Starting our Voyage
It’s 20th February and we are four days into our Leg 7 eXXpedition voyage from Galápagos. Our last log entry says we are 1,506 nautical miles into our journey across the South Pacific and we are all developing sea legs as we learn to live life at 15+ degrees surrounded by nothing but blue seas and skies. The boat has been constantly heeling (tipped to one side) as we sail upwind into the trade winds towards Easter Island. Sailing brings freedom with new sounds – the waves and gentle creaks of the boat. Our bodies and brains slowly adjust to life at sea and a new routine of night and daytime watches of four hours at a time. The most basic of tasks feel almost impossible for the first few days as we stagger around, our bodies clinging to the walls of the boat like geckos. Extra care and a firm stance are needed for the most basic of tasks – making tea, flushing the heads (the toilets), closing the fridge and climbing into bed. In short, everything takes much longer aboard a moving vessel and as a naturally clumsy person that has never sailed before, I’m moving around with a fair bit of caution.

Leg 7 crew aboard SV TravelEdge (Photo credit: eXXpedition)

Why We Are Here
Before setting off, our magnificent eXXpedition professional crew – Anna, Maggie and Millie took us through a full safety and weather briefing on board, how to survive any kind of emergency and sailing basics like using the winch and helming to stay on course. We are told to look out for each other and be kind as we form our new community of fourteen all-female crew and get ready to cross the South Pacific. We will be completely self-sustaining and reliant on the food and things we brought with us on board which includes as little plastic as possible.

Mission leader Winnie Courteney-Jones briefs the crew (Photo credit: eXXpedition)

That’s the reason we are here – to explore the impact of plastics in the ocean and carry out science research to establish how many microplastics have accumulated in the South Pacific Gyre. This research will be used to inform up-stream solutions and help to close the loop on plastic waste back on land.

Plastic Pollution on Land
Before we left Galápagos we visited Playa de las Apuntias, known locally as Veinte Barras, to do a beach clean with Galápagos Conservation Trust. Despite being remote and infrequently visited by tourists we filled a whole bag with the plastic we picked up including a toothbrush in a plastic bottle, caps, spoons, kids toys and brittle smaller pieces of plastic that had softened in the sun and were hard to pick up. We also completed a ‘CAP’ (Circularity Assessment Protocol) to assess plastic found on the streets in Galápagos and the packaging on products sold in local supermarkets or grocery shops. This will be used to assess the material flow and leakages in the system and will be used to inform local community and policy changes.

Leg 7 crew (a) sorts microplastics from beach clean and (b) completes a Circularity Assessment Protocol (Photo credit: eXXpedition)

Stories from Leg 7
Over the next two weeks we’ll be sharing our stories and experiences from Leg 7 including more about the problem of plastics, highlights from our science research, everyday tips on how to live more sustainability and tales of modern exploration as we sail between two incredible places and reflect on our relationship with nature and travelling as an all-female crew. We’ll also be looking at the role of business and technology in helping to address the problem of plastic pollution and how we can work together to restore and regenerate nature.

Survival Stats

Sightings & Science

  • Animals – 15 dolphins, 25+ blue footed boobies, 1 whale (we think)
  • Stars at night – 1000s + 1 unidentifiable planet (magical night watches)
  • People hit by flying fish – 1 (no-one was injured in the making)
  • Planes & ships – 1 (oil tanker, zero planes)
  • Science research – 3 (2 mantra trawls and 1 air sampling)

Life on Board

  • Cabbages lost at sea – 2 (we try to avoid waste at all costs)
  • Showers – 16 (averaging 1 every 3 days)
  • Steps each day – c.500 (feels less and mostly when balancing)
  • Cups of tea and coffee – 210+ (everyone loves a brew)
  • Bruises incurred from heeling boat – 10+ each (at least daily)

In honour of our favourite castaway podcast Desert Island discs, we’ll be sharing our favourite tracks and must have luxury items at the end of each blog during this leg!

Natasha’s Desert Island Song: I’m Still Standing – Elton John
Natasha’s Luxury Items: Sea sickness tablets (zero sickness suffered), tortilla chips and music. Nothing beats helming to Prince on a night watch!