KIKO MATHEWS: PLASTIC ADVENTURE

25 SEPTEMBER, 2018

By Kiko Mathews

Let the adventure begin!

#bybikeandboat from U.K. around the top of Denmark and back.

Learning about and researching ocean plastics with Bytheoceanweunite (@btowu ). Not really sure I know what I’m doing or where I’m going but that’s the joy of an adventure 😬🤞😍

Day 1 (full day).

.

Come rain or shine, the cycling must go on. 142 km today. .

Beer today

Rotterdam tomorrow

Day 2

.

I made it to Rotterdam. Big breakfast. Bike broke, bike mended, no connection between the two. 260km total approx distance. .

Looking forward to setting sail tomorrow with @bytheoceanweunite. Exciting 😜. Boat name Fantastiko

Track us on their website www.bytheoceanweunite.org/expedition-denmark-2018/

1 year ago today. So much thanks to @kingscollegehospital .

Up my noggin to remove a 4 mm tumour causing my second bout of Cushing’s disease. The first time I nearly died from it, this time I was on it so much quicker that I could cycle to my operation and was out 3 days later. Because I had training to get on with, I was back on the bike 10 days later cycling 100km of the Thames path.

.

Two things I hope you can take from this.

1) what doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger and wiser.

2) if you have other things in your life that are more important than you, they will override any set back. Set yourself challenges or have a focus that isn’t primarily about you. .

I have no idea how I recovered so quickly as it’s a pretty nasty disease. Not only that but it’s pretty unheard of to fully recover twice. The only thing I can put it down to is enjoying life, caring about the environment and people around you and having other things to focus on. Drink cider, eat pork scratchings, live simply and surround yourself with lovely honest people. Keep challenging yourself, keep learning, be kind, keep it real. Relax. .

Day 3

.

We are sailing! Heading out into the North Sea up to Skagen. You can track the ship Fantastiko on marine traffic or on the @bytheoceanweunite website www.bytheoceanweunite.org/live. (I hear it’s quite nice!)

.

The plan is to trawl for plastic and record what we find, sail, learn from each other, have informal lectures, chat, laugh, eat and sleep. No Cider.

.

So far so good! .

Day5/6

.

North Sea trawling. Far off land, collecting microplastics. Learning more about the true issue in the ocean and what is predicted for the future.

.

We found 70, 100 and 8 pieces over three trawls flowing over approx 3000m2 of water. These microplastics are consumed by all sorts of organisms which end up in the food chain, including ours. Thanks to @bytheoceanweunite and 📷@fantastiko.nl .

40mph winds today — strong!

.

Speaking of wind, let me tell you about food onboard!! It’s vegetarian, delicious but dangerous. Enough said!

.

But in all serious it’s amazing how much stuff we got donated. @bytheoceanweunite is run by volunteers and more than half the ship is made up of non-paying mouths to feed. Without donations and support it would never be possible to run the trip. Sooooo many vegetables and fruit (@natureandmore) and it’s amazing how many different and delicious meals can be made from onions, pepper, sweet potatoes and courgette! But my poor guts (and roommate 🤣)

.Day 7
.
Life on board. Summary before we hit land in Skagen, Denmark.
.
There’s a good mix of fun, relaxing, sailing, working and learning. Today has actually been too windy for much of this, other than relaxing, as most people have been puking. It’s also far to choppy for sampling.
.
My first leg aboard @fantastiko.nl with @bytheoceanweunite has been awesome. Check them out if you want an adventure with a purpose.

Day 8
.

Blowing the hangover out of my head!
.
Having landed in Denmark last night, the inevitable happened, we ended up in a bar (I found Marcus, a Swedish viking!) and so the whole of this morning was spent relaxing.
.
This afternoon we walked to (and up) Skagen lighthouse, and the most northern point of Denmark where two seas join (pic #3) — North Sea (left) and Baltic (right). .
We (@bytheoceanweunite) invited locals and @plasticchange, to join us for a windy beach clean. To the untrained/unfocused eye it was an exceptionally clean beach, but we still managed to find hundreds of bits of plastic over a few hundred meters.
.
There were very little big pieces like bottles and bags but plenty of smaller bits. Can you spot the plastic on pic #5?
.
Good news is that the hangover is gone and the beach is cleaner 👍🏼

Day 10 and 11
.
This was a bit of a surprise. I was meant to be cycling right now but I got invited to stay onboard. Not for my skills in science research or sailing but apparently simply because ‘I am good entertainment’ 🤣. The Dutch are easily pleased🙏. I am sleeping on the side bench though!
.
I was meant to be leaving because @bytheoceanweunite team was taking two other passengers onboard, Henrik Beha Pedersen founder of @plasticchangeDenmark, and @andrearudolph founder of @rudolphcare. Great additions and happy I got to meet both and sure it won’t be the end of things to come.
.
As for what’s been going on, there’s been cold miserable weather and 30 deg sunshine and headwind (not to mention getting stuck three times on our way into Roskilde. This flat country also means very flat rivers and with dry weather they are more shallow than normal. Not the captains fault). .
We’ve been trawling and found almost no microplastic in the danish waters which is great news for the Danish people although I am told that burning plastic is very common practice over here (some of it sent from the U.K. 😢), not great for the atmosphere. However, @plasticchangehave been running a program in the area so it’s most likely also got something to do with it too. Great effort. I have also become addicted to picking out microplastic from a Croatian beach sample which is a far different story. The Mediterranean is one of the most polluted in the world due to the small exit route at Gibraltar. Results to come when I eventually finish.

On our way to Copenhagen tonight and came across this lovely massive castle, where Shakespeare performed his play, Hamlet.

