Sail-World.com : Earthrace – the incredible voyage nears its end
Earthrace – the incredible voyage nears its end
He’s been shot at by the Colombian Navy, had a pistol held to his head, been locked up by the Guatemalan Navy and played host to more than 150,000 visitors.
No wonder ‘Earthrace’ owner/skipper Pete Bethune calls it an ‘incredible voyage.’
I was able to catch up with Pete on the weekend after ‘Earthrace’ docked at the Marina Mirage on the Gold Coast after a rain-soaked trip down the coast from Redcliffe.
He told the story of the ‘clash’ with the Colombian Navy off Nicaragua. 'We saw the vessel, which by radio ordered us to stop,' he recalled.
'It looked more like pirates than an official naval vessel to me, so I opened the throttles.
'We were again ordered to stop and then I saw a man on the foredeck lying down and taking aim at us with an M16 assault rifle. He fired and a shot hit the boat’s hull; then I saw another three men join him, all similarly armed, so what else would we do, we stopped.
'The captain came aboard, pulled a pistol, held the muzzle to my forehead and asked, 'Why didn’t you stop when ordered?'
'I didn’t realise it at the time, but I said the wrong thing in reply. 'I told the captain his vessel did not look like a naval ship and we were worried about pirates. 'He looked very hurt and said, 'Sir, this is a very fine Colombian Naval vessel.' 'Although I may have hurt his feelings, they finally let us proceed,' Pete said.
It was just one of the adventures they would experience.
Off Guatemala ‘Earthrace’ was involved in a collision with a fishing vessel. The Guatemala Navy responded and Pete and his crew were taken ashore and detained for nine days.
A court case against the crew was dropped when the court learnt the fishing boat carried no light and the fishermen on board were asleep!
Throughout his incredible journey, Pete, a former oil exploration engineer, has been promoting the environmental message to the world.
A self-confessed environmentalist, Pete’s boat, despite its dual Cummins MerCruiser diesel engines runs solely on bio diesel fuel, his present fuel on board produced from animal fats.
'The boat is 100 percent carbon neutral,' Pete declared. 'Every week we measure our environmental effect, from the boat, to the electricity we may use when docked at a marina, to the rental car we might use during a stop over.
'All our clothing is produced from hemp and bamboo and instead of anti- fouling paint we employ silicone-based bottom paint. 'Ablative anti-fouling paint is damaging to the environment, with metals being released into the water through its life,' he added.
Sadly, Peter believes recreational boaters ignore their obligation to care for the environment. 'The effect big boats can have is unsustainable,' he declares.
'Unfortunately, in Australia bio fuel is still in the infancy, in fact I do not know of a single marina here where it is available.'
Pete speaks very highly of the people of Scandinavia and Germany when it comes to environmental care.
'We speak to a lot of schools and community groups around the world, but I can tell you this – in Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Germany there’s not much you can tell them, they’re really into environmental care,' he explained.
'One does not even see a piece of paper when cruising through the pristine Norwegian Fjords.'
Pete said the humble bicycle was also widely used throughout those nations, while other communities concentrated on the automobile.
He rated the US state of Texas was the worst example of environmental neglect.
'Suitable public transport can greatly assist the environment, but in Texas all they do is build more ring roads for V8 cars and four-wheel drives,' he said.
Peter believes Australia 'has a lot to learn.' 'Too many V8 and V6 cars, too many big four-wheel drives and inefficient public transport systems have a detrimental effect on the environment,' he explained.
'I think part of the problem is that Australian culture tends to ignore public transport options.'
Pete described Australia’s eastern seaboard as one of the best places he has ever been.
'But I was deeply saddened to see rubbish littering the waterways of the Gold Coast, especially as we came through the Seaway,' he added.
Sadly, the ‘sunny’ Gold Coast welcomed the 23.77-metre (78’) space-age trimaran with heavy cloud cover and fairly constant rain fall followed by a massive thunderstorm.
Pete’s incredible voyage comes to its conclusion in June.
In the two and a half years, ‘Earthrace’ has been crewed by about 300 volunteers, while Pete estimates another 800 or so have voluntarily supported the voyage ashore.
'We’ve been privileged to sight some 200 or so whales, too many sharks, rays, turtles and other sea life to list, it has truly been an incredible journey,' he said.
Footnote: The approximately 300 crew members have always been roughly 50-50 male/female.
'I find the female of the species much friendlier and talkative when visitors come aboard,' Pete explained, 'but can you explain this? 'We have not had a single female application from Australia!'
So, go to it, girls, there’s still six months of the voyage left.
Apply for a position by visiting the Earthrace website, www.earthrace.net
by Bob Wonders
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8:19 PM Tue 30 Dec 2008 GMT
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