October 7, 2020
- Log
Tres Hombres

The “Tres Hombres” on dry land (by Daniel Haller)

Voluntarily and together

The men grab gloves, one grabs a blanket. Then the lid is removed from the end of the long box. Steam rises.
The hot plank is quickly removed. But wait: you're imagining a plate, not a plank. With a thickness of 8 cm, it looks more like a beam.
They take it to the stern of the Tres Hombres, which stands on dry land to port, where removed planks have left a hole in the hull through which one can see the former stern tube from the time when the ship was still under the engine. They routinely attach the tapered end to the plank below the hole with screw clamps and press it against the hull with wooden beams and jacks. Then it becomes clear why screw clamps bear their name: meter by meter they press the originally straight plank onto the curved hull and give it the necessary twist. After about half an hour of back and forth, the thick wood settles against the hull. Here it remains overnight and cools, taking the shape that allows it to fit into the outer skin of the ship.

For hours, volunteers working at the annual refit of the “Tres Hombres” boiled water in converted gas bottles and fed the steam through thick hoses to the room, which is insulated with old sleeping bags and woolen blankets. At the same time, others were working on further planks, making templates from long strips of plywood, cutting out the rough shape, planing and sanding the rough Douglas fir planks from the sawmill. They are working on a plank on the starboard side that had already been steamed yesterday, secured with steel jacks, car jacks, wedges and screw clamps, and hammered into place with a large hammer. This is removed again to make the final adjustments by hand. The adjustments are not sufficient and the process continues the next day.

The ship is largely empty inside. The partitions have been removed and even the steel water tanks have been lifted from their anchorage, so that the frames to which the old planks are attached and new planks are attached with thick carriage bolts are accessible. At the same time, this way you reach places that you would otherwise not be able to derust. The noise from the compressed air operated needle guns, hand planers and angle grinders used in various places would be unbearable without hearing protection. When you gather for a coffee break or lunch, dusty figures emerge from the hull.
Anyone who needs a helping hand in between will find it quickly.

What at first seems like chaos soon turns out to be an accumulation of goodwill that can be coordinated with just a few words. English is spoken, just like on board. In between you will hear French, German and Dutch. The professions are as diverse as their origins: one morning a Canadian aircraft mechanic stands on the scaffolding with a brush and paint, having given up her job at Boeing. The German electrical engineer, who no longer enjoyed his job in the automotive industry, makes his first plank. This one fits. And when I needed a grinding wheel to remove the completely rusted door lock from the companion to the Foxhole, but had no experience with the dangerous machine. A Hungarian with the dreadlocks turned to help me. He brings experience from heavy industry and is also a video producer. The replacement for the bright work on the bow, which broke on the return across the Atlantic, was carved by a young Dutch carpenter who lives as an alternative youth elsewhere in a trailer on a nine-meter boat. The work is then painted by the German wood sculptor who studied architecture. On one side of the ship, electronic rap booms from the speaker over the noise of the machines, while Mali blues and Fela Kuti's Afropop play on the other side.

The work is distributed by a Dutchman who has been with the “Tres Hombres” from the start. He became increasingly bored with his work in construction because it increasingly involved the assembly of prefabricated houses. Then a loud hello is greeted by the Israeli ship's officer, who also brought along a friend in work clothes. The French DJ, who installed his electronic equipment on the ship where we are temporarily housed, planes the newly installed planks smooth from the outside, while the former test ski driver and outdoor goods marketer from France and a rigging specialist from Holland Werg in the cracks and then seals them with tar. “Love Tar” – someone wrote with a black handprint on the outside refrigerator that holds butter and cheese for snacks or after-work beer.

Theoretically, work ends at six o'clock, but before half past six hardly anyone starts putting away the tools, unwinding the cables and sweeping the wood shavings with a broom. Most of them have never sailed on the “Tres Hombres”. Some hope to be able to sail in the future, others are just so proud, with beaming faces, to help set up an alternative to bed and food.

Interrupted by Corona
Wednesday, the beginning of autumn: the wind is strong. It almost tears the flat bowl containing the paint out of my hand. When I dip the roller into the paint, which is based on linseed oil, a layer of paint sometimes tears a thread of color into the air. Below me a colleague covers the waterline with tape, I have to stop so as not to stain it. Later he 'chases' me and for his part he paints the area under the masking tape with copper-based anti-fouling paint, while a drop of black paint flies onto the left lens of his goggles as I elegantly cover the hull above the waterline. , glossy black.
We put in the whiskey shelf a week and a half ago. This is the name of the last plank that closes the hull again and which – analogous to the topping-out in a building on land – is celebrated with a bottle of the appropriate spirit and a short speech. The work on the outer skin was far from over: in addition to caulking the joints with hemp and tar, we sealed all the holes into which the screws were sunk with wooden pegs. In addition to the new planks, all the small areas where the old paint was peeling were sanded and primed. So the fuselage took on the look of a patchwork quilt – now the final layer is twice as fun.

Despite the wind, the mood is almost euphoric. We wanted to put the Tres Hombres in the water today. But Corona's ubiquitous protective measures have slowed down the progress of work. But now the mood is rising: painting is happening everywhere, this time to Latino rhythms. Final sprint. The ship should be put into the water the day after tomorrow. However, I will miss the party: as corona numbers are increasing across Europe, my relatives in Switzerland would not understand if I extended my stay. So I'm on my way home. But the feeling says: it doesn't have to be the last time.

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