and is far from a sunset cruise – I could not have asked for a better group of people to be alone with in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Everyone has their own unique talents and nobody is afraid to lend a hand or teach others new skills. I learn something about sailing, life and myself each and everyday. While I miss my friends and family, I wouldn’t give this experience up for anything – but a cold beer sure would be nice.
David – Digital and social strategist
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Photo credits @joshmunoz & @sea.marshall