We’re a seasick crew. Sara, Nastassja and I take turns leaning over the railing while the three surfers on board—JP, Justin and Mary—lay supine on the deck trying to move as little as possible.

When the boat jolts from side to side I grip the railing tighter, fending off images of capsizing. But being on deck is nothing compared the kitchen’s nausea-inducing vortex, which I fondly refer to as the death zone. Anyone who stands in the galley experiences immediate vertigo from the ship’s constant lurching.

Right: 'Sea Dragon' and its crew.

Despite our debilitation, we’re a fantastic crew*. Professional surfers, a certified Divemaster and a former NASA staffer are just a few of the people on board. And our Captain, Dale Selvam, a cantankerous kiwi who lives in the Canary Islands, has spent the last 25 years sailing around the world.

On our trip, he’s fond of yelling, “JEFFERY!” to get our self-professed “boat monkey” to appear and act as his right hand man—literally. Dale tore his right shoulder just before departing—he ripped a tendon from his collarbone while playing a game of rugby with some Cook Islanders in Papeete. Since Dale’s doctor insisted he avoid heavy lifting, Jeff has been taking down the sails, working in the engine room and steering the boat.

Left: Chad and Nastassja, sea-sick.

And despite a few hiccups, namely, our incapacitated crew and not enough wind to power the boat, things are going well. We’re still scheduled to arrive in Rarotonga on May 14 and we’ll be able to start trawling once we’re out of French Polynesia, we only have permits to trawl in near the Cooks, and that’s where the plastic treasure hunt begins!

*Complete bios of all the crewmembers are on Pangaea’s website.

Editor’s note: The South Pacific Islands Survey is part of a larger multiyear expedition run by Pangaea Exploration, a nonprofit that investigates the health of marine life through exploration, conservation and educational outreach. The expedition focuses on marine debris, water quality, habitat conditions and overfishing in the world’s oceans. Specific emphasis is placed on the five gyres, or the five areas with the highest accumulation of plastic pollution.

About the Author: Lindsey Hoshaw is a freelance environmental journalist. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, the Boston Globe and Forbes, among others. In her spare time she moonlights as a garbologist studying people and the things they throw away. Follow her on Twitter @thegarbagegirl.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.