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From sea to sea: Plastic Odyssey crosses the Strait of Gibraltar

By crossing the mythical Strait of Gibraltar, Plastic Odyssey turns the first page of its mission around the world: after the Mediterranean, it’s time for the Atlantic.

A rough crossing

The sun struggles to rise over the rock of Gibraltar. On January 17th, 2023, Plastic Odyssey, caught in the last throes of storm Gerard, saw the mythical rock struck by rain disappearing in its wake. With it also turns an important page for the expedition: the end of this tour of the Mediterranean, to begin the Atlantic phase of the mission.

“The Strait of Gibraltar is a mythical passage, just like Magellan or Cape Horn. So passing it in these conditions…” smiles Emmanuel Wasiak, the commander of Plastic Odyssey. For him, who had already crossed the strait a good ten times but in more clement weather, “these conditions” mean a wind of 35 to 40 knots with gusts up to 50 – almost a hundred kilometers per hour – in rough seas. “If we could have, we would have waited a few hours for the bad weather to pass, but we absolutely had to arrive in Tangier on time to respect the schedule of the stopover”.

Once the Plastic Odyssey was safely in the Moroccan port after several hours of storm, the young watch officer during the crossing did not hide her relief. “These are difficult conditions in a very busy passage, not to mention the fact that we crossed the route of the Ocean race, with several racing sailboats around us. Naturally, there was stress, but it’s stimulating. We don’t want to disappoint the crew or make mistakes,” said Oc├ęane Rivalain, 26, who had just been promoted to watch officer after years of sailing as a sailor.

Tangier, the fourth stop of the expedition

Under the blue sky of Tangier again, the crew now turns to the program of this stopover. Two weeks of exchanges with local entrepreneurs and visits throughout Morocco, from Rabat to Casablanca to Marrakech. But these few steps outside the Mediterranean, after more than three months of crisscrossing it from end to end, are also an opportunity for a first assessment. “The first three stops, Beirut, Alexandria, and Bizerte, really allowed us to refine our organization, our way of building a port of call program, but also to become aware of the importance of follow-up after our visit”, says Morgane Kerdoncuff, head of the port of call program, who has been on board since the ship’s departure from Marseille.

After only three months of the mission, the amount of lessons learned is already enormous. Technologies, tools, and economic models discovered during these Mediterranean encounters must now be digested, synthesized, and shared over the next few stops. All while continuing to support the dozens of entrepreneurs who have already passed through the OnBoard Lab on board the Plastic Odyssey over the long term.

As the team prepares for the new stop in Tangier, they are also working on the next ones, between Africa and South America. “With the arrival in the Atlantic and this new year of the expedition beginning, the project enters another stage of maturity”, Morgane Kerdoncuff continues, juggling between two visits and a press conference. “We are going to meet even more different cultures, with different issues than what we saw in the Mediterranean.”

The rest of the adventure

After sailing along the African coasts, the ship will then head to Brazil and the Caribbean before leaving the Atlantic via the Panama Canal at the end of the year. “The transatlantic crossing, scheduled for the end of April, will be a new symbolic stage for the mission, in addition to crossing the equator,” says the captain of the Plastic Odyssey, already looking forward to it. Hoping that the journey will be less eventful than the passage through Gibraltar…

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