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  • Sophie Dingwall

Goodbye Antigua, you'll be missed...

Next stop Bonaire

Sitting in my bunk, currently the coolest place onboard and that’s because I can’t fit in the fridge! The water is glassy smooth like the Galaxy chocolate advert and the high pitch incessant ring of the engine prop has forced me to become permanently attached to my headphones. Unfortunately due to poor prep and bad wifi, I’ve heard all of my 30 downloaded songs about 100 times over… Bad preparation on my part and regretting it massively.


Reminiscing of my time in Antigua and conscious I only have a month left onboard, I find myself contemplating my next steps. Sounds very serious I know! Come this year, I have a new chapter ahead and opportunities to start something new!

My Dad always says ‘Life is to be enjoyed’ and that’s what I’m doing! Being out on the water has re-energised me! Soaking up everything I can has given me drive to believe I can do what I want to do.

This unique experience has highlighted to me that all the reasons I love exploring the seas and islands but these are the very things that make these places special are in danger of disappearing. Why…?

POLLUTION

What if there aren't any more turtles popping up to say hello while I’m sat having coffee on anchor in Falmouth harbour?

The beaches are TOO full of plastic to sit on and be enjoyed?

Or the fish are TOO toxic to eat anymore?

Ohh what a tough life! I’m sure you are all thinking that and too right.

These are all very selfish reasons to help protect our environment but honestly, I don’t care what reason you do it for, just that you’re doing something!

The outcome is all the same whether you’re rich or poor, damage to the ocean will effect everyone and my aim is to get the attention of the people who wouldn't usually even think about this to make a change.

1/3 of people are already aware and onside. Great, you guys are awesome, keep going!

1/3 are conservative and likely never to change until its forced upon and the other 1/3 are the people I’m talking to. We need you and you can make a difference.

Education is key is any revolution. Don’t be mistaken, this isn’t a bunch of women on some crusade to change the world on a whim. Not doubting that there are of course, some eccentric ones amongst us but for anyone who would usually dismiss this ‘hippy’ stuff, I hope to change your mind.


Ok, so the evidence and the science we have been undertaking…

Reality is plastic is polluting our oceans. We take samples along our voyage and in every port from the surface, 25m below and sediment from the sea floor. In every single sample that we can analyse onboard we have found plastic.

The scale is so huge, that I sometimes imagine all the plastic in the ocean being a scattering of stardust that spreads across the entire night sky - but obviously more destructive and less beautiful in my mind.

Zooplankton are organisms which are an integral part of the food chain in our oceans. They range from microscopic organisms to large species such as jellyfish. Without this lot, who are the base of the food chain many species would starve to death as they rely on zooplankton either directly or indirectly for food. So they are pretty important!

In some of our sampling, we actually found 3:1 plastic : zooplankton

Not only is that an alarming figure, but zooplankton and phytoplankton studies have shown they have been on the decrease since the 1950s.

Unfortunately these little guys don’t have an advert on daytime tv to adopt or save the zooplankton like dogs trust or the donkey sanctuary, so most people don’t even know the problem.


No matter the size of the plastic, it causes harm to aquatic life. Once in the water, plastic actually absorbs chemical pollutants just like a sponge and then when animals eat this, pollutants leech into their stomachs causing toxic effects.

Larger pieces such as buckets, nets, bags etc then can cause the animals to get caught up and the likelihood is they will die this way.


For most of us we know plastic waste is bad. I believe people want to change this but what we do starts at home and in our communities. This is the harder part. Work, time and money all get in the way but I hope to influence even just a few people to get onboard with our mission.


Bonaire

Bonaire holds a special place in my heart, as this was home for a long time to a dear friend that 3 years ago passed away suddenly.

Dana Vied brought life and energy to everything he did. I’ve never met anyone that really took the time to get to know each single person and make them feel special. This big, burly, loud texan was one of a kind. We had the honour of him doing our blessing at our wedding, dressed in his cowboy boots and all!

He taught me many things, but this has come in most useful this trip (having needed a few favours and making the impossible, possible)

In my best Texan accent….

“You get more with honey than you do with vinegar’”

And trust me, it works!

Over the years I had heard so many stories of Dana and his wife's adventures and felt it important to go and scout out the spots they spent most of the time. Things have obviously changed a lot, but I can see why they loved it here.

The place is diving heaven and the sea is honestly the turquoise colour that you see on the cover of the best travel magazines. It has a laid back attitude but also up to speed with modern life.

The environment is important to the locals here and a underground movement is submerging to fight to keep their oceans clean and protect the animals that live here.

I'm positive for the future of Bonaire.

Next stop... A little hop to the neighbouring island ARUBA!


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