Boots and jackets are the new style onboard.
The first time leather covers my feet since I arrived in Santa Cruz de la Palma, on 10th of December 2020. We had the great luck to keep in the Caribbean heat until almost the latitude of Bermuda and already halfway the Azores. Until yesterday night everybody was wearing shorts, going and climbing around bare feet and even pulled off his shirt on the foredeck, so it wont get wet and salty. Even after the first warm front, with some rain and a strong wind shift we kept the faith.
But then the cold front came…and all happened in 20 minutes. The season changed completely from blue skies and a beautiful sunrise & sunset every single day to a cold, grey world, brought to us by the north wind.
But still we have some warmth in our blood. The Caribbean round this time was more sightseeing than ever, due to corona which hit mostly the English speaking island, which closed up severely. We were heading to Barbados on the crossing from the Canaries, but when we heard about their lock down we altered plans just 5 degrees to the north and landed in a very welcoming Martinique instead.
After our share of beach, beer, music and fine anchor-evenings onboard we continued our voyage to the remote island of Barbados, which was not discovered until 1600, to load the finest Barbados Rum from Foursquare Distilleries into our Port and Madeira barrels. Still far ahead of schedule we decided to make a little detour on our way back to Martinique, via the Grenadines. Not allowed to land anywhere without permission, the goal was to see as many islands from as close as possible, which we did! Just after catching a big Barracuda on the shoal between Petite Dominique and Petite Martinique we tacked between the unbelievable beauties up to Mayreau where we came very close to land and hove to for a swim. Just getting out of the water a light rain rinsed the salt from us, while Sabine baked the fish for lunch. More paradise is not possible, no need to step on the land this time!
Some more tacking brought us back to the great anchorage of Sainte-Anne on Martinique, where we loaded again the best rum of the island, this time from Distillerie La Favorite, swimming the barrels a good half mile from the beach to the ship.
Still ahead of schedule and in search for more cargo and adventure, we set sail to Marie Galante, our well known and tranquil island, and again French, which means no corona and long empty beaches with uncountable coconuts. There we were invited to take part at the races, which made a good impression on the yachties, when we overtook the colorful spinnakers with 11kn of speed. It was the tradition that the biggest ship of the race hosted the crew of the smaller participants, so soon a big Ti-Punch party was happening on our decks.
Enough of the relaxing, back to work, means to Dominican Republic, where we get the biggest part of the cargo, the cocoa for the Chocolatemakers in Amsterdam and rum. Lots of fine Dominican rum from Bodegas Oliver.
The way to the DR from the Windward Islands is downhill, too easy for us and still ahead of schedule, we set the route up passing Montserrat, St. Kitts, Statia, Saba and the entering the Virgin Islands, inhaling deeply with our eyes for the beauty glided by us on both sides in turquoise waters in a nice breeze from the stern.
Boca Chica! My deeply loved harbor on the south coast, almost abandoned next to the immense container port of Caucedo, lay becalmed behind La Piedra, awaiting us with many old friends, as it is our base in this Spanish speaking country since 2011. Easily we glided into the basin with the afternoon sea breeze, changing right at time to push us along the shoals and reefs at the entrance. Just meters from the ship waves are breaking on the rocks outside the buoyed channel. Cargo action started the next day already, so no more days off but prepare the ship for the big crossing and load her hold up with the finest goods from the West Indies. Delaying the departure one day allowed the crew to visit the cocoa farm, taste their wonderful home made chocolate and have a look at the interior of this amazingly green and mountainous country without any restrictions anywhere. After a few barbecues at our pier we finally got the waterline up to the black part of the hull, means full and packed until the load line.
Leaving port early in the morning with the still ongoing land wind we were happy to wash off the dirt from the land with the fire hose and set sail for the big crossing over the North Atlantic ocean. Still something missed in the balance for such a long trip and soon we should find out. After tacking against the strong Caribbean winds and currents we finally got out through the Mona Passage, when one crew member decided in serious ways to not take on this voyage with us, which left me with the decision where to deliver him. Puerto Rico, with their American ruled coast guard would not be of any help, nor the local customs, so we had no other chance than to go back to Boca Chica! Luckily we have our friend Lawrence there, who organized a speedy pick up of the man in the bay, thank you!
