By the Ocean we Unite: Day 3-4

Arriving in Rotterdam

Day 3

I’ve woken up to the light coming through the small hole in my bivvy bag and snuggle rug. The night was freezing and I had to get out and wee. I guess it serves me right!

It was a bit of a relief to know I made it through with no rain or snakes again, and now the sun is coming up, it is a lot warmer, I change position and fall back to sleep.

I’ve woken up to the rain falling on my face. Dammit, I should have got up the first time. I use my sandy ground sheet to cover my bags and pull my snuggle rug and any left over bits, into my bivvy bag and hide bent over double and water tight from the massive drops. I hope this is short lived because this set up is not sustainable as water is pooling and my back is starting to hurt. I can feel the bike miles from yesterday.

It stops, I lay out the groundsheet and bivvy over the sand dunes grass and pack up. Breakfast is at 10 (full layout of food and much needed). The skies clear, the wind picks up. Everything is laid out, sand dries (just hate sand everywhere) and before I know it, it’s 10am.

Full spread, blog writing and a quick route plan to Rotterdam (this involves a simple google maps and direction by bike ). Planning sorted!

I pay, pack up my stuff, get on the bike and change gear. Clunk, grind, grrrrr. The chain stops, 6 peddles into day 3. I get off and the gear set has snapped. Shizer! I kind of must be in Rotterdam today and I am on a beach and haven’t seen a town for a while.

Come on, this is Holland, the bike capital of Europe. It’s not long before I’m walking my bike 30 mins to the nearest bike repair shop. He can do it there and then and he seems to know what he’s talking about. How on earth do we pay so much in the UK? €45 for the full gear changing set and another piece and work. We discuss Escape to the Country from channel 4. 14:30 and eventually I set off. 

Nothing really exciting. Legs feel a bit useless and I tell myself I’ve deserved a coke and ice lolly. I see a Heineken sign, and ice cream! A happy coincidence until I realise it’s a local local bar with about 20 old boys, bellies out and suddenly I become their centre of attention. Probably not helped by my entrance outfit of sports bra and hot pants!

I’m trying to make myself as inconspicuous as possible but realise my choice of lolly, a Twister, probably isn’t going to help me go unnoticed! How do you eat a lolly, that is somewhat phallus shaped, without garnering attention?! To make things worse it was a super size. I manage to leave the bar unscathed, half a beer, Pepsi and Twister, and cycle the last 25km through industrial Rotterdam. Cranes, scrub land, containers, lorries, massive cylindrical oil tanks, old steel bridges, closed cycle paths, and litter. I have been so amazed and happy by the lack of roadside, beach and waterway rubbish. Why has it got so bad in the UK? Cultural, lazy, worsening public litter cleaning services? 

My legs are feeling heavy, I stuff my mouth with Haribo, and by 7pm I arrive at the boat, Fantastiko, a bit sweaty but very happy to know a shower and bed are only hours away. I have arrived 12hrs early before the boat, a By The Ocean we Unite project, sets sail. I listen to the guys and girls speaking Dutch, trying to figure out what’s being said and the only person not laughing at the jokes. It’s a weird concept as to why one would listen when you have no idea what is being said! I rest assured it’s English when we set sail and the rest of the team arrives, so I I do just that and hear to bed. I’m zonked, so much so that I can’t bring myself to shower. Yuck, but I think we have all had those moments of exhaustion so I forgive myself. Good night

 Aboard Fantastiko

Aboard Fantastiko

Day 4

So perhaps that shower would have been sensible. Old sweaty body combined with a warm cabin means I spent most of the night sticking to my sheet. Nice! And somewhat regretted my lazy choice.

Fantastiko, a 74ft, double mast sailing yacht and sleeps 16. It was recently finished, in 2012, after 10years, by the Dutch government to take naughty kids and rehabilitate them through experience and skill development. It took 10 years to build but never got used before the recession hit. Huub, the best Dutch sailor and our captain, () bought it under the pretence and promise he would use it for good cause. Our trip is one of the early trips of its kind, aimed towards research and education of ocean plastic. She’s beautiful, has plenty of space which I’m sure will be somewhat luxury after being at sea in my little ocean rowing boat. 

It’s midday and I need to wrap up my bike before putting her away on deck and setting sail down the Maas, out towards the North Sea. For the first few hours we are joined by some people in the industry, sponsors etc and 30mins before leaving the  mouth we drop off the last few and we are down to just the 16 of us. It now becomes clear who i am onboard with for the next 5 days and it also becomes clear who are the ones I’ll probably spend more time with. I think it’s human nature to scout that out but surprisingly, despite everyone’s different personalities, I fell like they are all good, honest and grounded souls. Recently, I have become part of two teams, one called Team like a Girl, who have convinced me that running 150 miles through the desert is a good idea, and the second is this team onboard Fantastiko, with an environmental focus. I’ve also started to build the team for my next big challenge. It’s so nice to have the contradiction of a solo row. Don’t get me wrong, I love the solitude but it is tiring and a team brings so many other great aspects which I’m currently really enjoying.

By 5pm we’ve done our first trawl, dragging a piece of equipment called a manta (trawl) because of what it looks like (manta Ray, of course!). It lies in the water scooping up the water and everything in it’s path, jelly fish, crabs, plankton and all. ‘All’ being the micro plastics. The research team then analyse the data and use it to help us decipher what kind of pickle we have got ourselves into.

There’s general mooching, chatting, establishing who’s who and what’s what, afternoon sunny snoozes but no cider! Not until we get to Skagen on Saturday. Bedtime. Sun, sea air, learning and new people is tiring, evening even if I have had 40 winks (or two)! Night

Kiko Matthews