M/Y Pi Rowing for Cleaner Oceans

9 March 2021 By Laura Shaughnessy

Although the 16 crewmembers aboard M/Y Pi set out to raise €5,000 on their GoFundMe page to help end plastic pollution in the seas, it only took a few days to meet their goal. They rowed continuously for at least 12 hours a day for the duration of the three-week crossing from Amsterdam to the Panama Canal from January 23 to February 17.

“We raised the bar up to €12,500, which also surprisingly was an easy target for us,” says Chief Stewardess Jonna Eriksson of M/Y Pi. “It has been incredible to watch how many people have been involved and shared our story on social media as well as word of mouth. As per today, the donations reached €25,205, which exceeded all our expectations.”

The original goal was to row until we reached Panama Canal, but the crew collectively choose to continue to reach a higher goal. “The rower did not stop!”

Before beginning their ambitious goal, they created the page on January 6 with the hashtag #KeepTheSeaPlasticFree. By the time they finished their journey on February 17, they had rowed 5,500 nautical miles across the Atlantic.

“Alex Boulton, the chief officer, wanted to do something different and active for charity over the crossing to keep fit and feel good rather than just work and sleep,” says Eriksson. “Combining fitness and our passion for conservation, the Pi rowing for a cleaner ocean was a natural challenge for us.” The Ocean Clean Up charity made the most sense for Pi as it is their element, living and working at sea, says Eriksson. “We all got together as a crew and bought the rower ourselves as we didn’t have one onboard.”

She admits it was a bit tricky to figure out everyone’s rowing schedule — they just took an hour out from their working hours as the rowing for charity was their main priority. The watchkeepers needed to row before or after their bridge watch to get the machine going continuously for the 12 hours each day. “For most of the crossing, we actually put in more hours than 12. Crew just couldn’t get enough!”

Clearly, the crew’s commitment conjured up some healthy rivalry between them. Especially “as the weeks continued and personal bests got beaten daily, the crew got very competitive, including Capt. Adam Steel,” says the chief stew. With an anonymous donation of €500 on the line, the challenge was on to beat 16,500 meters in an hour, which was live streamed on their Instagram page (@Pi_Rowing_For_A_Cleaner_Ocean_) on the last day of rowing as they entered into Pacific Ocean.

The crew as a whole is very active in general so the biggest challenge was to mentally push through the first 20 minutes of the hour when their hands, back, and bum are already sore from the previous day, says Eriksson. “My time slot was early on the morning at 5:30 straight out of bed,” she says. “Each night, I prepped my gym gear on my bedside table for the next morning, as well as filled up my water bottle and decided which Spotify playlist to listen to. An espresso shot and a glass of water got me through my sixty minutes of rowing each morning.”

Since initially choosing the #KeepTheSeaPlasticFree hashtag for their GoFundMe page while in Amsterdam, they’ve now made up their own hashtag #PIPROUD. The chief stew says it has been “used in the Captain’s noon-reports as a symbol of how proud we are of our achievements.”

Erikkson adds that they’ve heard about other yacht crew who are being inspired by their charity work and doing the same or something similar. “We have also thought about engraving our rowing machine with PI, the distance rowed, and the amount raised for charity to then pass on to other yacht crew to do the same and continue to raise awareness.”

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