North Atlantic Gyre | Bermuda to St. Thomas

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Nov 13 – Nov 21, 2013

Depart: St. George’s, Bermuda
Arrive: St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands
Length: 9 days
Focus: Plastic Pollution research with Boyan Slat, The Ocean Cleanup


[tab title=”Trip Summary”]

The Ocean Cleanup Expedition Wrap-Up! 

The Ocean Cleanup with Pangaea Explorations from Pangaea Explorations on Vimeo.

Sea Dragon is safely berthed in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, after a tumultuous but ultimately successful voyage from Bermuda.  I’ve sailed with a lot of different crews over the years, and dealt with a lot of different gear on the boat, and as I said good-bye to this team, I realized that this was one of our most challenging trips, and we had one of the best crews on board to meet the challenge.The ultimate goal of our voyage was to test a new multi-level plastic trawl for Boyan Slat, founder of The Ocean Cleanup.  Until recently, all open ocean plastic research has been done by surface trawling with manta trawls or plankton nets.  This has given researchers a good idea of what is on the surface of the Gyres, but left a lot of people wondering what lurked deeper down.  After all, as waves build, we know that we see less plastic on the surface as it is forced down by turbulence, but we don’t know how much remains at deeper depths.  Although various estimates have been made, no real hard data has been collected.
boyan slat the ocean cleanup

Boyan and his team have a very ambitious goal of trying to clean the Gyres of the world’s oceans, and to do so they need to learn at what depths the plastic exists.  Dr. Marcus Eriksen of the 5 Gyres institute has been tackling the same problem for years from a different angle, collecting and publishing some of the more comprehensive studies on gyre plastic and working to stop the influx of new plastic into our Oceans.  As research has developed toward multi-level trawling, the two groups have been collaborating on the design and testing of their respective trawls so that their data is comparable.
sailing rough weather

On this voyage we faced rough weather conditions for the first few days, which tested the patience and the stomachs of the crew.  When the wind finally subsided enough to begin trawling, I was impressed by how well everyone handled what was potentially a very dangerous piece of hardware swinging around on the deck as we deployed the trawl and took our first sample in 6-9 foot seas and 20kts of wind.  Getting the 15′ long trawl, which weighs over 100 lbs, safely on and off of a pitching deck not much larger than it is requires precise coordination and cooperation, and we had it – everyone knew exactly what needed to happen and the trawl went in and out of the water without a hitch.

ocean gyre trawling plastic

We managed 3 more trawls in calmer seas closer to the Caribbean, each time refining our technique for deploying and recovering the trawl, as well as processing the data from it – cleaning out 11 cod-ends became an almost full-time occupation for the crew as we found quicker ways to get them washed and their plastic contents stored for transport back to the lab.
plastic ocean pollution trawl

This trip was a great success, working out kinks in a brand-new design, stress-testing it in very rough conditions, and finishing in St. Thomas with the first successful multi-level trawls that I am aware of.  Well done, Team Science!

Eric Loss – Pangaea Explorations skipper

Want to join us on our next expedition? Check out our 2014 schedule!


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The Ocean Cleanup North Atlantic Gyre Expedition

During this 7-day expedition, sailing from Bermuda to St Thomas (Virgin Islands), you will become part of Boyan Slat’s crew, helping to conduct experiments as part of The Ocean Cleanup’s feasibility study.

Sailing through the North Atlantic Gyre, The Ocean Cleanup will deploy their new multi-level trawl, capable of measuring plastic concentrations at eleven depths simultaneously.

Over the past 15 years, lots of data has been collected to measure the surface concentration of plastics, but very few researchers have measured concentrations below the surface.

Data on the concentration of plastics at different depths near the surface is essential to determine the necessary cleanup depth, and to know what cleanup efficiency could be achieved.

The trip price includes a donation to The Ocean Cleanup.


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November 13: Guest Crew will join Sea Dragon at the dinghy dock in St. Georges between 12-1 pm. Everyone will have an opportunity to settle into the yacht, and put away their personal belongings. The captain and first mate will give crew a safety and expedition briefing, followed by Boyan Slat’s briefing of the research to take place.  After an evening meal, the crew will retire and sleep on Sea Dragon for the night.

November 14:  Sea Dragon will clear customs in St. Georges and depart Bermuda for St. Thomas.

November 15-19 Underway to St. Thomas, deploying and retrieving the trawl collecting samples.

November 20: Sea Dragon will arrive in Red Hook, St. Thomas.  After clearing customs the crew will be free to explore ashore or enjoy the warm tropical waters of the Caribbean.

November 21:  Crew will leave the boat by 9 AM for wherever adventure takes them.

