Low carbon Transition pilgrims – pure sailing

Some Transitioners have made inspirational low carbon journeys to visit Totnes this year – so much so that Big Green Canoe has awarded the ‘most valiant pilgrims’. Damien & Isabelle sailed in their boat the Neutron Rapidefrom France to Ireland to visit Transition Town Kinsale, and then to Totnes to join one of TTT’s Transition Walks. Other Transition pilgrims included some fine spirited Belgian young men who cycled across Belgium and Britain for a Transition study programme.


Pure sailing – this year’s ‘most valiant pilgrims’ winner !

We have to be honest, the carbon footprint of all the people coming to visit us does bother us a bit.  We justify it by making sure we give everything we have got to make sure people get a once-in-a-lifetime experience while they are here, and one that will give them the inspiration and some tools to help them make the shift to a lower carbon future where they live.

I (Hal) am a big believer in the idea of pilgrimage; travel with purpose and at important life stages, with careful planning and intention, yet also being wildly open to spontaneity and the mercies of local hospitality, culture, nature and weather.  Such personal experiences have been massively influential in my life and remain a big part of who I am today.  This is vastly different to picking a destination out of a brochure or off a website based on a few glossy photos, cost and the most convenient flight connection for a quick holiday.   I hope most of the people who come on our programmes appreciate this.  I am sure they do.

So this year we are going to launch an annual award for the most valiant pilgrimage people have made to get here.

Should this prove wildly controversial, we’ll develop some more robust criteria for future years but, for now, its roughly based on the obvious things, ie low carbon, and also on the practical challenge involved.  This practical challenge, as teachers and group leaders will appreciate, will put getting a whole youth group across Europe by conventional surface travel, right to the top.

So, 2013′s winners (cue great fanfare), must go to Damien and Isabelle from France who sailed to Ireland to visit Kinsale and then here to Devon to visit Totnes and join one of our Transition Walks on Friday.

Their position was closely contested by some fine spirited Belgian young men who cycled all the way here for a Transition study programme in the summer. Their journey included rough sleeping on the roadside, getting two bikes stolen and a general indifference to personal hygiene.

I think the French pipped it as they have done a better job of staying in touch afterwards, as their reports below demonstrate, and,  if I read their story correctly, they even found love on the way!  (Maybe some of the Belgian boys found love on the way too but it seemed unlikely based on their state on departure).

The boat is “neutron rapide” (fast neutron) which is not a great name for ecology and transition because it is about particles accelerator, related to the “CEA” Atomic Energy Compagny where we worked. I worked there to try to introduce some disorders there and Damien felt not fully concerned by the problem and was just happy to get a job.

The first picture is a bit “sad” because the sail is off, the only time in this trip!! But it’s also because there was no wind that we were able to exchange emails with the boat which took the picture! We were coming from Baltimore and on the way to the Fastnet.

The second picture is very sentimental, because it’s the trip where I have started to fall in love with Damien, and it’s he and I on the picture. On Neutron Rapide again of course.  Cheers, Isabelle

We enjoyed our visit of Totnes a lot. We returned safely to Britany with a nice wind and arrived at Brest on time.

To thank you to have been our host, here are a few words about our trip. Could you please correct the worse mistakes (I haven’t done – Ed)
Thank you very much again, and please contact us whenever you come in France, or just whenever you like !

My partner and I are very concerned by the future of the planet and human beings. In Paris area, we change our own life and co-organize initiatives and events related to Towns in Transition. Actually, we even plan to quit our flat and job next May, to live in turns on a sailing boat and in ecovillages close to the French Atlantic coast. In the same spirit, for summer holidays, we wanted to sail from Cork to Brest, passing through the nice harbour Torquay. What a great surprise when, dreaming on a map about our trip, I realized that Torquay was… only a few kilometers away from Totnes.

My partner, my son, two friends and I had a marvelous journey from August 3 to 16, led by the wind and our personal aspirations. We stopped at symbolic places: departure from Cross Heaven (junction to Paradise?), Kinsale (initial Rob Hopkins’ classes), Fastnet (extreme south-west point of Ireland), Scilly Islands, Dart river (Totnes!), St Quay Portrieux (where my love for sea, wind and sail has grown), Aber Wrach and Brest.

In order to arrive on time at Totnes for the Friday visit, we limited our initial stops to surviving purposes. Discovering Totnes area by sailing up the so fertile and gorgeous river just felt like a dream. To make sure we felt like in Paradise, the weather was sunny and cheerful. Chris, Hal, Fionna and others met on the way were generous and simply lived their inspired stories. Old stones, shaped landscapes, harmonious and productive gardens, peaceful sheeps, (free) essential markets, flourishing initiatives, the visit was so fulfilling! Let’s hope everyone transition will be fast enough to limit disasters on Earth… “Maël, Isabelle & Damien