The detour cost us some rips in the topsail and as this is the engine of the ship we had to have that in good shape before entering the wild waters of the North.
Isla Saona offered the best anchorage on our way so we tacked there with sometimes 30kn of NE winds and anchored in light blue waters with only sea stars covering the white sand and Jimmy the cricket joining the ship. In one day the sail was down, repaired and up again and then we were really ready for sea!
With high spirits we left the Caribbean and the warmth stays in the team also after the first low crossing our path to the Azores.
Hopefully the next season change awaits us in Amsterdam, springtime!
It’s noon on Friday, the 22nd of January and the Tres Hombres rolls gently at anchor in Carlisle Bay, just off Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados.
It’s a typical Caribbean scene with white sandy beaches, palm trees, blue skies, azure seas and yachts bobbing at anchor.
However, this year everything is different, it is just so much quieter, the beaches are almost empty, the yachts are fewer in number, there is no music to be heard from the shore at night and the famous annual round island sailing race, that was scheduled to take place yesterday, has been canceled. With no shore leave possible owing to the on-going pandemic, it’s all hands on deck aboard the Tres, and consequently this may be one of the busiest spots in the Caribbean!
The ship is alive to the sounds of scraping, sanding, hammering, sawing and drilling as every surface is cleaned or oiled or painted as part of an on-going schedule of maintenance and repair. I take a break from my work and stand to absorb the scenes, the Caribbean surroundings and the crew on deck busily working away, and I remind myself again that my time on board will soon come to an end as I return to my normal life.
It’s hard to believe that this little wooden ship has been my home for almost three months, and while the time has flown by, it also feels like I have always been here. It will be sad to leave, having traversed more than 6,000 nautical miles of ocean from the southern coast of Ireland, to Brittany, Spain and the Canaries and finally across the Atlantic ocean to the Caribbean. The experience has been immense, from the initial challenging conditions of huge seas and gale force 8 winds off Ireland right down to the “barefoot leg” where shoes and clothes were shed at an alarming rate as we journeyed south and then west across the Atlantic.
The highlights are innumerable, from being towed through the narrow tidal gates in to the harbor at Douarnenez, to tacking silently under the cover of darkness into Baiona, or visiting the observatory at dusk on the top of La Palma and witnessing the clouds fill the valleys below. The transatlantic leg was full of warm fresh days with brisk following trade winds and waves topped with white caps. There were flying fish and falling stars, magnificent sunrises and fabulous sunsets.
The captain always needed more sails and we hoisted everything we had. Mostly we flew along, averaging 7.4 knots, however we were becalmed for a few hours on the afternoon of New Years Eve and jumped overboard to swim in waters 4km deep, hundreds of miles from shore.
We celebrated Christmas, and New Years Eve on board, and toasted old friends and absent friends and new ones. We arrived at St. Annes in Martinique on 4th January, the captain having predicted exactly the date and time of arrival! We took the boat onto the pontoon at marina in Le Marin a few days later to unload barrels and sailed her off like a boss on a fine Sunday morning. There was a leisurely two weeks in Martinique where the watches were filled with bilge pumping and deck washes and splicing and stitching and whipping and sanding and painting as usual, and on the days off we swam and snorkeled and hiked and saw turtles hatching on the beach, and became acquainted with Ti Punch and Planteur cocktails and other creole delights.
But undoubtedly the star of the show was the Tres Hombres herself. The most magical experience of all was just being on a square rig ship under sail and realizing that with some angled spars and squares of canvas and you can travel the world. I’ll forever remember standing at the wheel at night, with a sky full of stars and
16 sails set, running fast down the wind with the sound of the ocean swashing by. It’s like magic. I understand now, the opening sentiment of John Mansfield’s poem Sea Fever when he states “I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky. And all I ask is all tall ship and a star to steer her by”. Indeed. It really is a magical experience.
