Preparing to go to sea..
So while we are at sea again, I would like to explain a little bit about preparing a ship to go to sea. As you have read in the previous weblog, we have been at anchor for two weeks. I write: we, with that I really mean the ship and her crew, because personally I only joined the ship two days before setting sail. So really most preparations found place under the command of my predecessor, captain Fabian Klenner. So what does it entail? To explain in short: crew, ship and gear has to be ready for sea.
Most crewmembers have been for quite a few months on board. The core crew: mate, cook, deckhands and one of the trainees, has been on board since her departure from Den Helder last year. Of the core crew, most of them sailed before that on Tres Hombres, and of the other crewmembers some of them have. This means there is quite a bit of experience on board to built on. And under the command of Fabian, several safety drills where carried out to keep the crew up to high standards of seamanship. For me off course, being the one new on board, I had to familiarize myself with the capabilities of the crew. Because really, on a sailing vessel like this, it is not entirely the ship which defines her seaworthiness but it is more the crew itself which brings safety, continuity and comfortable sailing. To do this, I had a personal interview with each crewmember, to understand their previous experiences on board, find out about their capabilities and discuss ideas and wishes for the coming trip. Apart from that I had a lot of conversations with Fabian to discuss the management on board and learn about the things, he found out, which worked or did not work.
The ship has proved herself throughout the past ten years under the flag of Fairtransport, and many decades in all different roles under previous owners. This does not mean there is nothing to prepare on her. You can compare a traditional wooden square rigged sailing vessel, with her millions of parts, who are all subject to change, because of weather conditions, wear and tear and maintenance, almost to a living creature. Like any living being, she needs to breath (ventilation), drink (paint, linseed oil, tar) and eat (wood, steel, oakum, pitch, rope and wire) to survive. To make this possible every year she gets a thorough refit, mostly during a period of about a month, this past year it was three months. And also her crew is constantly supporting the life of their vessel with maintenance. Some things are more obvious than others. The standing rigging needs tarring, greasing and tuning. The running rigging, attention to protection for wear and tear, and constant replacing of her parts. The hull needs pumping, re caulking and painting. Here was one of the reasons to be anchored the previous weeks. Because on the voyage from Columbia, back to the Dominican republic, her hull had received quite a beating, which made her more leaky than considered wanted to continue. So repairs where carried out, with the final filling up of seams with a special putty I had taken along from Europe.
Then the gear, which is usually looked upon as the main focus to prepare a ship. All spares, tools, charts, nautical books, stores, drinking water and fuel needs to be on board or brought on board. Gear, like machinery, instruments and safety gear needs to be in working order. And everything, including cargo, needs to be stowed and lashed properly and in a seamanlike fashion. For all of this, on Tres Hombres, we make use of a pre-departure checklist. So again, before proceeding, our fine vessel was deemed healthy again to go to sea.
Capt. Jorne Langelaan
Hands to the anchorwinch! The deckhands move to the foredeck while the mate is giving orders. The claw on the chain is taken off, and on both sides of the pump windlass two sailors take their places. Somebody keeps the chain under tension to the aft and, another deckhand is sitting next to the galley to feed the chain down to the chain locker were again, one of our hands is stationed to flake the chain. The anchorwinch starts moving by the age old energy form, of Norwegian (elbow) steam. The monotone sound of the pawls is the only sound you can hear. The power; the anchor, anchorchain and winch is putting upon the ship is felt everywhere in the form of a silent vibration.
There are 2 and a half from our 4 schackles ( a shackle is 27 meter) of chain out. The ship has been anchored here for two weeks, in 10 meter deep water. Not the best holding ground, fine sand, she has dragged around a little but lately, assisted by this sufficient amount of chain she has been holding well. Now each time a shackle comes up the mate communicates it aft. When the chain is almost up and down, the order is given to set the foretopmast staysail. The sheet and sail is held aback over portside to push the bow, gently, to starboard, while the hands heave in the last meters of chain. Now the mainstaysail is set. While the bow falls off further we start moving in a forward direction. We are sailing now!
