Three First mates
Four second mates
Six different bunks
60 knots in the gusts
Ten tons of cacao
40.000 bottles of wine (roughly)
20.000 nautical miles (very roughly)
Just some numbers of these last two years. Some of those numbers don’t mean much written down like that, not even to me. But one is most striking: 20 months. I have now worked on the Tres Hombres for effectively 20 months. During the refits a few weekends at home and this last summer two months off to get my Basic Safety training and vaccination and some much-needed rest after the Atlantic Round, but still, twenty months. I signed on as a fresh-faced trainee who knew nothing of sailing, and now I am signing off as Bosun. I went from being uncomfortable with the rolling and a little seasick to the grizzled veteran who has seen it all and is not impressed. That is not to say that I did not love to be on the ship out at sea till the end, I did. It remains a great feeling to be out at sea with no land in sight and the ship rolling under your feet.
So I lived on a wooden ship with all sorts of people from all over the world, with limited space, with daunting working conditions like storms and hours and hours of rain. It really was a great time. Must have been, otherwise, I would not have stayed so long, right? But joking aside, it has been a great time, and all the people I sailed with helped make it great.
The last thing here on La Palma that I do before signing off is unload a barrel of La Palma wine that we loaded last year and has been ageing at sea in Tres Hombres’ cargo hold for that whole time. It has crossed the ocean tucked underneath the cacao and the rum, and then Skagerrak tucked under bottles of wine. Right now, I am the only one still on board who was present last year when we loaded it, making this barrel from the Tendal winery also my most long term shipmate. The wine will now be auctioned off to benefit the people displaced by the Cumbre Vieja’s lava stream.
But for now, my Tres Hombres adventure is over. Now I’ll go to Denmark to help refit another sailing cargo ship, the Hawila, but Captain Francois, Mates Arthur and Guven, my replacement bosun Camille, cook Ed, deckhands Ali and Thore and all the trainees will bring her safely to the Caribbean and back to Europe.
I will miss them tremendously and wish them all fair winds and hope to see them well and good in Amsterdam.
Or was there another reason that the container wanted to tack there?
Any sail cargo user or other kind of realist could not have planned an incident better than what happened, congratulations! Worries about the world’s economy because of one ship. Are you all mad? What do we not have in Europe that we need to survive? A phone?
We are now 3 days and 600 miles out of Horta, Azores, where we enjoyed very much the local customs of eating, drinking and conversing together as well as the lush green nature of the island with all its scenic walking paths.
Volcanoes, flowers, cows, the sea…all is visible on a single day of hiking through the wild. For all cows.
Talking to our good friend Paula’s partner Emanuel, we found out that many people on the island want to exchange the cow-strategy, which means just many cows, to something else.
Something, in a realistic way, would make more sense, because the cows are subsidized by the EU and they need ships to bring them, or meat and milk, far away to be converted into money. So some agricultural product which can be used locally, does not need so much ground and is also not as toxic for the soil. Flowers, mushrooms, wine, fruit, vegetables and herbs from permaculture…these are some of the options people are trying hard here and on the neighboring islands, and you can see on their backs and the prices of their goods, that it is a very hard way to survive on the island.
When you enter the Continente Supermarket all of this is wiped out of sight. Cheapest plastic fantastic from all over the world as far as you can see. The containers also arrive here. Francisco, our agent here, told us that since Corona he has a lot more work, because people order much more shit on the internet, which comes with the containers. With a good plate of (imported) food costing EUR 7,- and a bottle of good Portuguese (imported) wine for EUR 4,- in the cafe it is hard for any local farmer or winemaker to compete. But they try, also with reforestation and use of local wood for better and nicer housing projects than what was made after the earthquakes.
