Fair Trade, Fair Transport

And there it was, a little white dot on the horizon! Finally, after two weeks without touching land we could see the beautiful coast of the Basque Country, with his green hills and snow-white cliffs. We arrived in a thousands years old fisherman village and it seemed like the whole town had come to the harbor to welcome us. They invited us to a feast the next day, long tables filled with smelly sailors and local villagers, we ate, we drank and we sang sailor songs until deep in the night.

I sailed from Amsterdam to Spain on the Tres Hombres and the story of this boat started with a dream. A dream of three friends who were sailing the world and saw with their own eyes the huge amounts of pollution created by the modern shipping industry. They decided to found a company that sails cargo emission free with a focus on transporting special products which are organic, or crafted traditionally – such as olive oil, wine and rum, coffee and cacao-beans. Not just fair-trade but fair-transport! The ship I sailed on looks like a pirate ship, made out of wood with big white sails, and it smells like tar and linseed-oil. Every year it crosses the Atlantic to get cargo and it gives inspiration for sustainable transportation worldwide.

I still remember the moment I got the call that I was selected to be part of the crew that would sail to Spain to get organic wine from the Basque Country. I was already picturing myself climbing up the crow’s nest, gazing through the monocular with a parrot on my shoulder. Drinking rum all day and swimming  with dolphins. Ofcourse the reality is always very different from your expectations.

From the moment we left Amsterdam, my life belonged to the captain. He decided when I had to work, eat or sleep. You never sleep longer than 4 hours aboard and the lack of sleep influences people in ways you wouldn’t imagine. After a few days all my clothes were wet and our fresh fruit and vegetables started to rot. You don’t know what it’s like to throw away buckets of decaying food while your stomach is starving. I was tired, hungry and cold. 

It was hard to imagine that back in the days this way of transportation was the only way to cross the oceans. But before these ships where used to colonize and exploit and now we were sailing to make a difference in the world.

It was not just hardships on the journey, we also had these amazing moments; when we were sailing in the middle of the night, nothing but the stars above and the sound of the waves beneath. The first time I climbed the mast and I saw nothing but 360°degrees of water around us. Or this inner joy you feel when the dolphins were playing around the bow, jumping up and down like excited children on a playground.

But the most beautiful thing I saw was when we arrived at our destination. I would run our little store in the harbor, selling chocolate, rum and cacao-beans, and in the afternoon the couple from the local vineyard came to deliver the wine we would sail back to Amsterdam. The villagers came to help and we created a human chain into the cargo-hold. There and then I could feel it looking at the villagers and the crew, a sparkle in their eyes and a smile on their faces and I knew, that we were really making a change.

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