My heart dropped when Remi told us, due to swell at the Duoro river mouth, we would spend at least another 48 hours tacking around outside of Porto. I thought we would be extremely bored and things might start to get funky amongst the crew but boy was I wrong! The journey so far had been pretty rough through the Bay of Biscay with high winds and swell for almost a week, but we were out the other side and had a beautiful day becalmed followed by some nice chilled sailing the rest of the way to Porto. It was too easy, a perfect time to reach port for a nice glass of Porto and a hot shower but then I had almost forgotten perfect timing and easy are not often in Tres Hombres vocabulary (dubbed Tres Hombrish). I was crazy to think it could be dull on board that magical beast. In reality the two following days turned out to be some of the most exciting and educational sailing I have done so far.
We were tacking regularly, usually one or two per watch. Its perfect to keep warm and keeps the crew from falling asleep during night watch. On any other day the goal is to harness the elements to propel the boat to our destination at the maximum speed possible without breaking anything. But this is thrown out the porthole when you don’t want to go anywhere. Sometimes autopilot took over the brain and yells we’re heard from Duarte in the chart house, “Laura! You’re going too fast!”. It was a new way of thinking. No one teaches you how to sail terribly at sailing school!
After tacking away from the coast we hove to and drifted back. This manoeuvre has plenty of applications but is usually for heavy weather when you need to get some rest. We braced around the topsail so it was working in reverse, kept the rest in the normal direction and threw the helm hard into the wind so the boat is working against itself and drifts. The trick is to get the right amount of sails to counter balance each other.
Then we were treated to one of the best sleeps on board so far. The boat pauses itself and moves gently with the waves. Luckily too since we were in for a pretty hectic watch next.
Within the first hour after change of watch we were treated to a hail storm with pellets of ice hurled at the deck the size of marbles then once that had calmed down the beginnings of a wet willy (water spout or tiny tornado over water which starts to suck the water up) was spotted off the starboard beam. Our cool calm collected captain could be seen by the cook sipping his cuppa coffee regarding the scene and decided it was the right time to quit drifting and get back to sailing. For the rest of the watch we were sailing from squall to squall constantly keeping a keen eye on the clouds because when they approached it often meant a sharp wind change, sometimes 40 or 50 degrees in an instant. We had a couple of intentional tacks and one accidental but we got through it all with no incident.
After these days of intensive sail training we were ready for anything. I was so proud of what came next. In normal Tres Hombres style plans changed again and we were going back where we came from under a northerly heading, aiming for the small town of Baiona, Galicia. We sailed into the anchorage in a small bay, it was delightful to have the full crew on deck for once and it ran like a well oiled machine. I will never forget the feeling, every person on board in position ready for commands sharp as anything and completely silent as we passed the mountains and rocky islands, the lights of town looking like warm little safe havens. What a buzz to get to shore and have a beer with such a wonderful crew. So proud of these crazy cats. Everyday brings us many magic moments and this roller coaster has only just begun!
Biscay was awesomely rough, the hurricane in the north Atlantic made his presence definitely felt by our nutshell. How deep those oceanic valleys and how small we are! Wild waters, crowded of sea life… Dolphins and whales, one even appearing at few meters from our stern. What a bless to see such creatures free in their own environment. This crossing was Unforgettable and exciting, powerful and challenging, true sailing and olympic extreme cooking on the rolling stove of mygalley. Best learning school for a ship cook! Now, after three days of tacking back and forward in front of Porto, our destination and port of cargo operations,dreaming of hot shower and sunny terraces with port wine, the harbour master finally denied the possibility to get into the Douro river and rest by its shore. We are so obliged to change plans and in order to escape from a SW gale, we hoist full sails and fly over the waves at 8knots to go back to Galicia and anchor in Baiona under a beautiful full moon… We’ll stay there few days,show up if you’re in Northern Spain! #doyouwannamakeGodslaugh? Tell them about your plans or sail engineless!
I caught it again this year, as we slipped our mooring in Willemsoord, Den Helder, and headed out for Den Helder lock and the open sea; that leaving feeling. It must be similar to what seafarers felt in the old days, pre-globalization and pre-internet, when leaving for an eight month’s voyage meant likely no news from home for the whole trip, no contact with the familiar ways and people and places. It’s like the wind over the ocean, that feeling, bracing and exhilerating and a little bit frightening. Awe-inspiring. It’s knowing that you don’t know what’s about to happen, but knowing that you’ll do your best to face it bravely. It’s like the moment before you jump from a high place into water. You take your courage as you find it and leap with all your heart, because a half-hearted leap is only a stumble.
Unlike those old sailors, I will have news from my friends and family for the next eight months, I will exchange emails and pictures and phone calls, keep up with what’s going on in my hometown, what changes and what remains the same. But I have cast off my lines from my land life, and headed out into the unknown, under bright stars and sun, through foggy days and rain-filled nights. I go with my whole heart, I hope, and all my courage, and whatever new horizon tomorrow brings I will keep my eyes as open as I can to see it. The lines are off. The ship is free. Who can say what will happen next?
Sail along with the Tres Hombres from rum destination to rum destination. Taste the delicious Tres Hombres Rum before it arrives in Europe next summer. Cross the ocean and enjoy the wildlife of the Atlantic Ocean. Jump into this great adventure … a once in a lifetime experience! Sign on: 16th of December in Santa Cruz de la Palma to Barbados, 2460nm. Only two spots available for the quick decision makers. For more info: https://fairtransport.eu/sail-along/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org
I have been sailing since before I can remember. When I was a little boy I grew up with my brother and my parents on a small wooden sloop sailing off the coasts of Africa, South America and the Caribbean sea. I did many other things in my life since then but I continued sailing on small leisure sailboats, mostly in the French Brittany and the English Channel.
Six years ago, the 10th of November 2012, I stepped on board Tres Hombres for the first time. It was in Cascais, near Lisbon in Portugal. I was signing on as a Trainee for a three month voyage that would bring me to the Island of Barbados, from where I was going to hitchhike boats to South America and start backpacking towards the pacific. I was looking for something to do with my life that would be more exciting and useful than sitting behind that keyboard for the rest of my career.
By the time we arrived in Barbados, I was feeling more useful on the ship than I had ever felt anywhere on land and my plan to go backpacking suddenly turned into sailing Tres Hombres back across the Ocean and bring her home with her belly full of rum and cacao.
Six years later, after more than 45 000 nautical miles at sea, 10 Ocean crossings and so many encounters, It is time for us to set sails one more time for another long voyage over the Ocean to the Caribbean and back. This time I will be the Captain of the proud ship and a wonderful crew of salty and hungry sailors.
Captain of the Tres Hombres.
Sail aboard our ships Nordlys or Tres Hombres as a trainee. Aboard you will learn all aspects of sailing cargo while you gain the necessary sea miles to start the journey towards becoming a professional master mariner. Learn more: https://fairtransport.eu/sail-along/ or email email@example.com for questions.