A view from the +1 of a Team Pacific Rower

I am Millie Roberts, the girlfriend of Team Pacific Rower Colin Parker. He asked me to write about my experience as an outsider looking in on the team as they prepare to take on the biggest endurance challenge of their lives to date.

I learned Parker had agreed to row the Pacific about a month before we were set to leave the bright lights of Brixton, London, for a year-long contract I’d secured in the somewhat sunnier city of Auckland, New Zealand. His was a promise yelped in a haze of alcohol during a final night out with his friend of 20 years, Fraser, weeks before the pair were due to part ways. For those reasons, I hope I can be forgiven for thinking this was exactly the kind of chat one would expect between two chaps who like to travel, particularly in lieu of the fact that one of them was about to emigrate.

Marthon pic

Parker after running the London Marathon in 2012. Unfortunately for him, my immense pride at his achievement was mainly expressed through vice-like grip hugs and telling anyone who would listen about what he had done. Literally, anyone.

As our move to the Land of the Long White Cloud gathered pace, so did Parker’s commitment to be among Fraser’s final four. Before long, the remaining two members of the team, Sam, and later James, had been recruited, logos has been commissioned and t-shirts printed. Slowly, my realisation that Parker was in fact, very serious indeed, came to fruition.Thus ensued a year of talking sponsorship, PR, satellite phones, chosen charities, sea cleaning, protein shakes, dry food options, rowing seats, visas, race fees, sun screen and poo buckets. In the final planning stages, it was spreadsheets at dawn on Skype as often as every other day as the team worked through splitting costs and responsibilities.

As someone looking in, one of the most extraordinary aspects leading up to the challenge has been watching the relationship between Team Pacific Rowers (TPR) develop. Considering Parker and Fraser have two decades of beer-speckled friendship on Sam and James, the latter two could easily have been, or at least felt, isolated; but this has been far from the case. For every flicker of doubt one rower has felt, another has stepped in with a surge of support to bolster them, regardless of the history they share. The synergy that orbits the group comes from a mutual confidence that each is as committed as the next to the mammoth task that lies ahead.

For the many friends, relatives and loved ones of the entrants of the first Great Pacific Race, at times the year approaching the start line has felt just as much of an emotional storm as it has for those rowing. For the most part, I hope I speak for us all when I say we are overflowing with pride at the incredible feat our loved one has set out to achieve. But I imagine I am not alone in my innate fear of the word ‘first’. The implication of unchartered territory in such a context is numbing. Parker’s parents took to fretting silently, but their son sensed their tension. Out went a round robin email to the whole family with details of the copious safety measures in place together with a YouTube clip of famed whiskey-swilling ocean rower, James (Tiny) Little, who in 2005, travelled 3,000 miles from the Caribbean to Antigua alone and unsupported. All anyone can do is take comfort in the information available. The sea is a fickle beast not for taming but knowing help is always at hand is something at least. The team has also had extensive training so they know precisely how to handle themselves in an emergency.

Had TPR relented to their fears, we would never have experienced this journey with them. My concern is boredom – because I know it is one of Parker’s biggest worries. I wonder how monotony could affect the team’s motivation to forge ahead. I worry about land sickness. The dissatisfaction they could face the moment passes when they first throw themselves upon Hawaiian sands. When the fanfare is over, will anything ever feel as good? I worry about the anxiety they could experience when they must part ways with Britannia 4. For weeks their boat will have served as a sturdy home on uncertain waters – how will it feel to finally step off the side and onto dry land?

There was a moment, albeit brief, shortly before Parker boarded the plane from Auckland to LA, when I envisaged myself and one of my best friends Kiran attempting the challenge. In reality, we battle to arrange a chat in a pub, so I imagine the sheer logistics of this whole affair would have had us stumped at the registration stage. But the thought crossed my mind. In that moment, after more than 12 months of listening and talking about a challenge I never imagined I would give a second thought to attempting myself, I not only grasped the adventure of it, I craved it.

In this life, it’s no mean feat to find something that marks you out from the masses. Once territory solely reserved for accomplished athletes, endurance events like marathons, triathlons and iron mans are now open season.  Kilimanjaro is practically a rite of passage. Even conquering Everest is unlikely to rouse the same reaction it might have done fifteen years ago. We talk the same, dress the same, eat the same, train the same, we hashtag, we share, we like, we comment – more than ever before it feels like everyone on the planet knows all the steps to the same massive dance routine. It’s refreshing to know that there are still people out there – like every entrant in the first ever Great Pacific Race – prepared to bust out some new moves.

