Poly-Mer the world’s first vessel built from recycled plastic

A small group of parents and staff from Canary Wharf College came together to find ways that we could enhance the school and raise money for outdoor activities. I was lucky enough to be part of this group.

One person said “how about building a boat, to use to clean our docks”.

This was the birth of the idea. We used a safety vessel, kindly lent to us by the DSWC, and took out our own children to trail the idea.  We set off on a cold, wet February weekend in the search for plastic rubbish and treasure! As the horizontal rain lashed down, we adults wondered “why are we doing this?” but the children loved it, young Harry said “this is not fishing, this is so much more than fishing”. They had a BALL, thrived on it, it was from this moment we knew we had a winner.

The “Original Plastic Fishing Team at the Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre, Feb 2017.

“This is not Fishing, this is so much more than fishing”! 

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We looked at other vessels claiming to be of recycled plastic but on inspection were only using a fraction of recycled material. We wanted the hull of our vessel to be as near to 100% recycled material, as possible.  At this point we began working with the Hubbub Foundation, who helped us to get the project started by sponsoring our first few test runs with children from the school (Canary Wharf College). Hubbub were also working on a clean up project in the Thames and had close links with the recycling industry and the recycling plastic industry.

_DSC3533Photo: Lynn Bew Images

In the mean time, my knowledge was getting more in depth. We could not roto mould as the plastic is not pure enough, any impurity in the recycled plastic mix would make the plastic tear.  All objects made from recycled plastic (outdoor bins, chairs and playground equipment) are from large clumpy materials.  We were going to have to build from this material and this lead to other problems:

  • It is VERY heavy
  • It bends a lot
  • Nothing will glue to it very well, the surfaces are too shiney
  • It has no tensile strength

I spoke to a few boat builders and hit a brick wall. Towards the end, all enquires led to Mark Edwards MBE of Richmond Boat Builders.  Gavin from Hubbub and myself went to see Mark in his workshop, to me it was a cross between the best toy shop, sweet shop and Diagon Alley all rolled into one. I was not hopeful, as Mark is a traditional boat builder making amazing project including the Queens Gloriana, here we were asking him to use plastic.

His eyes lit up, “yes I have used this for other projects it is great and yes I would love to build you a boat made out of recycled plastic, I look forward to the challenge”

Samples of the plastic were sent to him and he looked at methods to glue and join the plastic together, the suppliers plas wood could make extruded planks as well as sheets of plastic.  Mark suggested using traditional copper clasps, which are used in traditional clinker boat building, and this turned out to be an extremely effective method as it was tight and gave a degree of movement.

For the design we needed to have a vessel that would take twelve people, have the space to work, to be ok with all the people on one side and had to clear the lowest bridge in the Millwall Docks which is 1.5m above the water.  It became clear that we needed a punt shaped vessel. Mark came up with a sketch, I wanted to have an idea of sizes and scale  so I transferred this to old fashioned graph paper below, the finished vessel was pretty much the same as the drawing.

My drawing of Poly-Mer 

The Build

As the plastic is floppy, a mould of the underside of the vessel had to be built and the vessel built on top until she was strong enough to have her own strength.

I was lucky to be there for the laying of the first piece of plastic.

IMG_4721Photo: City Sailing

Pretty soon she started to take shape.

DCIM101GOPROGOPR2204.JPGPhoto: City Sailing

To get buoyancy to float and to give strength, the floor and sides were glued between light foam. This foam does not take up water, we submerged a sample for weeks and it remained dry. Then this was enclosed and the floor was laid on top.

DCIM101GOPROGOPR2296.JPGPhoto: City Sailing

Next she was taken out the shed and tested on the water.  She was them subjected to a “swamp test”, she was loaded with weights to simulate people, and the electric outboard and then loaded with water and swished from side to side. She passed this with flying colours.

IMG_2702 (1)Photo Hubbub

The Launch 

The launch was an amazing day, with so many different people coming together. Jack and I turned up at the DSWC at 0700 to the sun rising over the dock.

After speeches Poly-Mer was named and took her first trips.

plastic fish itv tripPhoto: City Sailing

I am are proud to be  involved with Poly-Mer and look forward to her giving joy  and slowly changing our attitude to plastic.

Paul Bew
City Sailing





RYA Yacht Master Instructor Sail Update

RYA Yacht Master Instructor Update.


This is a course/update that many people dread and feel it is an evil necessity. Recently I have been subjecting myself to other exams and came to this in a much more positive note with the attitude of:

  • It is lovely to get out for a sail with an experienced instructor and other people who are in my position and I would never normally sail with.
  • How lovely to see a process run by another school (RYA) to see how they get on with the booking process, delivery and feedback (none requested)
  • Do not let qualifications slip as it would be so difficult to get them back.
  • Lets try and learn something from everyone

Over the years I had let me RYA Dinghy Senior Instructors lapse by not teaching for 10 years although I had been actively teaching  RYA Yachting and RYA Theory, they made me start ALL over again from pre assessment to DI and then SI costing me 2 weeks away and over £1000 in total, my advice is do not let certificates lapse.

