Tres Hombres blog: To hell with these motor ships!

For days now, we have been tacking up and down the English Channel, floating around with just steerage way in the Dover Straits, and discussing our options of reaching the North sea. True this last leg of our Atlantic round trip the winds have not been in our favor. But really, if that would be our biggest problem, I would accept it with open arms, and be a happy man! What really does bother me here, in reaching Europe, is the obvious work of what is called “civilization”. We encounter more and more floating plastic, lately especially balloons, perhaps blown away from a fair in one of the channel ports. The shipping lanes look more like a highway, with ship after ship steaming along, one even bigger than the previous. On days without wind, a thick layer of yellow smog surrounds our engineless vessel.

I believe since 2015 a rule was passed that these motor ships need to switch from HFO (Heavy Fuel Oil) to MDO (Marine Diesel Oil), whenever they are approaching the shores, or entering the North sea or the Baltic. This HFO consists of a heavy tarry substance, mixed with chemical waste from any industry who likes to get rid of it. To pump it towards the monstrous engines of these ships, it first needs to be heated to make it fluid. The MDO is like the Diesel we use in our cars, but then with 500 times as much polluting particles. Every time we pass one of these motor ships, a sickening smell of burning oil emissions covers our humble vessel. The crews of these motor ships, might not even smell it anymore or are looking for shelter in their air conditioned wheelhouse’s, accommodation towers and floating factories. Annually 60.000 of their colleagues, dockworker’s and other people living close to the shipping routes die of cancer and lung illnesses caused by the emissions of this shipping industry. Amongst these seaman, who passed away of cancer, at least three where good acquaintances of me…

Yet, what do we do? We look the other way, and accept this hellish game. So, we can buy balloons and plastic crap for our kids, the latest smart phone, cheap T-shirts, solar panels, paint, orange juice, and what more for stuff we do not really need. We accept, so the tar of our roads can be brought over sea. We whine about the price of a product brought by sail. We call and talk with the sailors on these ships, to ask them for our right of way. We are happy and thankful when they change course again. We are afraid to cross the TSS (Traffic Separation Scheme) in the wrong way, to slow down the wheel of commerce and might be fined, by some national coast guard department or agency. To hell with all those motor ships, to hell with the machine which plunders our wonderful planet, and makes them sail!

Truly yours,
Capt. Jorne Langelaan

DATE CHANGE: Despite the hard work of our captain and crew the wind decided different. Tres Hombres won’t be in time in Amsterdam for unloading on Saturday the 2nd. We are happy to welcome you on the 9th of June 1PM

Tres Hombres blog: Signing on, for working sail

At sea again, I am looking back at the last port stay In Douarnenez. Douarnenez is, like Horta, a great sailingship port. From this town there are currently three larger size (for the industry) sailing cargo ships operating: Grayhound, Lune II and Gallant. Also it is the town of origin of one of the French sailing cargo ship shipbrokers: Towt, with as her dedicated director Guillaume Le Grand. Of course, apart from visiting the different crews, I had to visit him, and his partner Diana. The real reason we stopped here, was for a crew change. Old sailors, who had just crossed the Atlantic ocean signed off. New sailors, signed on to join the ship, for a voyage through the English channel. This is the final leg of the: Tres hombres Atlantic roundtrip of this year, and brings our clipper brigantine to the discharge docks in Amsterdam.

So, how does this, signing on, go? There are three different options to sign on: joining as a professional crewmember, this is, if you have enough experience on squareriggers, applied for a position, and where selected by one of our Captains. Second, being on the right spot at the right time, really meaning applying for a position directly on the ship, while taking part of a refit or visiting the ship, and having the luck, that there is a position available. Third, the most straight forward way, of checking the sailing schedule on the website, and applying for a trainee position in exchange for paying the trainee fee.

Back in the days, the real signing on, would be done on board or in a port office. Here the ships articles would be read to the crew, and everybody would put a signature under it. Nowadays, you get your contract by email, sign it, scan it and email it back. After that the nice task of preparing yourself for sea begins. You can regularly check the ship, to see if she comes already nearer to your port of signing on. You have to gather your gear, for everybody this will be different, but you do receive a list of suggested gear. Finally some people, read a selection of Maritime literature, to mentally prepare for the life at sea in working sail.

