It started with a message from my sister. She sent me a link to an all-women Round the World sailing expedition to study plastics in the oceans. Women from all around the globe with different backgrounds including scientists, artists, policymakers and educators would sail together and collaborate to provide solutions.

“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.”



Our starting destination, Rapa Nui (Easter Island). Photo credit: Natasha Pergl/eXXpediton 

“This has you all over it. You should apply,” my sister wrote beneath the link.

As a teenager, I spent summers attending Gifted & Talented camps, including sailing on the Chesapeake Bay and studying water quality with the Save the Bay Foundation. I loved to feel the wind on my cheeks and the freedom of the open water. Plus I cared deeply for the seas. Four years before I’d earned my skipper’s certification to sail with my then-four-year-old son and an all-female crew in the Caribbean. Along the way we’d collected water samples for a microplastics study in connection with ASC Microplastic Research.

All that seemed like a long time ago – before the 2016 election when I became overwhelmed by the rapid acceleration of global warming and the news that the plastic pollution had become airborn. Somewhere along the way I’d numbed myself. I fell into a spiral of hopelessness and fear, thinking if I didn’t read about it I avoid the pending destruction of the waters I considered sacred.

The day my sister sent me the message about eXXpediton, my son came home from first grade at his new school and crumbled onto the floor. “I’m just a dumb bunny. Everyone can read but me.” I sat with him on the floor and rubbed his back.

Then I put my hands on both of his shoulders and looked into his eyes. “Do you want me to teach you?”

He wiped his tears and nodded. I pulled him into my lap and pointed to each word, waiting for him to sound it out. “Mama, this is hard,” he said.

I squeezed him. “Yes. You can do hard things. We can do hard things.”

He pressed his lips together and nodded. “I’m getting brave at it.”

We read for thirty minutes, a record for him. My heart swelled as he sounded out a word and looked up at me for approval. I loved everything about him: his fierce determination, the way his freckles spilled across his nose and cheeks, and the way his greenish blue eyes gleamed when he recognized a word. I would do anything for him, even the hard things. I vowed to stop averting my gaze from the headlines of gut-wrenching articles. For my son, I would confront the uncomfortable issues that have no easy answers.

That night after we read and he fell asleep, I completed my initial application to be an eXXpedition crew member. I received an automated response that eXXpedition had been inundated with applications and to expect a delayed response as they reviewed applications.

Months passed when I opened an email from eXXpedition letting me know that I’d made it to the second round interview, requiring me to send a video about my commitment to the plastics problem. A week later, I received another email that I’d been selected for an interview, the last round of the application.

A few weeks later I received an email that I’d been selected to join as a guest crew member for a month-long leg. And so, this week I will begin my journey, sailing 2500 nautical miles from Easter Island to Tahiti with the eXXpedition Team on a 70ft ketch. The voyage begins on Easter Island, one of the most remote inhabited islands on Earth, surrounded by Rapa Nui Marine Park. During the voyage we will collect plastics from the ocean’s surface, and sample the water for microplastic, nano plastic, and toxics. The eXXpedition team partners with ocean plastic experts to study the sea-based science and the land impacts.