Thursday, February 04, 2010

Plastiki Sails...Finally

The boat is the 60-foot-long catamaran Plastiki, which David de Rothschild, the 31-year-old scion of the British banking family, plans to sail across the Pacific to Australia, beginning in the first days of March.

What makes the Plastiki unique is that the boat's twin hulls are made of 12,500 plastic bottles that once held soft drinks or spring water. The bottles are filled with dry ice, which of course is a gas.

Except for the boat's two masts, the twin hulls, a small outboard motor for emergencies, and a few odds and ends like the galley stove, the Plastiki is made of a hard, tough, self-reinforcing plastic material called PET.

"It is totally unique," said Andy Fox, a builder of sustainable boats who lives in the western edge of England and was along for the ride Tuesday. "There is nothing like it in the world."

To tell the truth, the Plastiki is no beauty. The boat is a translucent off-white color, rigged as a ketch with a tall mainmast and a shorter mast aft. Both are metal, gleaming in the sun. The 12,500 bottles that make up the twin hulls give the vessel an odd look, like a kid's science project.

There is a low cabin, rounded like the back of a turtle. Inside are four bunks for eight crew members, a small galley and an area for an array of electronics the boat will carry. There will be plenty of electronics; one of the expedition sponsors is Hewlett-Packard. There is a tiny head, as the seagoing toilet is called. This will be an adventure in tight quarters.

But beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

"I'm very excited," said Jo Royle, a 30-year-old Englishwoman who is the Plastiki's skipper. "I think it's really come together."

Behind the adventure is a dead serious message: de Rothschild 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.

Read more here.

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