12 thoughts on “A view from the +1 of a Team Pacific Rower

  1. Hope


    My family is vacationing in Monterey, Ca. We eagerly awaited the official start of the Great Pacific Race. At the wharf in Monterey on June 9th,, we had a few moments to speak with Team Pacific Rowers, who were busy getting ready to set out for the race. Not wanting to interrupt their work, we kept our chat short, but the fellows posed for our camera before we left. We are very interesting in news of their journey and wondering how they are doing.

    We are praying for your men at sea.

    🙂 Hope

    1. Millie Roberts Post author

      Hope – thank you so much for your comment. It means the world that the team is in your thoughts and as they say, you can rack them on their journey. I hope you had a wonderful trip to Monterey. All the boys have been so heartened by people’s interest in what they are up to, so thank you for approaching them and having a chat. All the best, Millie.

  2. Jim


    This is an awesome blog, bloody loved it and agree with every bit of the sentiment in it.

    Although the revelation of the poo bucket will scar me forever. I’d assumed they’d just hang their asses over the edge of the boat and crap into the ocean.

    Anyway, top stuff.

    Jim x

    1. Millie Roberts Post author

      Cheers Jim. At one stage – and pardon the pun – the idea of getting the bucket sponsored was floated. The mind boggles. Hope you are keeping London warm for Parker and I. Lots of love xxx

  3. alf collins

    Sam’s Dad here.

    Millie that is a wonderful blog- thank you.

    Like you, I am totally in awe of what the team is about to do. I still find it difficult to motivate myself to go for the odd jog around the park..

    Team Pacific: there are many many people in the world who are behind you- every minute of the way. Keep going, keep well and keep safe.

    Sam: First beer when you get back is on me.

    Alf C


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Team Pacific Rowers Meet Ultrasun: Professional Sun Protection

Last week I met Abi Cleeve, Managing Director of Ultrasun, a leading provider of small range quality products to satisfy all your sun protection requirements, headquartered in Switzerland. The introduction was initiated a couple of weeks ago by a good friend of mine Lucy (HRH/PR Queen), and I was delighted. The lightning speed at which Abi replied and offered us to try Ultrasun’s products out on the Pacific was very kind and an exciting prospect for us. Within just a few days, I drove down to their Reigate office and met a wonderful team full of enthusiasm and energy, equalled and surpassed by Abi’s. What busy MD would have the time to meet a random ocean rowing crazy for over an hour? Abi. Thanks!

photo 1      photo 4

Sun care is something I take seriously since we first visited Australia on one of many family holidays back in the early 90’s, being fortunate to grow up in Indonesia nearby. My mum was castigated by a local ‘Sheila’ on a boiling hot Sunshine Coast (Port Cartwright) one day for wearing crap cream, if not any cream at all; naughty Mum ‘tut tut’ – this was an O-Zone free zone didn’t you know – ignorant Pommies! As a rebellious teenager I thought it was all a bit heavy handed, but then I learnt about the Aussie Government ‘Slip-Slop-Slap’ campaign, and the excruciating pain of sun burn itself on the backs of my legs and neck after my first embarrassing attempts to learn to surf that same holiday. I could barely walk and couldn’t turn my neck an inch either way, I felt incredibly stupid. Grand-dad and Dad have since been effected, so it was very interesting to hear what Abi had to say, and here are a few nuggets I took home to share:

1. Awareness: The biggest defence we have against the sun is ‘awareness’ – Team Pacific Rowers are fully on board to help educate anyone interested about sun care and skin cancer in every way possible.

2. Expertise: Ultrasun are the only European brand that sell products in in Australia (the Kings of Sun Protection), why no others? Because EU regulation is less stringent and big brand sun cream manufacturers literally get away with old school formulas that are frankly not up to scratch. It costs £150,000 to test for UVA and UVB a piece, so why ‘waste’ and sink £300k in R&D costs before even thinking about a marketing campaign and overheads?