If you are interested to sign on, short term, you can still sign on for a cargo voyage for this summer. Joining the ship, in Amsterdam, the first week of June to sail across the North sea, the English Channel and into the bay of Biscay, for a French port nearby Bordeaux. Here a fine cargo of wine will be taken in, to bring back to Amsterdam again. A great voyage for the beginner, for a first introduction to sail. Or for the seasoned sailor, a voyage to finally experience maneuvering a squarerigger in coastal waters! Also there is the possibility to join for an crossing of the Atlantic ocean, but then you have to wait, with joining, until the 1st of November. Finally, for those, who would really like to encounter the tough life at sea, of “Iron man on wooden ships” one should sign on to the other ship of our fleet, the entirely wooden Nordlys. Nordlys, built in 1873, is most likely the oldest cargo vessel still operational. Joining her, is an experience with the guarantee that you will never forget it. So: sign on email booking@fairtransport.nl, welcome on board, and bon voyage!

Truly yours,

Capt. Jorne Langelaan

Cargo Under Sail: COMAM coffee “Climate Alliance”

What? The coffee from where? Sailing to where? Okay, let’s start from the beginning…

More than 20 years ago, the environmental organization Serraniagua was born in the Colombian high-mountain village of El Cairo. Since then, it has worked tirelessly for the local rural, indigenous, Afro-Colombian and other-than-human communities. On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean Serraniagua has a committed ally in the Austrian NGO, ‘Climate Alliance Vorarlberg’ which is collaborating with social and environmental organizations in Colombia’s Chocó region for more than two decades. In 2016 this partnership started to support the environmental and coffee-production programs of the local ‘Young Campesino Network’. The aim is to strengthen shade-coffee farmers who adopt low-impact, biodiversity-friendly farming methods and practices to mitigate the impact of climate change on the production and quality of their crops.
This transatlantic alliance is now trying to establish better income for Serraniagua’s COMAM (COMunidad AMbientalista) coffee producers by forging a direct connection between producers and consumers. Disconnected from speculations of the international stock exchange, they will pay a fair price including significant premiums for forest protection and organic production.

But for what all this effort for environmental issues if then the exportation would be operated by the same extremely polluting carrying business as any other coffee? Couldn’t this long-distance transport be driven mainly by renewable energies?

The idea sounded a little crazy at first. But today we can proudly confirm that the COMAM coffee, produced in the farms of Don Carlos and Don Cesar in El Cairo is crossing the Atlantic Ocean in the hold of an old sailing ship. Far from crazy, given the tremendous impact of international cargo shipping and aviation in terms of climate change and other toxic emissions, the sailing ship “Tres Hombres” from the Dutch company Fairtransport represents one of numerous positive alternatives to change practices and make the world a better place to live. And, in early June, when the COMAM coffee arrives in Europe, five volunteers will carry it from Holland to Austria by another wonderful, low-impact transportation method – cargo bicycles!

It’s a beautiful transatlantic labor between tireless actors working for a better future. Thanks to Fairtransport and the whole Tres Hombres crew for making this story come true!

You can follow the tour of COMAM coffee on Facebook and Twitter @Klimabohne on Tour

Tres Hombres blog: The fine art of waking people up.

Sleep. Refreshing, delightful sleep from which you wake up naturally, fully rested. Heaven. However,this is not how it works on board a working ship. On Tres Hombres, 2 watches take turns on deck in a 48-hour cycle where the days are organized as follows: 08:00-14:00; 14h00-20:00; 20:00-00:00; 00:00-04:00; 04:00-08:00. Each watch is therefore woken up 5 times in 48 hours, at unnatural hours(7:15, 13:15, 19:15, 23:45, 03:44).
It is the responsibility of the outgoing watch to wake up the incoming watch.
You would think it’s an easy thing to do, but it’s not that simple. The way you wake people up can have a great positive or negative impact on people’s mood, and therefore on life on board.
It is important, when waking people up,to remember that the people you wake up are the same people who will wake you up in a couple of hours.
The most popular wake-up is gentle but audible, and includes information about the weather conditions on deck, so that the “wakee” knows if he should go out in full rain gear or shorts and sun scream. If the wake up is before a meal,mentioning food can also help. This is the standard sort of wake up. But again, it’s not that simple. You have to adapt to the different types of sleepers:
– the light sleepers
– the standard sleepers
– the heavy-weight, back-from-the-dead sleepers

