Fairtransport is much more than a shipping company by Giulia
If there is something that a bunch of sailors like us, especially after a long or a rough passage, is longing for the most, is cold beer. Even better if you can toast with it with some friends. Therefore, coming back to Brixham, the first stop we did at the beginning of the voyage back in November, was very special and unique for us, quite meaningful, feeling like we could start to close the loop before getting to the final end, Amsterdam.
After these long 9 months at sea, far away and mostly disconnected from whoever and whatever belongs to that familiar so-called comfort zone, there is actually quite nothing like arriving in a harbor and knowing a bunch of good old friends will be there. Magic Brixham made the job, blessing us all.
Remi informed us about his decision to look for shelter there, waiting for the winds to turn instead of struggling in the bloody Channel. We were extremely glad and thankful to our Captain for it already when he made us even happier telling that Nordlys was on her way as well.
We arrived first, with some nice favorable winds that pushed us gently and fast to the good old Devon harbor. The news from the Nordlys let us imagine that it would have taken a few more days for them to join us at the pub. So we threw ourselves on shore, first jumping on Iris, where Toni Knights (a local sailor, fisherman, artist, and long-time Fairtransport friend) was waiting for us while preparing his vessel for a traditional race happening that weekend.
Later on, we joined up at the pub, this time on a hot sunny terrace and not squeezed inside the Blue Anchor around the fireplace like in November when outside was pouring rain and we had all the voyage in front of us.
Brixham is exploding of summer now, the rainbow colors of the bars around the harbor and the cottages up the hill shine in the sun, the seagulls are quite busy stealing the many kids' ice creams and the little ones revenge themselves fishing crabs taking advantage of the tides, letting them miserably boil in buckets after.
Far away along the coast the steam train of Agatha Christie screams running alongside the green shores of the bay which look soft and lush, dense in flowers and smells. The British Riviera has its charm and it felt somehow exotic after all these months in the West Indies.
We spent a funny night at the pub all together after a traditional fish and chips ritual feast.
Collin and I slept on deck, as usual when not sailing, and when very early in the morning he whispered to me 'Isn't that Nordlys?', I looked at the other side of the bay and there we saw a beautiful ship with typical Brixham red sails. If we would have been in any other part of the world, it would have been obvious that she was Nordlys, but a Brixham trawler sailing in Brixham bay can also be confused.
But an engineless sailing vessel is an engineless sailing vessel everywhere, and the maneuvers are pretty impossible to mistake. That ship was sailing in a blissful calm morning...actually tacking, in a windless morning...for sure that was our sister Nordlys, slowly approaching us. We jumped out of bed, ignoring that we slept just 4 hours and we had 2 wet weeks of sailing on the back and a nice fair hangover on the head.
In a moment Remi was also out, like every captain he sleeps with ears half open always. It was still quite early but in a while, half of the crew was on deck, even if sleepy and clumsy. Lewis prepared the dinghy to tow them if needed and we watched them tacking back and fore, getting closer and closer, till we heard the horn playing in the chilly morning air. We ran to take our out as well and sent our greeting back in return.
This sound means a lot to us, we play it on special occasions, tradition wants it to be played every time a crew member leaves. So there is a farewell feeling stuck to this deep sound. Sometimes a bit sad. But this time it was a welcoming greeting sound that lifted up, the two sister ships horning at each other like blue whales that meet in the vastitude blueness of the open ocean. A little group of us boarded the dinghy and we headed towards them.
The closer we got, the more recognizable bodies and faces became, and the more my heart was beating loud. Nordlys was sailing beautifully in Anne Flore's experienced hands at the helm with the BFG Lenno busy at the ropes, and there they were, my refit buddies, Rosa, Jake, Martin, Henk. I must admit, when I saw Rosa and Jake standing next to each other at midship and our eyes met, it was a damn good thrill that sparked my spine and my eyes begun to itch, my lips opened the biggest smile I could offer and the only thing I could scream was 'Sorry, the ice cream shop was still closed!'. Those two were the last familiar faces I had seen in November before all this crazy adventure began. They were on the boat that towed us out of the locks in Den Helder, with Saskia and Andreas and Alio, they waved at us blessing our journey and whispering good wishes for us at the wind and the sea, while we disappeared beyond the horizon heading West. Many months have passed and the excitement to meet again was touchable.
We went waiting for them on the peer, we caught their lines to secure the ship to the mooring cleats, and then I could not contain myself anymore, I stepped on board and literally jumped on Rosa. It felt so damn good. Right behind there, Jake was standing. His happy and quite smile felt so warm. Ah, those two...
