On a grey, Sunday afternoon our good ship Tres Hombres and her happy crew set sail and cast off lines to head where the fishes fly and the sun shines bright: the Caribbean paradise!
The refit is finally over, but a new chapter begins now for the sailing crew who hold in their hands a blank new page: they’ll write their own story of their sail cargo adventure because every voyage is unique and unrepeatable. As much as these papers wait to be filled in with memories, the cargo hold longs to welcome once again barrels of spirits and bags of beans.
There is always some sort of epicness blowing in the wind when this annual event comes! A surreal excitement vibrates in all the people present, on land, on the tug, on board. You can definitely feel it, almost touch it. So much work has been done and we were all looking forward to this moment to come: the ship is ready for her 13th voyage around the Atlantic!
This was made possible by all the commitment, dedication and hard work of us all. Well done, everyone! We did it together!
The land and refit crew, together with friends and family members, gathered on the quay in front of our headquarters in Willemsoord to wave their goodbyes and send their good wishes for the winds to be fair and the journey to be safe. Tres was looking dazzling after all the care she received in the past two months and the light that was sparkling in the eyes of the sailing crew was stunning.
Our loyal tugboat, the GAR, a historical vessel that celebrated its 100 years of activity on the water this year, came alongside to fast the lines. As tradition Capt. Dirk and his wife Louise towed the ship out of the locks into the North Sea while people onshore followed her way from the canal, the walls of the lock till the dike. Fair Winds Black Lady, see you when the winter ends!
The first encounter at sea has been with a massive oil rig platform, an image that strongly contrasts with the beauty of this wooden brigantine sailing by, remembering us why we do all this.
The last line went off and the topsail got raised first. Tres Hombres was finally free to do what she knows best: sailing the oceans powered only by the winds!
An unexpected twist happened just as we all thought that was it. A last-minute accident delayed the actual departure of a night: a crew member injured himself, lightly. For safety reasons, Captain Francois decided to drop anchor and as a precaution evacuate him with the rescue boat of the coast guard of Den Helder in order to bring him as quickly as possible to the hospital to be checked. You don’t go out at sea unless you’re totally sure that your crew is fully able! After confirming that it was only a minor injury, the crew member got back on board with a second ride of the tugboat and at dawn, they heaved up the anchor and headed off with the first morning lights. A final rush of stress for us all but that’s life: not always smooth as we wish but a constant surprising challenge and learning opportunity. The crewmate is now doing well and happily sailing along.
A challenging first leg awaits them now, a passage that will take them over the cold North Sea waters before passing the white cliffs of the Dover Straits which marks the entrance of the jam-packed English Channel, crowded with container ships, fishing vessels and windmill farms, sailing between the tides and the currents, by unstable winds and along and across the treacherous TSS (Traffic Separation Schemes). This is possibly one of the most technical legs of the whole journey, where weather and navigation require high levels of seamanship. Crossing the Atlantic is nothing compared to crossing the English Channel engineless!
Their first port of call is Douarnenez, an historical fishing port located in the most western part of the legendary Celtic region of Brittany, in France. There, empty barrels and cargo will be loaded, together with good amounts of salted butter, apple juice and cider for the happiness of the crew.
Our brave sailors are out at sea now while we write and read, pushed by favourable winds while they slowly realize their dream is becoming true: they’re sailing the ocean engineless on the one and only Tres Hombres!