But in the meantime, there is another week on the Tres to look forward to, with this crew under the Caribbean sun. Today’s labors will be rewarded with a fine meal, a beer, some music and plunges into the sea from a swing hung from the course yard. Tomorrow with anchors aweigh and we run North West with the trade winds towards Martinique, where the boat will be loaded with barrels of rum, which will be swum out to the ship from the shore in what has become an annual Tres Hombres tradition. And then my time with the ship will be up and I must return to Northern Europe and the end of winter and hopefully the beginning of the end of the pandemic, realizing exactly how lucky I was, not only to having escaped it for three months, but for the absolute privilege of doing so on board the Tres Hombres. In the meantime the ship will continue, collecting and delivering cargo, north to the Dominican Republic and then east, back across the Atlantic with a full cargo hold. I will watch her progress from afar, but proud of even my small contribution as part of this enterprise of emission free trading on the most beautiful sail cargo ship in the world.
You find yourself outside of the intercontinental human communications and information network when you are at anchor for a few days without internet.
But life goes on, and how! A short impression of a disconnected time aboard in vicinity of Barbados: (not allowed to touch the land )
Wake up at 0530, heave anchor, receive a little fishing boat to tow us into the harbor, make fast at 0630, hoist barrels on land for refilling by Foursquare Distillery in Barbados. Breakfast while a truck picks up barrels, then little siesta until lunch, just fine. Barrels arrive back at 1400, loading them into the hold. Receive a wind change at 1600, stop loading process and fix rest of barrels on deck. Prepare lines to pull ship of lee shore and set sails. Pull hard and sail off… great! Then tack back before a stunning sunset to the anchorage to wait for new orders. Night comes and no internet yet but some good company from our anchor-neighbors Laura & Sander plus the kids from Guppy, some guitar and violin music and more excellent food and talks.
Next morning the machete opens the daily coconut at sunrise and with it, the day’s activity at anchor. Clean up mess, pump bilges, wash deck, prepare jobs, start music and start working in fine companionship to keep our all admired, magic ship in shape and beauty. No internet yet. So after lunch a rope swing is installed from the yardarm and everyone needs to show her/his abilities on that one. Tired of smashing in the water we continue work until a rum-infused watermelon appears on the mid deck… all right then, lay down weapons and enjoy this before the imminent Caribbean sunset.
Next morning, shortly after the coconut, the internet is back! I do not tell the crew so they can start their daily life unconcerned and with clean energy. After email, which contained highly overrated local invoices, the wind and then the news. Wow. I knew that corona was still going on but now it was going crazy with new versions and more horror stories, and the first message is that someone brought it around with a plane again. What a coincidence! Or does the spreading have nothing to do with fast global traveling? Fly to hell fast! might be the slogan of the virus I’ll be with you!
Next article on climate change: China starts worldwide biggest emission trade! I find it reasonable that they (Austrian news) file it under economy, because it obviously has nothing to do with the environment.
And on it goes with about 95% of negative news from all over the world. This must be a kind of brainwashing which is able to suck out energy from any reader, or consumer, as we are called nowadays, but where does it go, all this energy?
I’m stopping now because the positive energy and the noises all around onboard pull me out of my room and disconnect me from the trouble on all these far away continents. Just outside we see people walking on the beach. Not allowed to touch the land they stay just as far away as the ones at home, as well as their trouble.
Somehow this internet is just a huge shift of peoples energy between them, while some obscure companies with obscure manners try to control some of it.
I hope air, earth, water, plants and animals can stay out of that net for a while more, so some of us have a chance to reconnect and enjoy basic life. I also hope these people will form a critical mass someday.
Let’s open another coconut … all the best from far,
P.S.: Imagine it’s the bottle which brings you this message!
Als 2020 ons een ding geleerd heeft, is dat niet alles te plannen valt.
Zo verdwenen al mijn plannen die zich buiten het huis afspelen een voor een in een la. Eentje, gepland voor het eind van 2020 bleef echter al die tijd overeind: de oceaan oversteken met de Tres Hombres. De vraag naar vracht bleef gelukkig staan en het zou allemaal doorgaan. Toch bleef ik tot het laatste moment bang dat het zou worden afgelast. Eerst omdat ze twee weken langer in de haven van Den Helder bleven (mogen ze de haven niet uit?), later toen ze voor de kust van Rotterdam in plaats van verder naar het zuiden, opeens terug naar het noorden aan het zeilen waren (worden ze soms teruggefloten?).
