I am trying to dance with the wind. At the helm, it is the middle of the night, and though I have the light of a moon just past the full, it is getting dark. Clouds are rolling in. They might mean a shift in the wind, backing or veering, and an increase in speed, and I am standing with my neck craned all the way back, peering up at the barely-visible flag, trying to judge if the wind is changing, and where I should steer to keep the sails full.
There’s one way of looking at sailing, the way I too often fall into, which is that the ship is a series of clever mechanisms for turning wind into propulsion–purchase blocks, ropes, sails trimmed with exactitude to airplane-wing shape. And that there is one right heading and trimming of sails which will produce the best results, given any defined set of wind and swell conditions. This is treating sailing like a math problem.
But sailing is not math, not regular or predictable, no more than life is. Like astronavigation, there is math involved, but the basis, the foundation is all guesswork, pretending the earth is flat, and having a good feeling about the sextant reading you just took. The first mate, Anne-Flore, talks to me about trying to find the rhythm of each maneuver, the flow of how people move about the deck, meshing with the movement of the wind as we bring the ship through the wind on a tack, for example. It’s a dance, I can see. Each of us moves like the wind, unpredictably but with a certain grace, and the trick to being a good leader, as the trick to being a good sailor, is to work with that energy, and catch it at the most graceful moment. This is sailing–the ship is a thing of muscles and breath and wings. To pay attention to the maneuver in this way is to be where I am, to live where I find myself.
How wonderful, to feel that the world is real, and that I belong to it! I am a part of the place where I am, just as much as the wind and the waves, the stars and the clouds. I too often block the world around me, filter it through a screen which sits on a desk and, in the words of Wendell Berry, “obscures the place where it is.” I place barriers between myself and the real world, of computer screen or even book page, instead of living where I am, in my surroundings. I am trying to learn to dance with the wind instead, to feel it on my face and lean into it, to watch the swell and feel it move me as I sway with it. To listen to the ship, how she reacts to the wind, rudder, or waves. I will not truly learn sailing from a book or a screen, no matter how much they can teach me, for all they do is obscure the place they are in, this place, the place where I am, out here smack in the middle of the Atlantic with my sailwings and rainclouds and moonlight. Dancing.
While I’m not particularly attached to a certain religion where a god is involved, and while I
don’t particularly believe in something, I apparently do have a certain idea of the feeling of
Of course heaven can just refer to anyone’s ultimate dream so in that case it doesn’t
matter if you’re religious or not. But anyways, this morning I was wondering if heaven would
feel something like this. A complete serene surrounding, all this water kept itself so quiet and
almost dissolved in the sky. And then the sunrise came. A forest of clouds being on fire on the horizon.
Sea and skycovered in copper glaze.
While we humans are out there in society, running around, talking, working, worrying, this is
just here all the time. Everyday the sun rises to give us another day over and over again.
Even if we don’t look at it, it’s there. This is of course an idea philosophers have been
questioning, but at least it was the feeling it gave me: This is just here all the time, so
big and endless. It is no one’s property and we have the privilege to look at it.
Then the sun was completely visible and that was when the intensity and brightness of the
light that was all around us, made me wonder about heaven. It’s not that this is my ultimate
dream in the sense that I never want to leave again. Because if we stay drifting around here
like we do, we will run out of food at some point and we will end up eating banana peals with
marmite and we’ll never reach the other side of the ocean.
But if my heaven could have this
serenity, endlessness and peace, that would be a great basis to spend the rest of eternity.
50 miles in the northeast Cabo Verde, steady trade winds.
1st fish : small dorada coryphene. Since few days nights are quite. Sounds of little waves, sails flaps sometimes downwind, windmills turning, barometer tic tac, banging pan in the galley. The moon is very bright now, she shines the rigging, what a beautiful picture: black, white & grey, straits lines, curves & shadow, green red lights. Photographers an drawers could be charmed by the scenery. Close your eyes face toward the sky, let the 24 degrees cool breeze sweep gently your hair as a caress. Your legs are now following the movement of the ship naturally and you know already about a breakfast with banana bread. Yes it’s official, unlimited consumption of the gold’s treasure.
