The Flipflopi Expedition

Building a Dhow out of recycled materials

I‘m surprised to say this (given that I haven't been very active on social media), but thanks to facebook I encountered another wonderful project: The Flipflopi Expedition, a project with the aim of building a Dhow (traditional sailing boat) out of recycled plastic and flipflops. How cool is that! And they will go even further: Once it is finished they will sail the Flipflopi Dhow all the way from Lamu to Capetown to support the global movement campaigning against single use plastic.

Due to my my big passion for sailing and interest in the boat building process, I was very excited when I received a reply to the message I had sent immediately after reading about the expedition. Meeting Dipesh Pabari, one of the driving forces for this project, even increased my excitement about getting in touch with it. We were really able to inspire each other by talking about our recent activities and findings.

When hearing about their connections to Ocean Sole, the Watamu Marine Association and Regeneration Africa, it felt like coming to a full circle. And, also seeing that there was not much time left in this semester, I knew that it would most probably be the last chapter of this story. The last but not least! I can‘t imagine a more beautiful and inspiring end of my journey than going to Lamu and meeting Ben Morison (initiator of the Flipflopi Expedition) and the Dhow builders.

I came to Lamu just for the right weekend to join the launch of the building phase. After introducing me to the team, Ben explained to me how the Flipflopi Dhow will be built by showing me the construction of an original wooden Dhow as well as some samples out of recycled material.

Then we prepared everything for the launch, where the visitors were able to see the first eight recycled plastic pieces for the keel being assembled and to get a feeling for the size of the Flipflopi Dhow and the materials, but also just to inform themselves about the whole project.

Stern of the Dhow - original (left) and recycled plastic (right)

Bow of the Dhow - original (left) and recycled plastic (right)

As the main manufacturing partner for this project, Sam Ngaruiya from Regeneration Africa joined the launch as well on that day. The recycling company from Malindi is producing all the pieces for the Dhow in the same way they are producing the fencing posts. It is still a learning process though, to find the right mixture of materials in order to achieve the best outcome in terms of weight, strength and buoyancy.

Ali Skanda (chief boat builder) and Sam discussing details for the next order.

Many things still have to be tested and figured out, because this has never been done before: A Dhow made completely out of recycled plastic (collected on the beaches and streets of the coastal area of Kenya) and also sailing a Dhow all the way to Capetown! It can reach so many people, give them an understanding of the problem and show them a good example of how valuable all this littered material is. I am very happy to be involved in this now and will try to contribute as much as I can. (By the way: You can do it, too!)

Ben and Dipesh are always looking out for people with constructive projects to join or support - and what I am doing seemed to fulfil their expectations of a project which is worthy of being supported. Thanks to them, I was motivated to actually publish this story! (Asante sana guys, really!) There is a lot of things and ideas we discussed, so wait for more to come! And let's see, maybe you will see me jumping around happily on a plastic Dhow next year, sailing from Kenya to South Africa!


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