Maar hier zit ik, op dag weet-ik-veel, op het dek in de zon in onze lounge, gemaakt van opgerolde dikke touwen. In de nachten vergezellen de maan, planeten en sterren ons aan de hemel en onder de boeg maakt het plankton zijn eigen sterrenhemel in het water. Af en toe hebben we geluk en komen de fairy dolphins ons
‘s nachts bezoeken, die door het oplichtende plankton als lichtflitsen onder het wateroppervlak voorbij komen.
Praktisch alle zeilen staan op (ik tel er nu zo’n zestien) om ons met een knoop of negen richting de Kaapverdische eilanden te brengen. Vanaf daar zeilen we westwaarts, richting Barbados. Zojuist in de mast geklommen om te oefenen en van het uitzicht te genieten. Zo meteen staat er een emmer zeewater klaar om een douche te nemen. Het is zoals ik hoopte: de zon aan de hemel en windje in de rug. Of blote-voeten-zeilen volgens de kapitein. Deze overtocht mag nog wel even duren.
Make fast slowly! Arrival in the Caribbean
The last two weeks were arrival weeks for the crew of Tres Hombres. After 22 days we saw land again: the island Barbados was in sight in the morning of the 9th of January. Hotels! industry! cruise ships! We had a 25 knots of wind, so to reduce speed for the anchor manoeuvre we took down royal, upper bob, outer jib and course.
Close to the entrance of the river of Bridgetown we tried to anchor and for two times the anchor was not holding. Pump the anchor up by hand 2 times, set sail, tack back into the bay: we were busy with that for 7 hours. The 3rd time we were doing 3 knots again but then she stopped: we had 4 shackles in and where holding. This is how to make fast slowly I guess.
Soraia and I went into Bridgetown to clear in and get some fresh food. What a world we are living in! Music, car sounds, the smell: unbelievable after such a long time at sea. In the cruise terminal we cleared in and went to the fishing harbour after to get cold beer, veggies and some fish.
The weeks after were real organising weeks, talking with agents, rum distillers, harbour offices etc. etc.
In the end, we could go into the cargo harbour on the 17h of January, just for 10 hours. Make slow-fast!
At 5 o clock, we got tugged in by our friend Randall and at 9 o clock, we had the rum on the truck.
At 12 we were filling up the barrels in the Four Square distillery and at 14.00 we were back on the ship again. At 16.00 all barrels were back onboard filled up and sea tight. After that we unloaded wine, seaweed and olive oil for a slow food restaurant on Barbados and we picked up a new trainee from the Cruise terminal. I cleared out and at 18:30 we had all sails up and sailed out of the harbour of Bridgetown. Bye-bye Barbados! Seventeen hours later we arrived in the bay of St. Anne Martinique and we had a meeting with our friend Raphael. We cleared in and believe it or not: they have a pizza catamaran in the bay here: you order on a VHF channel and they come by with a tender to deliver the pizza. This was a good, goodbye party: with pizza, wine and rock ‘n roll music. 6 trainees are leaving and we get 6 new ones on board.
During this week we unload wine and Armagnac for Raphael, we unloaded empty barrels of rum on the beach and Friday we gonna load full barrels back on board. When I wake up and look around me, see the sun go up, drink a coffee, have a chat with the crew on deck in the sun, do a swim I can only admit that this life is like a dream.
Foto: Marco van der Does
After our departure from the Santa Cruz de la Palma harbor, the shouts of command quickly changed into shouts of joy: we are on our way to Barbados with 10 knots! During the next night watches, we can see the lights high on the islands of Gomera at port, and later on Hierro on starboard. We are making our way south, towards the trade winds. Although the little wind we have now, makes our ride less bumpy and more pleasant for those with seasickness, we are not making a lot of speed. The couple of knots we are making seem to come from the current rather than from the wind, but hey, at least we are going south.
