Documentary maker Max Jourdan’s fabulous diary from the environmental craft Plastiki continues:
Early April. Dawn watch
Waking up for the 4am watch, feeling like the ship’s cat has peed in your mouth. You stumble around head bowed under a red glow looking for damp clothes in the cramped space. In the cabin you pass half-undressed members of the other watch. “Morning.” “Good night.”
Emerging into the strange night you venture to the deck’s edge and grab hold of a mast stay, flexing cold-metal with every movement of the ship. You fumble with layers and zips as you lean over the edge for a piss. Jo said, “Most sailors lost at sea are found with their tackle out.”You sit at the helm and steer the course: 150 degrees. “The Pacific covers an area larger than that of all of the Earth’s masses combined,” you read, and contemplate the curving horizon with rising emotion. There’s a full moon: mesmerising, huge, white, round – and dead ahead.
The hours flash by. You hand over the helm and stand up. Looking at the boat’s wake, you realise dawn is approaching. The ocean is iridescent purple, and lines of orange and blue edge the sky. The entire sky is humming, as light from the sun arcs through the atmosphere. Overwhelmed, you just want to scream, but the rest of the crew is asleep.
6 April. How to kill a tuna fish
1.4 billion hooks are deployed annually on long lines. Some of these can be as long as 75 miles, allowing a fishing vessel to gather 50 tons of fish in one haul. We are trawling one fluorescent, feathered, garish lure on the end of a line and rod. I’m the first to get to the rod after we become aware of the whine of reel. The rod is bent in half and it feels like I’m dragging an oil drum in the boat’s wake. “Make sure the line doesn’t snap,” someone advises. But I am confident in the gear. The lady at the Sausalito tackle store told me we needed 50 lbs test line. “There’s some big fish out there,” she had warned.
“Maybe we need something tougher, then,” I said.
“Let me tell you something…” she replied and paused.”Anything bigger you don’t want to be pulling up on your boat.”
I am inching monofilament back on to the reel. “I hope we haven’t caught a shark,” I think aloud. Finally it surfaces by the boat. Flashing silver and blue and yellow. “That’s the biggest tuna I’ve ever caught,” mumbles Olav who previously spent two-and-a-half months floating across the Pacific on a replica of the Kon-Tiki. “Must weigh nearly 25 kilos.”
The tuna flaps around the deck, spraying blood everywhere. Olav hits it with the bat and I plunge a knife into the back of its head to reach his spine. We don’t measure it, just start butchering it on deck. The flesh convulses powerfully in our hands and Olav and I look at each other. Conveniently the rest of the crew seem to have disappeared. We cut the whole fish up into steaks passing them through to the galley.
8 April. Notes from the ‘Plastiki’ tramp
23.3 degrees of latitude. Sounds exotic; so why is it so cold? Jo told me, “By day five you’ll be in a pair of shorts and T shirt.” I’ve woken up on deck wrapped in a wet, grey, wool blanket; the kind the Salvation Army hands out to homeless people in winter. Did I remember to brush my teeth last night? Mouth all dry. Hair stiff like salty rope. Glasses frosted with spray.
Trousers are torn and disintegrating. Maybe dragging them by a rope in the boat’s wake for a few hours and drying them in the sun was a mistake. But it’s better than wearing the smell of tuna blood. I’d like to see myself as a hobo riding the ‘Plastiki Pacific Slow Boat to Somewhere’; but really I’m the official ‘Plastiki’ tramp. Crawl through to my hutch. The cabin smells like six teenage, grubby, campers are living here. Five men. One woman. Poor Jo.
15 April. The middle of nowhere
I’m not out here on some jolly, organic, culinary cruise across the Pacific. I’ve got a job to do. So when Jo pops her head out of the cabin and looks out at the ocean and grey dawn with a ‘this-is-not-just-another-day-at-the-office’ expression I pick up the camera. Turn on, press record, frame, focus, re-frame. Jo’s blue eyes crystallise on the LCD screen. I can sense the thoughts formulating on her lips. “What’s up, Jo?” “We’re more than 1,000 miles from any landfall,” she says. Jo looks profoundly happy. “What does that mean, Jo?” “It means it would take someone quite a while to rescue us. It means we’re alone.” The announcement is electric.
This is precisely why I took this assignment on, I think. In my peripheral vision, I can sense some members of the crew don’t share our mutual delight.
19 April. Let them eat cake
24 days at sea and maybe 20 more to go before landfall on Christmas Island. There are some pressing concerns; water is being consumed too fast, toilet paper is running out, the furling system starboard side is broken and the foresail ripped. Running out of bread is a serious problem. Just look what happened to Marie Antoinette. I’m not saying this as a Frenchman, but because bread is part of the ritual of our daily lives; it provides sustenance, pleasure and even bonds people.
An ocean-crossing is all about being self-sufficient, from mending sails and water pumps to baking bread. Unfortunately, we’ve got only a solar oven (delusional dream of some wacky hippy baker). The wrapping and instructions displayed a perfectly roasted Thanksgiving turkey. It’s so hot out here you could fry eggs on the plastic deck, but I still haven’t got the temperature above 120C. “What bread can we bake with no oven and a miniature grill?” I ask Jo. We run through the naans, flatbreads, galettes, rotis and chapatis of our desires. Olav suggests the chunky Norwegian black rye bread of his youth. In the end we opt for pita.
READ ON SOON…
Photograph courtesy of the Plastiki crew. For more information on the expedition, go to the web-site http://www.theplastiki.com or by clicking