3. Unique: Ultrasun continuously invest, innovate, re-create and refine formulas for maximum UVA & UVB protection, ie. they take their products and the damage sun can cause much more seriously than others! Full advantages here.

4. Advice: If you’re active or relaxing in the sun all day, take a ‘shade break’ for 5-10 mins every hour to give your skin cells a break, keep rehydrating regularly as well! The former might be a little tricks in the middle of the ocean since we’re on 2-hour shifts, but we’ll figure something out…

5. Usage: Apply suncream 10 mins before going into the sun, apply lip protector above and below the lip line as well as on the lips, use on eyelids too if that ‘floats your boat’ (pardon the pun).

photo 4    photo 3     photo 2-2

6. Knowledge: Water reflects 56% of the suns rays on average depending on the shade of the water, so cover all areas of skin, and don’t leave any part of the body exposed, especially skin closest to the bone – take note balding men! Uhhh… all of us then, except our glam pin-up boy, whipper snapper Sam?!

This is not just a shout out to Ultrasun for kindly giving us a bunch of free stuff (yes that helps), but I was genuinely intrigued and impressed with the brand and what they do and stand for. Team Pacific Rowers will all be proud users of Ultrasun’s fantastic formulas this summer on the what’s forecast to be the hottest North Pacific conditions seen in years! We will blog in due course on the real effectiveness of the various lotions, but we’re all very excited about the prospect of protecting our skins with just one application/per day – thanks Abi and everyone in the company for the opportunity!

By: James Wight, Team Pacific Rowers.

photo 1-2    photo 2


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Auckland photographer launches Trash Vortex exhibition

Artstation_New_Artists_An exhibition of photographs documenting the extent of the rubbish problem in Auckland’s beautiful Hauraki Gulf is set to go on display.

Trash Vortex, by Delena Nathuran, from Te Atatu, is the outcome of an ongoing exploration into the topic of plastic waste in our oceans and environment.

Delena says her intention was to create a project that provokes conversation about this 21st century problem and provokes consideration of the use and consumption of single-use plastic.

“Ultimately a desire to encourage change to ensure the safety and longevity of our oceans and marine life underlies this body of work,” Delena says.

Nathuran has explored her topic through different mediums including studio still life, collage, medium and large format film and digital capture.

The exhibition will be on display at Artstation at 1 Ponsonby Road, Auckland, from April 17 to May 8.

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Storm drains on Auckland’s North Shore

One question I get asked by people when I tell them about volunteering is: Doesn’t it make you angry to see beautiful parts of our harbour cluttered with trash?

Deliberate and illegal dumps do, i’ll admit. I have come across them sporadically during volunteering with SEA CLEANERS. Ben and Hayden, I imagine, come across dozens a month.

But most rubbish I pick up is not of the deliberate dumping kind. At least I hope not. So it’s hard to get too angry when you know that somewhere down the line someone has picked up your own carelessly discarded rubbish: whether it’s been blown out of your car or fallen out of your pocket as you pull out your hand.

As mentioned in previous posts, much of the rubbish that gets plucked out of receptacles by the wind and thrown about will sooner or later get washed down Auckland’s storm drains and waterslide out into the harbour. Head out onto the water on the morning after a brutal rain storm and see how much more debris is out there.

Ben and Hayden bring up the storm drains a fair amount, but I hadn’t seen one first hand. Today I would.

We started, as ever, at Pier U2. It was just Ben and I out on the Phil Warren II. After the skipper had done his paperwork we headed into the city’s wharf’s, sweeping through Waitemata’s most heavily trafficked waters.

There was some evidence of the previous day’s triathlon, which took place along the harbour front (Team Pacific Rowers were entrants, check out our stats here). Unfortunately that evidence was in the form of balloons bobbing about on the water.

After a quick dash into the Downtown Mall to get a coffee and muffin Ben decided we would head across the harbour, anchor Phil Warren II in the deeper water and kayak into Shoal Bay.

The water in the bay was shallow, but rising. We headed towards the motorway and kayaked under the bridge onto the west side of Highway 1 and into the shin shredding mangroves and onto the thick, slopping mud they covered.

After a few minutes rummaging I saw it. A concrete pipe pointing straight into the mangrove beds and at its mouth and beyond, mounds of plastic trash. And it wasn’t just one, there were perhaps four or five, including one that was two or three times the size of the others.

