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Golden Gate Bridge good-bye

SAUSALITO, Calif.--At 9:30 a.m. PDT Saturday, precisely on time, the Plastiki, a "boat made of 12,000 plastic bottles" and the brainchild of banking heir David de Rothschild, set sail from a berth here in this town just north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The Plastiki is not just the world's first boat made buoyant by discarded soda bottles. It's also a statement about the world's garbage problem, and the fact that most plastic bottles are thrown away rather than recycled.

The intent is to sail the boat 11,000 nautical miles from Sausalito to Sydney, Australia. It is carrying about 1,000 liters of water, meaning the crew will have to stop from time to time to resupply. But they have fishing rods onboard, so at least some of their food, in theory, will come from the sea.

Among the inspirations for the project, in addition to bring attention to the way humans are treating our environment, is the Kon-Tiki expedition, Thor Heyerdahl's 1947 trip across the Pacific in a boat that was a reproduction of an Inca raft.

In keeping with tradition, the Plastiki will pay even more homage to Heyerdahl. Among the six crew members is Olav Heyerdahl, Thor's grandson.

Here, the Plastiki is seen as it has just sailed underneath the Golden Gate Bridge and heads for the Pacific. Its journey has just begun.

Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Plastiki at Sausalito dock

The Plastiki as seen from shore as it prepares for launch. The boat set sail Saturday morning from Sausalito, Calif., en route to Sydney, Australia.
Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Behind the catamaran

The Plastiki's decks, skeletal hull, and cabin are made from composite Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) plastic panels. Each has layers of self-reinforcing PET skins. The boat is a catamaran, and is made buoyant by 12,000 recycled soda bottles.
Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET

David de Rothschild smiling

Expedition leader David de Rothschild (left) smiles as he talks to another member of his crew in the minutes before the Plastiki's launch. "If we really want to move from Planet 1.0 to Planet 2.0, we need to really start taking action and stop just talking," de Rothschild has said.
Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Many bottles

Just some of the 12,000 recycled 2-liter soda bottles used to make the Plastiki.
Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET


The thousands of bottles are fused at the top and the bottom. Together, they are what will keep the 60-foot high-tech catamaran afloat.
Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Dog and dome

This dog didn't leave with the Plastiki, but it's seen here in the final minutes before launch in front of the boat's dome-like cabin.
Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Barking over bottles

The dog wants everyone to know just how much it wanted to go on the expedition.
Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Three crew members smiling

From left, expedition leader David de Rothschild and co-skippers Jo Royle and David Thompson smile for cameras just before departure.
Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Plastiki solar panels

These solar panels will help power the Plastiki on its journey across the sea.
Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET


A plant is enclosed and held aloft above the deck of the Plastiki.
Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Olav Heyerdahl

Crew member Olav Heyerdahl, grandson of Kon-Tiki expedition head Thor Heyerdahl, is seen on Plastiki's deck on Saturday, March 20, in Sausalito, Calif.
Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET


Fans of the Plastiki expedition can follow the boat's progress online at or on Twitter.
Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Filming David

Almost every aspect of the expedition is being filmed for a documentary project. Here, just before launch, David de Rothschild is caught on camera.
Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Pushing off

At 9:30 a.m. PDT on Saturday, the shore crew pushed the boat away from the dock, and its 11,000-nautical-mile journey was under way.
Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Waving good-bye

Crew members wave good-bye from the Plastiki as their expedition begins.
Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Moving away from dock

The Plastiki moves slowly away from shore.
Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Sailing away

Just a minute after launch, the Plastiki is already fading into the horizon. Its journey to Australia could take months.
Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Under the Golden Gate Bridge

If you set sail for Australia from inside the San Francisco Bay, you must go under the Golden Gate Bridge before you hit open water. Here, the Plastiki does just that.
Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Coming out from Bridge

The Plastiki emerges from under the Golden Gate Bridge, escorted by several other boats.
Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Open water

The Plastiki hits open water after passing under the Golden Gate Bridge. It now must travel 11,000 nautical miles before it hits its destination.
Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET


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