– For the light sleepers, “Good morning” or sometimes just ” Good mo…” is enough. They can get on deck at supernatural speed.

-For the standard sleepers, see standard wake-up speech above.

-Now, the “back from the dead” sleepers”. There’s a challenge. They need, and sometimes prefer, a rougher wake-up. So you start by calling their name, crescendo, 4 or 5 times. Or 12. Or 20. Should this fail, they need to be shaken awake. Should this fail (but fortunately we have never had to resort to such extremities yet), you might want to consider trying a bucket of water or the foghorn.
Be aware that if you interrupt a dream involving pizza you might get bitten.

The best wake-up screw-ups so far:
-accidentally waking up people 1 hour early
– turning up on deck 40 minutes early because you dreamt someone had woken you up
-(almost) going back to sleep because you were woken up but thought it was a dream.

Good night, sweet dreams,

Caro, Trainee

The need for wine from Rioja and the Bordeaux region sends our good ship Tres Hombres on a voyage in June and July from Amsterdam to Royan, Douarnenez and back this summer.
If you want to experience a coastal cargo voyage on a square rigger without engine with captain Andreas Lackner, then come and join in!
Landlubbers will get sea legs, and old salts wil get a glimpse of how it was in the good days and how it will be!
For more info http://fairtransport.eu/sail-along/ or email booking@fairtransport.nl

Tres Hombres blog: Feeding the hungry beast

Secrets of the night and feeding the hungry beast.

In Holland there are holiday days happening I didn’t even think of in this time of year. Of course it’s May and we’re sailing towards European summer and all that, but we’re putting on our winter clothes and for a while my tanned knee peeking through the hole in my jeans was the only sign to remember we came from the warm Caribbean. I’m writing this blog in the chart house next to a box with electrical supplies which is marked ‘not really necessary’. We race the ‘Gallant’ all the way from Horta to Douarnenez. They turn on the engine (or not?), we set the stun sails. No news from the office for a week, the industrial civilization might finally have collapsed, I’m not really keeping track anymore.

I’m the cook on board this fine vessel as you might know by now or not and this results in quite a different experience from this trip then being on a watch. I’m feeding the always hungry beast, it is an endless process. Even if there is plenty of food, people come in an hour after a meal to eat again. Sailing makes hungry. Preparing a meal might take hours, in half an hour it’s all gone again and what’s left turns into leftovers like news turns into old news after reading the newspaper.

If a huge wave is coming, you see it approaching when you’re standing on deck. You brace yourself and if you’re unprepared and unlucky you get water in your shoe, the ship adjusts itself to the wave. In the galley I feel the impact of the water hitting the hull. I have to brace myself and all the stuff that I’m working with. This one unfitting lid falls on the ground again and if I’m unlucky or unprepared, there is a lot more that can spill on the stove or fly around and end up in various places.

It’s a nice sport to have every meal ready on the minute and in rough weather cooking in the galley demands a lot of focus and energy. It’s a different life with different struggles. The watches stand in rain and cold wind for hours. I’m boiling away, holding five things, getting occasionally seasick from the smells. We don’t know the fun, the secrets and the sorrows of each others function.