Since the container harbor of La Palma and the lights from Gomera and Hierro, the scenery has changed quite a bit: no more land. From the top of the Royal, the view is practically identical in all directions (and quite amazing). Through the few clouds that dot the horizon, the sun and moon rises are quite astonishing, the milky way clearly visible at night. The lack of wind and the lazy waves rolling by makes being here almost surreal. Only the radio, airmail and our sanity is telling us that there is more than us bobbing around in the seemingly infinite ocean.
One morning we were treated with a beautiful sunrise during breakfast, and on top of that, four small dolphins were swimming around the ship. Simultaneously breaching and diving again, they seemed to enjoy their little visit to the Tres Hombres. The all-, yet nothingness of the ocean around us was soon stirred again by a set of sail-less masts at the horizon. As the ship slowly drew closer, it appeared to be a small ocean crossing ship, flying the French flag. Strangely, the three people and a cat got close enough to exchange some waves (not the cat), but stayed to far a way for a chat. Strange people, those Frenchies. After stealing our dolphins, they slowly disappeared to the other horizon with the lazy thuf-thuf-thuf of their engine.
The good weather and easy rolling of the ship makes it an ideal time for some maintenance. During the day watches we busy ourselves with small repairs and maintenance here and there, sanded and oiled the cleats, and stopped the ladder next to the foxhole sleeping quarters from making that annoying sound every wave. At night we resort to telling jokes and playing games like `animal chain`: the next one in the circle has to name an animal beginning with the last letter of the previous one. We got stuck at the letter `e`. Besides that small hitch during the last night watch, all is well onboard the Tres Hombres, as we slowly make our way south, towards the trade winds.
How do we get back home? Tacking!
Down the flying jib and the gaff tops’l, ease the topping lift, cast off tricing lines, staysailboom midships, coils of braces and headsail sheets on deck. Ready on the foredeck? READY! Ready about! About ship, helms a-lee! Mainsheet tight, ease the headsail sheets….there she comes, helm back midships, ease mainsheet, tack the jibs and… Let Go and Haul! Cast off tack and sheet of course, haul away lee course brace as you might, change boom lift, ease mainstays’l boom, tack the bob’s, all hands (or the windlass) on the tack and pull it down together with the lee-topping lift. Tack down! Course sheet home! Trim the yards, set the gaff tops’l, set the flying jib and then coil up and clear the deck!
15 minutes of the mariners full concentration is vital for the ship to make her way up against wind and current, not to loose ground against the ever blowing Northeasterlies in the Channel.
3 weeks ago all those lines were mere mystery to the most hands aboard Tres Hombres, now, at the command of prepare for tacking, everyone is whizzling over the deck, finding the right line to cast off, haul tight or stand by! No more discussions, commands are understood and taken out with pleasure and power. At force 5, instead of life lines the flying jib is put up and the helmsman is smiling pleasantly, feeling the acceleration of the ship and her leaning over in comfort!
Good food and good company as a power ressource, one common mission: living live in a natural way!One tool: the most beautiful sailing vessel on the seas, currently hunting after De Gallant, where early sailing memories with Captain Hendrik make me think of the old days as a deckhand without any concerns, without any limits.
Now we are passing on those good times, the tools and the experience to find a way in your life, it’s your choice.
P.S. : with some unexpected SW wind we are right now passing Dover, gybing the stunsails with boom and all to use the last heap of this rare wind, pushing us into the North Sea, where the next blow of NE will await us…see you soon in Amsterdam
Captain Andreas Lackner
Is your mind filled with the glorious majesty of the white winged masts of the Age of Sail? Or are you longing to master the arts of the traditional seaman? Then sign on, sailing on a cargo vessel is a unique way to discover the world and learn the art of real square rig seamansship. Price varies by voyage. The longer you sign on for, the less you pay per day. Visit http://fairtransport.eu/sail-along/ for the latest schedule and pricing or email email@example.com
[pdf-embedder url=”http://fairtransport.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Tres-Hombres-Winter-2018-2019-new.odt.pdf” title=”Tres Hombres Winter 2018-2019 new.odt”]
Exactly one week we stayed in the port of Boca Chica, to load our main cargo: 200 bags of cacao for the Amsterdam Chocolatemakers, 5 bags of cacao for Chokolade from Denmark, 2 barrels of rum for a customer in Zwitserland, a barrel of rum for Paula Luiz on the Azores and a mix of many barrels of rum, cacao, coco oil and melasse for Fairtransport itself. To distribute further to a variety of partners within Europe. All loaded by hand or block and tackle, by our own crew, under the skilled supervision of our Chief officer. Combined with the coffee and other products, we had already in the hold, it is a very nice diverse and high quality cargo. A cargo well worth sailing for.