As I was travelling from London I wanted to get away before the traffic and arrived two hours early! I called our instructor (as an instructor I like my own time in set up and get distracted when students come early), he said please come over and give a hand.

Roger Semour was happy and pleased to see me, we worked together to sort out the vessel and I found this time invaluable to learn he vessel and systems. At 8pm the others arrived and Roger gave a friendly introduction.

This is the fourth YMI update I have attended and also the most relaxed and informative, Roger does have a kind relaxing way about him and it is clear he is there for the love of sailing and helping people.

He said at the beginning that what is said on the vessel stays on the vessel, there were a lot of hot and varied topics spoken about openly by five experienced sailors and school owners. A lot of this can never be in this blog!

During the next two days Roger covered the syllabus, not once did the dialog stop, we covered, theory, sailing and lots of exercises including night sailing/motoring around the Bramble Bank. There seems a lot more emphasis on electronics including radar and the knowledge of using them effectively although the equipment on the boat was six years old and we had better equipment on our phones! There was no such thing as a silly question and all topics were covered by all of us, Roger was keen on sailing whenever we could and was also keen on putting some miles in.

Roger kept us at ease and made an environment that was easy to learn and enjoy. Over the years I have made sure my updates are run by different people and have enjoyed them all, but more so as time goes on.


The update was worth doing and worth the money, the experienced group of people that the RYA use are very good and the formula works.  It would be nice to be met on the last day by someone from RYA Training for a Q and A and intro, (we had this from the dinghy dept when I did the Dinghy SI).  Feedback was not requested by the RYA.

Do NOT let your ticket lapse as I did for the dinghies, it is so hard to get it back, go early, do lots of prep, take lots of props and enjoy the session.




Tips and Tricks for the Fastnet Race

Having done the Fastnet Race a few times both as crew and skipper I feel there are some tips and tricks to help you for the race.

1 Prep you and the boat

Rig check, empty your boat and unload everything you do not need, weight is key.  Consider an out of the water inspection especially if you have hit the bottom recently!  Book a lift out, wet and dry the bottom to get a smooth weed free finish, also polish the topsides and deck.  The psychological  advantage of a clean bum, shiny boat and water beading on the topsides  will help you believe in your performance.

2 Train train and train

Train everybody for each job on board especially for kite gybes.  Have people’s main positions which you can slip into at key times such as the start and night gybes.  By training everyone for every job people will have an understanding of how their job affects other people.

3 Learn from the offshore races

Learn how people are affected by seasickness, and how you are going to cater for the race.

4 Get rested the night before

Sleep and rest is key, a rested crew is a fast crew!

5 Have tides prepped and the weather prepped beforehand

Do not leave these jobs to on board when they can all be done at home.

6 Read the Race Instructions well before the race. 

7 Start on the line! 

8  Sleep whenever you can ( you are not all needed all the time)

If the wind is light or you are off the wind extra people on deck will get in the way, it is best to give people the extra rest for the future.

9  Eat Drink and keep warm

10 Think of the race as lots of short races

In your mind section the race to lots of short races, Lands End is NOT home, the winning and loosing is in the last 50 miles, save some energy for the last big push.

11 Apply the same pressure and concentration at 4am as durning the day

4am is when the human body is at its lowest so apply extra pressure pressure then to get the edge on your rivals!

12 The last 20% of the race is the decider

This is when you are running on fumes, if you have the energy left here it is where the difference is made.

6 Enjoy yourself to the max! 

There are few occasions where you will see the sun rise and set, dolphins during the night and the sky without light pollution to see the shooting stars and satellites.

Paul Bew-1  Paul Bew http://www.citysailing.com


Why Should I do First Aid? – Paul Bew City Sailing

Why Should I do First Aid?

Last night on the way back from an exhibition at Alexandria Palace we drove past the emergency services administering Chest Compressions (CPR) to a poor chap on the pavement.  He was lucky he had the emergency services with him, I wondered how many people would be trained and willing to help if they were not there.  I also thoughts of other First Aid Incidents:

A lady collapsing on the jubilee line in a packed carriage, I was the only person who helped her.

A motorcyclist hit the back of a bus head on and I was the only first aider.

One of our customers who a after one of our courses attended a cyclist and administered first saving his life.

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As a family man it would be a reckless abandonment of  my unreserved duty of care to my children as to not know what to do if my little ones stopped breathing, had a bad fall, road accident or choked on an object.

A first aid course only takes a day (or two evenings), we all use the roads where 1700 people die and 23000 people have a life changing injury each year so the chances of needing first aid are pretty high.

The problem with first aid is that we say:

It won’t happen to us.
Someone else will do it.
I would be no good in an emergency.
I do not like blood.

