I have found it a murky month here onboard Selkie: a month of unexpected challenges.  There are silver linings, and I am so lucky to have fallen upon these tricky times in Bergen under the wing of the kindest and ocean optimistic person, someone who has kept me feeling cheerful despite engine and health misgivings.  Selkie got sick, Celia got sick!  I’ve had a viral cough for nearly a month now which has effectively slowed me down.  Maybe that is exactly what I had to do, and it was my body jumping on the mechanical bandwagon shouting “STOP!” at my brain.

I have been actively trying to pack it in.  I haven’t stopped all year.  I feel that I have barely been home and all the time I was, was tightly scheduled.  Getting time to go for a walk or see friends and neighbours was almost impossible if it didn’t fit with the busy program.  It has been partly to do with earning enough money but also a deep urgent need to push myself, as if time is running out.  I felt something similar when I was pregnant, that the choices I made then would dictate the next 20 years, and they did.  Now this same sensation is taking hold of me, like a drumming at the foundation of my soul.   Slowing down has been important for me to do.  Every now and then I catch myself, breathing shallowly and anxiously and I practice some yogic breath, trying to find calmness. Yesterday, walking to the corner shop felt like an expedition and today, the back and forth inside Selkie, getting her ready for the November in Norway crew clocked up a surprising number of steps. This is my last night alone onboard.  Tomorrow we will be four women and it won’t be a time to be quiet anymore.

The engine was given the thumbs up on Tuesday as I was midway through reglazing two hatches in the saloon, making use of Bergen’s unprecedented fair weather.  With rain due that evening and taken by surprise that the motor was good to go (Monday’s mention of work continuing all week fooled me), I thought I had all day.  I speedily gunned the gum around the frames and clamped down the acrylic, smoothing the goo hastily with a starchy half potato.  Throwing off the lines, I left the Hanoy inlet for what I hope is for good, heading back south to Hjellestad, near the airport and by the aforementioned #whatwouldwedowithoutRune.  I intended to go alongside the commercial docks but Rune messaged me and said to go transom in onto to his boat house pontoon.  Either side of the slippy wooden boards are two aluminium boats.  One belonging to Rune and Knutt and the other to the marine plastic warriors of the area, @FjordaneFriluftsrad

Truth be told, I didn’t have a plan.  Had the engine been fixed the previous Friday and had my virus not been beating me up, I would have gone to England for a few days to help my godmother who has just come out of hospital after falling and breaking her hip.  That plan blown out the window and with the new team arriving at the weekend in Trondheim, I had to make a decision that was best for all of us.   I knew I needed time to heal and to turn Selkie from a workshop to a welcoming expedition boat.  The crew needed to work out how they would join up with Selkie so staying put in Bergen was the sensible idea.

But more than that, Rune got me an invite to the North Atlantic Microplastic Centre Annual meeting. I shut up the boat and forgot about her for a day, taking the train to the centre of Bergen to what has been the most illuminating and important event for me.  Scientists and academics from Europe and North America, industrialists, government and NGO stakeholders met to share their research and opinions: to connect and combine their knowledge, morphing into a super body able to inform global policy making. It was nothing short of mind-blowing.

I sucked packets of honey and lemon lozenges and tried to keep my germs to myself.  I looked around the room at who was represented and wondered on what grounds I was here?  Rune introduced me as a sailor, explorer, climber, sustainability ambassador.  My short solo across the North Sea was acting as a passport and my keenness to be involved and put forward my sailboat and skipper skills will hopefully be the foundation of future citizen science and team building voyages.  Which is exactly what I want to do. I found it a heady intoxicating day, absorbing information, talking projects, making connections.  My take away is both depressing and inspiring.  Firstly, there is nothing I can do about the micro and nano plastics that are already in the environment.   We all can however vastly reduce the amount of new microplastics entering the environment by dealing with the macro plastic.  With my boat, I have the potential to reach areas that are not accessible to most.  Globally, the  main effort needs to be changing how and why we use plastic and supporting research and development and informing policy change.

Tomorrow I will sail to Bergen centre with Marte Haave , a toxicologist passionate about marine plastics, education and collaboration.  She has an idea…