I like to feed the always hungry beast. Nothing so satisfying as a warm meal after a cold watch. To provide this is nice, and meanwhile I get to know the people with their habits and preferences. Sometimes though, I don’t have to cook and someone from the watch takes over. Besides that It’s nice not to make three meals in a row for a time, it makes me appreciate my own job more because now I can experience how nice it is that there is someone who prepares you food. And it gives other people the opportunity to feel what it’s like to cook on a rolling ship which without an exception always results in the command that their respect for the job increased. I on the other hand recently joined some night watches and with that I was introduced in the secrets of the night. All these months I was on day watch but the sailing never stops and there is this whole nightlife going on in which I’m not included. Night in night out the watches watch and for them it’s the most normal thing. For me it felt special to enter this world with its impressive sky full of stars, the moonrise, hot tea and stories. There is a more intimate sphere then during the day and although I know all the lines, handling them without really seeing them is something else.

During the crossing we had a birthday of our first mate and we organized a party for her. There was music and a fender dressed up as disco ball so that our sparkling dress also came in handy again. We went crazy with half a cup of wine and we danced under the blanket of thousand stars, holding on to the safety lines in order not to fall over while the ship was clipping along through the waves. By far the most special party I ever went to.

We often get a visit from dolphins. They’re curious and they like to play at the bow of our boat. They also show up at night and they slide incredibly fast through the fluorescent water, leaving a trail of shining bubbles. I was woken up to witness this miracle so there I stood with bare legs and a sleepy face to shiver on the foredeck until it was too cold to look at them anymore. I went back to bed and the next day I was not sure if this actually really happened or that I just dreamed about fairy dolphins.

Eight months in the trip, the end is almost in sight and there are still things to discover. Who knows, do I need another eight months to get to know the night as well as the day?
I’m a happy cook.

Judith, Ships cook,

Tres Hombres blog: Sailing is our only option!

Or the inconvenient truth, about the consequences of not switching back to world transport, by Sail power alone?
(Written from the sea without reference material about statistics, so details might differ slightly from the actual situation, however the general facts stay intact).

90% of the day to day products we use in the Western world (USA, Europe etcetera) have been imported, mostly over sea. We are not only talking about exotic goods, like coffee, tea and spices, but we are talking about basic products like: grain, beans, wood, fuel and off course our consumer goods: the endless mountain of electrical apparatus, plastic, clothes and everything you can think of.

The reason it is this way, is that shipping has become so efficient, with economics of scale, containerization and online logistic systems, that shipping costs are virtually eliminated. This makes it possible for every entrepreneur, to source the countries of the earth for the cheapest and least regulated production facilities. By doing this the costs of products drop, below any local producer, and make it more economically feasible to prefer paying a cheaper price for the same product, which has been produced abroad. The local product will soon be priced out of the market and its industry will cease to exist. This whole system, is a perfect storm of the combined forces of capitalistic and global economy. With as a result, the lowest possible price, and the highest possible consumption.

I have not talked about the emissions of these 100.000 motor ships of the world yet. And although 16 of the biggest motor ships emit as much sulfur as all cars of the world together. And the shipping emissions are deemed responsible for, annually, 50.000 deaths of cancer and other illnesses. The real problem of this system of logistics is not that, but the unbelievable rise of consumerism and the demise of sustainable self sufficient local economies, and all damage to our ecosystems, climate and social relationships it brings along.

The re-introduction of sail power, and the abolition of transport by mechanical means, would mean the costs of shipping would become fair again, not only fair for the current generation of consumers, but fair for the unborn, hopefully, many generations to come. It would mean an unbelievable revolution in transport, and actually the only morally responsible course of development in this field. It would give human (and non-human) societies a change to be not wiped out by ecological disaster, caused by our own poisonous economical system. And yes, it would mean a re-awakening, most people would not be ready for…

Truly yours,
Capt. Jorne Langelaan

P.S. Entrepreneurs are welcomed to take their responsibility, and ship their cargoes with Fairtransport. For more information sent an email to shipping@fairtransport.nl

Tres Hombres blog: Hard tack, limejuice and old horse

The cook on board a sailing vessel, has the most important job. She is the one keeping the crew in great shape, be it physically or emotionally. By storing, keeping, cooking, timing and serving the right quality and quantities of food. Providing a warm and welcoming place of refuge in the galley. And having a listening ear, to every crew members: stories, doubts, fears and dreams.

