Greenpeace Southeast Asia

Rainbow Warriors – past, present and future by Chuck Baclagon
SV Rainbow Warrior in full sail between Majuro and Ebeye in the Marshall Islands.

SV Rainbow Warrior in full sail between Majuro and Ebeye in the Marshall Islands.

From Making Waves

We are excited about the creation of a new Greenpeace ship – the Rainbow Warrior III. Having just signed a contract for the build of this state-of-the-art vessel – three crew members from the Rainbow Warrior I and II take us back in time briefly – as we look forward to seeing this legend continue.

Bunny McDiarmid, executive Director of Greenpeace in New Zealand, talks about her memories of life on board the original Rainbow Warrior as a deckhand…

I can still see in my mind’s eye and often do, the grain of the wooden decks of the old Warrior, I can remember their feel underfoot, and the smell of the black tar when the sun hit them. I first joined her as a deckhand in 1984 in Jacksonville, Florida in a godforsaken boat yard in the backofbeyond. We were turning her from a motor boat into a sailing boat. And she turned beautifully. And it was the ‘we’, the 12 crew and 5 or 6 dedicated volunteers that did it all over the course of 4-5 months. The doing of this welded us to her and to each other. I remember Ulla the 24 year old danish fitter and turner who redid all the welding on the chain plates after the yard guys buggered it up.

I remember Henk skill sawing the aluminum bridge wings off so we could mount winches for the main sheet, I remember all of us walking the stays of the main mast as she swung over the yard into her sleeve on the main deck. I remember sitting braced on the main deck as we sailed through the night repairing the mainsail on an old sewing machine and I remember how fast we could unscrew all the bolts holding down the benches in the mess and push them into the companionway so that we had enough room for dancing. No campaign office, there was just the mess and the radio room off the bridge. No email just a clamour for the mail when we arrived in Hawaii after two weeks at sea.

The crew of the Rainbow Warrior in 1985 - Bunny is second from the right

The crew of the Rainbow Warrior in 1985 - Bunny is second from the right

I did not know much about Greenpeace when I joined the Warrior, I just liked what she was going to do – an anti nuclear campaign in the Pacific. The first stop was helping 350 Rongelap islanders move from their home island to another island 40 miles away because of the radiation contamination from US nuclear testing.

It took us 11 days and nights and three trips to do it – one trip we had 150 people on board – we would never get away with this today – and she was packed to the gills with people and their belongings, piled high and lashed down on deck, filling the holds, filling every cabin and spare space. It was a great introduction into the heart of Greenpeace.

Boats are important to Greenpeace, they are extraordinary tools of our trade, making the invisible visible, often they are what connects us all, and the crew is certainly a strong expression of our internationalism. We will never all agree what is the next best Rainbow Warrior to have but I am glad we are building her.


Pete Willcox, photographed below back in 1985 when he was captain of the Rainbow Warrior I. Here he shares a few thoughts and memories with us…

I am indeed glad to hear that Rainbow Warrior 3 will become a reality.

I joined the first RW, called R’dub by the crew, in 1981. She was my home for four years until she was blown up in New Zealand. There were good times and not so good times. But those four years are some of the strongest memories of my life. From going up to the head of the Gulf of St. Lawrence in February, breaking and getting stuck in ice all the way for a seal campaign, to getting arrested for piracy in Peru, to loosing seven crew members in a Siberia during a whaling action, to the most memorable, helping the people of Rongalap in the Marshall Island move to a new non radioactive home. Almost the first thing I did onboard was help replace the old engines with new, and one of the last was put up the sailing rig. I knew every nut and bolt of the R’dub.

In a life time of boats, she is my favorite.

The second RW was bigger, faster and a better sailor that the first. In her twenty odd year career, she has sailed all over the world and served Greenpeace well. The RWIII is the first boat we have designed and built from the keel up – suitable for the high seas. Undoubtedly, Gerry Dijkstra and Partners have designed a boat that is going to sail like the wind. It will be very exciting. And I have no doubt she will sail the planet as her namesakes, carrying out the various missions the organization feels are important. I remember clearly some thought the second RW was too new and pretty to be used in hard actions. I am sure that if anyone is thinking that about the new boat, that thought will go away as quickly as it did on the old boat. Because as I write this from northern Greenland on the Arctic Sunrise, it is very apparent we have no time to loose.

– P. Willcox

Madeleine Habib, pictured below, has been an activist, 2nd and 1st mate, and recently captain for our ships. Below she shares some of her fondest memories of the Rainbow Warrior II.

There was a time when the place I felt most at home was on the bridge of the Rainbow Warrior II. I embroidered two cushions on with “molas” from the San Blas Islands near Panama, and they made the bridge seem like a cosy place to be.

I once planted a sunflower seed in a pot on the bridge. I found the seed in Buenos Aires, Argentina and by the time we reached Vera Cruz, Mexico there was a gorgeous golden flower peering out the bridge window.

We all know that Rainbow Warrior II is an old ship with limitations & the building of Rainbow Warrior III is something that we have been talking about for years. It will be a huge task for Greenpeace to take on the construction of a new vessel. But for the first time we will have a purpose built vessel, specifically designed for campaigning and action on the high seas. It is time for Greenpeace to have a powerful sailing vessel for making ocean passages, new systems for safe and efficient boat launching, and facilities for hosting public events on board. I look forward to being proud of our energy efficient flagship.


Check out more details on the new Rainbow Warrior here

Read more Rainbow Warrior stories here.

If you have ever seen the Rainbow Warrior, or been on board. Please tell us about it by submitting a comment. Thanks!


6 Comments so far
Leave a comment

i’m so glad to know that there’s a group like green peace who is concerned about environment coz the poor, are the ones being affected.

Comment by pat polinario

i’m so glad to know that there’s a group like green peace who is concerned about environment coz the poor, are the ones being affected.

Comment by pat polinario

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Comment by hajarwan

Glad to know about the Greenpeace Activists. I am inspired to join such a group. Thanks for sharing.


Comment by Marine Boat Engines Used

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Comment by Viagra

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