Day 12

40mph winds today — strong!
.
Speaking of wind, let me tell you about food onboard!! It’s vegetarian, delicious but dangerous. Enough said!
.
But in all serious it’s amazing how much stuff we got donated. @bytheoceanweunite is run by volunteers and more than half the ship is made up of non-paying mouths to feed. Without donations and support it would never be possible to run the trip. Sooooo many vegetables and fruit (@natureandmore) and it’s amazing how many different and delicious meals can be made from onions, pepper, sweet potatoes and courgette! But my poor guts (and roommate 🤣)
. Thanks also to @ekoplaza and @sligro
On that note, Happy weekend all xx

How do we make people change their habits?
.
We have a serious global issue on our hands.
Pic
#1 is three handfuls of Croatian beach collected, in haste and at random by a friend. We spent a day trying to remove all the plastic (pic #3) but as you can see in pic #5, we still didn’t succeed. I reckon there was over 1000 pieces in the sample ranging from, nurdles, rope, plastic wrapping remnants, and plenty of miscellaneous pieces. The Mediterranean is one of, if not the most polluted seas in the world, due to the very small escape point between Africa and Europe and the delta of the Nile, which I can only imagine is a large source of plastic pollution (and all the rest)
.
So why are these pieces an issue? Plastic is an amazing vector for toxins (harmful chemicals to both us and animals) so whilst the microplastics can be passed out through the digestive system, the toxins are left inside the bodies of whatever ate it. In addition to this, when the microplastics become nanoplastics due to weathering, these too Weill be able to pass through the gut wall and be taken up by cells. This in turn is believed to have effect on cell signalling and god knows what this will lead to. However, there is very little research on this at the moment, but why wait until we know?
Bioaccumulation…If 100 tiny plankton are eaten by a small fish, each containing one toxin, that fish will then have 100 toxic molecules. If a bigger fish eats 100 little fish, it will then have 10000 toxic molecules, we eventually end up eating that fish, or even the fish higher up the food chain. Not ideal when you have no idea what those toxins are.
.
Another thing to note is about the ‘plastic island’ in the Pacific known as one of the 5 gyres. This is not really like an island. It’s not a mass of plastic floating on the surface that you can see, but more like a soup of microplastics. .
I know it’s boring, everyone going on about it, but if the dying whales, turtles, albatross and other sea creatures (and plenty of farm animals too, by the way), aren’t enough for you to make a change, perhaps the toxins and nano-plastics, in your body are. So how do we make people change their habits? I’m keen to know

Cabin camping and pizza ovens.
.
After 117km of cycling into a headwind, the idea of a bad night sleep and having to find somewhere wasn’t really that exciting a thought. However, Denmark has these cabins dotted all round the country, promoting wild camping. .
I turned up about 7pm and found this little spot, fire pit, 30 meters from the waters edge with this cute little simple wooden shelter. But, there was a tent next to it so I decided to take my bike and kit, back into the town to charge my phone and have a couple of beers.
.
On my return, the tent still looked the same. It had weird shapes against the walls. It was dark by now and thoughts started about what might be in there as it certainly didn’t look inhabited. Dead body ?😬
.
I sent a friend my location, just in case The tent came alive and I didn’t! Of course all was ok. I slept well, despite the spiders webs and tent thoughts, and woke to the sun streaming through the cracks. I went over to the tent. The findings would have less impact now and so I touched the things hitting he side. Hard as stone, so I opened up the zip. A pizza oven!! 🤣
.
Moral of the story, don’t over think things until you know the answer! .

Welcome to my dream house!

.

300 degrees of water, on a little piece of sand. .

Something small. Big house equals lots of stuff and stuff means worries. ‘Stuff’ is also not good for the environment and won’t make us happy. Since living happily at sea for 49 days with very little, I realised you don’t need lots of stuff to be happy. .

All I need is a double bed (just in case!) a table, a kitchen and some storage. Ok, so maybe it’s a little bit too small for long term living but I could have the one nextdoor too!

The End!
.
What an amazing time on board @fantastiko.nl (owned by Huub, on the right) with @bytheoceanweunite (Karl on the left).
.
Admittedly it was a holiday with a purpose. Learning, laughing, sunning, sailing, research, eating (too much very lovely food), chatting, discussing, the odd drink, young, old (85 year old Italian ‘Nana’ 😍😍), vikings, singles, families, couples — it’s open to all, whatever your interest and however much you want to be involved.
.
Highly recommend if you want a holiday with something with a bit more than the usual and you want to learn more about our ocean (currently researching plastic)

The Last Sail
.
Beautiful and so lovely to share this moment with a bunch of other likeminded people.
.
Sailing on board @fantastiko.nl has the luxuries of a bed, shower, delicious food, a washing machine, room to stand, a shower, toilet, fresh fruit and veg, people and more, But there‘s something in me that loved rowing solo — the beauty of simplicity and solitude. .
Maybe it’s selfish knowing you’re the only one experiencing what you are, that moment in time, that sunset, perhaps a little mad knowing it’s only you that’s overcome that ‘f**k me’ moment when it goes wrong, but surely you can’t help feeling more enjoyment when you’ve worked so hard to get to the end, the reward, the sense of achievement? .
I loved my trip with @bytheoceanweuniteand what they’re doing, and highly recommend — Learning, entertaining, being at sea, having people around you, bring awareness of a huge global issue — all incredible experiences to have in a holiday. I think I might just be a bit addicted to the reward of hard work and the journey of the unknown. Oh dear, I still have years of this to go 🤣🤣

Someone onboard told me ‘what I like about you is you just don’t give a shit. But you actually do, about the things that matter like the environment, empowering women and things’. I really liked this as I think living your life focused on others and what’s around you brings more happiness to both those around you and yourself. Too much energy can be spent worrying about ourselves when in fact it would be better for everyone if that energy went elsewhere.

A consultancy with community and wellbeing at its heart.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store