Organizing the entry, the loading, the storing, the daily life on board, and the departure out of Boca Chica is always a bit of a challenge. The bureaucracy, the rithm of the Caribbean beat (full volume), the heat, the loading operations, the waiting, the gate of the commercial port, and the overwhelming complexity of Dominican Republic life, have gained a legendary reputation amongst the Tres Hombres crew. Fortunately the ship has visited this port many times, meaning there is a wide network of people who are helping out crew and ship. Amongst them there is Forrest, the very friendly owner of the Nautical store with the same name. Victor, our agent who helped us every day, with a smile, smoothing out the relationship with the port and customs officials, arranging drinking water, helping us with getting stores, talking with the office of the commercial port and keeping the relationship with the pilots in good order. Than there was Chris, a dutchman, sourcing a quantity of cacao plants, and helping us with storing parts. Apart from them, there was a wide range of different people making our visit possible again: the producers and traders of our cargo: Belarmino, Jasser and Yamir, the nice ladies and gentlemen from the harbor office, the gatekeepers, the drivers of the motorbike taxi’s, the stevedores and many more. Off course there was also a lot of help from our headoffice in Den Helder: Hans, Sabine, Andreas, Daan, and also here without doubt many more. Thank you very much!
And now, back at sea we are. After a nice maneuver of sailing out of the harbor, in between the reefs through the buoyed fairway, while setting our entire complement of sails, including royal and course. We are loaded on design draft, hatches are battened down and all cargo and gear lashed and stowed. An hour after departure, we where logging already more than 7.5 knots, and currently we are hugging the coast to try to keep some North in the wind, caused by the land effect. Anchors and chains have been ocean stowed, safety lines and nets rigged. It is still all hands, but after lunch, we will have a muster and the watches will be divided. We are ready for the ocean crossing, the weather forecast looks promising, so Azores here we come.
Capt. Jorne Langelaan
After five months of voyage together, a few dear friends have left us, continued their way home. We stay behind as a small crew. But the voyage isn’t over yet. I wrote a song for those who left and for us who can appreciate what has been and can look forward to what is yet to come. In this blog I’ll share it with you. You can sing it on the melody of ‘Amsterdam’ from Jaque Brel (My sister should definitely try this! I missed you while writing it!).
”From the port of Den Helder did we leave months before
Waving farewell to friends we don’t see now no more
Adventures ahead and a ship full of food
Our minds alive for the best and the good
We sailed over seas heading south and then east
Through the waves and the wind from our fears now released
So far from home all the way that we came
In the end we’ll return to love and to fame
Not all that was easy, no we challenged each other
But living together makes us sisters and brothers
Day after day we shall work together
In sun, cold, storms, squalls, all conditions of weather
Our morning moods, our evening moods
An early wake up call might not do much good
Yes after months at sea, we know everything now
From joy to sadness from the aft to the bow
We are stretching our boundaries we reach out to each other
We seek comfort on shoulders if we miss our mother
From time to time we don’t know what we do
We get wet, we dry up, and who knows for who
When we finally reach land, oh we sight with relief
We have rest we drink rum it is hard to believe
But nothing so needed as time together
Surviving this trip is the most important matter
Many crew came along, people joined people left
We expended, decreased and now we’re bereft
From the whole trip around only three months ahead
But not 15 will join we are 9 now instead…
Our brave 2nd mate is gonna wave us farewell
After service of seatime and an easterly swell
For him the time came now to leave this big ship
To home he continues his personal trip
No more rice, no more beans no more fried platanos
Is this really the route you voluntarily chose?
