“This is where you’ll be sleeping,” says our captain, Torsten, in his Danish accent, pointing to a cramped space beneath his comparatively spacious bunk.
I peek into the foot-and-a-half-high wooden bunk space and realize I will be sleeping in basically a sarcophagus for the next month or so: It’s shaped wide at the top near my shoulders and narrow at my feet. I’m pretty lean but still — I’m tall and know a comfortable night’s sleep will be a challenge. After one night I also learn my good captain tends to snore. Loudly.
Yet, oddly, I have spent two nights sleeping on the SY Christianshavn, an old but sturdy steel vessel, and I’m pretty well rested. It’s probably all the prep work we’ve been doing: organizing food and supplies, cleaning, cooking, discussing travel plans and more.
In fact, I feel very peaceful for a person about to leave dry land and head out into the open ocean for an extended period of time. And I know it has to do with the people I’m heading out to sea with. In all, there are nine of us — a diverse crew of sailors, scientists, coordinators, an artist–internationally known photographer, found-object artist and filmmaker Chris Jordan–and me, a photojournalist. I’m one of two Americans on the ship, Chris being the other.
I fully expect to be fluent in Danish upon my return to New York. Maybe. I’ve already learned a few words.
I was invited aboard by Henrik Beha Pedersen, the founder of Plastic Change, a Danish nonprofit focused on spreading knowledge about ocean plastics and on finding science-based solutions to the problem. They’ll be collecting science samples at sea for laboratory analysis to better understand the scope of ocean plastics in the Pacific.
We’re sailing from Los Angeles through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to Honolulu and then to Big Island. The whole trip will take about a month.
While packed into the small sailboat with eight others, I am learning, teamwork will be key. Respect too, is critical. In order to get my work done — documenting life on board for various publications to which I contribute — I will need to pull my weight. If just one person lets up in helping the boat function — helping sail, clean, cook — then we all sink. I need to manage my time wisely so I get both the ship’s work and my work done.
So with that, I close this “goodbye” post. Now you know a little about what I’m doing and where I’ll be when I’m off the grid. These are my first impressions and thoughts. What I leave is a scratchboard of my thoughts, which I hope to reflect upon when I return to New York in mid-December.
While I don’t know what will happen at sea — we’re at liberty of the winds, the weather and the science — what’s certain is this will be one hell of an adventure.