Discovering the world, through sailing (by Merel van Schilfgaarde)

Over the past month, I’ve been discovering the world, through sailing on the engineless sailing cargo vessel Tres Hombres.

The journey from France to Denmark has been an incredible and unique experience. After receiving the initial safety and climbing training and a galley and ropy tour, I was invited to work alongside the crew. The kindness and openness of the crew made a great ambience. Thus, from the first moment, it felt like I belonged.

Life at sea was a strong contrast to my life at home. After the confinement of the past couple of years, the sea provided a sense of freedom and openness that I had truly missed. While having no service to connect to the online world, I felt much more in touch with my surroundings and the people close to me. Through the ups (imagine seeing fairy dolphins at two o’clock in the morning) and downs (I am definitely not missing seasickness), I discovered a new way of interacting with my surroundings and experiencing the world.
At one point I wrote in my diary: “I am noticing that I feel fitter. The fresh air, moving my body and the almost mandatory living in the moment is helping enormously. I think that is why I love sailing. Sailing is one of the moments where I can, quite literally, let the wind blow my cares away. Afterwards, I can continue my day with a clear head and filled with good courage.” I think this describes quite accurately what the call of the sea means to me and it is a feeling I would wish everyone could experience once in a while.
Life on Tres Hombres thought me a lot about what it can mean to live a sustainable life, guided by the rhythm of nature. Life on board is about relying on nature instead of trying to defeat it. When we stop worrying about being late, the wind will blow again one day, time frees us up to genuinely look at our surroundings and reflect on our choices. Sustainability runs through the veins of the organisation. It goes much further than bringing cargo from one place to another without emissions. Sustainability on Tres Hombres can be found in the way food is prepared, water is used, the clothes that we wear, and the purchases that are made for the ship. From there it flows into the conversations we have with each other and the way we view the world. I am more than grateful that I had the opportunity to be part of an amazing community trying to change the world while enjoying one of my biggest hobbies, sailing.
Now that I am home again I am trying to incorporate as much as possible of everything that living at sea has taught me. This is a whole new challenge and I am not sure what it is going to look like yet. However, I do feel that my experience on Tres Hombres given me a lot of tools to use.
To all the crew, thank you for this experience and fair winds! I am sure we will meet again someday.
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Life on Tres Hombres (by Michael Balshaw)

Life on Tres Hombres has been an experience and a half!

After a few years where we all had a life constraining effect from corona and a chance meeting with an old friend who had sailed on Tres Hombres previously my heart was set on an adventure.
A sailing trip from Amsterdam to Les Sables in France to pick up a shipment of fine wine was booked and the waiting began.

Only having sailed once before I am a novice sailor so before the trip began I had lots of questions. Many of these were answered in a very informative handbook that arrived a week or so before the trip. It is not necessary to have all the latest sailing gear but as long as you are prepared for all weathers it is enough. I respected the advice not to go out and buy new things but to make use of second hand, borrowed or recycled goods. This goes to the very heart of the ethos of the organisation. Transporting goods ethically across the world and at the same time allowing people to learn, experience and enjoy sailing on such a fine vessel.

When it was time for the adventure to begin I set off to meet the ship and the crew where I would be spending the next couple of weeks. After the confines of the previous years, it was a joy to get together with people from all over the world, of different ages and different amounts of sailing experience from the novice like me to vastly experienced sailors but all wanting to experience this unique vessel.

It is important to bring with you an open mind. This is not luxury but you gain so much more. On my arrival, I discovered the intended date of departure could not be met due to some repairs needed on the wooden ship which I learn are constantly ongoing and fascinating to watch and learn from. But also due to the wind. An engineless vessel relies on wind and quickly earths whoever sails upon her into the beautiful natural rhythms of nature. Indeed life on board quickly settles into a rhythm. Watch periods are punctuated with amazing food from the galley cook and the galley in a way becomes the beating heart of the ship. The time before departure was not wasted. We had time to bond as a group and literally learn the ropes and how life on board works. Onboard the crew share their passion for sailing on this boat openly and warmly and in a way, we are all learning together. Learning from each other, from nature and learning to work together. Without the teamwork inherent in the boat, the boat doesn’t work so we do it together. You are invited to take part in all aspects of life on the boat. Slowly you learn at your own pace and settle into life on the open waves.