Again it’s the ultra-low cargo price which makes all of this unbalance possible. And the islanders who claim that they also want all the commodities from the peoples on the mainland. But you already have your political independence, the good air, no corona, tranquility, beauty and relative safety from war and terror. You cannot have everything. All this everything, which today mainly means eating cheap, industrial food in order to save money for buying phones and using the internet, is just not the best you can get, at least not on the Azores, because there is much more. I am glad to have met a few people who do it different, like Norberto, Brigitte & her sons, Rita, Ines, Yasmina & Fred and many more and you can see that they enjoy the community and the islands nature as well as the sea and her creatures which are abundant around this magic place in the middle of the Atlantic.
As a line ship with still some tramp character we also had to take in some local specials as tuna in cans and wine from Pico. And we left our mark at friendly Porto Pim, have a look!
Sailing with a strong SW-ly breeze made us a good progress through the first day on our way back home, but now NE is expected, some ocean tacking ahead of us, but still we do not have to go around the Cape 😉
Who would do this anyway, just because of cargo, something which comes from far and is not necessary for life. Would you burn fuel for that, have nature destroyed somewhere far away and intoxicate the oceans with oil and noise ? What’s up with you, are you mad??
Keep tacking dear people, there’s just no other way than the use of wind
in the south of YEU island.
This was the safest, closest free shelter I found near Les Sables d’ Olonne.
Rigging and deck maintenance has been carried out and the crew did enjoy beautiful walks on the island and the open restaurants and bars very much on days off.
Today it is time to prepare the ship for sailing 25 miles and organise the manoeuver with the tug and pilot at 07h00 Sunday morning.
Winemaker Olivier Cousin will come to visit us with the first part of our cargo, as well as Thierry Michon.
The producers of the wine know the entire route, the way to transport and who is acting for who. They even know the buyer and the drinker. It is a simple way to connect humans with their knowledge about the earth and sea. It is a way of taking care of all elements…
A journalist will visit us in the harbor to spread the message and we will meet an association “Tous dans le meme bateau ” (All in the same boat) that educates young people and adults to protect the environment. They make the link between people and politics.
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
Xisto Wines, run by Anton Mann and Lela McTernan are proud to be the only UK wine importers dedicated solely to importing Portuguese artisan wines.
They work with the new wave of young winemakers , who work sustainably, producing small quantities of the finest quality wines with character and a sense of place.
Wines that take you on a journey from the banks of the Douro river to the high mountain tops. Lisbon wines that hint of salty seashells, wines from Dao, Alentejo and Vinho Verde that reflect the terroir perfectly.
These wines are made by producers who are experts in knowing their vineyards, nurturing them in organic and bio dynamic ways.
Indigenous grapes are hand picked, foot trodden and allowed lovingly with minimal intervention and maximum skill for the amazing delicious wines to emerge.
Xisto Wines have become great friends with all their producers and visit them regularly so they can assure their customers of the provenance of their wines.
The producers are 100% behind them in their chosen method of transport, even making unique wines that are shipped in barrel on Tres Hombres or Nordlys to be bottled in Bristol under the PORT O ‘BRISTOL flag.
Bristol and Portugal have historic trade links (Bristol and Porto are twinned cities) which feels right to reestablish with their wines and organic olive oil ( Portugal’s finest , single Quinta do Romeu ) cargo in the belly of a Fairtransport vessel.
From the beginning of 2010 Anton was in discussion with Fairtransport to try and realise their dream of transporting their wines by sail using zero carbon. Over the intervening years this is a reality. It is extremely important to them and the winemakers to leave as little a footprint as possible.
To that end they are really excited to sail the wines made with grapes, genius and passion in a vessel powered by the wind and skilful sailor’s..
MADE BY REBELS
SHIPPED BY PIRATES
DRUNK BY HEROES
For more information about Xisto’s sail shipped wines : https://xistowines.com/
Move your cargo emission free on one of our ships: http://fairtransport.eu/shipping/
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
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
Dear partners, (former) crew members and friends.
You receive this newsletter while brigantine Tres Hombres has just crossed the Atlantic ocean again. Almost every other day you can read a new weblog on our website, with the adventures of our sailing crewmembers. That is why now, in this newsletter, our amazing shore and office crew is writing down their stories.
