April 6, 2021
- Log
Tres Hombres

Rare moments (By Hanjo van Weerden)

These are rare moments, to be the only one on deck...

When the rest of your watch is in the galley for a sandwich or in the navigation room, it is a quiet moment for the helmsman of the Tres Hombres. The wind, the clouds and the water around you. Here and there a squeak or creak of the moving rope. You turn the rudder wheel and the ship responds. You and the ship alone on the ocean.
But a little later you have people around you again, talking or working or asking if they can finally steer again and the moment is over...

By the way, I got promoted. Now that Ruth has signed off in the Dominican Republic, I am the science officer of the Tres and I am responsible for taking the phyto-plankton samples - as long as the weather permits and the tools last. Today is a calm day, so it is possible again, after two days of heavy waves. I hang the sample net overboard, record speed, date, time and geographical position, throw the collected water — with hopefully some microscopic plankton — into the test tube and clean it all up again.
"Whale!" A baleen whale makes itself heard. We can just see the animal on the starboard side, a little back, a small dorsal fin. Everyone is watching, the helmsman is disappointed that he is now at the helm and cannot watch.
The whale comes up behind the ship. “There, did you see him?” Then on the port side it comes up, and again, and again. Everyone walks with the animal towards the foredeck. Then the animal turns around and we see it rise again, swimming away from us.
Not much later another one. "Over there! Oh, there are two!” A mother and calf emerge together, but unfortunately not on repeat.
Back to work then.

Dog watch: There is some resurgence of seasickness and someone is on holiday watch, so in the end there are three of us on watch: Andreas, Clement and me. It was a heavy day during the day: gaff topsail, outer jib, top mast and main staysail were taken down and packed. But now in the evening it is quiet and the three of us know about the ins and outs of the ship.

“Just night and water,” says Andreas. A gray cloud cover hides the stars and the moon. When the tea is finished, Andreas thinks it is time to set some sails. We play rock-paper-scissors over who has to go up to remove the top mast and staysail. I lose and climb. Release the first platform staysail and continue to the top. Up there on the mast it's like a bad metronome, you go back and forth like that.
On the port side, on the horizon, I can still see the top lights of a tanker, the Liberian flag. I stand on the bramra with one elbow curled around a pardon and loosen the bindings. Then around the stem and the Jacob's ladder to the other side and the same song. As I climb down, the staysail is already being set. The halyard is cut, I hear the leashes sliding up over the stay. The sail unfolds. Once downstairs, Clement and I loosen the girders and purlins and remove the bolts. Then we cut the halyard, braise neatly and the top bramble is nice and full of the wind again.
Then Andreas goes up on the bowsprit to loosen the outer jib, while I take over the helm. Once back, he takes the helm again and I go to the halyard, while Clement stands at the lap. To catch the fall, Andreas quickly comes forward - the ship steers itself. Once the trap has been laid, I help Clement with the lap.

A moment of rest, then Andreas: “Maybe topsail too?”
“Why not,” says Clement. So hop, off it goes. Andreas laughs: “sailing is fun.”

That's how it is.


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