Rainbow Warrior sails - in search of new dreams

Rainbow Warrior III - on its way to new dreams
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Rainbow Warrior III, just launched in Bremen, Germany, has already set sail for Greenpeace with a group of inspired volunteers on board, heading for far-off ports and more challenges in their efforts to save the planet from the worst ravages of Western civilisation. Brian Fitzgerald here talks of battles won, heroes celebrated and dreams yet to be realised:

We've set sail. The world's first crowd-funded, hyper-efficient, purpose-built environmental activist sailing ship has left harbour in Bremen and we're on our way to Hamburg.

To all of you who made this voyage possible, you have the thanks of some very happy and inspired crewmembers who are quite literally learning the ropes as we begin the maiden voyage. We'll be putting the ship through its paces, sea trialling the sail rig as we make a thank-you tour to show off the ship that 100,000+ donors bought piece by piece. Ports of call include Hamburg, Amsterdam, London, Stockholm, Marseilles, Genoa, Barcelona, then across the Atlantic to the Amazon and the Earth Summit in Rio de Janiero, before heading to New York.

We'd like you to come along and find your own way around this historic ship, meet the crew, and learn some of the lore of the Rainbow Warrior.

We've put some activist storytellers on board to help with that. Over the next several weeks, Pablo, Helene, Harmony, and Seychelle and the other New Hands on Deck will be bonking their heads on bulkheads and tripping over bowlines as we all learn our way around, and you can follow along through our web video mini-series, Stories from the Rainbow Warrior.

You'll also be meeting some of the good folks that have sailed this ship and her predecessors, like Maite, a longtime crew member from Mallorca who is the curator of a small museum's worth of objects we're moving into the new ship from the previous two Rainbow Warriors: pictures, masks, posters, buttons, banners, binoculars, a guitar, woven mats and watercolors, pencil drawings and carvings.

She's been telling their stories to us as she carefully cleans each piece, and finds a place for them in their new home, hanging them on the bare walls of the lounge and corridors, gently waking the new steel and wood of this modern ship to the memories of its ancient stories and its former lives.

There's a picture of Jon Castle, steering the ship steadily toward the nuclear weapons testing ground of Moruroa from his secret perch in the crow's nest, wired into the steering system, while the French military, having seized the vessel, try to figure out why she is still underway after they've locked the empty wheelhouse, rounded up the crew, and arrested a fellow who had said he was the captain.

Here is the carved wooden statue of the Hindu Elephant God, Ganesh, the remover of obstacles, gifted to the ship in 2003 by Shailendra Yashwant as the Rainbow Warrior headed for India to demand compensation for the victims of Bhopal and to document the horrors of the shipbreaking yards where on average a worker a day dies removing asbestos and cutting up the scrap wrecks. Ganesh has the goofy grin of a God who knows he failed us utterly.

The Indian government revoked visas and clearance papers and in what can only be described as a monumental effort of bureaucracy, managed to put enough small obstacles in place to keep the ship away -- that time, anyway.

Here's the picture of Fernando Pereira, killed in the bomb attack that sunk the first Rainbow Warrior in Auckland harbour when the French government, in a massive miscalculation, sought to shut us down for opposing their nuclear weapons testing programme in the Pacific.

And here's one of Dave the Dolphin, a meter-high wood carving that graced the bow of the second Warrior. I remember watching flying fish in the dawn light over the Bay of Bengal with Dave, and hearing Pete Wilcox tell the story about how Dave once was a real dolphin who loved playing in the bow wave of the ship and wanted desperately to join the crew.

Alas, as he was a dolphin, he was turned down, so he went to Neptune, the God of the Sea, to ask for help. Neptune asked if he had heard the story of Pinnochio, and Dave eagerly accepted the proposal that they turn that story on its head, and turn the real dolphin into a wooden one, so he could join the Rainbow Warrior.

The mystery about Dave is his name. Some say he's named for the Bible story of David and Goliath -- a fitting fable for Greenpeace's slingshot battles with corporate, military, and government giants since our founding.

Others say he was named for my former boss, David McTaggart, who wrangled the early organisation from a disjointed collective of scattered offices linked only by name, into a globally coordinated force.

I like to think the latter.

Both Dave the Dolphin and David McTaggart are only with this ship in spirit now, David having died in 2001 and Dave finding a new home at the Greenpeace International headquarters where he's been given a desk job. Alas, there's no room for him aboard the new ship with its tight quarters and a deck that's rigged for five sails as big as four tennis courts.

But as I heard the watch working through the cabins this morning to wake the crew, I like to think that McTaggart himself was making those rounds with him, rousing us from slumber in his hyperactive, don't-waste-a-minute way to say there's environmental crimes to be challenged, a storm ahead, and an elusive dream of a green and peaceful planet that may not yet be visible on the charts, but which might be just beyond that western horizon, and which we need to head for at full sail.

Good luck Rainbow Warrior III in all your exploits. Since the first Rainbow Warrior, a former fishing trawler, set sail for Greenpeace in 1978, those around the world who yearn for a greener more peaceful planet have exploded in numbers, and you now ride on a wave of enthusiasm from your ever growing well-wishers.

To follow or support the exploits of Greenpeace and its new sailing ship Rainbow Warrior III, go to the http://www.greenpeace.org!Greenpeace_website