5 Gyre Experiences: Updates from the Sea

CaptainI recently left for a Plastic Pollution Expedition with the non-profit 5 Gyres.   It’s a journey of a lifetime through the Atlantic from Bermuda to Iceland researching plastic pollution along the way.   While out on sea with limited internet access, I was able to give some minor updates.

More information on this trip will be coming shortly, but here are some updates from while at sea!

Day 1:

5 gyres with tiffany

Me & the 5 Gyres expedition gang. Co-Founder & Research Director Marcus Eriksen is on the far right. See ya in Iceland!

Tiffany Paige

Well this is the last of my internet for 21 days. Sitting outside a closed restaurant borrowing their internet. Disconnected! Yikes!! Bon Voyage!
Wish me luck!!



Day 3:

5 Gyres with Tiffany

We are out to sea. I have to say the day goes by faster than expected and there is always something to do. I like the evening shift the best. Less activity and I’m able to watch the moon set, the sun rise, shooting stars and the glorious morning star that is Venus. It was alarming at first because it looked like an oncoming ship. The team works really well together. Everyone is super helpful checking in with each other regularly to make sure we’re ok or ask if we need something. The team is broken down into 3 groups. Watch 1, 2 and 3. I am part of watch 3 and we’re dabbling with our team name. Steering With The Stars is what I came up with because that is what we do on our night watch. Then we have “Ryan’s Angels” or “Ryan and the Vikingettes”. We’ve also added the possibility of the “Plastic Planeteers” Thoughts? It’s one guy and 3 girls on our team. Help us pick please.

I have adjusted to sleeping in a 5-person room in a 3-tier bunk and I am grateful I’m on top. I have always loved the idea of a big family. Waking up to a breakfast full of activity and that’s what I have. I have also relaxed into the fact that my hair and nails are going to be crap and that’s just the way it’s gonna be. I used to say “it’s hard to look cute in the cold”; regarding traveling to cold climates. Well I found a way to top that. “It’s harder to look cute, be cute, there is no cuteness while living on a boat and sailing for 21 days. Period! Except maybe when I’m in my Helly Hansen gear I got for the trip. It’s kinda badass.

We sleep in shifts around our watches. On your watch you are the Engineer, check bilges (the boat stuff under the floor), log, and fuel check. Then there is Mother, as in Mother Fu*ker. That’s right you are loved for your care giving, nurturing way. “Can I get you some tea?” Would you “like anything from downstairs?” You might be preparing lunch or dinner, or cleaning the galley, everyone loves the Mother. A hot meal and warm baked bread goes a long way. And Crew. Crew, depending on what your shift is, could include a deck wash or cleaning the head (a glamour job like no other). All will steer, all will help with sails as needed, and most importantly, all will help with the trawls. The trawls are what we deploy in the water for catching the plastic fragments for our research.

For such a big crew on a 72ft boat, it’s amazing you can actually not be in each other’s way at times. Meal times are the busiest. Sure you might have to wait to get in your box of stuff, or wait for the bathroom, but for the most part you can have a moment. Like I do right now by myself in the saloon writing this blog while everyone else is asleep or on deck. It’s 10:10pm or 22:10 as we say onboard. Gonna catch some zzzz’s and then go on the midnight watch.

Right now it’s 3 am and I’ve just come off my watch. The moon kept us lit, the high speed manta trawl was out, despite us not moving at a very high speed.

I attempted my hand at steering while sailing at about 1.5 knots. A tough endeavor. I was supposed to stay in the 070-degree range, but I had a range from 040-120. Yikes! The jokes have already started that I leave a swirl of waves behind me. Kinda like a drunk driver drifting back & forth and this is a dry boat. I am an excellent driver… for the most part.
I have not yet been mother. That happens tomorrow. They are going to be mad about my cooking skills. No really, they are going to be mad about my lack of them.

At 6pm we do a group share. Yesterday was a card game called Nerdz . Today was Mr. Eco sharing his vision, and what a vision he has. A talented 22-year old looking to save the world one student/school at a time. His catchy rhymes and positive message is a force. I’ve had it stuck in my head all night. “Don’t be a Litta…bug”

While there is hard work with a learning curve for me, it is a new grand experience. I’m learning to sail, a fantastic team building endeavor. I’m getting to know a group of fascinating people with a like-minded passion and I’m living on the vast Atlantic Ocean with nothing to see in any direction except miles of water.

Hey, maybe I might even learn to cook. It’s all about togetherness.



Day 20:

Land Ho!!!! I made it to Iceland after 20 days at sea. The hardest tripI’ve ever taken, but so rewarding. An unbelievably wonderful group of peeps.



Day 22:

I’m a sailor now. My first time steering. I found it harder to do in calmer waters, but I got plenty of rougher ones too



Day 23:

Green with Tiffany

Leaving Bermuda we found a lot of sargassum (macro algae/ seaweed) in the sub-tropical gyre. In this sargassum, the micro plastics (plastic that might have started off larger, but breaks down into little bits in the water) collect. Here I have a handful of sargassum filled with itty, bitty pieces of plastic that was pulled from the trawl that collects samples out in the ocean.

5 Gyres Plastic

See the tiny pieces? It’s not shells or rocks, it’s bits of plastic.