This sourcing mission took project co-founders north, to an island where the Pacific Ocean meets the Gulf of Alaska.
The reason for this trip?
To find the masts of cargo ship Ceiba.
Words + Photos
Lynx and myself have recently returned from a special sourcing mission which took us to Haida Gwaii, near Alaska. The reason that we traveled to this northern island was to meet with the people who will source the masts of Ceiba, and to see the forests and trees first-hand. Reaching this remote location was quite an experience, involving small airplanes and more than one ferry ride! Haida Gwaii was spectacular, I am still processing everything that we experienced, and the wonderful interactions we had with so many unique and passionate people.
The feeling that Haida Gwaii evokes is cold and serene; a jagged coastal island defined by its forests and mist - but also by the culture that has lived there for their entire history. Growing up in Canada, I had heard about this jewel of a destination, and understood that the significance of the place was shrouded with a tumultuous history… I was hesitant to undertake the journey at all. As outsiders to the land, would we have a place there?
After lengthy discussions over more than one cerveza, we decided to accept the invitation that had been extended to us and travel northbound from our tropical shipyard. The purpose of this trip was to uphold our high standards of sourcing timbers sustainably and respectfully, and that was meaningful.
We are extremely thankful to be able to source all of the spars (masts, topmasts, yards, booms, gaffs and the bowsprit) of environmentally and culturally responsible Sitka Spruce (Latin: Picea sitchensis). This area is renowned for timber: people from the world-over consistently turn to the coast of British Columbia for superior sailing ship masts. This will be the first timber sourced outside of Costa Rica, so we felt that it was important that it is be the best quality possible, and that it hails from the highest moral standards.
You might be aware of this, but while on paper Haida Gwaii is Canadian (previously called the Queen Charlotte Islands), this breath-taking island is essentially sovereign, being cared for by the native Haida nation. We began our immersion into Haida Gwaii by being formally introduced to the history of Haida culture... an education I am thankful for. We received a private tour of the Haida Gwaii Museum from Nika, who is the Executive Director and Curator, which was a really kind gesture - she is also a co-founder of the timber company we've partnered with, but I'll speak about that in a moment. After the museum introduction we were able to meet the people who will bring our trees out of the forest (you'll notice Kris in my photos), as well as the person who will process our masts on the sawmill, Art. The sawyer, Art, was spoken of very highly for his un-paralleled skill with the sawmill. It was a real treat to see him use his Peterson mill!
Visiting one of the sites that our masts will come from was emotional for me... we saw stunning old-growth forests and second-growth forests, which have regenerated from sustainable forestry practices. Specifically, we visited a site that had a land-slide several years ago, where Kris fell a tree before our eyes, which was around 45m (150 ft) tall. We are proud to work with North Pacific Timber Corp. (NPTC), a local company which does primarily salvage. In the words of NPTC co-founder Danny Robertson, they will never cut old-growth forests or clear-cut trees, ever... practices which may sound obvious to us, though most companies do not boast the same.
Sitting down in separate meetings with officials from the Canadian Government, a representative of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and the administrators of Taan Forest added credibility to our reconnaissance trip. Taan Forest is the Haida Land Reserve which will be providing sustainable - and culturally respectful - masts for Ceiba, so it was great to understand their corporate values.
Our trip also allowed us to connect with traditional totem-pole carvers, which is an important tradition that is still alive. A personal highlight was visiting Jaalen Edenshaw, who is carving a traditional Haida canoe. Made of a single Red Cedar, these massive canoes can be up to 24m (80ft) long, and are borne of trees that are upwards of 700 years old! Absolutely incredible... I hope you enjoy those photos in particular!
All in all, this trip was productive - and immensely inspirational. All of this has been made possible by our amazing investors. Thank you for making this possible, allowing us to support this important community (as well as our own right here in Costa Rica) with our business, and demonstrate that sustainable and moral practices are the way of the future. Moving forward with the purchase of all of the spars of Ceiba is a huge milestone, and the excitement can be felt at the shipyard. As I write this, now back at the shipyard, the 17th frame is being honed into place, having been hoisted into place yesterday before breakfast. We're really doing it, and Ceiba is coming to life before our eyes! How exciting it will be to step these considerable masts and have their story to tell as part of our own.
If you’re considering increasing your ownership level, or if you’re choosing to wait, on behalf of our entire team, thank you for your commitment and encouragement.
I am personally so grateful to be able to share this story with you, as I could not have wished for a better way to source these impressive masts. Thank you for making it possible. As always, I'm here to talk about the project with you (via phone or email), and look forward to hearing your thoughts about this exciting development.
Extending a heartfelt ''thank you'' to everyone who welcomed us during our time in Haida Gwaii... we look forward to keeping in touch and building upon friendships together.