Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sea School prepares to launch 'recycled' vessel

Since October, students, staff and volunteers at Sanibel Sea School have been collecting hundreds of empty plastic bottles. Not just in an effort to increase awareness about the importance of recycling, but for an even greater purpose: to create their own boat.

On Thursday, Dec. 30 at approximately 1:30 p.m. – depending on how the wind blows, literally – the pupils at Camp Calypso will be launching their homemade sea-worthy vessel — T/S Calypso — made entirely out of plastic bottles, old fishing nets, recycled citrus bags and salvaged sailboat parts. 

"We started putting everything together last week," said Sea School founder Dr. Bruce Neill. "The kids have been stuffing plastic bottles for the pontoons. The fishing nets are full of plastic bottles!"

According to Dr. Neill, the two-week project is being carried out as a tribute to famed explorer and conservationist Jacques Cousteau, one of the forefathers of marine discovery and undersea exploration for a whole new generation. 

"It's important that our children learn about Cousteau through his sense of wonderment and discovery," he said. "That's what the Sanibel Sea School is all about."

While the students have been busy with gathering plastic bottles and painting pennants to decorate the boat, adults at the school have been doing some light construction work on the ship's platform. Dr. Neill estimated the project is nearing the final stages of construction, and will perform at "test launch" on Wednesday afternoon. 

"We have been ingenious enough to figure out how to make it float (we hope)… and we are determined to draw attention to the saga of plastic pollution in our oceans," a Sea School press release stated.

The 16-foot long by 12-foot wide vessel will be able to carry one or two adult and five to seven children at one time. Following next week's historic maiden voyage of the T/S Calypso from Sanibel Causeway Island A (closest to the mainland), Dr. Neill hopes that the boat becomes a permanent part of the Sea School fleet.

"It will be a terrific Huck Finn-type of raft that our students will be able to take out from time to time during our camp programs," he added.

For those islanders with young ocean explorers – and boat designers – aged 6 to 13, there are still a few slots open for next week's Holiday Camp, taking place Dec 27-31. Call 472-8585 for more information.

Dr. Neill and the school's staff are very grateful for the help of so many – from those who have donated plastic bottles, including the children at The Sanibel School, to Bailey’s General Store, The Bait Box, Ralph Woodring, Soon Come Contract Hauling and Soon Come Landscaping, Sun Harvest Citrus and Shoreline Lumber – and appreciate all of their support in this project. 

"Our red wool watch caps are off to all of you for your help!"

Sanibel Sea School is a Sanibel-based non-profit foundation whose vision is a world where people better understand, value and care for the ocean. 

"I think our students have learned just how much plastic is wasted and how much of it gets into the ocean," Dr. Neill added. "They will have a better understanding about ways we can reduce our plastic usage. That is ultimately what conservation is all about." By JEFF LYSIA
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