WRITTEN BY KRISTEN & LEAH
ON LEG THREE EXPLORING ANTIGUA VIA GREEN ISLAND
To run a tight ship and a successful sailing expedition, every member of the crew commits to a role and works together as a unified team.
The skipper is usually at the helm steering the boat and keeping a steady course. A good skipper is a clear communicator and instills confidence in their crew. We are lucky on eXXpedition Around the World to have Anna as our skipper. She oozes confidence and stays cool and level-headed in any situation, so it’s easy to follow her command. Her eyes are everywhere on deck whilst steering course, yet she also has her eye on the bigger voyage picture. She also has a great sense of humour (a must on a long voyage!) and is a natural teacher.
The first mate and deck hands are also critical to a functioning ship. Maggie and Sophie act as our teachers, supervisors, motivators, and all-around problem solvers onboard the S.V. TravelEdge. When we are underway, they are charged with hoisting and lowering the sails, ensuring all lines are coiled, all winches are winched, and everything is running smoothly. These women know all the intimate details of how to care for a ship and keep her crew safe – and they are mean cooks to boot.
While at sail, the rest of us on Leg 3 take on a variety of roles. Some of us take on the brute strength jobs, like winching the sails or lowering heavy research equipment. Others record data and observe conditions – everything from weather to depth to location, carefully noting these in the ship’s log every hour. Each day, several of us are tasked with cooking a meal, cleaning and sanitising the boat, and spending an hour at night on ‘anchor watch’, so that the ship is always being cared for and kept safe at all hours of the day.
Our crew and Leg 3 team members come from all walks of life, each with a unique background and impassioned story leading her to this expedition. But we are all connected by our love and respect for the ocean, and our desire to find solutions to ocean plastic pollution. And just as each of us plays a particular role at different points throughout the voyage, we each play a role in addressing plastic pollution. An individual task may seem small – pull this yellow rope, flip that red switch – but that action is a critical step in the overall goal of keeping the ship sailing safely and protecting our ocean.
Some of us are born skippers; natural leaders who instinctively guide others and who take the helm when it comes to decisions. We need bold decision-makers leading our government bodies, international organisations, and businesses who can take top down action to regulate plastic production and consumption and support innovation of healthier alternatives.
Leaders need reliable sources of knowledge to make well-informed decisions, provided by those of us who are scientists and researchers. The observers, analysers, data wranglers, and information interpreters among us are key conveyers of the scientific knowledge that can inform policy and action around understanding and reducing plastic pollution.
Just like the first mate is tasked with teaching, supervising and motivating us on board, NGOs, community groups and activists are crucial in creating awareness about the plastic pollution problem and are key drivers behind educating and empowering others to become advocates for the ocean. These entities are also important in research, helping to bridge the gap between scientists, government, and communities.
Citizens in society have the opportunity to play the role of the deck hand – one who is passionate and knowledgeable and does their part to keep the boat sailing. They are integral to the actions that are taken to fight the plastic pollution problem. Although they don’t make the top down decisions, their individual actions are crucial in reducing plastics in the ocean. Every action, be it a petition, march, refusal of plastic bag, or presentation in a school (or any of thousands other actions) is key to making a lasting and widespread change.
We have but one ocean though it may seem like many. Whatever happens in one part of the world affects the other, so we all scales of action, from individual to global, to keep the ocean plastic free. We’ve all been affected by plastic pollution, and we can all take steps toward reducing it. There’s this saying “small actions by many people add up to big change”.
Keeping a tight ship in rough weather often requires all hands on deck. Maintaining a liveable planet during this era of unprecedented human impact similarly requires all hands – and all minds, all roles, all genders, all ages, and all backgrounds – on deck if we hope to sail into a brighter future.