Inspired by an awful book in the open sea.
On the way of travel I met few vagabonds with luggage plenty of anecdotes. I am remembering those, ripples marks on the face as an alive stone which you can find, by chance, on the beach away of any civilisation. You look at the outlines of this part of the rock revealing details, stories in peace, doesn’t matter how deep or big are the scares. You listen to them attentively, you stave wide-eyed in front of humbles story-tellers on a sailing vessel deck. Theirs blows are like an infinity poem flow and we are becoming a tall ship wearing many open sails, gliding over the whisper of the foam.
They are somewhere far away at sea or hidden in an old stone house on a mountain, you are not running after them, never. Gipsies are not this kind of people you are planning to meet. Just a warm dreaming restless wave.
So, about this awful book. I advice you to throw it over board ( as I did yesterday) any books who’s talking about the worst sadness, scared, heavy weight of family tradition… If you want to use your holiday watch as a proper rest and quite sleep (for the focs’tle people), it’s useless to bring it in your stuff. I kept only the last page because she’s the only one ( in 436 pages) positive & full of hope. Well, the past is already done and we can inspire ours life from that, the present is now: the wheel is waiting the next watch team and tomorrow is a new dawn, is a new day, a new life and I’m feeling good ( dixit Nina Simone).
first mate Anne-Flore
It is a strange day for the Sint this year.
He started working with all his gear:
Pieten, pepernoten, presents and horse,
Making the same route on the regular course.
But in the house of van Assem something was wrong.
There was one person not playing along.
She appeared to be on a sailing ship,
On a eight month Fairtransport cargo trip.
So no Sinterklaas for her this time,
In stead a weblog story in rhyme.
Sint sent Piet to have a look at this boat,
But he couldn’t quite get there on only the road.
At this time they were already at the Atlatic seas,
Almost halfway through there storage of cheese.
Piet visited on a quiet day,
And immediately he felt that he wanted to stay.
The sea was a smooth silky blanket all around,
The quiet only disturbed by peaceful boat sound.
Anne-Flore always looking always sails trimming,
The water so clear that you could see the fish swimming.
The just-not-caught dorado is driving us crazy.
The fish is too smart or maybe too lazy.
With their bright colours and their grumpy look,
We can see them swim beside the hook.
We thought we found the perfect purpose,
For all these cans we have in surplus.
They do swim around with their mouth open wide,
But the pieces of cat food they leave on the side.
Then two weeks later the moment is finally there:
Two bright fish for us, not more then fair.
From La Palma on to where we are now,
Was supposed to take us three days Genau.
Instead we’re out here already for more then two weeks,
Down to our very last pumpkins and leeks.
We’ll be at sea for quite a while longer,
But don’t worry it’ll only make us stronger.
We have to be stricter on water and food,
In three weeks fresh stuff will taste ever so good.
We brought enough supplies to spare,
And Waka-Waka has 30 pairs of underwear!
German speakers and Americans are well represented,
But despite that fact we’re all still contented.
The miracle of nature shows us fish that can fly!
It’s really true, I’m not telling a lie.
Lots of dolphins we see all the time,
You would not believe how it still is sublime.
A little word from the cook to let the family know,
About daily life, about how things go:
From the galley comes an amazing smell,
I handle the hungry and talking mouths quite well.
And while the oven doesn’t want to stay lit,
I’m learning to live with the nickname peach pit…
I’m using bananas every meal,
Don’t waste a thing, that is the deal.
If you eat five per day,
The sixth is for free to take away.
What we didn’t bring with us, it’s sad but it’s true,
Is still laying around in 72…
If you lose track of us and don’t see us no more,
Then follow the banana peel track, back to the shore.
The routine at sea, no land in sight,
Nothing is left us then to grow more tight.
I know everyone’s taste, what they put on their bread,
What they wear, what they read or what they do instead.
Thanks to Lis who helped me rhyme not in Dutch,
Writing, shushing the teapot, O this woman knows so much.
Piet thanks the crew for his wonderful stay,
He’ll tell Sint everything right away.
I hope at home you’re all squeezed together,
On mam’s red couch hiding from the weather.