Off course many things happened within the past period in our organization, we often say to each other “Never a dull moment”. To start off we had quite a big change this summer, because the three founders : Arjen v/d Veen, Andreas Lackner and Jorne Langelaan moved on, to put down their daily functions as operational directors. They are still shareholders and they will continue to promote the organization through their own unique ways. Arjen is occupied with organizing sustainable cargo in Rotterdam. Andreas is very closely involved in the technical matters of both ships, and is planning some new ventures in Amsterdam. Jorne is busy with a new sailing cargo project and moved to Ireland. All three of them are still involved in giving talks around the country and in foreign lands, telling their story of sustainable business upon the seven seas.
As the operational succesor of this trio I should introduce myself. My name is Hans van der Pluijm. Before I started as a volunteer with Fairtransport I used to work in a scala of managing roles in large healthcare institutions. Also, for five years, I was general boardmember at a similar institute in Palestina. After my first year coordinating the trading department within Fairtransport, mostly involved in distributing and selling rum, I went for a long walk from the Netherlands to Santiago the Compostella in Spain. At my return I was asked to become a pro-deo general manager to run the organization. It was agreed to evaluate my position after a twelve month term, and since that moment (August this year) I have been general director.
As you can read in this newsletter, before setting sail in May, the fine trading ketch Nordlys has had a thorough refit of the forward part of the ship. The grand old lady is not only still beautifull, but strong as ever. This has been also the first season, with her experienced skipper Lammert Osinga again, that the amount of cargo she carried was on the rise. With the current brokers contacts and promising cargo deals for the coming season we believe this trend will continue. So, if you where thinking to invest your capital in a sustainable cause, forget about bitcoins, and sign on with Fairtransport again! For more information feel free to contact me at: email@example.com.
Or you can download the Nordlys Shipping Company business plan through this link: Invest Contact Form
The past year, apart from many crewmembers, some experienced new captains joined us again. One of them even started sailing with Tres Hombres as a trainee and worked himself up through the ranks of Deckhand, 2nd mate and Chief mate. Next to the real sailing, there where also quite some improvements ashore in the office. Many procedures where put in writing or streamlined. The administration was further automated and connections between the different entities where put in place.
Personally I can only say, that I am very proud: to be part of the group of enthousiatic people which make up Fairtransport. A shipping organization, where care for our natural environment comes first. And because of this, has been proven able to transport its goods in a fair and sustainable matter, while keeping the traditions and craftmanship of traditional sailing alive. This is the reason that I can see a flourishing coming year and further future for Fairtransport, her crew and ships: Tres Hombres and Nordlys. Finally, dear reader, it is because of you, that all of this is possible. So, thank you very much and fair winds in the coming year!
Hans v.d. Pluijm
Last season was absolutely the season of the Nordlys. Gradually she has sailed herself out of the shadow of our flagship Tres Hombres. Which port the Nordlys visited the past months, everywhere the press, film crews and snapping photographers were waiting for her. Whether it was Porto, Noirmoutier, Brixham or Bremerhaven.
Of course, the oldest sailing cargo ship (1873) in the world deserves this attention. Sailing from port to port with olive oil, olives and natural wine in her hold is really special. She is one of the best with her red fluttering sails. Fortunately, the photographers who get the sailing cargo ship and beautiful crew on film were so free to share their images in high resolution. In this way I’m building up an archive for future press reports and other media requests. But the Tres Hombres also has no complaints when it comes to media attention. Recently I received a request from the Lonely Planet to come and film for a report about the best travel experiences in the world. Unfortunately, it did not fit in the schedule. Because in addition to trainees stepping up for a special experience, we also have a cargo schedule that we must adhere to. Hopefully there will be a next time. In any case, we feel flattered. At this moment the Tres Hombres has the trade winds in her sails and will soon arrive at Saint Martin with relief supplies for animals.
