It’s 12:00 in the morning. The stars are out once again with unbelievable expression, and the Moon has returned after her trip under the horizon. We are 130 miles from the coast of Haiti, enjoying calm seas and steady winds from the east. It is quite a challenge to even remember any troubles that used to govern my day today, as everything here is so remote, and the endless open waters constantly offer the sense of a new life. Even sleep feels new, as we rock, and the waves toss our boat around like children playing innocently.
The sea has a real talent for playing with one’s thoughts, and as the eyes adjust to the starlight, strange, and beautiful figures dance in the shadows. Glowing trails of defensive algae mark our path through the water, and it feels as though we are sailing over galaxies.
I sit with my watch crew, and we dive into the concepts of Man, and Evolution, bewildering theories of what can be achieved, and what it means to exist as creators. Some days it feels as though all the answers are already known to us collectively, but I think we all get a thrill from the sense of mystery, and I believe its this mystery that makes the pursuit of knowledge worth anyone’s attention.
It isn’t always a dream state though, and when reality kicks in, it doesn’t hold anything back. I find myself having to focus more than ever lately, climbing up onto the Royal Yard, or under the Bowsprit, tossed around with incredible speeds as I grab for ropes and sails, finding my limits, and then leaping over them every day. I live for the high-pressure moments, where the mind is completely silent, and the heart and body guide my movements. When one can really let go, and BE the result, instead of always trying to DO, that is when life can be felt in each breath, and the soul can be seen through ones work.
When the sun rises later today, I’ll wake up again to meet him for another day of this fantastic adventure.
I was starting my trip with the Tres Hombres in Santa Marta, Columbia. I am a newbie to sailing and in fact, never have been on a ship before so I thought the Caribbean Sea would be a good start. When I arrived at the marina and had a first glance at Tres Hombres, I was really excited. The appearance of this historical beauty impressed me a lot, even she was not in action and all sails were dowsed. I felt the urgent need to get on to it and get known to the crew that was already honoured to call Tres Hombres their home. I can describe my first contact as you can read it in sailing fairy tales. I was invited to sit down with the lovely crew during picturesque sundown in perfect weather. Then I got a small tour around the deck and was introduced to my place in the “foxhole”. Even that the air quality dropped immediately in this 8 people sleeping room, I knew I would feel comfortable here and the bed was actually larger and better than expected. When we left the marina and set sails to get to the cargo harbour of Santa Marta, my heart made a jump and I could see and feel what sailing looks like. Later I realized, that this was just the light version of sailing. But since I am adventurous and love to be outside and in nature, my personal happiness tank was filled up more and more, the more days I spent on board and the more experiences I acquired. I can’t tell, what I like the most. To learn about rigging, ropes, knots and navigation as well as practising manoeuvres, climbing up the mast or maintain the ship. Or if it is the confrontation with mother nature that inspires me and also make me think about the impact that we all have. There are only a few chances to watch stars like this in the real world. Being on the ship day and night creates a deep sense of consciousness and you get one with the ship and your surrounding. When all sails are hoisted and the wind is strongly blowing into it, and the waves are shaking this small piece of wood with a couple of human beings attached to it in the middle of the ocean, it does not just feel like riding rodeo. It shows you the power and beauty of nature in all facets.
It is almost ironic, that we are on this mission to transport cargo worldwide emission-free and therefore show the world that there are alternatives to established systems. And while doing it, you will be totally reassured to do so and take your share in saving our planet. So if you want to have a once in a lifetime experience, I can recommend a trip with Tres Hombres or if you are not that brave, just buy Fair transport rum, chocolate or coffee, because it is really good 🙂
The last 54 hours we were beating against the trades. In the morning the winds are East and we steer North, North North East. As soon as the sea wind effect in the afternoon makes that the wind is North East we tack with all hands and steer for 12 hours South East (around 120* overground). This full-on by/closed hauled sailing made us win around 100 miles in the East direction in nearly 3 days. That sounds maybe not so much but can be the big difference to reach Boca Chica/Dominican Republic. At the moment the wind picked up 22 knots and Tres Hombres is jumping against the increasing waves. We have a course of 130* and the ship is heading toward Cabo de la Veda, the most eastern point of Colombia. Tonight when the land wind effect will stop the evening breeze we will tack again and try to get a ground course of 15*. I hope we can make the 350 miles to the Dominican Republic in 3 days full on by starting tonight. I think we will arrive around Thursday night a little east of Isla Beata at the border of Haiti and Dominican Republic. To get into the bay of Santo Domingo we will use the land/sea effect again.
The atmosphere on board is very very good, the crew is really into it, the tacks are going faster and faster: Douse the outer jib, douse the gaff top, clew up the course, everybody in position, helm’s a lee! Ease the jibs, tack the stay sail’s and let’s go and haul! Set gaff top, outer jib and make speed again.