Back in the days, when sailing ships ruled the waves, the food on ships was very distinctive. Instead of bread there was “hard tack”, a biscuit made of white flower a pinch of salt and water, double or triple baked and kept in tins, to be edible indefinitely. But still… one could recognize a sailorman by his manners, of constantly knocking with his biscuit on the table, this would be to knock out the weevils. When it became clear that scurvy could be prevented by vitamin C, British shipowner’s would start supplying a lime a day to all their crews. From this the nickname, limejuicer or limey, for the British got established. Porridge, peas, sauerkraut, salted fish, salted meat and canned meat or “old horse” where common foods on the deepsea vessels.

Even nowadays, we choose to safe energy, and not have a refrigerator on board. Yet, every night, our deckhands, bake fresh bread. And our cook has brought it to an art, to supply us with the nicest food three times, or more often, a day. As an example this morning she made us bacon, eggs and toast, during coffee time home baked cookies, and with lunch a nice soup with bread and cheese. Every day meals are different. For breakfast: porridge with fruit, pancakes, or fish with rice. For lunch: a salad, soup, or pasta. At night a wide variety of dinners like: vegetable pie, curry, chick peas or another delicacy. Tonight, because of the Sunday, we will even have a glass of wine. Being the cook on board is not only the most important job, it is also the hardest. Ever tried to prepare a perfect meal, for 15 people, during a continuous earthquake, and without having a tap with running water, and that 3 times a day, for over half a year in a row? Judith thank you very much!

Truly yours,
Capt. Jorne Langelaan

The need for wine from Rioja and the Bordeaux region sends our good ship Tres Hombres on a voyage in June and July from Amsterdam to Royan, Douarnenez and back this summer.
If you want to experience a coastal cargo voyage on a square rigger without engine with captain Andreas Lackner, then come and join in!
Landlubbers will get sea legs, and old salts wil get a glimpse of how it was in the good days and how it will be!
For more info http://fairtransport.eu/sail-along/ or email booking@fairtransport.nl

Tres Hombres blog: The wind, waves, stars, sun and the moon

There is something funny about the question: “when do we leave port, when do we set sail?” which most new crewmembers ask. We, the deckhands, tell them: “Wednesday or Thursday”. Then Thursday awakens and we are not ready, or the cargo did not arrive. Which in the Caribbean countries is quite normal. Tranquilo, you know. So then the new crewmember asks:”when do we leave port, when do we set sail?”. “Tomorrow the cargo will arrive, tomorrow we will go”. Tomorrow awakens, cargo planned at 10 in the morning, 10 in the morning, no cargo. They ask: “Where is the cargo” we answer “tranquilo you know”. Now the evening, no cargo, but beer and rum. The new crewmember asks: “When will we leave?” The drunken sailor smiles and tells him how it is: “We leave when the last mooring rope is cast off from the quay”. Confused they look at me, nothing more to say.

Now we are at sea, the mighty Atlantic ocean, with the waves, stars, sun and the moon. The greenhorn, is amazed by it all. Not in their wildest dreams could they imagine, its power and beauty. We jokingly make a bet, which day we will arrive, it is just a gamble for the crew. Nobody can tell what the wind, waves, stars, sun and the moon have in store for us. A week goes by, two weeks go by, then the new crewmember asks the deckhand the question: “When will we be there?”. “Next Thursday or Friday” I answer. One or two days go by, a few hours of no wind and a flat ocean, time is ticking away. “When will we be there?”. “Friday I am sure, beers and portwine in the bar, I will pay” I tell them with a smile.

Now, Monday awakens, “when will we be there?”. I look at him and say with a smile on my face: “The wind does what the wind wants, nobody can predict the waves, stars, sun and the moon. We will be there when the first mooring line hits the bollard”…

Greetings,
Deckhand, Daniel Jim Eijnthoven,

P.S. of the Captain. I totally see where this story is based upon, and can agree with the message, within its context. On the other hand, I also would like to explain that we are constantly making estimations about what time the ship arrives. And really amongst our Fairtransport shipping department and my fellow Captains we became quite skilled in estimating our voyages. I reckon, the past 10 years in about 90% of the cases the sailing schedule has been not more then 10% off.

