by Shea Schachameyer
While I have been an organizer and an activist for years now, my love of water came first. From my earliest days spending time on inland lakes in Wisconsin holding onto the back of my mom’s windsurfer as we sped across the water to when I was strong enough to windsurf on my own, to kayaking and canoeing to jumping into water on hot summers days and now sailing, I am drawn to water. As such, the opportunity to work on a Greenpeace ship has long been a dream of mine, seeming like the perfect marriage of my loves.
The path that led me to joining the crew of the new Rainbow Warrior has been a unique one. It was a year ago that I decided to really pursue my dream of working on one of the Greenpeace ships and dedicated much of my year to activism and sailing. I have been an activist since my youth working on campaigns to expose the prison industrial complex in the US, reform the catalog industry through the Victoria’s Dirty Secret campaign, close down the School of the Americas, and organizing in my home state of Wisconsin for better bicycle infrastructure—to name a few.
Yet all of the pieces really began to fall into place last fall when I attended an activist training led in part by Greenpeace. Here I was not only able to further my skills as an activist; I was able to meet a number of Greenpeace organizers who I would make it a point to stay in touch with throughout the next year.
One of the first opportunities came last spring when Wisconsin rose up against the union-busting legislation being proposed by our recently elected Governor. For weeks, hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin residents filled the marble halls of the state Capitol and flowed into the streets beyond doing everything we could to take back our state. We occupied the Capitol for five days surrounded by police—some of whom helped to smuggle in food and lay down in solidarity next to us on the cold marble floor after their shift; we walked in the snow from Milwaukee to Madison in the spirit of the civil rights marches; and we organized actions to expose the Koch brothers at their facilities throughout the state. Furthermore, collaborating with Greenpeace, we spread out the gigantic “Koch Brothers Dirty Money” air-ship banner across the Capitol lawn, the same banner which had been used a few months earlier in southern California.
My second opportunity to work with Greenpeace came soon after, when I worked with a coalition dedicated to shutting down the Fisk and Crawford coal plants located in two of Chicago’s densely populated, urban neighborhoods. I helped to hang a banner reading “We Can Stop Coal” from the Pulaski bridge, under which many coal barges pass, and effectively got the message that these coal plants need to be shut down into all of Chicago’s major news outlets.
As a result, I was arrested and charged with “performing an aerial exhibition without a net.” While my criminal case was pending, I found myself at home with time on my hands. I decided to use that time to pursue my other passion—sailing. With Lake Michigan just a couple miles from my house, I spent every sunny day on the water, improving my skills.
Then came along another unique opportunity: I was presented with the chance to help two friends bring the S/V Dandelion—a hand-built, 35ft wooden, cutter-rigged sloop—back to life after being dry docked in Milwaukee for the last five years and deliver her towards her new home in salty waters in the Florida Keys. For the duration of the summer we got her ship-shape, stripping the hull, re-caulking the seams and putting on a new coat of paint. Then in October came the great day to put her back in the water and from then until we left Milwaukee in the middle of November we lived onboard and tested her limits on the water. When we were confident in her ability and had completed the last repairs, we set-off south sailing from Milwaukee via Lake Michigan and then motoring down the Calumet, Des Plaines, Illinois and Mississippi rivers.
In the story of Alison and Wonderland, Alice’s father instructs her to dream three impossible things before breakfast; yet, on the delivery trip of the Dandelion, our mantra became accomplish three impossible things, but first eat breakfast. Not a day went by that we didn’t have to overcome some challenge; yet that was perhaps the most satisfying part of the venture. Overall, our trip strengthened my confidence, honed my problem-solving mindset and made me more determined than ever to stay on the water; yet I could hardly believe my dream came true when the opportunity popped up to join the crew of the new Rainbow Warrior just a few weeks later.
And now, having already spent nearly a month onboard as a volunteer deckhand, it is finally sinking in that I have reached the dream I had imagined for so long. Yet this is not just my dream, the new Rainbow Warrior is the collective effort of thousands of people from around the world and while this may be the third incarnation of the Rainbow Warrior, her history carries on and can be felt as she glides through the waves, as the dolphins return to greet us, and in the stories shared after dinner each night.