You will experience all different weathers, seas, clouds, rain, sun and stars in the company of fellow adventurers. Quiet times are punctuated with intense periods of action. We trace our progress across the map as we near the destination always reliant upon the elements to get us there so timing can never be precise. I am writing this from the ship just off the coast of Brittany with strong winds and high waves and I feel alive!

Once at the destination, I will help load the cargo before beginning my journey home and this experience will become a memory. But what a memory it will be. Great food, great people, a vessel who is reliant and steady no matter what is thrown at her and an unforgettable bond with nature. My advice to anyone thinking of sailing on Tres Hombres is ‘do it’. Bring an open mind and a willingness to get involved and you will be rewarded with an adventure of a lifetime with an organisation doing good honest work.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST: THANK YOU GROENESTEK!

LOCATION NOTES:

Den Helder: for those who have been around Tres Hombres since her early days, this name will ring more than one bell and recall many memories. It is a town in Noord Holland which faces the island of Texel and looks over the Wadden Zee, with its place in the maritime history of the Dutch navy and fleet.

This is where the headquarters are, in Willemsoord. Where Teerenstra is, the shipyard where Tres Hombres drydocks and gets refitted since 2008. Just on the other side of the canal from the shipyard, there is a green oasis called De Groene Stek, managed by Judith, a strong woman who would deny a smile to no one!

Judith has a great team who works with her in the garden, a team made by special people who would be let apart in society otherwise, people who are differently able but so often get described as disabled. They work setting goals which are tailor-made for everyone involved in the project, matching their personal needs and aiming for real improvements, mental and physical benefits, creating a safe place of acceptance where people otherwise rejected by society can learn new skills.
Through growing veggies and herbs, they grow themselves too! Gardening becomes therapy for them, probably the best and most effective, a way to stay socially connected letting Nature do the healing that is needed.

From there we take the veggies we need for the refits and for the beginning of the winter voyages for many years. We go there to harvest them ourselves, to chat with the people, to cut the apples that will dry in the oven and be served as snacks on board, and to spend some time in this urban oasis of organic agriculture.

Fairtransport and De Groene Stek are long-term friends, Judith has been supporting many cooks and provisioning the galley of Tres Hombres for a long time, during the refit as well as at sea.
And she is so stunningly generous that fresh veggies aren’t the only gift she provides! Let Eddie tell you more about it…

PROVISIONING:

So we are coming to the end of the winter voyage. Reflecting on the time that has passed there is a very clear group that contributed to making the galley what it was.
Groenestek! You have been with us the whole way, and every person on board knows and is so grateful for your gifts. Thank you for your abundant generosity!

A short summary of what they gave
us…

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MEET THE CREW

MEET OUR TRAINEE ARCO

Age:  60
Nationality: DUTCH
Position onboard: TRAINEE
Former occupation on land (aka how do you keep yourself busy when you are not sailing)?
I am a father of two. I work as occupational health physician, insurance physician, and an instituutsopleider at the Radboud
University in Nijmegen (e.g. training new medical specialists). I also volunteer for the local GroenLinks political party, in an
orchard pruning group and for the Slow Food Movement.
Which book, film, song and/or event inspired and sparked in you first the dream of a life at sea?
TV series: Sil de Strandjutter
Book:  In de Bovenjkooi from Jan Maarten Biesheuvel
Song:  Al die willen de kaapren varen
What to pack for your sea chest, absolutely?
A small waterproof (dry) bag for dinghy rides
What to leave ashore, doubtless?
Worries.
Which is your favourite peace corner onboard (aka where do you hide when you need to be alone?)
My bunk is my favourite place on board when I need a moment for myself.
Three magic words to hold fast to?
Look after each other.
Which wild creature would the ship be?
A Manatee.
Biggest fear before joining and greatest satisfaction on the way?
Getting health issues was my biggest fear before we left.
The biggest satisfaction is that I can be part of all this.
Why Tres Hombres?
To me, there is no alternative to the Tres. Who else sails cargo without an engine between Europe and the Caribbean and vice versa? And, for a good cause!