While we were complaining like dicks about the heat and the sun of the Caribbean, these two, together with Andreas and a little group of highlanders, after refitting the Tres Hombres, cleaned up the mess, welcomed the Nordlys, got over a whole refit again enduring a harsh dutch winter, and at the same time successfully attended the Enkhuizen Sailing School, getting their diplomas and their deserved bunks on Nordlys right after. They even found the time to start working on their own little sailing boat! I was, I am, so so so proud of them, and I have been thinking and missing those two quite a lot during the journey. They are a big inspiration, and their friendship means a lot to me.
Martin was there too, the super dude that took over the kitchen during the last weeks of refit allowing me not to think about cooking and concentrate getting myself and the galley ready for the voyage. It was awesome to share our interest in food and local production after this experience.
Meeting Jeroen, Nordlys' legendary cook, was also a cool encounter. I have heard a lot about his great food and even greater passion and I was eager to spend some time with another ship cook, sharing tricks, knowledge, impressions, ideas, comparing our two galleys, the different routes our ships sail and therefore the differences of cooking challenges, products availability and provisioning possibilities.
And so, that night we ended up preparing thousands of donated mussels both Belgian and Italian style, experimenting new sauces, chatting, cooking, drinking the best beer I have tasted in a while (ps. if you ever meet Nordlys, make yourself a present and ask Jeroen about beer, satisfaction guaranteed) while on the Nordlys deck a nice bunch of sailors gathered under a golden sunset.
Few days later, while the winds were still making us wait, Michael, our former Bosun, landed too. He replied to Nordlys call for some help on deck and joined the crew the night before their departure. Collin and I were hiking on the other side of the river Dart, we missed the ferry to cross it and just thanks to a drunken sailor who gave us a dinghy ride, we made it in time to catch him. Ciao Mikey, hello and goodbye. It was quite hard to swallow this rashness, I wish I had more time to spend together, but I was already extra happy to be able to annoy him again, at least a little, like in the good old times of bunk buddies. Hasta la Proxima, senor Bosun!
So it was great. It was also the first time for me where I could appreciate Nordlys in all her unique ancient beauty. Even if you can feel how rough it could be to sail her and the little comfort you would have, the smaller size and the kind of rig would get you even closer to the wind, the sea, and the elements, offering some pure wild moments. In the end, if we would look for comfort, we would not go out at sea to sail with the winds on old wooden boats...
Her wooden masts, the jib boom sitting on the foredeck, the dwarfy pin rail, the shape of her hull, she is so different from her bigger sister Tres Hombres, but still you could definitely tell there is the same blood running in the veins of those wooden planks and the same kind of souls pulling those ropes and hoisting those sails.
Fairtransport is much more than a shipping company, and this encounter showed it beautifully. I even wish that it will never become one of those standardized company with uniform employees, losing that special bliss that makes it one of a kind and brought us all around the same fire. This was not a colleagues dinner, meeting or reunion, it was an authentic family party. It is a community of professional sailors and engaged souls, gathered around an idea, keeping it alive, giving blood and tears for a project that serves a much higher cause: a cleaner and liveable environment for us and the next generations, looking humbly at the past for a better future, admitting that something went wrong but we are still in time to catch up. Nobody of us is here doing this job for money neither for glory. From the outside, it can look extremely romantic and inviting, I know, and I remember the idea I had of it before actually joining. From the inside now I can tell honestly that it can be a hell of a job sometimes. There is for sure worse on earth, I don't dare to complain, but still, traditional sailing shipping without the easiness that nowadays technology offers to this world and industry, is quite something and not always an easy task. It is hard, exhausting, frustrating. And many other things. But if you are patient and stubborn enough, you will end up with a severe form of enjoyable Stockholm syndrome. This is what happened to me, at least. After a time of adjustment, I fell in love with the ship, the reasons why she exists, the message she carries and the people committed to spreading it, even if I felt kidnapped for a while and I have been missing land and my freedom there quite a lot, I firmly believe now that this has been the most enriching year of my life.
After thousands and thousands of miles sailing in different latitudes and longitudes, today we crossed Greenwich and we are now slowly approaching Dover strait, the bright whiteness of the cliffs marks our portside horizon in this warm afternoon in the bloody Channel. Amsterdam is almost in sight on the CPN, I start to feel my job here is nearly done, at least for this season. I will step off with a light singing heart, happy to have completed something that I was really not sure I could manage till the end when I started, and a damn heavy backpack full of precious learnings and unforgettable memories, feeling proud of my self and even more of my crew, who I will miss like crazy. I feel blessed and thankful for the opportunity I got to live such experience. After more than a year in the Fairtransport galley sweating and swearing at the rolling stove, it is time for holidays, pretty soon. It will feel weird.
But this is for later. For now, I am still here, we are still sailing, and the only thing that matters is that we have wind and it is almost dinner time, the becalmed stove is calling and I have to go...
Keep wild and stay zen as fuck
wherever you are.
See you all soon very soon,