Ben pointed out the rocks placed at the mouth of the big pipe, designed, it seems, to catch anything that was coming out. It appeared a woeful attempt.

The rubbish trapped in the mangroves and mud was difficult to retrieve and if we did manage to untangle it, it was heavy from the mud and the water. We filled a few bags with this, but concentrated on the drier stuff. And there was plenty of it.

In fact, we plucked about 1000 litres-plus out of the high tide line tucked behind Highway 1.

Ben retrieved the kayaks and we loaded one with the rubbish and towed it with the other. The 20 minute kayak back to the boat was draining, but a quick swim in the harbour refreshed, and cleaned off the mud in which we were caked.

23 thoughts on “Storm drains on Auckland’s North Shore

  1. Hayden

    Thanks for your efforts, both in action on the coast and in writing to raise awareness.
    The daily loads like this have been consistent for 11.5 years. Its time for change.
    20 minute kayak, draining??? Are you not about to row across the Pacific Ocean??? a bit longer than 20 min… Good luck mate…

    1. Ben Harris

      Thanks Colin, you are a champ on and off the water. A 20 min sprint on the kayak towing 1000 lts of heavy trash is a bit different from the slow but steady rowing you will be doing to reach Hawaii from California, don’t be discouraged by Mr Smiths comments…hes just jealous that its not him about to head out on what could well be the greatest adventure of your life. It brings to mind the boy scout motto…so get that methylated spirits and rub those hands, work out like your life depends on you being fitter and stronger than ever before..(It does) and get ready for the voyage of a life time!!!!!!!!!!!

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Pacific row crewmate in sponsored Auckland sea clean

Press pic oneTeam Pacific Rowers sculler Colin Parker has launched a sponsored #auckland sea clean to raise money for the city’s Sea Cleaners and help fund his world record quest in June.

Sponsors will be able to “pay” Colin to scoop up rubbish from the city’s beaches, harbours and rivers and will receive certificates of participation and their name etched onto the side of his ocean rowing boat.

See the flyer here: Auckland Sea Clean or visit the campaign’s Indiegogo site.

Colin, along with friends Fraser Hart, Sam Collins and James Wight is attempting to row from California to Hawaii in June and with it become the first foursome to make the crossing. It is likely to take six weeks in an eight-metre boat and will involve the quartet rowing in pairs in shifts of two-on, two-off 24 hours a day.

The team is rowing to raise awareness of plastic in our oceans and has already launched its own #plasticfree campaign.

indiegogoimageIn his litter pick, sponsors can donate from $20 to pay for Colin to pick up rubbish from the waterways. Ten per cent of all money sponsored will be donated to Sea Cleaners.

Companies wishing to sponsor more money will receive additional benefits, such as branding on the side of the ocean rowing boat, the Britannia 4, and photos from the middle of the Pacific.

Colin spends about one day a week volunteering with Sea Cleaners – which is contracted by the Watercare Harbour Clean-Up Trust – at various locations around the harbour and gulf, including Tamaki and Whau rivers, Rangitoto Island, Henderson Creek, Rakino Island, and more.

You can find our more about the work of Sea Cleaners and the Watercare Harbour Clean-Up Trust here.


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Harbours, quays, piers and marinas – a weather-affected sea clean

The weather was, using soft swear words, pants.

It was Friday morning and thick black clouds blanketed the sky. Ben, the skipper, was listening keenly to his VHF radio for the latest weather report. Plenty of nautical terms later and the man on the radio concluded that the weather was pants. It would get more pants in a couple of hours, and then less pants around midday. But it would still be pants.

The Sea Cleaners, who are contracted by Watercare Harbour Clean-Up Trust to tidy up Auckland’s waterways, had planned to take a diver out to Rangitoto Island to finally try to find the anchor that had fallen off the Phil Warren II a few weeks back.

But during a quick walk up and down Pier U to pick up any rubbish, Ben received a text, the diver had cancelled. The weather was pants underwater too.

Outside Westhaven the seas were choppy, too choppy to take the boat much further than Auckland’s harbours and marinas. This was a day for walking in and around piers and scooping bobbing remnants of city life.

