Nordlys blog: As we dance this handcrafted wooden ship

Sailing cargo with the Nordlys.
A happy crew on a happy ship.
We sail from the Netherlands to Portugal and England,
from France to Germany and Denmark.
Sometimes storm, sometimes calm, sometimes sun, sometimes rain.

„Une grande ballet“ on the oceans waves.
The flow of air which makes us move.
As we are dancing away from and towards the land.
The sun and stars are shining above us in the sky.

As we dance this handcrafted wooden ship,
The natural wines, olive oil and flowers, are dancing with us overseas.
Products from the earth, natural grown and cared with love.

„Une grande ballet“ of quality and taste.
As we farm the land, as we sail the ship.
Producers, transporters and consumers meet.
We are dancing the melodies of life,
during this precious time here on earth.

Thriving like a grapevine, an olive tree or a flower of life.
The planet earth is meant to thrive.
Let us follow her tunes and dance her melody,
and she will be prosperous for every soul.

Captain Lammert

Tres Hombres blog: let go and haul!

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.
Andreas
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 booking@fairtransport.nl
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Tres Hombres blog: Expectation unknown, fulfillment guaranteed

Falmouth for orders!
Coming back on a 4-mast bark from a voyage of 6 months out or more, having past Cape Horn the wrong way around, fully loaded with guano or saltpeter from the Chilean Pacific coast and in the end entering the English Channel again, what a feeling this must be for the ordinary European seaman!

Still this was not the end of the voyage and many times the final destination of the cargo was not clear at the time the ship left the south American loading port, so where to go? Lizard Point it is, the southernmost tip of England, where the flag officer in charge would have the answer.
It was then a challenge for the captain to steer his ship as close as possible along the coast, able to sign the name of the ship he is commanding, to shore. Then the man on shore will find the wire messages he got from a shipping office in Northern Europe, regarding this vessel, and signal the essence of the order over to the ship: the final destination for unloading the cargo! Old-day internet you would call it, using different colored flags going up and down a flagpole, always still adding a salute and some information about how many days the voyage took and how many were lost at sea.

Tres Hombres, as you know always keen on following up the precious traditions from the era of Sail, had to go close enough to shore as to have phone reception, for these orders. After a great unloading in the heart of Amsterdam the crew was anxious to put to sea and after seeing the weather forecasts we decided that there was no time to loose for making sail on a southbound voyage.
But where to go exactly? Supercargo Ruurd was still involved in wine tastings and presentations and would need some more days to finalize the orders of wine for Amsterdam. What was left to us was pulling the sheets and tack out our way through Northsea and Channel, until Falmouth… Or lets say, Ile de Quessant, where we passed at a four mile distance, to receive the orders we needed: Getaria it was, in the deepest of the Bay of Biskay! Rioja wine has to be taken on board and this harbour is one of the closest to the well-known wine area in the North of Spain.

In between, the crew is getting hold of the right ropes, commanded by our old shipmate Shimra and our through-salted, iron-man Lenno, while our new second mate Noe is getting the trick of the trade, guided by me and Gerrit, who knows the ship as he would have the same one at home in his lake in Friesland.
Getting accustomed to a rocking kitchen and feeding 17 mouths which eat twice the amount as they would do on land, is Meria, new ships cook and a great personality. Mikael, who left his farm to go to sea and did not leave his ship since then, as bosun in a function which is put aside for him. The ploerten from Den Dolder are constantly asking for food in many ways: give me ropes to pull, let me learn about the weather, the waves, the ship and the old ways…and giving all their love and knowledge (comments;-) to this ship where they worked on in the dry-dock since years already. Jeroen is chipping away in his pace, just bothered sometimes by sleeping people and once in a while by a big wave, covering tools and him in saltwater. Boris is the singing spirit, assisting his sister in the rollercoaster-galley. Jonas, calm as ever, is silently working his way up to an able bodied seaman, surprising with ever new outfits. Giulia and Collin, just arriving from their mountain-cave onto our little floating universe, giving all their charm and patience and delicious goodies brought from La Palma. And last but not least, Wout, our old, trustful trainee from earlier voyages, who is cheering us up with stories about life in marriage and the cargo-world out there on the road as a professional trucker.
Today the anchor winch has been taken apart, put in function and together again, now we all just wait for the wind which we expect from the Northeast, to give us a ride through the Bay of Biskay. Preparing for a new port, new cargo-partners and new crew, an ever changing life, like the wind, expectation unknown, fulfillment guaranteed.

Captain Andreas Lackner

Encounter on the the high seas of Tres Hombres and Nordlys

Last night the second mate, Alan, and I where studying the charts, weather and shipping. When he brought up, where Nordlys, the other sailing cargo ship of Fairtransport would be? We knew they had been discharging a cargo of wine and olive oil in Brixham, England, and where bound for Douarnenez, France, after that. This, to pick up wine for Copenhagen and Bornholm in the Baltic. So theoretically she would be somewhere in between Brixham and Douarnenez, and we where too. For the heck of it, I put the cursor on one of the ships on our AIS (Automatic Identification System), and really a chance of one in a million, but it was Nordlys!

