Gyre to Gaia Leg 1 | UK to Azores

Gyre to Gaia Leg 1 | UK to Azores

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£1,990 / $3,390
Sep 17 – Sep 28, 2014

Depart: Falmouth, UK
Arrive: Horta, Azores
Length: 12 days
Focus: In the context of marine ecosystems and our impacts on them, we will explore human nature relations, ideas, issues and solutions in the North Atlantic Gyre




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Leg 2 of this expedition will be from Azores to Lanzarote on October 4th – 12th, 2014. Click here for details.

Would you care to join us for:

  • An ocean voyage adventure aboard 72ft yacht ‘Sea Dragon’
  • Sailing to and through the North Atlantic Gyre, northern Europe’s oceanic dump.
  • Exploring little known seas, human/nature relations, and pressing  marine environmental issues
  • Debating effective, original solutions for ocean plastic pollution
  • With a unique and lovely group of people

‘…there is no more urgent intellectual task facing the human species… than thoroughly to re-imagine its relationship with nature…’ Robert Macfarlane

Gyre to Gaia is an uplifting voyage that aims to explore our intriguing relationship with nature in general and the sea in particular – with a focus on one of the most challenging ecological issues; ocean plastic pollution.

Gyre to Gaia is drawing together an inter-disciplinary crew, including designers, marine and materials scientists, students, philosophers, artists and writers, to sail from the UK to the Canary Islands, via the Azores. Through a carefully designed and facilitated journey we will experience, experiment, discuss and reflect on how profoundly we need the sea; what an extraordinary, wonderful, diverse environment it is; what is happening to it; how lifestyle choices impact on it; and what we can do.

Crew include:

  • Kate Rawles, outdoor philosopher, university lecturer and author will help facilitate an exploration of ideas as well as oceans.
  • Studio Swine, creators of the award winning Sea Chairs, will use the voyage to up-cycle sea plastic into a kayak using their extraordinary latest invention. Click here to watch the beautiful film of the creation of Sea Chairs.
  • Marine plastics scientist, Stephanie Wright, from the University of Exeter will turn the yacht into a laboratory to advance our understanding of the impact of plastic on the sea.

The aims?

  • Inspire a connection to the significance of the seas and their awe-inspiring biodiversity
  • To take ourselves physically to the heart of the issue of plastic marine pollution and other marine issues and challenges
  • Create new stories, narratives and creative ways of expressing our interdependence with the ocean
  • Develop practical solutions for tackling the issue of ocean plastic, from design standards to changes in behaviour, values and world views.
  • Provide a creative space away from ‘land noise’ with a lovely bunch of people

Exeter Microplastics Research Info:

The microplastics research team at Exeter University, led by Professor Tamara Galloway and Dr Ceri Lewis, are investigating the uptake and biological effects of microplastics by a number of important marine animals.

Microplastic debris is made up of tiny plastic beads, granules, fibres and fragments less than 5mm in diameter.  Work in the laboratory by the Exeter scientists has shown that these smaller pieces of plastic can be mistaken for food by a range of important marine animals, such as zooplankton, the small animals at the bottom of the marine food chain. This has so far only been shown in laboratory experiments, and the aim of the Exeter scientists on the Gyre to Gaia expedition will be to look to see if this occurs in the real ocean. Do microplastics occur in the same parts of the ocean as the plankton and if so, can we find ‘real world’ evidence that plankton accidentally eat microplastics.

Whilst on board, the Exeter scientists will be assessing the plastic problem first-hand. By taking sea-surface water samples, they will look at the different sizes and types of plastic littering our seas and consider its impact on the co-existing zooplankton that they find. This work will form part of larger research projects across Europe and around UK coastal waters to better understand where microplastics occur and whether they impact marine zooplankton.


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Dr Kate Rawles

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Kate’s background is environmental philosophy, which she taught at Lancaster University for ten years. She left to set up Outdoor Philosophy – combining debate about human/nature relations with powerful experiences of wild places, in order to inspire and support more sustainable ways of living and working. She’s now a half-time lecturer in Outdoor Studies at Cumbria University and a freelance outdoor philosopher, writer and environmental campaigner. She works with Jonathon Porritt on Forum for the Future’s innovative ‘Reconnections’ project and has written widely on environmental issues. Kate is passionate about the potential for using adventure stories to communicate. Her book The Carbon Cycle; Crossing the Great Divide (Two Ravens Press, 2012), is based on a 4553 mile ride from Texas to Alaska along the spine of the Rockies, exploring N.American attitudes to climate change.


Kamila Blažková

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Background & Expertise

I am working for more than ten years in NGO sector on environmental, educational and social entrepreneurship programmes. For all those years I am interested in sustainable way of life and trying to live like that, having fun learning useful skills like growing veggies and fruits or composting 🙂

Expedition Goals

I am looking forward to learn about the ocean and its ecosystem and to see it in reality. I would like to get to know what we can do to prevent its pollution and help it being in good condition and am glad to meet such an interesting people and to sail as I like the ocean so much.


James Andrew

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Background & Expertise

I am a young and enthusiastic team player who is always keen to get hands on and make a difference. I finished university last year with a BSc Hons Degree in Sound Engineering and Acoustics and now work in a Music Studio as well as APE (Artists Project Earth) UK.

I have a strong aptitude for technology and will be using my time on board the Sea Dragon to capture footage for an upcoming project for APE UK. I also have a keen interest and many years experience in Dingy sailing. It is exciting to be able to combine my interests on this trip and I cannot wait to meet the fantastic team I will be sharing this experience with.

Expedition Goals

Working in APE UK for the Blue Whale Project we aim to not only support this expedition but also collect footage/interviews of the team working together to raise awareness of ocean pollution. This will then be used in the Blue Whale Project Expedition.


