Handala arrived in Southampton on July 22 in the wee hours following about 48 hours at sea where for the most part we encountered sunny skies and fair seas. We pulled into Ocean Village Marina, a rather posh marina that hosts many lavish yachts within a gated community. Our first visitor arrived shortly after we docked and without a friendly ‘hello’, asked us who we were and what we were doing. We don’t think he was a person in authority, however he acted as if he was. After a brief explanation he was on his way. Our Captain, Thomas, then left the ship to check out available facilities and was approached by a police officer who asked him, among other things, if we had a warm reception in Scotland (See when the authorities visited Handala in the middle of Scotland). Then to put a finer point on it, the officer told Thomas that they have been following our journey.
Not to be intimidated, Thomas thanked him for his interest and went about his business. Saturday was a very rainy day and the crew all struggled to attend to various personal and boat related issues.
Members of the crew and Wendy our Freedom Flotilla Coalition (FFC) representative were warmly received by the local Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) at Haymarket Books. We spoke to a nearly full house of ardent supporters. Thomas and Wendy spoke about our mission, about FFC and the plight of children in Gaza. Wendy also spoke about political challenges in Canada and the importance of challenging our respective governments’ complicity in Israeli apartheid and crimes against humanity. Thomas stated that Israel is conducting a war on children and no one disagreed.
The following day, Andy, one of the Southampton PSC organizers, and five women who had attended the Haymarket event and their children, came for a tour of Handala. All expressed their appreciation for our mission. They brought with them many gifts of food for which we were very grateful! The women were dressed in hijab and one woman wore a niqab and we were proud to ‘stick out’ in such a conservative, primarily white and affluent marina! We are very grateful to our friends and allies in Southampton for organizing a wonderful event, and for filling our bellies! We look forward to ongoing collaboration with them.
In Southampton we said goodbye to one of our mates, Jack, who provided us with sound knowledge of the boat, great skill at sea, and who always had a warm smile, friendly face and comforting words during our more challenging moments. He will be missed aboard Handala! However, we also welcomed Ili, from MyCARE, who is a practicing doctor in Glasgow, Oyvind, a seafarer who hails from Bergen area in Norway, and Herman, our new captain, also from Norway, who is no stranger to the sea and to the work of FFC. We are very happy to continue to benefit from the skill and wisdom of our other crew members who have stayed on, Thomas, Norka, Sverre and Vellu. We are thrilled to have such a great team on board and feel we are in very good hands as we embark on the next leg of our journey to Rotterdam.