All the grandchildren on grandma’s lap,
Little Mingus might be having his nap.
Leaves me nothing more than wishing you all,
A loving Sinterklaasfeest this fall (eh.. winter).
“Good morning foc’sle, it’s time to wake up!”
But is it? Is it really? I groan internally. Firstly, I dispute this assertion that it is morning. It is actually 11.45pm. Secondly, I only went to sleep less than three and a half hours ago and my body is telling me it is surely anything but time to wake up.
But, I suppose, it is time for my watch. So I better had pull some clothes on and clamber out the foc’sle. But for the love of Neptune, please don’t turn that light on right above my head. That’s just too far.
The watch system we stand on the Tres Hombres runs as follows; two watches, port and starboard, each comprised of either the first or second mate, one deckhand, and four trainees. Watch on, watch off from midnight-4am, 4am-8am, 8am-2pm, 2pm-8pm and 8pm-midnight, ie. three 4 hour watches during the night, and two 6 hour watches during the day. Captain, cook and bosun are on day watch.
The debate frequently rolls around the galley table as to the faults and merits of this old Swedish watch system. Merits include that in any given 48 hour period, we get to see all hours of the day and night; sunrise, sunset, moon and stars and whatever the day may bring. I can tell you about dolphins leaving bio-luminescent trails in the bowsprit waves, jellyfish glowing brightly beneath the swell, even plankton lighting up the toilet bowl as it flushes. I can now find Taurus, the Pliades and Cassiopia in the stars and I know lots about the many different shades of darkness (and not so darkness) one might experience on deck at night. And when it comes to those sunrises and sunsets, where do I start? Oh yes, purple rain. The other morning the sunrise turned falling rain on the horizon purple.
But there is a downside. Namely, never getting longer than six hours off watch. Given that at night, it’s only four hours, when you factor in meals, fifteen minutes for wake-up’s and time to fall asleep in the first place, plus maybe some waking time to oneself during the day, you are looking at sleep in generally three to four hour bursts at a time. (With the glorious exception of holiday watch, which rotates through each member of the watch during night watch’s, sailing conditions permitting. Eight whole glorious hours off in row. Viva la holiday watch!). Developing a rhythm for your body clock is basically a non-possibility and it cannot be sugar coated, the crew often looks a tad fatigued.
The other element of the watch system debate falls to practicalities – size of the crew, number of hands needed on watch, the merits of having the Captain and Bosun on day watch…
Given that it is the only system I have yet experienced, I shall refrain from forming any sweeping judgments. As we settle into the second week of our Atlantic crossing, I am feeling more adjusted and my energy levels are generally higher. I am even now finding time off watch for daily ukulele and Spanish practise, and relatively frequent, refreshing salt water bucket showers.
And when all is said and done, I am sure I can look forward to telling my tales of the mad, exhausting life at sea and the many sights of the night and day which stretch out upon these vast horizons.
“There are still a few old sailing vessels laid up in various odd corners of the world, but most of them have been idle for a long time with their gear rapidly deteriorating. It is not likely that they will ever be recommissioned to stave off the inevitable day when the beautiful sailing ship, for trading purposes, is a thing of the past and only a memory to those who suffered many hardships and discomforts but loved her just the same.”
This I found in a book entrusted to us in Brixham. Toni, skipper and artist (and Brixham legend), told us that it would provide hours of reading, on the long night watches of the crossing, and he was right. “Shipping Wonders of the World, Volume 2,” now sits among our pilot books in the charthouse, and I think every one of us has at one point or another picked it up to flip through. Or, really, set it down to flip through–the book is huge. The article I found that quote in was all about the last great sailing cargo ships, and the decline of sail cargo as engines took over. Of course, the author’s glumly romantic prediction has not, in fact, come to pass, and reading it aboard the Tres Hombres is particularly ironic. “It is not likely,” he says, that cargo sail will ever be resurrected, and that it is inevitable that the beautiful sailing ships will become “a thing of the past.” I look up from this sentence to go trim the foresail sheets, passing by our cargo hatch on the way.