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MEET THE CREW

MEET OUR TRAINEE MARKUS

Name: MARKUS
Age: 32
Nationality: FINNISH
Position onboard:
TRAINEE FOR THE WHOLE VOYAGE
Former occupation on land (or how do you keep yourself busy when you are not sailing)?
Arthur [First Mate] would describe me as a gipsy pirate Viking.
Which book, film, or song and/or event inspired and sparked in you first the dream of a life at sea?Watching “Around Cape Horn”.
What to pack for your sea chest, absolutely?
I have been the happiest about my sunglasses.
What to leave ashore, doubtless?
I don’t have anything with me, I wish I wouldn’t have it with me.
Which is your favourite peace corner onboard aka where do you hide when you need to be alone?The royal yard, but also the helm and also my bunk and also my headphones
What do you like the most onboard: a detail of the ship, a routine, a person, an activity…?
Sailing!
Three Magic Words to hold fast to onboard?
Live a little.
If Tres Hombres was a wild creature, which one she would be?
Thore Olsen [one of the deckhands on board]
Biggest fear before joining and greatest satisfaction on the way?
My biggest fear: Heights and the ocean.
My biggest satisfaction: Enjoying them both now.
Why Tres Hombres?
It’s a non-charter-square-rigger. This should already say everything, I think.

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MEET THE CREW

MEET OUR TRAINEE DARIO

Name: DARIO
Age: 22
Nationality: AUSTRIAN
Position onboard: TRAINEE
Former occupation on land (or how do you keep yourself busy when you are not
sailing)? 
Acting, clowning, basketball.
Which book, film, song and/or event inspired and sparked in you first the
dream of a life at sea? 
Titanic and Castaway.
Once I spent 1hour on a ferry. I really liked the calmness of the sea, this was touching. I felt free.
What to pack for your sea chest, absolutely?
Snacks! Nail clipper!
What to leave ashore, doubtless?
Razor
Which is your favourite peace corner onboard aka where do you hide when you need to be alone.
The poop house.
What do you like the most onboard: a detail of the ship, a routine, a person, an activity…?
The poop house.
Three Magic Words to hold fast to onboard?
Good morning, foc’s’le! [ Traditional wake-up call in the crew accommodations ]
If Tres Hombres was a wild creature, which one she would be?
A camel! You can store a lot of water in a camel.
Biggest fear before joining and greatest satisfaction on the way?
To fall overboard & not to fall overboard.
Why Tres Hombres?
Well, the rum seemed to be pretty good.

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MEET THE CREW

MEET OUR FIRST MATE ARTHUR

Age: 29
Nationality: ENGLISH
Position on board: FIRST MATE
Former occupation on land (or how do you keep yourself busy when you are not sailing)?
I am a jack of all trades which centers around old wooden ships. Carpenter most commonly.
Which book, film, song and/or event inspired and sparked in you first the dream of a life at sea?
For me, sailing has always been an escape, so I guess the true answer is: getting fed up with land-life is what inspires me!
What to pack for your sea chest, absolutely?
Socks (and more socks).
What to leave ashore, doubtless?
A dead fish with gas.
Which is your favourite peace corner onboard aka where do you hide when you need to be alone?
The dinghy. If people talk, you just turn the throttle.
What do you like the most onboard: a detail of the ship, a routine, a person, an activity…?
Ali’s [deckhand] secret stash. NOM.
Three Magic Words to hold fast to onboard?
Gaff Topsail Adventure.
If Tres Hombres was a wild creature, which one would she be?
Estee…
Biggest fear before joining and greatest satisfaction on the way?
Becoming obsolete & becoming obsolete.
Why Tres Hombres?
Stockholm syndrome.

