“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/
How did you hear of Fairtransport?
I’ve seen Tres Hombres the first time when they visited “Oostende voor Anker”. On board I met the crew , who told me travelling with Tres Hombres would be something for me to do. I totally forgot untill my wife gave me a trip on Tres Hombres as a birthday and retirement present.
Why did you want to join Tres Hombres?
See previous answer. And I’ve Always been interersted in wooden sailing ships. Probably it was a forgotten dream of me. Which comes true now.
What do you expect from this voyage?
A nice sailing trip with hopefully nice people and maybe a story to tell my grandchildren! Shit, am I that old?
You can also sign on for a few days…. or Half a Year, for a never to forget experience. For more information: Sail Along