Martin Metcalfe

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Background & Expertise

Land agent working in nature conservation for over 25 years covering terrestrial and coastal nature reserves. Regular sailor in coastal waters.

Expedition Goals

To get extra ocean sailing experience, practice astro-navigation while learning about the issues of plastics in the oceans, related issues. Hoping for good discussion of the philosophical issues around how to stem them the tide and how practically how to deal with what is already there.



Rebecca Prince-Ruiz

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Background & Expertise
I work in waste education for the Western Earth Carers program, a local government initiative in Australia. In 2011 I started the Plastic Free July challenge to raise awareness about the problems of single-use plastic. It has spread to over 14,000 individuals, schools and organisations in 69 countries around the world. I have worked in river management, sustainable fisheries research and community engagement and have a BSc (Botany & Geography) from UWA.

Expedition Goals
Firstly to see the problems of ocean plastic pollution and have a personal experience of the ocean. Secondly to be part of a journey with a multidisciplinary crew, it’s a complex problem to which any solution will need to be diverse and collaborative. Working in a small organisation in one of the worlds most isolated cities I would welcome the opportunity to be part of a wider conversation. Despite living by the sea I’ve never been on an ocean voyage and feel my project would benefit.


Chriara Grioni

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Background & Expertise
I’m a photographer and filmmaker; I have an MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography. My passion for the ocean led me to complete my PADI Dive Master and become an underwater photographer.

Expedition Goals
I am co-funder, with Jasmine Spavieri, of The Sea Musketeers: an educational outreach team that aim to inspire solutions for the current challenges faced by our oceans today.



Deborah Rothenberg

Carrina Gaffney


Eric Loss – Skipper

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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.

Shanley McEntee – First Mate

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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.

Stephanie Wright – Marine Plastics Scientist

Stephanie is a marine biologist interested in human impacts on ocean health. She is in the final stages of her PhD research focusing on microplastics. She has spent the last three years investigating whether the physical presence of microplastics, in addition to chemical additives and attached pollutants, causes harm to invertebrates with important roles in marine food chains and ecosystem health. She recently published a high profile paper showing that marine worms can take up microplastics from sediments causing them to loose weight. Steph has also participated in research cruises looking for microplastics of the coast of Maine on the East coast of the USA, developing new methods for finding the really small pieces of microplastic in the sea.


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Most days will include a combination of sailing; trawling
for plastic and other science support; and two facilitated conversations. The
exact format and content will depend on weather conditions and location. Here
is an outline plan – but be prepared for the unexpected (ie this will change!)

Day 1 (17th Sept): Getting on board our amazing 72ft sailing
yacht, Sea Dragon. Settling in and getting to know our partners in adventure
through an introductory session. Please plan to arrive by 2pm.

Day 2 (18th): Setting sail into the English Channel and heading Westwards
towards the Celtic Sea. Overview session by our facilitator, outdoor
philosopher Kate Rawles, to discuss human impacts on the world’s oceans. How
does ocean plastic intersect with other ‘big picture’ issues eg ocean
acidification, other kinds of pollution and over-fishing?

Day 3 (19th): Feeling the wonder and calmness of a 360 degree ocean view as we
wave goodbye to the UK in the distance and head out further into the Atlantic
Ocean. Discovery session on human relationships with nature. Do we see
ourselves as conquerors of nature, managers of nature or citizens of ecological
communities? Has it been ‘out of site, out of mind’ as we realise that we have
changed the pH of the ocean and depleted the fishing stocks? How can we create
a more positive human relationship with nature?

Day 4 (20th): The science of plastic pollution: Presentation by our
fantastically knowledgeable scientists from Exeter University on discovering
whether micro-plastics are getting into the ocean food chain through ingestion
by zooplankton.

Day 5 (21st): Trawling for marine plastics in the Gyre area. What kinds of
plastics are out there and what do we know about where they come from and the effects
they are having?

Day 6 (22nd): A chance for the guest crew to take the floor and present their
feelings / findings on the issue or related issues / something they are
passionate / knowledgeable about.

Day 7 (23rd): Discovery session with Studio Swine, watching their incredible
skill of creating a sea kayak from ocean plastic. How can artists and
designers  help create forward thinking
solutions for future use of recycled plastic?

Day 8 (24th): A chance for the guest crew to take the floor and present their
feelings / findings on the issue or related issues / something they are
passionate / knowledgeable about.

Day 9 (25th): Day 10 (26th): Solution Brainstorming Sessions! What can we do
about the problem of ocean plastic pollution? Creating new ideas through a
group of like minded people sailing in the ocean away from all land ‘noise.’ Do
we need legislation? Replacements for plastics? Consumer behaviour change?  A shift in values and world views? All of the

Day 11 (27th): We arrive at the stunning islands of the Azores. It will be
amazing to see land after our epic journey at sea! Depending on arrival time
and customs / immigration there may be an opportunity to do a beach clean or a
‘making’ session with Studio Swine.

Day 12 (28th): Wrap up session before everyone leaves focussing on future goals.
What, personally, can we do to contribute to solutions and positive ways
forward? Crew are free to leave the boat after 2pm.



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Travel documents:
Crew will require a passport from their home country that will allow them to travel to the United Kingdom and Portugal.

Contribution Includes:

  • 11 nights accommodation on board Sea Dragon
  • All meals, snacks and drinks on board
  • Sailing instruction
  • Safety equipment and foul weather gear

Payment does not include:

  • Transportation to Falmouth and home from Azores
  • Transportation to and from the dock
  • Personal expenses while in port

Kit List
Please see our Travel Kit List.