12 Plastic Boats
JUNK (California to Hawaii, North Pacific Gyre – 2,600 miles)
JUNK raft, made from 15,000 plastic bottles and a Cessina airplane, drifted 2,600 miles in 88 days from California to Hawaii to bring attention to the plague of plastic in the world’s oceans. Visit junkraft.com for more information. Video 1 Video 2
On August 20, 2003 the Bottle Rocket launched from Lake Itasca, Minnesota for a 2000-mile voyage to the Gulf of Mexico. I was making good on a promise I made while sitting in a foxhole near Kuwait City, covered with oil, during the Persian Gulf War. “If we survive this war let’s build a raft like Tom and Huck.” Twelve years later I made good on the promise, 5 months down the Mississippi River on a raft made from 232 2-liter plastic bottles, 1 car seat and two bicycles. Video
In early 2005 the idea to cross the Pacific Ocean on a raft of plastic bottles began to take place. With the help of students from the Environmental Charter High School in Lawndale, California, we collected 800 2-liter bottles and made two aluminum pontoons. The boat launched in Santa Barbara and traveled 250 miles along the coast to San Diego. During this voyage, a plastic bottle rafting expedition across the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii was decided.
Students from the Environmental Charter High School (ECHS) built a series of boats with me. Using 170 2-liter bottles cut and attached in torpedo-like forms, an 8ft. long canoe was built. Using aluminum crutches for oars, I paddled the Cola Kayak from the San Fernando Valley to the LA Harbor. Video
Two bicycles and a Barbie doll head with the face chewed out, balanced on 4 milk crates filled with plastic bottles. It was too top-heavy for a longer voyage, but the students of ECHS launched the Barbie Chopper in Ballona Creek to everyone’s amusement as they flipped over and over again.
Turning the Tide and Sons of Norway were the two groups that collected 5,000 water bottles, 2 pallets, 50 polyester shirts and 3 pairs of crutches to build my largest plastic boat yet. The Sons of Norway insisted on a Viking ship, therefore plastic bottles were fashioned into a dragonhead for the bow. This didn’t travel very far on water, but instead was driven around Alaska to discuss the problems of throwaway plastics. The idea to use netting for pontoons rather than metal-framed boxes for the ocean-crossing plastic Kontiki was decided.
The Chattahoochee River Nature Center invited me to build a boat for Earth Day in 2007, then race it down the river. 170 2-liter bottles were fashioned into a stable catamaran. I led the race for the first 20 minutes thanks to a 20-minute lead, and then came in last 2 hours later.
Potomac Atttack (Potomac River, Washington DC – .5 miles)
Anna Cummins and I built the Potomac Attack with 20 high school students gathered to attend a youth conference organized by the Weather Channel in November 2007. We used 200 2-liter bottles, a pair of crutches, and two satellite dishes to create a stable catamaran. While crossing the Potomac River, under the national capital, we decided to cross the Pacific in the summer of 2008.
The students of Greens Farms Academy in Connecticut collected 200 2-liter bottles to build a catamaran boat, with two toilet seats as chairs for the teacher and I to sit on.
Joe Garbarino, owner of the Marin County Recycling Center, has been dealing with waste his entire life.He’s got chickens and pigs to eat his restaurant waste, he chops and sells wood, and plastic/metal/paper is baled for shipping. “No one wants plastic bags”, Joe said, explaining that no one recycles plastic bags. The Garbarino Barge was built from a wooden pallet, pink plastic tarp, 200 random bottles, and two tennis ball nets to make the pontoons. The Garbarino Barge set sail in the San Francisco Bay in May 2009.
Walking on water isn’t as hard as you think, as long as you’ve got 50 plastic bottles duct-taped under each water ski.
In Sept. 2009, the first annual Lake Erie Boat Float featured a dozen different plastic bottle boats, including the Cola Hoga, made from 200 2-liter bottles, a satellite dish, crutches, one pallet, plastic bags for rope and lots of duct tape. Students from Medina High School took first place for speed with their streamlined, saran-wrapped pontoon rocket. video