Enjoy your last breakfast, your last drink your last piss
Remember all this that you’re about to miss
Your last pulling on lines, your last dinghy ride
Your last galley tank water, your last dreams at night
Your last shanty with us, your last mandoline tune
And then we all hope you’ll find your fortune
Besides Conor is also our Jack leaving us
Will it be by train, airplane, boat or the bus?
He fits so perfect to our current crew
We hope next year he has the chance to re-do
And then last but not least captain Fabian takes off
He is leaving us hear and his office aloft
No more playing with dinghies and no bossing around
No ‘I don’t like sweets’ – it’s not true we found out
What means this for us at this beautiful place
So many bunks empty, so much surplus space
This is not the end of our trip together
We’ve still to sail back in all types of heavy weather
Let just not forget, what has brought us here
For the ones who leave we can shed a tear
But what’s left is a group and a beautiful crew
Let’s point out our beauty that we already knew
I am sure that the hardships that are saved for the last
Can only mean that we’ll be at our best
We collect our strength and collectiveness
we hoist the sails and try not to make a mess
After living together so many months in a row
Don’t we know the pearls in our oysters now?
We shouldn’t forget how special we are
That, my friends, will bring us so far
From the port of Den Helder did we leave months before
Waving farewell to friends we don’t see now no more
Adventures ahead and a ship full of food
Our minds alive for the best and the good
We sailed over seas heading south and then east
Through the waves and the wind from our fears now released
So far from home all the way that we came
In the end we’ll return to love and to fame.”
Photo by Chelsea Pyne
This blog is written by Elisabeth (deckhand) some days ago, when the Tres Hombres was sailing from Barbados towards Colombia.
“Ships and sailors rot in port.” After nearly three weeks on anchor in Carlisle Bay, Barbados, I know the truth of that old saw completely. The endless whine of the jetskis by day is replaced by the thumping bass and screaming DJs of the party boats that circle the bay all night, and with our dinghy engine in for repairs, we are all stuck on the boat all day and all night, and are thoroughly sick of each other. Tensions rise. We become careless of one another, and more injuries seem to happen than at sea. We do the maintenance tasks necessary for the boat, not out of a sense of delight at keeping her in good shape, but in a desperate attempt to stave off boredom. The Round-the-Island race was a perfect excuse to shake out our sails again, get the rough ropes under our fingers once more, but having to tack back into the same anchorage only a few hours later almost broke my heart. This, again? I check email compulsively, though I neither want to nor care.
But now, now we are sailing once more, the wind at our backs. Flying to Colombia downwind at 8 knots, I can feel the cares and troubles of land slipping away behind me. The ship is alive again, and we are full of purpose. As soon as we weighed anchor, I could feel too the weight in my mind lifting free. The things I worried about on land seem far away and inconsequential in the bleaching light of the full moon. I forget the internet, and instead reacquaint myself with the stars, murmuring their beautiful names to myself as I find each one in the sky; Sirius, Rigel, Capella, Aldebaran. All the water of the sea washes away whatever it was I worried about on land–what was it anyway? I can no longer remember. I watch the light change the color of the water instead, and the clouds rolling across the endless sky, the scintillations of flights of flying fish, and I swallow each sunrise whole. The moon turns the tops of the clouds silver, and the waves break in hissing foam.
I am back to feeling the way the boat responds to my steering, slithering her way between the swells, back to watching the flag for any wind shift, back to work feeling like it means something again. We have somewhere to go, some things to carry there. In port we are merely a theme-park attraction for tourists to take selfies with, a floating quaint hotel. But at sea we are sailing cargo, doing the work of it, the dailiness of this grand goal, not just talking about it.
Of course, I don’t mean to discount the immense amount of work that goes into even allowing us to sail, the work that our captain, mates, and the Fairtransport office do without us hands and trainees ever seeing. Without that work, I could never have the feeling of freedom I have now, the wind scouring clean my mind as my hands grow dirtier with tar and sweat. For that work, they deserve much thanks, for giving us a purpose and a goal. Without that purpose, without something to keep our hearts beating and our muscles pulling, to keep our brains sparking and our creativity alive, we are left to do nothing but rot.