But what thrills we get from that phrase, “a thing of the past!” The dying out of greatness, the passing away of some beautiful thing, they fill us with a sense of melancholy longing for a past most of us never knew, and may not have ever existed. We raven the romance of the lost hope, the dying star. Our books and movies are full of this sweet remembrance, like the flowers we send to a funeral instead of attending ourselves.
What is it about watching or hearing about the end of something that satisfies us so? It is romantic–utterly romantic to feel the ebb tug at our heartstrings of something ending. It sweeps our minds away into pleasant fantasies of what the past was like–how much better it was, how much simpler, or grander, or more beautiful. “A time when men were men!” for example. Bittersweet, we call it, as though the sweet would not be so sweet without the bitter.
But I can’t help but feel that there is something insidious in our love of this kind of romance. A kind of laziness, perhaps, that creeps in around the corners and says “Ah, at last. That was hard work that now we can safely say is over. We can lay those burdens down and go back to sleep, to dream maybe of past glories, but never to do the hard work again.” Perhaps this is part of what is so satisfying to us about stories of the Last Great this or Final Stand of that. We have all the pleasure of contemplating those great acts or noble things, and none of the daily grind of maintaining them.
Because sail cargo, while utterly romantic and still a dead notion to most people (if they think of it at all), is in actual practice a lot of work. It’s a grind, tacking from the Canaries to the Cape Verdes, searching for the trade winds we hope will appear, “sometime before the food runs out,” we joke. It’s wearing to the senses and the spirit to drift, windless, north over ground we fought so hard for every degree south on. And even when the wind is good, and the rigging is humming and the wind turbines are whirring away happily, there is little romance in leaving your soft bed at four in the morning to stand your turn at the wheel, fighting a nasty cross swell and watching the squall you know will drench you creep up from behind. There’s nothing pleasant or noble about spilling dirty dishwater down your pants, or getting tar in your hair for the third consecutive day. The railing must be scrubbed again, though your back aches still from the time before, and the fresh paint of yesterday was ruined by the waves under the railing in the night. But you get up and scrub and sand and paint again, because the boat has got to be held together, however you do it. You put chafe gear on the foreshrouds for the third time this trip, hoping that this time it will hold longer. You do what must be done, because giving up, giving in, is to surrender to the insidious romance of “things of the past.”
Give me instead the romance of the plain quotidian! The daily washing of cups and pumping of the bilge, the constant upkeep of the rigging as we wear through miles of marlin and gallons of tar, inch by inch, and drop by drop. Give me the coffee break daily, that someone must remember and prepare, though it is not a grand deed, and far from exciting. Give me the small words and smiles that build frienships, the late-night conversations and learning to work together with all different personalities. When considered from up close, there is little romance in these things, in the actual maintenance of a true sailing cargo ship. But it is, in the end, far better I think to keep going than to give up, no matter how nice and restful the giving up would be. Just because something is hard or ignoble doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. And the beauty of sail cargo is not lessened by the fact that it has not fulfilled the prediction of Clarence Winchester, writing just after World War II. It has not passed away with other glorious things we remember with a sweet ache–our childhoods, the old-growth forests of the world, life before advertising. Instead we cling doggedly to life, and others now come alongside Fairtransport to help shoulder the burden. Perhaps even some of those ships Clarence talked about, mouldering away in shipyards in various corners of the world, will soon be refit and put once more to use, carrying goods across the oceans on wings of canvas, not clouds of pollution. That is romance enough for me.
Deckhand, Elisabeth, Nov 27, 2017
“Everyone says love hurts, but that is not true. Loneliness hurts. Rejection hurts. Losing someone hurts. Envy hurts. Everyone gets these things confused with love, but in reality, love is the only thing in this world that covers up all pain and makes someone feel wonderful again. Love is the only thing that does not hurt.”
This at least what Mesa Selimovic says. I agree. To an extend. But it is not the only thing. And it is surely the best thing to heal but not the only one.
My last two years were mainly not too easy and it all culminated in me now being without my best friend and a partner in crime. I also lost my quadruped friend whom I saved from a disastrous live and who in return made it possible that i am now sitting here alive and on this fine vessel.
