I’m in the final week of my city life. It’s been an adrenalin-fuelled couple of days: between packing up the house boat I live on, organising my gear and tidying my desk.
Today I had a workshop with the the Defra Living With Environmental Change (LWEC) programme discussing knowledge exchange and the tools for academics, policymakers and stakeholders to share information and understanding, to promote sustainable change and provide access to evidence for decision making. It is mornings like this that I am reminded just how much I enjoy the work I’ve been doing for the last 4 years. I’m wondering whether I’ll miss it when I’m away….
I’ve now had emails from all the crew and am really excited about meeting them. We have a very international crew with 5 European countries represented on the boat. Plus we have further nationalities joining the boat in Rio. We also appear have an incredible set of skills on board. A captain (obvs), Film makers, a ship wright, tall ships sailors (several), a fashion designer, a psychiatrist, chef and restauranteur, a ships surgeon…. Pretty damn cool. I’m dying to meet them all!
I touched base with the some of the crew aboard Irene today. The boat is currently moored in Plymouth and half the crew is already on board busily making the preparations for our voyage. Jamie (who originally conceived of a journey of this nature over 2 years ago and is my initial contact) is on board now having packed up his life in Bristol and handed over his businesses for the next 5 months while at sea.
The crew are busily working to finalise the trade deals. It is tense times as although they have secured the import/export elements of the deals, they are yet to get final confirmation from the buyer in Rio for the cargo of olive oil. We have a crew member based in Brazil who is working hard to finalise arrangements and gather up a range of exporters for the team to negotiate our return cargo.
There is a lot of work to do in getting her ready for such a long cross-Atlantic trip. As this is her maiden voyage as a 21st Century trading vessel, she has to be surveyed and licensed for the trip. The surveyors check every nook and cranny to make sure that her hull is robust and sea worthy, that she is maintained to a high enough standard and that she has all the necessary safety gear such as life rafts and lifejackets. It is a serious business as we, her crew, are all considered ‘employees’ of the ship and as such the boat is a workplace. Therefore strict health and safety standards apply just as they would in any other workplace. There is also a routine maintenance schedule to follow. Wooden boats like Irene are a constant labour of love (or bottomless pit of money depending on how you view it) and therefore require constant care.
In terms of my own preparations I’ve just ordered a spot connect GPS device. This will allow me to communicate, along with the rest of the crew, to google maps and social media via the Low Earth Orbit satellite system (LEO). As well as providing me with a way to tweet from the mid Atlantic, it also provide a real time tracking facility for the boat as well as an extra method for SOS should the worst happen. I spent a lot of time considering whether to invest in a GPS device. Wondering whether to use the opportunity to totally disconnect from the internet and media. But in the end decided the idea of real time tweeting whale sightings or first views of Rio would be just too much fun. So those of you who have sponsored me just to get rid of me and shut me up – Well tough (Sorry Sarah – I know the conditions of your donation were specifically that you would pay me if I didn’t tweet or facebook for 2 months!).
I’ve also packed all my equipment. Yesterday my neighbour gave me the most incredible sailing knife. It glows in the dark! Handy for those dark nights in the middle of the ocean. My brother has also given me a very cute yellow compass. It looks like a mini submarine.
And my friend Sarah (yes the same as one who wanted me to shut up for 5 months) has given me a really handy dry bag to store all of my gear. It arrived delivered to my work as addressed Dr Lucy Gilliam (Adventurer). I love surprises and it totally made my day!
I think it will be a great relief to be on board with the rest of the gang. At the moment the voyage still doesn’t seem that real. Still a dream. Like I’m playing a part in someone else’s life; telling tall stories…
The next big mission is to get the website of the New Dawn Traders launched. It is coming soon along with full profiles of the whole crew and the history of how it all came to be. Watch this space as they say.