Last weeks – get in now!
I arrived in Den Helder, a maze of canals, locks, bridges and far too many ships, boats and docks, to find the Nordlys team. It turned out that they are immediately adjacent to the Tres Hombres / Fairtransport main office, so I had the priviledge of two visits for the price of one. I found Lammert, the captain of the Nordlys, who took me to the office and left me with a coffee and the fourth member of the board, the well dressed Derek. Photographing the extensive collection of nautical trivia, the supplies and parts for the Nordlys, Jorn’s wonderful drawings on old charts and the archive of all Tres Hombres rum bottles (except the newest one: it will be filled this week so I was not allowed to photograph it), I ended up chatting with Derek about the whole project.
Tres Hombres is rolling along nicely, with the rums selling well and the cargo all sold. In fact the Tres Hombres will be doing two trips this season, as there is so much to be transported. Thus the group are currently looking at getting a new ship on the slip, a complete new build, a 300 ton cargo capacity clipper ship. This should fulfill all the requirements for the Atlantic trading routes and free up the Tres Hombres to investigate new routes.
Meanwhile the Nordlys approaches being finished. In two weeks she sets off on her first journey. Even this late in the game, there is the chance to get on board. The first project was funded by shares in the boat. The shares in the Tres Hombres were all bought by the “Three Fs: Friends, Family and Fools” but they are beginning to pay dividends. Maybe not the best investment ever, but still not a dead loss. The Nordlys still has shares to buy: from the way that business is expanding, these could even pay off. The group behind Fair Transport endeavours to make something that is not just environmentally and ecologically sustainable, but also financially. The ship, in fact the whole business, avoids the use of any government grants. Thus they maintain their independence, fiercely when it must be, and possibly harming some prospects in order to hold onto the main vision.
The vision is primary. Lammert was unhappy about the use of the word Captain to refer to his role. It felt too capitalistic, too explotative. He was somewhat relieved to hear that the word capital from capitalism comes from the head of cattle (according to some) or the main part of a loan. The word captain comes from the head of a group of people. Both have their origin in the Latin word caput, meaning head. So while they do have common origins, they are not derived from one another. The captain is not the capitalist. He can sleep well at night.
In any case, the ship is almost ready. Repairs are still being done, but they are aimed at closure, not perfection. The hold has been strengthened by an extra steel superkeel structure. The vessel is over 140 years old and might have some hidden weaknesses. So they have built insurance in and will take it out as it proves itself unnecessary. However many other repairs have been left as they are, as they will be enough to get by. The one piece of plywood on the vessel has been left where it is, a temporary fix that awaits a proper usage. The boat is waterproof, the rigging is complete. At the beginning of September the Nordlys will be towed out of harbour and will head off for its first commercial freight.
We wish her all the luck in the world.