With Spotfinder we can closely follow the ships. The crew leaves a track via the satellite. In that way, we can see when the ship is about to arrive. The press is ready to go at that moment.
Our captains can tell extensive stories about these cargo adventures, exciting sailing trips and of course about our Tres Hombres rum. Fairtransport offers custom-made talks for companies or other organisation, even in different languages. If you would like to know more about this, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marketing and Communications
Dear all, We are coming to the end of the year, so it is a nice occasion for a moment of reflection, to pass the events of last year again in review. It is an opportunity to stop and think about the course for next year. One thing is guaranteed… At Fairtransport, nothing is predictable! Ships that sail only on the power of the wind, the changeable weather, and people who come from all over the world and meet each other through Fairtransport, as well as personal developments ensure that is always remains exciting.
We are very happy that the Nordlys is finally in such a good condition. That after the long refit, Lammert and his crew were able to sail a great season and that they could delight the cargo customers with their cargo. The next season of the Nordlys will start in March. We can proudly state that our cargo customers are expanding their cargo volume and that there is already a lot of cargo waiting for the Nordlys’ next season. She will have a pretty fixed cargo route in the future; to Portugal, France, the UK, Denmark and Germany. If you would like to meet her and the crew at a festival next year, that is possible in in Blankenberge in May or Rostock in August.
The moment I write this, the Tres Hombres is on her way to Saint Martin to bring relief supplies. She is now halfway on her ocean crossing. Rémi, who has sailed for us as first mate for several years, has had his first time as captain from Den Helder to Santa Cruz. We hope that he will continue to sail for us as a captain for many years to come. He has passed on the helm in Santa Cruz to Fabian, who has come to us recently and is for the first time the captain of the Tres Hombres. All three men sailed as captain on the Tres Hombres in 2017. Something that has not been the case within one year in the past.
Probably you have noticed that we had to make one of two Atlantic voyages. Which therefore has become longer. We expect the Tres Hombres to return to Amsterdam in May 2018 with rum and cacao. Of course, the yearly unloading party takes place in Amsterdam at that moment.
Everyone who wants to sail with us (again) will find our schedules under the following link: Sail Along. The sailing schedule for the winter 2018/2019 for the Tres Hombres will be developed within the next fourteen days. Thereafter, it will be available on our website under sail along and downloads. If you have any questions, you can send them to: email@example.com
Kind regards and until next time,
A day out of the Shipping journal
This morning I had to make clear to a cargo owner that we do not have any ships sailing on the route from Argentina to Iran at this time. As much as we would like to meet the wishes of enthusiastic cargo owners… In this case we had to disappoint the man. Nothing to be worried about according to the same man: “I see possibilities to transport some things from the Caribbean to Sweden.”
Soon after, the same story with someone who would love to transport a cargo consisting of chocolate bars from Ivory Coast to France. So, requests from all over the world pass the desk of Shipping each week. All of which are answered. Even requests that must be answered in negative are answered with a clear explanation. Thereafter, they are put in the digital archive…
“Because you’ll never know…!” All requests from cargo owners are checked with the sailing schedules of the Tres Hombres and the Nordlys. Concerning the Tres Hombres, we can of course see some acquaintances, who have been using the ship for years to transport cargo from the Caribbean to Europe. For example, cacao for the Chocolatemakers in Amsterdam and rum for our own Trading department. Although, the complete hold is not contracted at the departure from Den Helder, our experience has shown that the full capacity of the ship (about 40 tons) will be used during the return journey. Exciting is that this time (the winter voyage from 2017-2018) probably will be our first North American adventure.
In Nordlys’ case things are different. On the routes along the Western European coast it is still a bit of a search to get regular customers, just like the Tres Hombres. In 2017, the Nordlys came into permanent service and visited Portugal, France, the UK, Belgium, Germany, Poland and Denmark. The indications are favourable for the summer voyage of 2018. We will re-establish the relationship gained in 2017 and we expect to be able to sail a good year along the coastline of Europe. The thrown-out bait in 2017 must lead to the catch of large(r) fish in 2018!
