Brilliant. That’s the word in mind today. The combination of people, skills, professions, interests and passions on board – marine scientists, photographers, film-makers, plastic pollution activists and campaigners, commercial project managers, conservationists, philosophers, generally interested folk and, of course, sailors. With luck and a fair wind, bringing these perspectives to bear on the horrible challenge that is ocean plastic pollution will throw up some genuinely constructive ideas and solutions. And we won’t just be discussing the issues but sailing right into the heart of them – with all the emotional risks that come with that. Brilliant too of course. If we’re to tackle marine plastic pollution in any non-tokenistic, systemic manner, it will take critical and creative thinking in spades, and buckets of knowledge and understanding. But experiential and emotional engagement has to be part of it too. The oft-used but nonetheless valid Head Heart Hands formula is truly in action here. As a long-standing advocate of exploring environmental issues while sea-kayaking I can’t quite believe my luck to be working my passage on a rather larger craft with such impeccable outdoor philosophy principles.
In the midst of all this, there’s the small matter of learning how to sail. Many if not most of us –including myself – are almost total novices. On the first of many introductions to which rope does what (sorry, I mean halyards and sheets) I found myself grinning: grinning at being engaged with something practical, physical, challenging and new. Throw this all together in the context of a beautiful, super-functional yacht with a multi-skilled professional crew and we surely have the potential for some truly powerful alchemy. Let’s hope so anyway. Marine plastic pollution is an issue that needs all the brilliance we can throw at it.
Of course, there’s some apprehension too. So far we’ve been learning our new roles while swaying only ever so slightly, moored alongside what can only be described as a massive, floating gin-palace on an almost completely stationary Falmouth Marina floating dock. What is all this going to feel like when we’re actually at sea? How sick will we get, exactly, checking the bilges and filling in logs and trying to cook down below with the yacht properly in motion? How much energy and focus will we have for discussions and blogging and audio-diaries and the rest – or will simply sailing the Sea Dragon absorb all our attention? We leave in a couple of hours, heading south west into the Atlantic; direction Azores, about ten days away. If I can stay below without dire consequences I’ll keep you posted.