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Plastiki- David Rothschild's dream becoming a reality - slowly

by Nancy Knudsen on 5 Feb 2010
Plastiki sailing SW
She's finally afloat and test sailing. For well over a year now Sail-World (see last!story)has been reporting the progress of the construction of a very strange vessel at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco.

The appropriately named Plastiki, made of 12,000 reclaimed plastic soda bottles, was originally meant to cross the Pacific a year ago, but the project proved more difficult than originally thought.

However, not one to give up on a dream, brains trust David Rothschild finally has it test sailing!

31-year-old Rothschild, prominent ecologist and descendant of the Rothschild banking family, has been building the vessel to draw attention to the state of our oceans, and now plans to set off next month with a six-man crew to sail the 60 ft catamaran from San Francisco across the Pacific Ocean to Sydney.

This week the boat took a leisurely test sail around San Francisco Harbour with David Rothschild on board.

'It is totally unique,' Andy Fox, British builder of sustainable boats who joined the sea trial, told the SFO Chronicle. 'There is nothing like it in the world.'

Apart from the 12,000 bottles, the vessel is constructed almost totally of other recycled PET plastic and waste products. Exceptions are the mast, which is is made of metal, as is the galley. The catamaran is ketch-rigged, with a low cabin to accommodate the six crew, and it is fitted out with modern electronics and communications gear.

It will be skippered by well-known British ocean sailor Jo Royle, who is also known to be a fervent environmentalist. 'I'm very excited,' she said of the sea trial, 'I think it's really come together.'

Rothschild's purpose in the adventure is that he wants to draw attention to a world of plastic waste. Only a fraction of the world's plastic bottles are recycled, he says. The rest end up in landfills or out in the ocean. He figures the way to get the recycling message across is a plastic sailing adventure - a message in a bottle.

There is still much preparation before the expedition sets sail, hopefully sometime in March.

Then Plastiki will sail south to Mexico, before stopping at many points across the Pacific, and, importantly, will sail through the now infamous 'garbage patch' where the North Pacific Gyre - a kind of slow whirlpool in the middle of the ocean where floating plastic garbage collects in a patch which is now reputed to be the size of France or Texas.

Along the route they will touch Midway Island near the northwestern end of the Hawaiian archipelago; Wake Island; Bikini Atoll, made famous when the USA used it as a nuclear bomb testing site; Rongalep Atoll, also in the Marshall Islands; Majuro, capital of the Marshalls; Tarawa, capital of Kiribati; Funafuti in Tuvalu; Port Vila in Vanuatu; Noumea in New Caledonia, and the Australian island of Lord Howe. They will then sail into the New South Wales port of Coffs Harbour before continuing on to their destination of Sydney.

A long way for 12,000 plastic bottles to travel, a lot of preparation still necessary for a March departure. Watch this space...

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