It is a strange day for the Sint this year.
He started working with all his gear:
Pieten, pepernoten, presents and horse,
Making the same route on the regular course.
But in the house of van Assem something was wrong.
There was one person not playing along.
She appeared to be on a sailing ship,
On a eight month Fairtransport cargo trip.
So no Sinterklaas for her this time,
In stead a weblog story in rhyme.
Sint sent Piet to have a look at this boat,
But he couldn’t quite get there on only the road.
At this time they were already at the Atlatic seas,
Almost halfway through there storage of cheese.
Piet visited on a quiet day,
And immediately he felt that he wanted to stay.
The sea was a smooth silky blanket all around,
The quiet only disturbed by peaceful boat sound.
Anne-Flore always looking always sails trimming,
The water so clear that you could see the fish swimming.
The just-not-caught dorado is driving us crazy.
The fish is too smart or maybe too lazy.
With their bright colours and their grumpy look,
We can see them swim beside the hook.
We thought we found the perfect purpose,
For all these cans we have in surplus.
They do swim around with their mouth open wide,
But the pieces of cat food they leave on the side.
Then two weeks later the moment is finally there:
Two bright fish for us, not more then fair.
From La Palma on to where we are now,
Was supposed to take us three days Genau.
Instead we’re out here already for more then two weeks,
Down to our very last pumpkins and leeks.
We’ll be at sea for quite a while longer,
But don’t worry it’ll only make us stronger.
We have to be stricter on water and food,
In three weeks fresh stuff will taste ever so good.
We brought enough supplies to spare,
And Waka-Waka has 30 pairs of underwear!
German speakers and Americans are well represented,
But despite that fact we’re all still contented.
The miracle of nature shows us fish that can fly!
It’s really true, I’m not telling a lie.
Lots of dolphins we see all the time,
You would not believe how it still is sublime.
A little word from the cook to let the family know,
About daily life, about how things go:
From the galley comes an amazing smell,
I handle the hungry and talking mouths quite well.
And while the oven doesn’t want to stay lit,
I’m learning to live with the nickname peach pit…
I’m using bananas every meal,
Don’t waste a thing, that is the deal.
If you eat five per day,
The sixth is for free to take away.
What we didn’t bring with us, it’s sad but it’s true,
Is still laying around in 72…
If you lose track of us and don’t see us no more,
Then follow the banana peel track, back to the shore.
The routine at sea, no land in sight,
Nothing is left us then to grow more tight.
I know everyone’s taste, what they put on their bread,
What they wear, what they read or what they do instead.
Thanks to Lis who helped me rhyme not in Dutch,
Writing, shushing the teapot, O this woman knows so much.
Piet thanks the crew for his wonderful stay,
He’ll tell Sint everything right away.
I hope at home you’re all squeezed together,
On mam’s red couch hiding from the weather.
All the grandchildren on grandma’s lap,
Little Mingus might be having his nap.
Leaves me nothing more than wishing you all,
A loving Sinterklaasfeest this fall (eh.. winter).
“There are still a few old sailing vessels laid up in various odd corners of the world, but most of them have been idle for a long time with their gear rapidly deteriorating. It is not likely that they will ever be recommissioned to stave off the inevitable day when the beautiful sailing ship, for trading purposes, is a thing of the past and only a memory to those who suffered many hardships and discomforts but loved her just the same.”
This I found in a book entrusted to us in Brixham. Toni, skipper and artist (and Brixham legend), told us that it would provide hours of reading, on the long night watches of the crossing, and he was right. “Shipping Wonders of the World, Volume 2,” now sits among our pilot books in the charthouse, and I think every one of us has at one point or another picked it up to flip through. Or, really, set it down to flip through–the book is huge. The article I found that quote in was all about the last great sailing cargo ships, and the decline of sail cargo as engines took over. Of course, the author’s glumly romantic prediction has not, in fact, come to pass, and reading it aboard the Tres Hombres is particularly ironic. “It is not likely,” he says, that cargo sail will ever be resurrected, and that it is inevitable that the beautiful sailing ships will become “a thing of the past.” I look up from this sentence to go trim the foresail sheets, passing by our cargo hatch on the way.
