Some Australian news outlets reported yesterday that Plastiki, the unique 60-foot plastic catamaran constructed of 12,500 plastic bottles, had "come to grief" some 200 miles off the east coast of Oz and was in the midst of being rescued. The crew of Plastiki, meanwhile, have adamantly insisted they are fine and merely called for a tow a bit sooner than they originally expected. As of this moment, the vessel is safe in Moloolaba (having been towed in by the Aussie Coast Guard) and is on schedule to conclude its voyage in Sydney this weekend.
Plastiki's "grief," it seems, stemmed from a disabled engine and her complete inability to sail to windward. Rather than be driven north against their will, it appears the crew preferred to be towed closer to their intended destination of Coffs Harbor.
In certain respects the distinction between being rescued and assisted is purely semantic. But semantic distinctions are very important when the whole purpose of a voyage is to generate publicity. The brainchild of 31-year-old eco-adventurer David de Rothschild, Plastiki was designed and built to highlight the folly of modern plastics consumption. The vessel departed San Francisco on March 20 and crossed the Pacific to Australia, a distance of some 8,000 miles, in 122 days. The route was intended to transit the North Pacific Garbage Gyre, where ocean currents have concentrated large amounts of trash, including much plastic.
Though Plastiki has indeed succeeded in generating a fair amount of media buzz (and does look very cool!), she is also (as her most recent adventure demonstrates) fairly useless as a sailboat.
I mean, seriously, you call this a hull??? Even thousands of years ago mankind was capable of crafting vessels much more hydrodynamic than this.
I can't help thinking that perhaps Plastiki's mission would have been bit better served if she had been designed to sail reasonably well. After all, getting towed hundreds of miles by a fossil-fueled vessel ain't exactly "eco-friendly."
BoaterMouth link: here