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Meet the crew

MEET OUR TRAINEE SAM

Age: 21
Nationality: FRENCH
Position on board: TRAINEE FOR THE WHOLE JOURNEY
Former occupation on land (or how do you keep yourself busy when you are not sailing)?
I do marine carpentry and I used to work in a shipyard for wooden boats in the South of France.
Which book, film, song, and/or event inspired and sparked in you first the dream of a life at sea?
I don’t know when and where the original spark of inspiration came, or a particular movie or song. Maybe it was more about people I met. And also projects I heard of, like the one in Costa Rica (SailCargo Inc.) or Low-Tech Lab. And I think because nobody in my family has any relation with the sea: it was an adventure and seemed extra exciting to me, to do something that nobody around me has ever done before.
What to pack for your sea chest, absolutely?
Snacks to share at night watches and difficult moments. A knife and all the sailor’s gear and tools. And I am very happy to have my Jallatte (my boots) with me.
What to leave ashore, doubtless?
Rubber boots. Problems (sounds like an easy answer, but it’s true). And sand, of course!
Which is your favourite peace corner onboard aka where do you hide when you need to be alone.
I am still looking for it, but probably somewhere in the rigging. Ah, no! Of course in the papalagi [little wooden dinghy of Tres Hombres used for recreational sailing].
What do you like the most onboard: a detail of the ship, a routine, a person, an activity…?
I love the breakfast! When everybody has still small eyes and is still sleepy. And I like it when we pump the anchor chain: the sea shanty singing, the whole situation feels great! Also, I like the arrival of the barrels. And the night watches. And Guven’s [Second Mate] lessons (he taught us about sailing theory, weather, lights and signals, and so on).
Three Magic Words to hold fast to onboard?
It’s not a real word but the ringing bell for food could be one of the sounds that will stay forever, like a reassuring noise.
“Royal” (the highest sail on the foremast) means different things to me: it recalls that epic “douse the royal” in Biscay, all the nice moments I spent up there, the freedom it gives you to think, and other stories you can hear only if you sail on Tres.
“Nadine!!!” To use as a curse if you hit your feet in a killer corner.
If Tres Hombres was a wild creature, which one she would be?
A kind of weird creature, friendly, a bit wonky like a squint pelican.
Biggest fear before joining and greatest satisfaction on the way?
I was worried about my English skills and communication. And also, that I would love it too much (and yes, I really do).
Why Tres Hombres?
I didn’t want to go on a tourist boat to do the crossing. I like that it’s useful and we are sailing for a bigger sense, especially without an engine. It’s tricky and we have to find other solutions, and I enjoy that! To keep on sailing would be wonderful. This was and is the first step, the entrance into this sailing cargo world and I would love to continue being part of it. 

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MEET THE CREW

MEET OUR SECOND MATE – GUVEN

Name: GUVEN

Age: 28

Nationality: FRENCH

Position on board: SECOND MATE

Former occupation on land (or how do you keep yourself busy when you are not sailing)?

I am sailing! And when I am not sailing, I am usually volunteering for sailing projects or helping on a refit. I also like surfing, reading, making music, but I am mainly sailing.

Which book, film, song and/or event inspired and sparked in you first the dream of a life at sea?

A song I was listening to when I was young, “Des que le vent soufflera” [as soon as the wind blows] from a french singer, Renaud. Also, when I was 8 years old I moved to live on a ship with my parents, I guess that sparked and inspired me as well.

What to pack for your sea chest, absolutely?

My knife and spike. Absolutely!