It made me reflect on our impending Pacific row. Bad weather won’t – can’t – stop us heading out to sea. We will have already headed out to sea. Our only security will be the drogue and the parachute anchor that will stop our boat careering sideways down a wave and rolling like one of Donkey Kong’s barrels.

Ben took the Phil Warren II in and out of the marinas and harbours, tying off the boat before Ben, James – a trainee skipper – and I jumped off and scooped up the small debris: bottle tops; cigarettes; cigarette packets; straws; stirrers; coffee cup lids and the like with the telescopic nets. 

The debris collects in piles of drift bracken, meaning that bit scoops of organic material gets collected for every few pieces of plastic, but it’s all worth it.

So Friday was a wind and rain affected one, but considering the weather we picked up a fair amount, perhaps 50 litres all told (not bad when the debris was, on average, straw sized), and we also removed two big logs that had obviously been spotted floating menacingly about the harbour and put on the harbour side for safety.

7 thoughts on “Harbours, quays, piers and marinas – a weather-affected sea clean

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Captain Charles Moore and Algalita Marine Research Institute to return to ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’

Captain Charles Moore, the man who discovered the swirling vortex of plastic trash widely known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, will once again sail to one of the most polluted areas of the world – the North Pacific Central Gyre.

Moore and the Algalita Marine Research Institute have assembled a highly qualified team of scientists who will live amid the debris for 30 days and study the region, beginning in July.

The ultimate goal is to evaluate long-term trends and changes in the Gyre by merging data collected over the past 15 years with new 2014 data.

The persistence and increasing quantity of plastic debris, including new arrivals from the Japanese tsunami, have created artificial habitats in the North Pacific Gyre – essentially building “plastic reefs” where sea creatures have made their homes.

How have the marine ecosystems impacted the area since Algalita’s first expedition 15 years ago? What have they done to the various species that live there? How are toxic contaminants from plastic transferred to marine life, and what are the consequences for human health?

Algalita’s researchers will investigate the area to find answers. This voyage will result in new and repeat monitoring data needed to make scientific conclusions about the scope and effects of plastic marine pollution.

Since 1999, Algalita has conducted eight research expeditions and produced the longest-running data set for the region.

The organisation, which has participated in similar expeditions in the North and South Atlantic Gyres,
South Pacific Gyre, Indian Ocean Gyre and in Antarctic waters, was the first to develop a standard methodology for sampling and analysing micro-plastic debris from the ocean.

The expedition will also launch the latest live Ship-2-Shore educational program, which uses satellite communications systems to connect students with researchers at sea.

The Algalita Marine Research Institute is a nonprofit organisation committed to solving the plastic pollution crisis in our oceans. In 1997, our founder, Captain Charles Moore, discovered an area of plastic debris in the North Pacific Ocean known by many as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Since then, the Long Beach, CA-based organisation has been studying the devastating impact of plastic on our oceans and educating the public.

To date, Algalita has collected and analysed more than 1114 plastic debris samples from five oceans. The organisation reaches thousands of students worldwide every year.

For more information visit: www.algalita.org

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The trashy treasures of Auckland’s Henderson Creek

henderson creekss

The haul from Henderson Creek, pictured just before we picked up the couch.

The fellas at Sea Cleaners, the crew contracted by Watercare Harbour Clean-Up Trust to tidy the city’s waterways and seas, know I am a soft touch, so when they plan a jaunt up one of Auckland’s muckier rivers, rather than one of its gorgeous islands, I get drafted to come along. Or maybe that’s just BPA-induced paranoia.

But it’s all good. The waterways that empty into Waitemata Harbour are where you’ll find the greatest concentration of trash. They’re where we fill the most bags; where we are of most benefit. And to be fair, it was a damp, dreary day. A trip to Tiri Tiri Matangi would be wasted on a day like this – is what I keep telling myself each time nose-melting whiff floats close.

Today’s voyage on the Phil Warren II (named after a former Auckland councillor, who the guys at Sea Cleaners hold in high regard) is up Henderson Creek, a tributary that runs next to the Te Atatu peninsula and from, well, Henderson. It’s the next left after the Whau River and is pretty, flanked by mangroves for much of its length. Mangroves are excellent at holding onto rubbish and passing it to us, but they are also good and cutting up the shins when the tide is in.