Tres Hombres blog: The Focsle

The Focsle, is the second most forward space below decks. In front of the focsle there is still the forepeak. These two areas are divided by the collision bulkhead, which has a steel watertight hatch to go from one to the other. Traditionally the focsle is the crew quarters where the hands before the mast live. On board Tres Hombres, this is the case as well. There are eight bunks. Seven of them are currently inhabited, the eight one is filled up with cargo, 70kg bags of cacao, which did not fit in the cargo hold. Aft of the focsle is the drystores, where most of the food is kept. Sometimes, especially in long ocean crossings, part of the stores of the drystores are stored in the focsle as well. The focsle can be reached through the drystores or from a hatch with a small ladder from deck.

The name focsle, focsel, or foxhole comes from the original fore-castle. The fore-castle was a castle like building on the foredeck of medieval ships. These ships also carried an aft-castle which later developed into the poopdeck. Since I live in the aft-cabin myself, the focsle, on board Tres Hombres, stays a bit of a mythical place for me. I have heard a lot about it of course, but seldom slept there. I did start my sailing career in different other focsles, on other ships. For sure it is the part of the ship, with the most movement, since it is all the way forward. Also, again since it is so far forward, it is the place where the most spray comes over. And as Tres Hombres is a wooden ship, with caulked seams, especially after the burning sun of the tropics, and the beating of the waves of sailing against the trades, it can not be called a really dry place either.

But then, although it can be a though place to live, for some it is also seen as a badge of honor, to start life on a squarerigger in the focsle. I remember a few years ago, one of our trainees, refusing a bunk in the aft-cabin, after this came vacant and I offered it to him. He would almost be offended, no I am a focsle hand, so I stay before the mast! In the old days there was the saying: coming through the hawse pipes, or through the portholes. Through the hawsepipes meant, starting as a focsle hand, so working yourself up from the ground. Through the portholes, would mean starting in the more prestigious rank of an apprentice, living in the cabin, without ever enduring the hardships of the focsle. Fortunately, signing on as a trainee on Tres Hombres, you have a good chance to start in the focsle, so, welcome on board!

Truly yours,
Capt. Jorne Langelaan

Tres Hombres blog: Sailing to windward

Leaving Boca Chica, when bound for the Azores, one has two most straightforward options for reaching the North Atlantic ocean. There is going West of Haiti through the Windward passage, or East of Dominican Republic through the Mona passage. Theoretically the Windward passage would give a more favorable wind direction, the danger of loosing all wind in the lee of Haiti, and the disadvantage of the lee shore of the Islands and reefs of the Bahamas. The Mona passage is shorter and against the trades and currents. With the weather forecast of the coming days, there is not much advantage in taking the Windward passage, so, as Tres Hombres has been doing year after year we choose our course again against the trades, bound for the Mona passage.

One of the old master mariners of the grand windjammers firm of Leisz, I believe it was Capt. Heinrich Nissen. Formulated the rules to sail a big or small squarerigger to windward. They are universal, and are still used on the few squareriggers, sailing to windward without engine assistance. So, as we are one of them, we have been making use of these rules since Tres Hombres started trading in 2009.

They are the following:
1). Always carry the right amount of sail to guarantee optimal propulsion. At times this can mean pushing our vessel hard, and keeping as much sail on her as possible. It might also mean taking advantage of a favorable current or tide on one of the tacks, and reduce speed accordingly.
2). Decide, usually with a current or tide against you, if you want to keep speed, and do not pull your sheets to tight. Or, sometimes with a favorable current and tide, if you want to pinch as close to the wind as possible, to keep the advantage for a longer time.
3). Always put your ship on the tack which is most advantageous to reach your destination. This destination might be the final destination, or especially on longer or coastal voyages, a point where you want to be to make the most of an expected weather or tidal change.

Just before sunrise we tacked and in a few hours we will tack again, closely applying the rules of the trade…

Truly yours,
Capt. Jorne Langelaan