For quite a while I’ve travelled back and forth maybe a couple of times a year between the UK and Switzerland. During that time I think I’ve tried every transport method including by bike, always hoping to find the one I can revert to the next time without long deliberation.
Of course I flew quite a few times but, aside from growing unease over its environmental impacts, I seemed to be often wanting to transport awkward (not illegal) items with me. On two occasions I’ve taken hand-made chairs, once it was a fantastic log of yew for long-bows, sometimes it was a bicycle and other times it was just a pen-knife together with hand-luggage. As a foot-passenger this is even now difficult on the ferries. More recently it’s not innate objects but children and the effort involved has multiplied. With the ban on water bottles and intensifying herding practices I eventually stopped flying. But this just created the question of how to get from one side of the Channel to the other, and if a ferry then from where to where and the whole planning started to take ages, each time looking for a ferry that we could in some way get to and from with the train.
Taking a ferry does at least allow you to go out on deck mid route and experience the vast and challenging expanse of the sea, to lean into the wind and to gaze out over the relentless waves. The train in the tunnel get’s you there, but that’s it.
Then, as a once-upon-a-time boatbuilder, I started to work for the sail cargo shipping company Fairtransport, and suddenly a whole world of ideas became realistic – the world of my own ideas that I had never pursued because they must be too naive. Then, later, you see those ideas being developed by someone else. So go ahead with what you believe in and don’t stop when others doubt it. All it means is that you’re probably ahead of your time, but the time will come. It also means that for every person that develops an idea there are many more who have had the idea, and therefore even more who would join the idea. Just from a statistical perspective, we’re too many people for an idea not to find followers - if it can be communicated.
So one day a couple of years ago I was wanting to go to the UK with my teenage daughter and I thought how great it would be to be able to sail across with the Tres Hombres or Nordlys (Fairtransport ships). Of course neither were going to be in the vicinity and we took a ferry. Arriving in Cherbourg by train we wandered closer to the sea, passing the harbour full of boats. At a small restaurant for some reason we had pizza instead of Moulles. I think we didn’t want to be too long. They said it would be about ten or fifteen minutes by foot to the ferry terminal. Leaving the bobbing boats behind us it took us nearly an hour. No-one walks to the ferry terminal and he certainly hadn’t. Why would you? But it got me thinking and for the first time I posed myself the question of how I would actually like to get across the Channel? Not, what is there that can get me across? Thinking about it whilst I write, I guess it would also be really cool to fly across in a little microlight motorised delta-wing, but I don’t fly and can’t contemplate the complications and logistics, plus it’s quite exclusive.
But sailing on one of those boats that we passed, moored close to the station, would be great and must surely be possible.
And so it began....