But what thrills we get from that phrase, “a thing of the past!” The dying out of greatness, the passing away of some beautiful thing, they fill us with a sense of melancholy longing for a past most of us never knew, and may not have ever existed. We raven the romance of the lost hope, the dying star. Our books and movies are full of this sweet remembrance, like the flowers we send to a funeral instead of attending ourselves.
What is it about watching or hearing about the end of something that satisfies us so? It is romantic–utterly romantic to feel the ebb tug at our heartstrings of something ending. It sweeps our minds away into pleasant fantasies of what the past was like–how much better it was, how much simpler, or grander, or more beautiful. “A time when men were men!” for example. Bittersweet, we call it, as though the sweet would not be so sweet without the bitter.
But I can’t help but feel that there is something insidious in our love of this kind of romance. A kind of laziness, perhaps, that creeps in around the corners and says “Ah, at last. That was hard work that now we can safely say is over. We can lay those burdens down and go back to sleep, to dream maybe of past glories, but never to do the hard work again.” Perhaps this is part of what is so satisfying to us about stories of the Last Great this or Final Stand of that. We have all the pleasure of contemplating those great acts or noble things, and none of the daily grind of maintaining them.
Because sail cargo, while utterly romantic and still a dead notion to most people (if they think of it at all), is in actual practice a lot of work. It’s a grind, tacking from the Canaries to the Cape Verdes, searching for the trade winds we hope will appear, “sometime before the food runs out,” we joke. It’s wearing to the senses and the spirit to drift, windless, north over ground we fought so hard for every degree south on. And even when the wind is good, and the rigging is humming and the wind turbines are whirring away happily, there is little romance in leaving your soft bed at four in the morning to stand your turn at the wheel, fighting a nasty cross swell and watching the squall you know will drench you creep up from behind. There’s nothing pleasant or noble about spilling dirty dishwater down your pants, or getting tar in your hair for the third consecutive day. The railing must be scrubbed again, though your back aches still from the time before, and the fresh paint of yesterday was ruined by the waves under the railing in the night. But you get up and scrub and sand and paint again, because the boat has got to be held together, however you do it. You put chafe gear on the foreshrouds for the third time this trip, hoping that this time it will hold longer. You do what must be done, because giving up, giving in, is to surrender to the insidious romance of “things of the past.”
Give me instead the romance of the plain quotidian! The daily washing of cups and pumping of the bilge, the constant upkeep of the rigging as we wear through miles of marlin and gallons of tar, inch by inch, and drop by drop. Give me the coffee break daily, that someone must remember and prepare, though it is not a grand deed, and far from exciting. Give me the small words and smiles that build frienships, the late-night conversations and learning to work together with all different personalities. When considered from up close, there is little romance in these things, in the actual maintenance of a true sailing cargo ship. But it is, in the end, far better I think to keep going than to give up, no matter how nice and restful the giving up would be. Just because something is hard or ignoble doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. And the beauty of sail cargo is not lessened by the fact that it has not fulfilled the prediction of Clarence Winchester, writing just after World War II. It has not passed away with other glorious things we remember with a sweet ache–our childhoods, the old-growth forests of the world, life before advertising. Instead we cling doggedly to life, and others now come alongside Fairtransport to help shoulder the burden. Perhaps even some of those ships Clarence talked about, mouldering away in shipyards in various corners of the world, will soon be refit and put once more to use, carrying goods across the oceans on wings of canvas, not clouds of pollution. That is romance enough for me.
Deckhand, Elisabeth, Nov 27, 2017