Friday, Oct 18th

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nordlys_ready_to_set_sail~ Fair Transport Sailing Vessel Nordlys is launched ~


St. Maarten has been graced by the traditional sailing vessel Tres Hombres several times over the past few years, bringing wine, olive oil, chocolate, cocoa, coffee, salt and other products from the traditional trade routes of old. Now a new member of the fair transport family is on the high seas.


Everything old is new again, as they say, and that certainly applies to the concept of fair transport. The idea is similar to fair trade, where artisans and farmers receive a fair portion of the ultimate selling price for their goods, rather than the “middle man” who might pay pennies for a cotton shirt and sell it for $50, pocketing the profit.


FAIR TRANSPORT is all about preserving the environment while keeping rich traditions alive. By sailing, without even a back-up engine on board, they are maintaining emission-free transportation with a focus on products which are organic, or traditionally crafted. A secondary goal is to raise awareness about the huge amounts of pollution created by the modern shipping industry and effect positive change in the way goods are shipped around the world.


Since September 2013, a huge refit took place at the old navy shipyard Willemsoord in Den Helder. Dozens of volunteers from many countries worked for two years to get this wooden ship ready to sail cargo, without engine, in the European waters. Thanks to this amazing group of volunteers, friends, supporters and investors, the sailing vessel Nordlys is now ready to join the fleet of Fair Transport vessels. Nordlys will take over the European trade routes so Tres Hombres can circumnavigate the Atlantic Ocean twice a year to pick up cargo.


Nordlys (Norwegian for "Northern Light") is a ketch rigged trawler built in 1873 at the Isle of Wight. After years of sailing cargo around the Norwegian coast, the ship was handed over to Fairtransport by the former owner Johan Sande.


DURING THE REFIT period, which took two years, many volunteers helped out. Several of them were veteran Tres Hombres crew, while others are waiting for their first time to be a part of a sailing adventure.


Nordlys comes to life again under the care of this enthusiastic crew:


Lammert - Captain & Electrician: “During the maiden voyage of Nordlys, we'll test her seaworthiness. See how she will perform, how close she can sail to the wind and what speed she can make.”


Gerhard (Denmark) - Officer & Engineer: “Three months ago, I arrived to help finish the refit of Nordlys, mainly electricity and steelwork like I did with Tres Hombres during the total refit period seven years ago. Nordlys probably performs at her best with a full cargo hold, like we experienced with Tres Hombres.”


Lucy (France) - Ordinary Sailor & Steelworker: “I heard about the project while I was taking a course at the Enkhuizer Nautical college one year ago. I decided to check it out and I stayed, I even postponed my course to work on Nordlys. During the last year, I learned how to work with steel and I've made many of the steel parts on board.”


Fabian (Switzerland) - Ordinary Sailor & Carpenter: “I got here to learn some new skills, after two and a half years of traveling; I never worked on a boat. One thing I really learned these few months... there are no 90-degree corners on this ship! Hopefully, we will be sailing to Portugal because our next carpenter-project is in Spain and Ivo and I would like to cycle from Portugal to Barcelona. While hitchhiking, my comrade Fabian met a friend of Captain Andreas and he told about the Nordlys Project in the Netherlands. We decided to go there and help finish the ship. I'm really looking forward to go sailing with such a vessel; it must be a really nice experience. It's a good way of traveling too! It suits my way of life. As traveling carpenters (Wandergesellen), we have to walk or hitchhike to our next project.”


Harold (Austria) - Ordinary Sailor & Carpenter: “For me, this project was a chance to leave Austria and learn more about boats. The project and all its surrounding passion are inspiring. I came to Den Helder to stay only for three months, but I decided to go to the Enkhuizer Nautical College soon after my arrival. Now I'm going to put my knowledge into action while sailing on Nordlys. During the refit period, I've learned all I know about working with wood and boat building. I'm really looking forward to feel how she sails.”


Jedna (UK) - Ordinary Sailor & Rigger: “I applied for a job at sailing vessel Phoenix and they told me about Nordlys. I decided to join the refit in Den Helder and learn more about boatbuilding. I used to sail daytrips in and around the Bristol Channel. During those trips, as soon as we started to smell the salt air, we had to turn ship and sail back. During those moments, I wanted to sail towards the salty air and sea! I'm really looking forward to set sail with Nordlys and I really hope we are able to sail to Bristol. That would be amazing.”


Jeroen (Belgium) - Cook & Able Bodied Seaman: “I learned about Tres Hombres and Fairtransport during the Bosun course at the Nautical College in Enkhuizen, Netherlands. After finishing the course, I helped out with the big refit of Tres Hombres in 2013. A few months later, I received a phone call about the new sailing cargo project Nordlys and I decided to join. This first trip with Nordlys, I will be the cook. I'm looking forward to experience and learn to sail a ship this size without engine. I really love the fact that the cargo decides what our destination will be.”


Tristan (France) - Ordinary Sailor & Carpenter: “I want to feel useful, and that's what I've felt refitting Nordlys here the past year. I came here to learn how to really sail, my only experience is sailing small boats and this is my chance to really learn it. We build many parts of Nordlys ourselves and on this trip, we'll experience if it all works the way it should.”


BY THE WAY, Tres Hombres sailed from the Caribbean to Europe this summer. She carried in her hold cacao beans from Grenada; coffee and rum from the Dominican Republic; and now for the first time, 100% pure, organic Aloe Vera gel and products from the small-scale ecological Bonaire-based company called Onima Aloe. The Aloe Vera company wants to show its enthusiasm for this sustainable effort and likes to support cargo shipped under sail, emission free, which links to its own ideology and production process.


Keep track of all the fair transport vessels’ journeys and current locations on the website (