It’s my second time up the creek, and on the boat today, along with Sea Cleaners Ben and Hayden, are two extra vollies: Paul, who lives near Henderson, and Katrina, a surf rower at Red Beach. 

We start with a quick jaunt to the city to clear up and litter around the ferry terminal and park up to get a quick coffee. At this point high tide is about two hours away, which means the creek would have swollen with enough water to get the boat up there, but not high enough to flood the banks too much.

The wind is likely to pick up to around 30 knots later in the day, notes Ben, so we make our way quickly to Henderson Creek.

Ben guides the PWII for about 20 minutes up the creek, mindful of the no-wake zones and the passing rowers. Today was to be a multi-stop clean up; Hayden and Ben know plenty of trash collection spots up the creek, into which currents feed the rubbish from the residential areas and industrial parks. 

The first point is a public jetty near a couple of boat yards. The amount of rubbish dumped here is pretty obscene, including an entire black sack of crap. There is plenty of evidence of good times: beer bottles, cigarettes and even a condom, leading Katrina to joke about romance being alive and well. The haul from here is good, and we leave it close to spotless.

On the way to the next spot an entire couch, tagged most probably by the people who dumped it, bobs up and down on the incoming tide. The mangroves appear to be holding onto it pretty tight, so we decide to collect it on the way back.

For the next couple of hours we make three or four stops where rubbish has accumulated, picking up the usual suspects of plastic bottles, polystyrene blocks, plastic bags, balls, and small pieces of layered foam that Hayden says is uses by glaziers to separate window panes. It’s remarkable that about 10 per cent of the plastic I pick up I have no idea what it is used for. 

All told we get about 20 bags of rubbish, which at 50 litres a bag, is a pretty good haul. We head back, picking up the couch on the return to Westhaven before I head out to my day job.

One thought on “The trashy treasures of Auckland’s Henderson Creek

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Belgian beach clean-ups in three languages

Belgium. Brussels, beers and, er, beaches? Indeed. And the North Sea coastline of this beautiful country faces the same trash problems of those the world over. The man behind beachcleanup.eu speaks to Team Pacific Rowers about his clean ups and education campaigns – all done in three languages.


Gregory feeds seals – just before they were released back into the wild – that he and his group saved.

Tell us about yourself

My name is Gregory Landuyt. I am 22 years old and from Belgium.

Describe what it is you do

With my website beachcleanup.eu I try to reach the children. I’m also working on an educational program with interactive pages on my website.

The second part of my work is organising a beach trash kids festival where you can learn about and play with trash 

Before that I’ve organised beach clean-ups in Blankenberge and Zeebrugge (Bruges) in the name of Sea First vzw and with the cooperation of my colleagues in SEA LIFE.

Where do you organise beach clean-ups

I organize my actions on the Belgian coasts.

Why do you organise beach clean ups?

Ever since I was born I love the seas and anything around them so when I finished school I applied for a job at the National SEA LIFE Marine Park in Blankenberge. SEA LIFE is a brand of the Merlin Entertainments group and it’s the biggest group of aquariums in the whole world.

Gregory's beach clean ups attract dozens of conscientious Belgians.

Gregory’s beach clean ups attract dozens of conscientious Belgians.

I worked there as a general assistant and an educational entertainer. I learnt a lot about caring for oceans and I worked at the rescue center for sick or wounded seals. I’ve learnt a lot there and I’m happy I had that experience. I did this job for more than three years. Right now I’m still a shark specialist. I don’t know everything but I know a lot. It often happens that biologic teachers ask me as guest teacher to speak about sharks.

I started to organise them because they asked me to and right now I organise my actions because I like to do it.

How often do they happen? How do you promote them?

I organise a real action once a year. I promote these by social media, tv, radio, flyers and posters.

How many people come along? Are there lots of regular faces? What would you say, generally, are their reasons for doing so?

The past years there were a lot of people. Sometimes there were even too many people so we didn’t have enough trash – hahaha.

Of course there were faces who returned each year. They did because they love nature and because they were in the Sea First organisation.

What are the most common articles you find?

Coca cola cans and bottles.

What have been the most bizarre?

We once found a full playground climbing net, some underwear, a sweater and we also found once or twice a condom.

Buoy, that's a good find.

Buoy, that’s a good find.