It’s so nice to have so many people from different sailing cargo ships on board. Marine and Lenno, come from the Nordlys, they know how it is to sail on a Fairtransport ship, Anna who sailed on the Greyhound, Luuk and Logan coming from the Ceiba project in Costa Rica, Lars from the Hawila in Copenhagen. And then off course the people of Tres Hombres already sailing here on board since the Netherlands: Paul/Martin/Soraia/Karsten and Daniel. It’s a fight but the spirit on the Tres Hombres is high!
In passing first behind St Lucia, we ended up behind Saint Vincent without any wind, and the starboard watch spent six hours bracing non stop in the scorching heat looking for even the slightest breeze, to no avail. after another couple of hours, we finally caught some wind again and continued to Saint George, Grenada, where we were tugged in with the help of local fishermen.
I think its safe to say none of us knew much about Grenada before arriving there. At just over 112.000 inhabitants, its’s the 10th smallest country in the world. Famous for its valuable spices, its unsurprising that Grenada was heavily colonized from the 16th century onwards by the Spanish, the French, and finally the British until its independence in 1979.
The island has everything from beautiful beaches lined with palm trees, to tropical forest inland, and the way to get around is by the little minivan buses that drive at breakneck speed down the winding narrow roads. The Grenadians are friendly and easygoing people. Music is always coming from all directions, the smell of spices is in the air, the sun is blistering hot every day so we decided to start work at 6 am and finish earlier so we can go to the beach or out for some ice cream or a local Carib beer.
The new trainees that came on board in Martinique are getting their first sail training and climbing instructions. We visit the Grenada Chocolate Company, that makes delicious organic chocolate, and after a guided tour of through factory, the staff treats us to a huge cookout of the national dish ‘the oil down’ a sort of giant stew.
For me, Grenada is an unsung Caribbean paradise, a land of spice, hidden treasures and smiling faces. I have many fond memories of it as we set sail to our next destination, Colombia.
Amber Grootjans, Trainee.
We got through Europa with strong storms and we’ve been crossing the Atlantic, with burning sunny days. We got through a crazy time in Barbados, with exhausting anchor-maneuvers and an environment that left not so much space for a good rest. And then finally we reached St. Martinique.
The island made us a nice welcome, with the refreshing smell of wet Forest wood of the huge green landscape. The green grass around the little hills and the nice Forest were the refreshing views, which we were longing for. After our successful anchor-maneuver, we were looking forward to the art of French baking. The word croissants were in everyone’s mouth. Nice food and good drinks became the basis of our arriving-party. We were happy to be in beautiful surroundings like this island.
We all felt a big change was about to happen. Almost half of us had to leave…
We became a family when we did this big crossing together, but now this amazing journey is ending for some of us. Their time on the ship is over, they did their duty and left their footsteps in our hearts and on this ship. It will be different for us, and hard for them to leave. We keep them in our memories.
The happiness of arriving on a nice and friendly island and these moods of change. Made space to mirror the passing events on this ship for me personally. I am now over three months on this ship. I started in November in Den Helder, crossed the channel and reached the “other side” of the world and became a part of the ship. I learned to fear and respect the water. I solved being afraid of heights and became the climbing instructor. I faced my inner demons on the crossing and shook them off.
Three words became really strong for me: faith, hope, and love. The faith grew about my knowledge, my abilities, and my spirit. The belief in a bigger thing, like this project and that a small change can become a big wave. Every star night and beautiful sunrise gave hope and created greed for the next day.
The strength of the mates, the captain and our beautiful ship Tres Hombres gave me hope that after every suffering comes a breath-taking moment around the corner. And I felt strong love. Love for the ideals of this company, to her our wooden home and our amazing crew. I am really proud to be a part of this.
I arrived finally at a place where I always dreamed about to be. Since I was a child, I was reading books about sailors and pirates. I collected bottle ships and on every holiday on a coast, my parents had to fight me away from the harbors after hours of watching the sailing-boats. And now at the peak of my life, I finally got the opportunity to make this dream come true. To sail on a tall ship across the Atlantic, to climb into the rigs and stand on a yard and all this with a good ethic idea in the background.
I had plans. I wanted to cross the ocean to visit friends in Mexico and my lovely family in North Carolina. I was looking for adventures on the way through America. A country that is full of western society. But in this arriving-night on Martinique, it changed my mind totally. The Idea to stay on board grew out of a little talk with the galley cook some months ago and became my biggest wish. I saw myself more on this ship than traveling thought another western society. I miss my cousins and uncle who have been waiting for me, but I need to bring this sacrifice.
I am looking forward to new opportunities to face my fears. Out of the fear of storms became a longing for it, the stress with climbing grew the lust for it and the bunch of crazy people which I met for the first time in my life found a big part in my heart. These old planks, the rusty metal, the tared rig, and the shining white sails became my home. And I will stay until I have to leave in Amsterdam. The present on this ship became the biggest present of my life.