Well, –  during our courses we teach you not only what to do, but we bury in the depth of your mind the mantra below so when you have a first aid situation you will go into auto pilot.


Danger  (Take a deep breath and check there is no dander to you).

Response (shout at them and gently shake them, you do not want to give the kiss of life to someone sleeping!).


Airway (Tilt the head back carefully)

Breathing (Check they are breathing properly – gasps should be taken as not normal breathing)

GET HELP 999, 112 or any other method.

CPR (if there is no breathing give 30 chest compressions and 2 rescue breath.)

If you do nothing

At 3 to 4 mins brain damage occurs.

If you do chest compressions only 

At about 5-10 mins brain damage occurs (depending on the oxygen in their blood stream when you start) but this could be the time it takes for emergency services take to get to the situation.

If you do chest compressions and rescue breaths

You will keep the person alive indefinitely. Fabrice Muamba was kept alive for 78 mins.


What is a AED and why are they now everywhere now?

An AED is an Automatic External Defibrillator.  If someone has a heart attack their survival rate is 6%, with an AED it is 38%, it DOES make a difference.

Are they difficult to use?

NO, press the on button listen to the voice prompts and follow the commands it is very easy.


So with such little training YOU course save the live of a loved one or save the life of another persons loved one, stop putting on the excuses and book some training today.

Paul Bew-1

Paul Bew

Paul owns and runs City Training and City Sailing and offers many courses in London,  to groups, individuals and families. He specialises in Sailing First Aid and Sailing courses.




How Can I get into Sailing?

I often get asked by people, “how do I get into sailing”?

There are many ways for getting out on the water, here are a few below.

Learn to dinghy Sail

If you are learning the best place to start is a RYA Level 1 Dinghy Sailing Course,  Details are HERE, this is only a weekend and you will learn the principles of sailing, wind awareness and by the end of the weekend you will be sailing your dinghy in triangular courses without an instructor.  These skill is invaluable and is directly transferable to yacht sailing as your yacht is a glorified dinghy where you can make a cup of tea. Our local Sailing Centre is near Canary Wharf  on the safe Millwall Dock.   Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre.


Do a RYA Theory Course

Especially in the winter it is a good thing to get the theory done so  you can spend your time sailing and not learning at the chart table. We would recommend to start with:


RYA Day Skipper Theory  This is a beginners class that will teach you all you need to know before to go on a yacht.

RYA Sea Survival Course  This is a course that will prepare you if it all goes wrong, it involves a practical session in the pool as well as a seeing a lifejacket inflate.

City Sailing

There are other theory courses which will further help you with your sailing, many of them are entry level and will broaden your knowledge base.

City Sailing Club Meet Up  

This is an on line sailing club where members can organise sailing trips, socials and where special deals are posted, it is a great way to meet people who are interested in sailing and also a most cost effective way to get on the water. It is growing all the time and has over 700 members, please join us.

Join a race crew with the RORC register (Royal Ocean Racing Club).

Surprisingly as long as you can commit to a whole season or race program then people will take you on as a race crew even if you have little experience.  You are not expected to pay a fee and your only expense maybe a share of the food.  It is a great way to meet a team and to get lots of miles of fun, but you HAVE to be committed to the season and put in work hard.

Yacht Deliveries 

I started with deliveries and did a couple of Ocean Crossings with Nick Irvine at Reliance , this took me to the USA, St Martin, Bermuda and from Corsica to the BVI.  It gave me over 10,000 miles and memories I will never forget, if you have a chunk of time it is well worth doing and will only cost you a small joining fee and your expenses.

Sailing Clubs 

There are many cracking sailing clubs in the UK, I belong to the Holy Loch Sailing Club and sponsor the City Sailing HLSC Regatta.  The club is a great way to socialialise and keep your sailing skills, if you have children they will love the sailing club.

Charter in the UK   Free Gin

Chartering is a great way to sail, you do not have to invest a lump sum, you do not have all the headache and bills of your own boat and you can change your venue at will..  Chartering has come a long way, the boats are more user friendly, you can also get great deals in the winter.  If you charter through Fairview Charters and mention City Sailing then you even get a free bottle of Gin from City Sailing.


Charter Abroad More Free Gin 

With the Euro getting cheaper and guaranteed sun then the med is getting very popular especially  Croatia and Greece.  If you book outside the school holidays you get a lot more for your Euro.   SeaMaster  offer a cracking service where they give you a great vessel, location choice and even integrate their searches to get you the best flights including Easy Jet and Ryan Air. Have a look at the link, if you charter through the link you will get a £50 discount off your charter AND a bottle of Gin courtesy of City Sailing.

Sailing in the med

How do I become a skipper? –  Watch out for the next blog.

Paul Bew
Paul is a RYA Yachtmaster Instructor and Examiner and has owned sailing schools for 15 years, he also has been a Sail Training Skipper and has worked on Square riggers. His is the principal of City Sailing London.