I wish I would have packed more crisps and more pesto, of course.

What to leave ashore, doubtless?

The boom-breaker…

Which is your favourite peace corner onboard aka where do you hide when you need to be alone?

I really enjoy being up in the rigging. For hiding the best spot is at the inner or outer bob lanyard. And I also like my private cabin.

What do you like the most onboard: a detail of the ship, a routine, a person, an activity…?

Rigging, steering, hoisting the stud’s’sails. I like a lot the wooden carved piece above the steering wheel. And for sure the lines and the hull of the Tres. They are really beautiful.

Three Magic Words to hold fast to onboard?

Community, sharing and learning.

If Tres Hombres was a wild creature, which one she would be?

A wild black horse.

Biggest fear before joining and greatest satisfaction on the way?

I was concerned I wouldn’t have time to have vacations after the refit before joining the trip. One of my biggest satisfactions happened during the refit but the outcome is sailing with us.

During the shipyard time back then, I had the chance to make a plank on my own, from measuring to hammer it in her place, on a Whiskey plank day, which is a very nice memory! And during the trip, it was definitely sailing with stud’s’sails. Ah, yes! Another very satisfying moment is to see the crew failing to catch a fish.

Why Tres Hombres? 

Because they are the first ones doing it. Because they are engineless. Because it’s Tres! Talking about sailing cargo is strictly related to the Tres Hombres: it is so inspiring and makes people think differently. Everything is possible! One more dream become true.

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The Ship of Silly Walks (by first mate Arthur Petrie)

Aboard the good ship Tres Hombres, many fledgling sailors learn to walk the ship as she rolls, pitches
and flies over the water.

Learning to walk again takes time and is a great source of entertainment for both
the new sailors and the seasoned crew. Here I want to describe some of the different techniques available for getting from helm to galley or bunk to heads in a rolling sea.

– The Galloping Crab –

Begins by keeping a low centre of gravity with a wide sumo wrestler stance. Progress is made by
remaining firmly grounded when the ship rolls, then moving in a series of sideways gallops when the ship pauses.

– The Newborn Faun –

Like a baby deer taking its first steps. Instead of finding good places to plant their feet the strategy is to divide the journey into as many tiny steps as possible, occasionally freezing in place when balance wavers.
It is not uncommon for the Faun’s legs to become crossed. The best way to remedy this is to make a quick, two legged leap, uncross the legs, then continue.

– The Pinball –

The Pinball uses a series of controlled bounces and crashes to navigate the deck. Generally looking for the softest (or, more realistically, least painful) things to crash into whilst zig-zagging from waypoint to waypoint down the deck.

– The Orangutan –

This ape relies on its strong arms to pull itself along the deck. Through a series of handholds (preferably above head height), the Orangutan swings their way down the ship.
They usually see legs as an inconvenient drag on the rest of their body.

– The Chiropractor –

The Chiropractor keeps their legs perpendicular to the deck while using their spine to make all the
required adjustments to balance. This often requires bending at the waist to very uncomfortable angles in order to stay technically upright.

– The Pitstop (aka The Sitter) –

Similar to the Pinball, though instead of looking to bounce, the Pitstop looks to sit. The Sitter scuttles
rapidly from waypoint to waypoint and strategically collapses before the balance is lost.

– The Water Baby –

Only seen in heavy weather when there is a lot of water on deck. If a trainee is subjected to these
conditions early they often give up on attempting to remain upright at all. Once they are fully saturated they have accepted their fate and simply crawl and swim to their destination.

– The Salty Sailor –

A state only reached after a life at sea (or maybe a Tres Hombres round trip). The Salty Sailor has
obtained a sense of oneness with the sea. As they stroll casually down the deck their whole body stays perfectly upright against the horizon, while the ship merely moves around them.
To the newborn sailor, this looks almost miraculous like physics is somehow being cheated or ignored. Many sailors never reach this level, though all should aspire to.

 

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