Being part of the crew on a sailboat is no cruise. Everything must be done on your own: the cooking, cleaning, maintenance of the ship and the actual sailing. Most people would prefer the modern luxury of cruising, but this October, Amador’s own Kimberly Wooten will willingly assume the role of sailor to partake in a once-in-a-lifetime research opportunity.
Wooten will join forces with a team of researchers on a journey of more than a thousand nautical miles, taking research on a very pertinent issue. Wooten was accepted to join eXXpedition, a research organization that has organized multiple scientific research trips this decade.
According to their press release, “eXXpedition Round the World 2019-2021 is an all-female sailing voyage and scientific research mission. Over 38,000 nautical miles and 30 voyage legs starting and ending in the United Kingdom, eXXpedition crews will explore plastics and toxics in our ocean, via four of the five oceanic gyres and the Arctic. Connected by a passion to protect our shared ocean, it will enable 300 women to go to sea as hands-on crew and experience first-hand the challenges we face from single-use plastics, while contributing to cutting-edge scientific research and solutions-based thinking.”
After a sizeable application process that took a few months, Kimberly Wooten was accepted to the first leg of the trip: a two-week sail from England to the Azores, a small island chain off the coast of Portugal. As a part of the crew for the first leg, she will apply her knowledge and experience of historical archaeology to the mission’s subject: single-use plastic.
For Wooten, it’s a natural fit.
“The perspective of historical archaeology seemed very relevant in studying single-use plastics,” she said. “It also seemed like a perfect way to combine my love of archaeology with my growing interest in environmental activism.”
When Wooten applied for the adventure, there were about 300 applications for 10 spots on each section of the mission, a very low acceptance rate. Since applying, the eXXpedition trip has gone viral. Now, there are nearly 4,500 applications for each leg.
A very unique aspect about this voyage is that the crew is staffed entirely and solely by women.
“I’m absolutely honored,” Wooten said of being a part of this opportunity. “I’ve met many strong, amazing women in the field of archaeology, but to be at sea for two weeks with all these amazing women, learning, sharing and growing together ... I can’t wait!”
On the local level, Kimberly is considered an “ambassador” for the cause and is committed to bringing outreach and awareness to the issues with single-use plastics.
So far, she has had an interview with Kat Everitt’s “Everywoman’s Hour,” and she was a guest in Lynn Vasquez’s class at Pioneer Elementary School, helping students with a class project about single-use plastics awareness.
“It’s amazing to have young kids already engaged in solutions,” Wooten said. “It gives me a lot of hope for the next generation.
“My favorite take away from that day was: Refuse! Along with reduce, reuse, and recycle. Just say no to the plastic products.”
Wooten’s upcoming two-week journey will be a profound moment both of professional research and of personal growth. The concept of sailing itself is a mental challenge for Kimberly.
“I joke with friends and family that I’ll spend the entire trip clinging to the mast, but I am genuinely afraid. The idea of being on the open ocean - this is full blue water sailing and we’re aiming for a tiny archipelago of islands almost 1,000 miles off the coast of Portugal - is kind of terrifying.”
Additionally, Kimberly will be celebrating her four-year survivorship of breast cancer while on the trip.
“Surviving cancer has taught me a lot about courage and overcoming, but that cancer isn’t something you choose to do,” she said. “Now I’m choosing to face fears, and so far, every step of this experience has required me to overcome my fears.”
Wooten will continue to face her fears in the months leading up to the trip, but when the ship anchors on the Azores, the memories and experiences of this incredible research opportunity will surely be unforgettable.