Next moment I was on the radio: „Nordlys, Nordlys, Tres Hombres“… A few seconds later the familiar voice of the Master of Nordlys, Captain Lammert Osinga, could be heard: „Tres Hombres, Nordlys“. We changed to a working channel, and had a nice chat about our voyages and the available cargoes. We where pretty much on opposite courses, so we both only had to alter a bit to starboard to meet each other. So we agreed to arrange a meeting on the high seas, in a few hours.
Around an hour after midnight we saw the bright navigation lights, red above green, and the silhouette of Nordlys became apparent. Captain Lammert and I, discussed matters over the radio, and decided that the safest maneuver would be, that Tres Hombres would go hove too by bracing the foretop aback, and Nordlys would approach under reduced sail. Then we would lower our boat, as part of a man-overboard exercise, and sent over a delegation of our crew, with a drink and a cigar. As described happened. It was really the most impressive sight to see the Nordlys, gliding effortlessly through the mirror like see, only partly visible due to the moonlight. When our boarding team returned, with an exchange of gifts, everybody was over excited. Like a wild bunch of privateer’s we echoed our greetings and wishes, our Austrian deckhands shared their flasks of rum to celebrate the occasion. Then, accompanied by the timeless sound of Nordlys their Japanese foghorn, and Tres Hombres her Norwegian foghorn, Nordlys disappeared into the darkness again…

Truly yours,
Capt. Jorne Langelaan

LAST MINUTE OFFER: The need for wine from Rioja and the Bordeaux region sends our good ship Tres Hombres on a unexpected 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 co-founder and 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 sail along or email booking@fairtransport.nl

Nordlys blog: As a team in the rhythm of the sea

We are navigating our way from Den Helder to the southern peninsula of Europe.
When you are sailing the North Atlantic waters in the early months of the year, the weather conditions might be sometimes a bit rough.
Fortunately there are nowadays good weather forecasts for the first days to come. The depressions developing on the Atlantic Ocean are moving northeast over the continent and bring us the southwesterly gales. Keeping a good eye on the forecast can be life saving. With this in mind we had to make a stop in Brixham and another one in Douarnenez.
While we were there and waiting for fair weather, we were able to do maintenance on the ship, we tested our new anchor winch and worked on sail training. Provisions for the ship came from local farmers.
Fellow sailors, shipwrights, local merchants and friends came by on the Nordlys. Creating a stable market and expanding ideas for the Fairtransport enterprise.

We departed from Douarnenez on a shiny sunday morning and tacked our way towards the Atlantic Ocean. The Bay of Biscay is well known for its rough seas and has to be avoided in the certain weather conditions.
With a ship like Nordlys you will need about four or five days of fair winds to cross this bay. This brings us to were we are right now. We are sailing southwards on the Atlantic swell about 150 nautical miles from Porto.
On board we are nine crew, so eighteen hands to handle the sails, ropes and rudder, preparing food and so forth..
As a team in the rhythm of the sea.

Porto will be our first harbor where we charge cargo of all kind. The hold will be filled with organic products from the Douro region. We will bring these products by wind and sail to the northern countries of the continent.
Transport makes it possible to eat delicious olives, taste an excellent olive oil,use Atlantic sea salt for your meals and enjoy a natural wine, in for example England, Germany, The Netherlands, Denmark and so forth. Products which are not only produced in a nature friendly way, but also transported so. Sometimes the work on the land is slightly harder, sometimes the transport takes a bit longer… The taste of it all is definitely better! Respect the laws of nature. And nature gives it back.

captain Lammert Osinga

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

Nordlys blog: The rhythm of nature is our engine

Nordlys underway, heading for Porto.

This year we had an early start. As Dirk and Annelies came along with their tugboat “Gar”, on the 19th of March, there was still some ice in the canals of Den Helder. We sailed out of Marsdiep with a fair and cold Northeasterly wind.

Supposedly we should have departed a week earlier. Due to the wintery weeks before, there was a little delay on some deck repairs.

A tough crew of seven people handling and navigating Nordlys over the North Sea in the wintery weather. Warm clothes and a lot of blankets kept us warm since there is no heating system on the ship.

Fair winds brought us quickly in the English Channel, where the westerly winds appeared. Tacking our way trough the Channel with her strong tidal currents, especially with spring tide, made us progress a bit slower.

Sailing our way westward, my idea was to make a stop in Falmouth. You need a good weather window to cross the Biscay. It can be very rough in stormy weather. Due to our slow progress westward, beating our way against the waves and wind, I decided to make a stop in Brixham. Here we have some time to work on the crew and ship. We could also unload a barrel of organic wine. Anton, the wine importer, was happy to receive his goods earlier then expected.

There is nothing changing as quickly as the weather. The rhythm of nature is our engine. To sail a ship by wind means to respect the rhythm.

Soon we set sail for Porto. Again we will fill the hold with beautiful Portugese products for the northern European market.

Captain Lammert Osinga

photo ©Martin Sinnock

Meet the crew: Elisabeth, deckhand

Always wanted to know the wonderful people sailing our cargo? From now on we will regularly post short interviews with our crew on the site. Today we will start with Elisabeth.

