After too many hours at Nordlys, more than Lammert could afford (but he said he felt more grounded afterwards) or I could delay (but I did leave with a motivated heart), I set off for the small harbour of Elsfeth near Bremerhaven in northern Germany. Arriving even more delayed, I rang ahead and was guided to the volunteers’ residence. A two storey house, also used by a Swiss youth project, was currently mostly empty with so many volunteers off enjoying a quick break after the Sail Bremerhaven event the week before. But a swarm of volunteers were still there. Two had arrived the day before, Andrew was leaving the next day. He was plotting how to return or remain otherwise involved in the project. Avontuur has strong claws in its people.
I met an apprentice carpenter Luka who was spending his holiday on Avontuur because his planned trip to Portugal fell through. Judith, a teacher home from Vienna missed out on a flight to the US so she was learning to sew leather onto steel handspliced rigging. An older teacher called Klaus was using his sabbatical to help get the vessel ready and sail her, Arvi the seasickness-prone Finn was visiting to get some new skills and learn some German as he looked for a new stage in his work. From all reports Cornelius, the project’s founder, is a fountain of enthusiasm, which has transferred to these volunteers and has someone like Tim, the English carpenter returning from other projects to spend another two weeks there before he heads off again to try and do something else, unable to escape. Ben came for two weeks and is still there after 5 months, having taken on the role of cargo organiser and volunteer coordinator.
The project is announced through Workaway and other volunteer sites. People find something attractive about the restoration of an old boat, the romance of the high seas, the learning possibilities of metal work and rigging, the actionism of actually doing something about pollution and waste.
The team is vital and vitalising. It was hard to drag myself away. I look forward to hearing about their successes.