But at the same time life opened a whole world of new possibilities – I found superb homes for quite a few rescued dogs I feel responsible for and got the opportunity to to travel from Hawaii through the South Pacific followed by the offer to take over this barge 😉
I came on board nearly a week ago and I would like to share my first impressions with you.
After a rather long hand-over between Remi and me (to show our professionalism and dedication we even moved part of the execution of the necessary procedures into several of the off-board liquid supplying offices in La Palma and we sometimes worked daily till up to three in the morning in them!).
Now we are drifting in circles at one of the most magic places I know – next to the Echo Seabank, the Paps Seamountain and Saharan Seamount. 152m, 1512m and 2496m of water above them. If you now imagine the rest of the seabed around being at 3700andsomething meters, you should see a landscape which is quite a bit more impressive than any mountain area you know. These alps here are hit by a southerly current and are located between two continent plates. As a result, this here is a meeting place for everybody in the ocean. We have been visited by common dolphins, bottle nose dolphins, some whales and several mahi-mahis were following us for hours. At night if you shine a torch in the water you see a light show which would be impossible to reproduce with any tools in its four dimensional nature.
Last time I have been here was a looong time ago and to have these conditions which make it possible to appreciate this show is also not exactly highly probable in this part of the world; to put it mildly.
So, Mr. Selimovic, only love, eeee?
When I came on board there was already a very tight group of people which in itself is already a difficult situation for a newbie. Usually. It is even more difficult if this newbie is set on board as captain without knowing anything about this specific vessel and especially if there are much more Tres Hombres experienced people on board. Usually. I really do not feel much of this on this ship. Thanks
I obviously still do not understand the running gags and some procedures seem quite alien to me but i must say that it is – on my first impression – the best ship I have been on in quite a few years sailing; and this comparison stands up against navy sailing vessels and all sorts of much posher, richer and merchant floaty stuff. On the first sight..
Well, the seamountain break for example…
Also there are at least three persons on board who are a spitting image of important persons I have known or dreamt about.
More deja vu: In the first night there was some story/fairy tale telling going on and somebody told spot on ‘my’ story with someone very important. Scary. Fascinating. Relieving. Hope it will have the same ending.
So, Selimovic, maybe not only love? I think all this here is also quite powerful non-hurty-stuff, is it not?
Anyway, come on, we are here on an ocean cruise. Your loved ones are mostly at home which is one of the major difficulties in sailing. You really have to start loving in different ways and other things, situations
and feelings. But these are very unfiltered and real and honest if you let it happen and if you are able to live it truly; the chances and ways are many; especially out here, with these people. But do not ever forget.
Ok, you do know a bit about me and we will keep you informed about how our voyage goes; I promise we have much more dedicated and talented writers than me on board.
Thanks to all and to a few specifically!
[you are right after all, Mesa, if you see love globally and in the biggest picture]
..while I am typing this, someone is singing a song which I have not heard in years and who basically brought me to sailing….
When we arrived near La Palma after 5 days of fast sailing the sea was remembering 20 knots of steady wind a bit choppy. We hove to a couple of hours to prepare the ship to be moored in port, we’ve seen the dance of cruise ships and ferry going out. At 17h00, quite hidden by the pier we dropped stern and bow anchor to stay 5 m away from the quay for 2 days.
We were glad to spend the first evening together on board. The sprays against the quay wall due to the rest of the swell was touching the course yard. Well, we ran the dinghy and the next days had to move the ship 3 times because cargo, cruise ships and ferries are much bigger than us. Nice maneuvers at night on our own or with the pilot boat. We slowly made friends again because 5 years ago a cleat on their deck broke when they towed us, since that they were not open to work together. Captain Remi did a lot of communication to arrange all facilities and make a nice connection because he is just a simple appreciative and competent seaman.
Life on board was sweet for all of us. 14 barrels of precious rum have been loaded and stored for 7 month at sea. For that we had to move cans and cans of animals food on top and take good care of soft tins and bags.
The crew visited the rum distillery, bananas cultures, a little farm, forests and went to restaurants for local food. Also 2 hammocks are full of green bananas in the cargo hold and the drystore shows a firework of colors.