Name: Elisabeth Wenger
Age: 29
Nationality: USA
Position: Deckhand

When did you hear the first time of Fairtransport?
​I heard about Fairtransport on a farming blog, Greenhorns, in connection with their Maine Sail Freight project.

Why did you want to join Tres Hombres?
Learning how to sail a working ship has been a dream of me since I was a kid reading adventure novels. I thought there were no more ships doing what Tres Hombres (and others) do.

When I found out that sail cargo still existed, it was as though someone told me dinosaurs weren’t extinct anymore. I had to go experience it for myself!

I sailed last year on the full round trip as a trainee, and this year I got the opportunity to sail again as deckhand, which I am so grateful and happy for!!

What do you expect from this journey?
I’m so excited to be sailing this time as Deckhand. I anticipate I will learn so much more, from practical sailing knowledge to helping to teach the trainees and creating a sense of community on board the ship. Fairtransport so far has been a wonderful company to work with, and I anticipate more of the same for the journey ahead!

Sign up as a trainee! We can guarantee one thing… this is an experience you will never forget http://fairtransport.eu/sail-along/

Tres Hombres blog: Four weeks already at sea….

For the first time since La Palma there is music from a speaker on deck. He’s spreading in the atmospher a taste of romantic country music where we can see O brothers running in the wheat fields under a burning sun and Jack Kerouac jumping on board this ship as a slow merchant train crossing the blue country full of ideas to built or rebuilt this world weared of a bag pack & unapropriate Espadrille. Clamour of poetry in the radio to throw a new look on details.

Well, despite a few worried members aboard about being somewhere ( on land) for Christmas, everything is going sweet here. „Not so much things to complain“ said captain. And then cuban music blows her cosy voices flow on deck, gold sunset sky becomes darker and stars are taking over the space. It’s not blues  but your feeling is on the border. Yes four weeks already at sea far away without news from your lovers, parents, children. Is that feeling of missing brings you more in reality, more alive, more true ? blablabla but yes ours bodies are talking to us and that is a lovely great creation.

Since a week, instead of the swedish, the captain decided to set a new watches readim system: 4 hours each watches, 3 watches of 4 or 5 peoples. That brings more peoples on deck during daylight, the maintenance goes forward faster because those 8 hours of rest at night and we are meeting eachothers.( So , sorry for the tres hombres tradition but it works well for the crossing. If the loyals of the company has any request about this, feel free to explain your opinion, I wouldn’t bring the bad luck here like to move the giraff outdoor with a full cargo !!). Can you beleave, we were sailing full and by for a day , trade winds are not strong but the lady keeps on going half of the wind speed.

Shower on deck, 1 hour of rain today (11/12/2017). Soap & shampoo !

ps: we got rid of 2 hammocks of bananas.

Anne-Flore, first mate

Tres Hombres blog: I am trying to dance with the wind

I am trying to dance with the wind. At the helm, it is the middle of the night, and though I have the light of a moon just past the full, it is getting dark. Clouds are rolling in. They might mean a shift in the wind, backing or veering, and an increase in speed, and I am standing with my neck craned all the way back, peering up at the barely-visible flag, trying to judge if the wind is changing, and where I should steer to keep the sails full.

There’s one way of looking at sailing, the way I too often fall into, which is that the ship is a series of clever mechanisms for turning wind into propulsion–purchase blocks, ropes, sails trimmed with exactitude to airplane-wing shape. And that there is one right heading and trimming of sails which will produce the best results, given any defined set of wind and swell conditions. This is treating sailing like a math problem.

But sailing is not math, not regular or predictable, no more than life is. Like astronavigation, there is math involved, but the basis, the foundation is all guesswork, pretending the earth is flat, and having a good feeling about the sextant reading you just took. The first mate, Anne-Flore, talks to me about trying to find the rhythm of each maneuver, the flow of how people move about the deck, meshing with the movement of the wind as we bring the ship through the wind on a tack, for example. It’s a dance, I can see. Each of us moves like the wind, unpredictably but with a certain grace, and the trick to being a good leader, as the trick to being a good sailor, is to work with that energy, and catch it at the most graceful moment. This is sailing–the ship is a thing of muscles and breath and wings. To pay attention to the maneuver in this way is to be where I am, to live where I find myself.

How wonderful, to feel that the world is real, and that I belong to it! I am a part of the place where I am, just as much as the wind and the waves, the stars and the clouds. I too often block the world around me, filter it through a screen which sits on a desk and, in the words of Wendell Berry, „obscures the place where it is.“ I place barriers between myself and the real world, of computer screen or even book page, instead of living where I am, in my surroundings. I am trying to learn to dance with the wind instead, to feel it on my face and lean into it, to watch the swell and feel it move me as I sway with it. To listen to the ship, how she reacts to the wind, rudder, or waves. I will not truly learn sailing from a book or a screen, no matter how much they can teach me, for all they do is obscure the place they are in, this place, the place where I am, out here smack in the middle of the Atlantic with my sailwings and rainclouds and moonlight. Dancing.

Liz, deckhand