eXXpedition Round Britain leg 2 crew member Carol Devine meets her fellow crew members and Pangaea Exploration’s Sea Dragon for the first time:
Mother Nature Rules: Changing Course
Leg 2: Arran Island
“The first thing I see arriving on Arran Island off the ferry is A bunch of bright green furry mossy rocks on the shore. The weather changes so quickly here. I’m already enamored with this stunning, moody yet welcoming island. Sun, rain, wind, sun, downpour.
I’m on my way to the Lifeboat Station to Lamlash Pier to meet eXXpedition crew and The Sea Dragon.
What a thrill to see stripy shirts from a distance – matching grey and white striped team sailor shirts. I already feel part of something special and bigger than me.
Straight away I meet a few women who just arrived off Leg 1, “Come help with the beach debris clean up and survey,” they say. I love that there’s a group of us from further afield and locals from Arran Island who are there split into three groups picking up garbage and noting what we find. Lots of broken clay – apparently remnants of objects from a long ago but also small, pieces of plastic, glass, a long piece of rubber pipes, glass and metal. I’m reminded of a beach clean up project I did in Svalbard – same activity that tracks our human behaviour of over-consuming plastic and leaving our discards behind but also the totally optimistic side – being with groups of people working to pick it up and understand it and spread awareness. But that activity is cut short for us going on the next leg of the journey Round Britain.
We go onto our floating home for the next 10 days and meet one another – a group of 14 women from UK, Canada, Germany, Scotland, Australia and the US originally though a bunch are living in the UK and Scotland at the moment. Emily, the co-founder introduces the eXXpedition briefly – our work to contribute to understanding of both the extent of the plastic pollution problem in our seas and particularly Britain’s seas, and the impact it has on us and our planet. Diane our skipper, a fellow Canuck, gives us the low down on the Sea Dragon and basics of safety and life on the ship – before we sail we’ll have more extensive safety briefings. Holly, the first mate, kindly passed us coffee and tea from the Galley whilst explaining kitchen safety protocols and sharing fact that we have a ton of donated bananas to eat first.
I can’t quite believe I’m here. Emily thanked us all for joining eXXpedition and acknowledged how for many months these three groups of women worked to organize their lives, work and funds to join. I was offered a spot quite last minute because unfortunately one of the guest crew had to cancel so it was a quick preparation period for me which mostly involved booking a flight and checking the packing list. My kids are still off for school holidays so they’re organized and my workplace is cool with me taking a week off so all was a go. Plane bus train ferry bus rib sailboat. Pub.
After our initial briefing and a delicious stir fry dinner we headed back on the rib to the local pub for storytelling by Leg 1. The pub, PHT, also known as Pier Head Tavern. has an amazing friendly feel and was already buzzing with tables of locals and eXXpedition women in stripy shirts chatting and finishing their meals. Now we had our stripy shirts too so we felt immediately incorporated into a larger movement of women for the seas.
Live music! The book on the music stand said “Songs of the Isles”. Women from Leg 1 also recounted tales from their evidently blustery journey from Plymouth to Arran Island. Sue evoked the sea itself in a beautifyl poem told from the underwater point of view – it was like a dreamscape until us humans started turning it into a garbage can. Deb had written her story instructions for the ship science on a piece of paper. It looked like artwork itself with words swirling on the page. She spoke of the mussels and samples and calibration and posting and things we’re just starting to learn we will do on Sea Dragon to contribute to valuable studies on marine pollution, wildlife, toxins and more.
A woman from Leg 2 gave an ode to a fellow crewmate in a story that could be called “The Rope Locker: An Ode to Humanity and Kat”. In big weather she described feeling very sick for many hours and a voice that kept saying, “are you okay?” throughout it all. “Are you okay?” was the voice again. She finally fell asleep in the Rope Locker which was the further place she could go to rest outside of the head. One of the other women told her that Kat, the Deck Hand, had not left her the whole time and kept watch, checking on her. When she heard that she said, “Here was someone I’d never met before who I will probably not meet again, a stranger who stayed so long with me to make sure I was okay. That was one of the best things – to learn Kat had done this for me.” At the worst part of her seasickness she found a special moment in the care of a new person she was bound together with on eXXpedition.
Amy of Kids Against Plastic, sister one of a two-sister group, is not only an inspiring activist but an angelic singer. She sang us a parody of a pop song about what’s important she said for her generation to do – change the plastic situation, not to wait. The host thanked Scotland and Arran Island for the wonderful welcome and support.
Then in the pouring rain we went back to our boat. Home sweet tiny home. This morning was group briefings on deck – safety protocols, how to winch and our duty watch instructions. We also went around the group and said what we’d like to have accomplished when we get back to Edinburgh. Emily made a great observation – she said she also thinks not only about what she did before but after such a voyage, about what she will do next. I like that too because I think of these intense working and learning experiences are powerful – you’ve gone a new place with new people, shared experiences and stories and now together have a new kind of narrative. I already feel that. Women on this voyage came to do science – to join the trawling and sampling, the nature watching and reporting, learn about sailing. And we’re writing that story together.
Deborah said for her she’s really interesting to experience and observe how living together in a small space is so fundamental and we don’t experience that much these days. We have few resources, we have to share, we need each other. We have to look after the boat together. As Diane said, “the boat is our home, she keeps us safe.”
As we’ve set sail now and the rocking is making writing hard I’ll end on the sailing safety review metaphors and life lessons:
-the paradox of objects: they can be both hazards and help. For example you may trip on a horizontal metal rod in the middle of the ship deck, but in rough seas you could also attach and brace on it for safety.
I think to me it says that you have to be flexible and you have to see the duality in things. Make the best of the moment and use what you have around you. Be innovative and resourceful.
So we were sad for a moment that the weather was too fierce for us to go the original route to Stornoway and circumnavigating Scotland. But now that we’re going through Caledonian Canal we’ll also have great opportunities to do our science and to meet with communities. As Emily said, adapting is a key skill as changemakers.
Sometimes we have to change course, one door closes, another opens. Leg 2 is on the way! Fort William here we come. These are great women with a meaningful purpose that I’m honoured to be with. Onwards.”
The Round Britain Crew will be sending us daily updates from Sea Dragon, which will be posted here on the eXXpedition website. You will also be able to see updates from the crew and ground team throughout Round Britain on Twitter, Facebookand Instagram.
Curious about where Sea Dragon is RIGHT NOW? Click here to see exactly where she is!