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Eric Loss


A native of California, Eric has been on the water since an early age. He has sailed more than 55,000 offshore miles, and has sailed everything from windsurfers to 115′ schooners, and recently he completed a single-handed circumnavigation by way of the great capes. He enjoys teaching all aspects of sailing, from boat handling and dinghy racing to navigation and seamanship. He is always eager to share his knowledge of celestial navigation. Eric has been involved in sail training for most of his life, and is an US Sailing instructor. He holds an IYT Master of Yachts Ocean with commercial endorsement and a USCG 100 ton master’s license. Eric is also an experienced diver and PADI Divemaster.

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Shanley Mcentee

First Mate

Shanley was born and raised in San Diego, CA and graduated with a BA in Environmental Policy and a minor in Environmental Science from Western Washington University. Having grown up by the sea, she holds a deep passion for Mother Ocean and our ever-growing need for protection and awareness of the problems our environment is facing. She enjoys anything having to do with the sea, from surfing to scuba diving to sailing, and loves offshore passages. She is PADI Rescue Diver certified and holds an IYT Master of Yatchs Offshore with commercial endorsement.

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Nicole Besemer

Deckhand and Galley Supervisor

Nicole is a recent graduate from East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Marine Science and Biology. She moved down to Miami this summer to get a head start on her career within this field. Growing up in New York and Pennsylvania has given her a relative proximity to the ocean, and she always finds a way to get there when possible. Her Dad would take her on his boat as a baby, and that’s where she developed her passion for everything sea related. Between diving, fishing, going to the beach or the boat, she loves spending time on the water and hopes to pursue a career in marine conservation.


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Mitch Mclean

From growing up in the Pacific Northwest, naturally Mitchell’s passions revolve around the outdoors. He loves sharing his passion as an environmental educator, empowering students to engage critically in the world around them. He believes in community collaboration and urges people to become involved with citizen science initiatives.
Mitchell is a recent graduate from Portland State University with a Bachelors of Science in Environmental Studies. While in school he organized and raced with the PSU Sailing team. He is currently collecting sea time to complete his IYT Captain’s Licensing. Whether it be diving, surfing, or sailing Mitchell is enthralled by everything aquatic.


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Boyan Slat – Founder of The Ocean Cleanup

Boyan Slat (1994) combines environmentalism, creativity and technology to tackle global issues of sustainability.

Currently working on oceanic plastic pollution, he believes current prevention measures will have to be supplemented by active removal of plastics in order to succeed.
“The ultimate solution will do to close the tap, and prevent the plastic from reaching the ocean at the first place. But that won’t be a solution to the plastics already trapped in the currents of the gyres.”

Together with a team of over 50 people, The Ocean Cleanup is now investigating the feasibility and financial viability of passive and large-scale removal of plastics from the ‘oceanic garbage patches’, driven by the currents. Covering all aspects of the concept (including engineering, oceanography, ecology, recycling, finance and maritime law), Boyan estimates this study to be ready for publication around the end of this year.

Besides leading The Ocean Cleanup, Boyan is an Aerospace Engineering student at the Delft University of Technology (though temporarily halted his study to focus on this project), and is an avid photographer and diver.

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Allard Faas – Filmmaker

Allard Faas (1973) is a Dutch filmmaker. He follows Boyan Slat and The Ocean Clean up project for his movie ‘Plastic in my water’. He describes his film as ‘a film about plastic that is not about plastic but about you and me.’ In this unconventional ensemble documentary film, Boyan Slat appears alongside the great grandson of L. Baekeland inventor of Bakelite, the guy that developed the PET bottle and an Italian soccer player appear. He tries to find an answer to the question of why plastic ends up in our water.

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[tab title=”What to Bring”]

  1. Enough clothes for a 7 day voyage (warm weather clothing, plus layers for cold nights)
  2. No hard suitcases or roller bags with frames
  3. Toiletries
  4. Sunscreen and and required medications
  5. Sunglasses and a hat with a brim
  6. Swimwear
  7. Pen and notebook/diary
  8. Camera or video camera (optional)
  9. Snorkeling gear (optional)
  10. Towel
  11. Watch
  12. Set of twin sized sheets for bunk

Everything you bring (with the possible exception of snorkel/dive gear) must fit in a box next to your bunk, dimensions- 50cm x 40cm x 26cm.  Please avoid bringing anything in plastic packaging that will need to be thrown away.

Please note that Sea Dragon is a dry vessel. No alcohol or cigarettes will be permitted on board.

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Contribution Includes:

– 8 nights accommodation on board Sea Dragon

– All meals, snacks and drinks on board

– Sailing instruction

– Safety equipment and foul weather gear

Contribution does not include:

– Transportation to Bermuda and St Thomas

– Transportation to and from the dock

– Personal expenses while at port

Visa Requirements

Crew will require a passport from their home country that will allow them to travel to Bermuda and the US Virgin Islands. There may be specific visa requirements for travelers from countries outside of North America. For specific visa information, contact the US Customs and Border Protection. Non-US citizens will need a B1/B2 visa in order to enter the United States by sea.