Pete Willcox: High-Seas Avenger
Credit: Will Rose / Greenpeace

A week before Christmas, the crew finally got some good news. The amnesty passed; they were going home. Willcox and Maggy celebrated Christmas with a bottle of red wine Anita brought from France. And on December 28 – 100 days after the Sunrise was boarded – they flew to Maggy's house in Maine. When they arrived, the island had been without power for five days. There was ice in the trees and two feet of snow on the ground. Willcox shoveled out Maggy's car and split some wood for the fire. Two days later, they drove down to Norwalk for a family New Year's Eve party. And the next morning, Willcox, his dad, Maggy, and his daughter Natasha went for their traditional New Year's Day sail.

One day in January, Willcox is at home in Norwalk, taking his dog for a walk. "Not bad, huh?" he says as he gazes out at the sound. "At high tide, we can scrape the plates right into the water." Down in the harbor, his nonagenarian old dad is hunched over in knee-high rubber boots, pumping out a flooded boat. "He's an ornery old cuss. And it's a big thing to get a hug out of him. But since I got back, he's said a few things that make me think he's awfully glad to have me home."

Up in his apartment, Willcox pours some wine he swiped from downstairs and pops a frozen pizza into the microwave. His dad built this addition for him when he got custody of the girls; there's a Greenpeace calendar on one wall, and the refrigerator is covered with photos of him and the kids. Willcox likes it here: He and his dad have dinner together most nights, and if it's below 40 degrees, he'll go downstairs and make a fire. Every once in a while his stepmom, Joan, pops in to ask if he washed the dog, or to alert him that his dad is about to electrocute himself.

Willcox is slowly readjusting to life back home. The night he got back, Natasha snuggled up on the couch with him and refused to let go. Now they're cooking a lot of dinners together and going to yoga every morning, enjoying the days until she has to go back to school.

"When I was younger, I remember missing him a lot," Natasha says. "But the more I got involved with Greenpeace, the cooler it got that my dad was Pete Willcox." She's studying marine biology and is considering sailing with Greenpeace when she graduates. And Anita recently applied for a job with Greenpeace France.

Willcox says the two months in jail were worth it: "For the publicity we got, and how we were able to elevate the campaign, I'll pay two months." (Not that he'll be returning to Russia anytime soon. "I sorta told myself I don't want to hear that jail cell clanging on my ass again.") At the end of the month, he's going to Amsterdam, where he plans to ask for a full-time job. When he gets back, he'll spend a month in Maine, and he and Maggy will celebrate their one-year anniversary. And then, sometime in March, he'll head back out on the Rainbow Warrior.

 "The thing I admire most about Peter," Maggy says, "is at this point, I think he thinks we're pretty well screwed. But he's still doing it anyway." She smiles. "The bastard."

Willcox figures he has maybe 10 more years on a boat, 15 if he's lucky. He might work at an office someday if he can't ship out. "But I like to ship out. I like living on boats. It's just such a great combination for me, to be able to sail and have some social relevance. I believe in what we're doing, in the causes we espouse. And I'm not willing to turn the planet over to the oil companies, not while I have any energy left."

At the end of January, Royal Dutch Shell announces it is abandoning its plans to drill in the Arctic in 2014. It's a victory for Greenpeace, but a bittersweet one. Because just two days after the Duma granted the crew of the Sunrise amnesty, Gazprom released a statement of its own. "Today," boasted the company's CEO, "we became pioneers in developing the Russian Arctic shelf." And with that – just as Willcox and his crew were packing to come home – the Prirazlomnaya platform started pumping oil.