Now at sea, Canary Islands at our back, the new trainees discovering the entire clear starie sky like never before and the bio luminescence in the water when Tres Hombres is cutting the salt water fluid. And then seriously, Eye of the Wind left Tenerife the same day as us,so let’s trim the sails and play with the ship.
To me, after many years as a sailor, I realized that I don’t get used to leaving good friends on land. They set in me a sort of balance in my heart and in my mind. It’s what the life at sea is building, stories to share, emotions to share, know ledges and feedback.
Departure, to say goodbye are essential. This splits my heart, but I know I will meet you later with more sincere love.
You, sailors bloody men that I met in last few years in many places on planet Earth, Mother nature still brings my body and my soul over the oceans and you are a part of myself, print in my blue blood gene. Sailing with you on my shoulder like angels. Thankfull for that what I learned and given the freedom of doing and growing in confidence.
Good bye Captain Remi, respect and good luck for the lovely weather in Netherlands. For the school, here we know already your ability to manage a ship and crew. We are doubtful of your talent particularly in making lists!(the crew is going to hate me )
Welcome to the new Captain Fabian who is sharing his knowledge of cargo on board Kwai and others, also his happiness.
Goodbye Ewan and welcome Alan (born the same day) who have swapped on deckhand position a couple of times without meeting each other before La Palma.
Welcome trainees who came aboard with open and shiny eyes.
I don’t forget crew and trainees who have been aboard since Den Helder¦ JUST AWESOME !
..15 humans, a giraffe and a sheep are going to St Martin.
PS: We went to Brixham instead of Douarnenez, later we went to Porto instead of Madeira but don’t worry about St Martin…
Anne Flore, 1st mate
About a month ago I started sailing this grand voyage from Den Helder to the Caribbean and back again.
My journey of a lifetime. Pretty soon after we set sail for warmer and more exotic places, this 32 meters long sailing merchant vessel and all the people on board, became my entire universe.
Out here, on the high seas, it’s just us, surrounded by the elements and the inpenatrable depths of the ocean beneath us. It’s truelly magnificent.
Beautiful sunsets and sunrises, the sun, the moon, the stars… and of course the waves and winds, both equally annoying and soothing.
The occasional pod of dolphins, accompanying us. Riding and playing in our bowwaves. Looking like little comets of sheers pleasure as they shoot through the bioluminescent waters.
They make us smile and marvel at the creations of mother nature.
Life at sea is hard, yet beautiful and satisfying at the same time. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
It’s with great interest, joy and expectation that I look forward to what is yet to come.
On this beautiful ship, the Tres Hombres.. this little universe I call my own.
10, 11 en 12 november opent de Traditionele Schepen Beurs zijn deuren weer van 10:00 uur tot 17:00 alle dagen. U vindt de beurs in gebouw 66 op Willemsoord. Op vrijdag zal de beurs officieel geopend worden door het luiden van de bel op vrijdag morgen om 10:00 uur.
De EOC-Traditionele Schepen Beurs wordt voor de tweede keer georganiseerd in Den Helder. De beurs streeft ernaar om een ontmoetingsplek te worden voor iedereen die geïnteresseerd is in Traditionele Schepen en daar meer over wil weten. De beurs hoopt een breed publiek aan te spreken van mogelijke wereldreizigers die op zoek zijn naar de reis van hun leven aan boord van een oceaan zeiler tot vrijwilligers die zich voor het behoud van het traditionele schip in willen zetten.
Tijdens de beurs zullen er verschillende activiteiten georganiseerd worden. Er zullen lezingen gehouden worden in het Schippers cafe – uiteenlopend van mastkeuringen tot elektrisch varen. Op de beursvloer zullen presentaties gegeven worden over zeil reizen aan boord van schepen. In gebouw 66 en de Medemblikkerloods (naast gebouw 66) zullen verschillende ambachten ten toon worden gesteld – denk aan staaldraad splitsen, huidgangen rondbranden en nog veel meer.
Natuurlijk is Fairtransport ook aanwezig. Bezoek onze stand in gebouw 66 met de door onze zeilende vrachtschepen vervoerde producten. Tot dan!
Voor meer informatie: http://www.traditioneleschepenbeurs.nl/