Is there a strong beach-clean community where you are?

There are lots of beach clean ups but we have lots of trash on our beach, though the government tries to keep them clean by placing trashcans every 15 metres on the beach.

People are very lazy on getting up to walk a few metres for a trashcan. Some of them use a plastic bag whole day long and then drop it next to the trashcan.

Your website mentioned you do education work: describe what it is you do.

I’m working very hard on an educational package for schools which will be available for download September 2014. This package will be filled with educational games to learn about trash and you will also be able to work along with the educational pages that require a personal login for scholars.

Have you noticed a decline or increase in the amount of trash you find on the beaches?

Not really, each year we found approximately the same amount of trash except for last year. Then we found even more, but that’s because the distance we’ve cleaned was larger.


Gregory, hard at it.

The beach of Nieuwpoort and Ostend are the two most littered beaches in Belgium.

What do you think needs to change for us to better keep rubbish off our beaches and seas?

I think we need to learn children about the huge trash problems. Their parents apparently don’t do anything until someone dies or get hurt, so perhaps if children are well learned they can set an example for their parents.

Find Gregory on Twitter at @BeachCleanUp_be or email info@beachcleanup.eu

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Tamaki River clean-up (after snorkelling for an anchor)

Weather moves across Waitemata Harbour.

Weather moves across Waitemata Harbour.

Skipper Ben was closely looking at his Garmin sea chart to try to find out where he tried to anchor the boat the previous day, before it had started alarmingly drifting.

We were just off Rangitoto Island. The previous day’s sea clean had been here but had to be quickly abandoned after the anchor, about $NZ800 of kit, dropped off the chain and let the boat go the way of the current and wind (whichever was strongest).

My first job on Team Pacific Rowers’ day out with Auckland’s SEA CLEANERS last Thursday was to try to find it. As someone who loves mucking about in the sea, I couldn’t wait, quickly whacking on the snorkel and mask and leaping off the boat into the cool, refreshing water as Ben dragged a hook along the sandy sea bed.

The water was about three metres deep. And murky. After about 10 dives to the bottom we aborted. The visibility was less than a metre and my ability to hold my breath absolutely shocking. A tank is definitely needed.

The south-westerly wind was beginning to drag in some patchy weather. Having spent just over an hour around Rangitoto looking for the anchor we decided to go somewhere that was going to be trash heavy. We were going to the Tamaki River.

The Tamaki River.

The Tamaki River.

Auckland’s Tamaki River runs through the south east of the city, unloading into the Hauraki Gulf between Glendowie and Bucklands Beach, opposite Browns Island, which was the first piece of Auckland owned by a European.

Ben guided the boat through the eastern suburbs for about 20 minutes until he decided he had found a spot. I couldn’t see anything on the bank. I swear he has a sixth sense for these things.

We anchored up (with a substitute anchor), unloaded the kayaks and paddled to the area next to the weir. I made the mistake of stepping onto the muddy bank, and was soon thigh deep in thick, unpleasant mud. I managed to pull out my leg, relieved I had tied on my shoe pretty tight but curling my toes anyway to make sure it stayed on.

I then kayaked to where the rocks and concrete were.

Ben’s instinct served him well, but Auckland’s rivers are where you will always find the biggest concentration of rubbish. Having also been up and seen what’s in Henderson Creek and the Whau River, I was able to put the Tamaki River into the same category. I love sea cleaning on the beautiful islands of the Hauraki Gulf, but this is the business end of the location spectrum.

A haul from about 150 metres of Tamaki riverbank

A haul from about 150 metres of Tamaki riverbank.

As the rain kept coming and going, we collected 20 bags of rubbish (plus a bike wheel, with air still in the tyre, and a kids plastic motorbike) from a section of river bank certainly no more than 200 metres long: coming straight form the urban areas, plastic bags and water bottles featured heavily. As did nappies. Used, stinky nappies (are reusable ones that much more awkward?).

Sadly the urban waterways always reveal evidence of flytipping. It makes Ben sad that some people don’t seem to care.

We managed to load it all onto one kayak, which we towed with the other. The weather was imposing, and I had to start my job at 2.30pm, so we made our way back out of the river – spotting which decrepit yachts we’d most like to bring back to life – and back to Westhaven and home at pier U2.



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