Plastiki sails into Sydney Harbour

By AAP with Carolyn Barry 27 July 2010
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After sailing 8,000 nautical miles, the boat made from plastic bottles has arrived in Sydney and will be here for a month.

THE PLASTIKI, A BOAT made of 12,500 recycled plastic bottles, arrived in Sydney to cheers from hundreds of well-wishers, included Clean Up Australia founder Ian Kiernan, who came out to witness the end of her-four month voyage across the Pacific Ocean. The catamaran, crewed by six, docked at Darling Harbour on Monday morning to emotional scenes as one crew member met his newborn son for the first time.

Vern Moen became a father for the first time on 22 April, while he was on board the vessel. He was reunited with his wife and baby after 128 days at sea. Vern, a documentary maker, says meeting his son for the first time was a “surreal experience…Coming onshore and seeing my wife and kid was very emotional.”

Skipper of the Plastiki, David De Rothschild, 31 – heir to the Rothschild banking family banking fortune – says he was “totally overwhelmed” by the experience of completing the epic 8,000 nautical mile voyage.


Love and passion

“A lot of love and a lot of passion have gone into this,” he said upon reaching dock. It’s about being curious … it’s about not being afraid to fail.”

The vessel has attracted worldwide attention since she set sail from San Francisco on 21 March to raise awareness about plastic waste in oceans. Its frame, designed by Australian naval architect Andrew Dovell, is constructed from a newly developed plastic that is fully recyclable and two-thirds of its buoyancy is derived from 12,500 reclaimed soft drink bottles filled with carbon dioxide.

The unusual materials made for interesting sailing, says female skipper Jo Royle. Though they had no misfortunes out at sea, the crew had to stay constantly alert as the boat’s steering was sensitive, making it easy to veer off course.

The 20-metre craft entered Sydney Harbour about 11.15 am (AEST) and was soon surrounded by a small flotilla of boats. Shortly afterwards it was towed to Darling Harbour where the tired but ecstatic crew of five men and one woman were hugged by family and friends.

US Ambassador Jeffrey Bleich paid tribute to the crew and their cause to raise awareness of unnecessary plastic waste in oceans: “The journey of Plastiki is a journey from trash to triumph and…is a call to each one of us here in Australia and across the ocean in America to do our part to save this great ocean before it’s too late.”

David says he wants to dispel the myth that there’s an island of garbage out in the ocean. Rather, he points out, the problem is far worse: there’s very little of the ocean that hasn’t been touched by “humans’ fingerprints”, he says, referring to the tiny flecks of broken down plastic that appear in the sea.
Crazy little idea

David says the voyage started off as a “crazy little idea” that came to him after reading a United Nations report that said plastic waste threatening the world’s oceans. “It was a dream, it was a crazy little dream we threw out there and it became an adventure,” he says. “We need to really engage with the oceans, we need to re-nurture them, we need to take some responsibility for them.”

Plastiki would now hopefully stand as a metaphor for change, he added. Despite the small size of the catamaran, the only woman on board, Jo, says there were no major arguments. “We got on well,” she says. “But I’m looking forward to a glass of wine and a giggle with my girlfriends.”

The Plastiki‘s name is a play on the 1947 Kon-Tiki raft used to sail across the Pacific by Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl, and its voyage roughly followed the same route. The Plastiki is docked at the Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) where it will remain on display for the next month. David says that although he originally intended for the Plastiki to be recycled, there was “so much love and energy gone into it” that he feels it’s better destined for a global exhibition.

Read more about David and the journey of the Plastiki (with video)