While the anchor is still hanging partly below the waterline, the command is given: hands to the braces, brace to port tack. This means the yards, who where braced over portside, called starboard tack, will now be braced to the other side. So the wind can actually catch the sails. Now the sail configuration of our good ship changes rapidly. The topsail is set, followed by the topgallant and royal. Now the starboard watch is setting the other main staysails, and the portside watch hoists the jibs. To complement the picture the course and mainsail are set with the whole crew.
While the sun is setting on our starboard bow, we are leaving Cabo Rojo, bound for Boca Chica. A gentle swell and beautifull starry night accompanies us out to sea…
Capt. Jorne Langelaan
After 8 tacks in the Antigua Channel to go to the East , it s seams finally possible to reach windward side of Guadeloupe to go down south to Martinique.
Not easy for everybody to sleep well on this choppy wavy sea, anyhow we keep on going. Further more sail handling moments are perfect times to work together and built a team. Few days ago we had an accidental tack because the wind direction is changing under shower. Time to realize on which apprentice step are sitting the crew. The fact is that after a month of running downwind, our movements on deck were slower, manoeuvers communication was gone, rigging tricks were forgotten. Now, happy and proud of my watch, we are tacking within 10 min (Preparation, passing 8 sails and trimming) with fun.
We are enjoying the sun, the morning pineapples, Lis the technical full&by steering, watching birds diving for fish, britany butter, Frederieke likes when the flying fish hit me at steering! Thibaut likes swinging by the waves on the yard, Ilja observating the evolution of his out of control moustache and likes the sails handling action, Jan the sea and sailing…
Judith wants to make a special dish for Christmas, we will be at sea that is why we gonna wait til the 26 for having a nice meal together at anchor to avoid any sliding pans or wounds! She’s exciting and prepared already almonds paste made by hands and the crew will participating as well.
All the crew wish Happy Christmas to all theirs families and friends around the world and all others. Special warm word for Icee who left us in St Martin, sea you back in Barbados !
Anne-Flore, first mate
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.
While I’m not particularly attached to a certain religion where a god is involved, and while I
don’t particularly believe in something, I apparently do have a certain idea of the feeling of
Of course heaven can just refer to anyone’s ultimate dream so in that case it doesn’t
matter if you’re religious or not. But anyways, this morning I was wondering if heaven would
feel something like this. A complete serene surrounding, all this water kept itself so quiet and
almost dissolved in the sky. And then the sunrise came. A forest of clouds being on fire on the horizon.
Sea and skycovered in copper glaze.
While we humans are out there in society, running around, talking, working, worrying, this is
just here all the time. Everyday the sun rises to give us another day over and over again.
Even if we don’t look at it, it’s there. This is of course an idea philosophers have been
questioning, but at least it was the feeling it gave me: This is just here all the time, so
big and endless. It is no one’s property and we have the privilege to look at it.
Then the sun was completely visible and that was when the intensity and brightness of the
light that was all around us, made me wonder about heaven. It’s not that this is my ultimate
dream in the sense that I never want to leave again. Because if we stay drifting around here
like we do, we will run out of food at some point and we will end up eating banana peals with
marmite and we’ll never reach the other side of the ocean.
But if my heaven could have this
serenity, endlessness and peace, that would be a great basis to spend the rest of eternity.
About a month ago I started sailing this grand voyage from Den Helder to the Caribbean and back again.
My journey of a lifetime. Pretty soon after we set sail for warmer and more exotic places, this 32 meters long sailing merchant vessel and all the people on board, became my entire universe.
Out here, on the high seas, it’s just us, surrounded by the elements and the inpenatrable depths of the ocean beneath us. It’s truelly magnificent.
Beautiful sunsets and sunrises, the sun, the moon, the stars… and of course the waves and winds, both equally annoying and soothing.
The occasional pod of dolphins, accompanying us. Riding and playing in our bowwaves. Looking like little comets of sheers pleasure as they shoot through the bioluminescent waters.
They make us smile and marvel at the creations of mother nature.
Life at sea is hard, yet beautiful and satisfying at the same time. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
It’s with great interest, joy and expectation that I look forward to what is yet to come.
On this beautiful ship, the Tres Hombres.. this little universe I call my own.