Voluntary and together
The men grab gloves, one grabs a blanket. Then the lid is removed from the end of the long box. Steam rises.
Quickly the hot board is taken out. But wait: you imagine a board, not a plank. At 8 cm thick, it looks more like a beam.
They bring it to the stern of the Tres Hombres, which is on dry land to port side, where removed planks have left a hole in the hull through which one can see the former stern tube from the time the ship was under engine. They routinely attach the tapered end with screw clamps to the plank below the hole 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, giving it the necessary twist. After about half an hour of back and forth, the thick wood settles against the hull. Here it stays overnight and cools, taking on the shape with which it fits into the outer skin of the ship.
For hours, the volunteers working at the annual refit of the "Tres Hombres" boiled water in converted gas cylinders and fed the steam through thick hoses into the room insulated with old sleeping bags and wool blankets. At the same time, others worked on further planks, making templates from long strips of plywood, cutting out the rough shape, planing and sanding the raw Douglas fir planks from the sawmill. They are working on a plank to starboard that had already been steamed yesterday, fastened with steel jacks, car jacks, wedges and screw clamps, and beaten into place with a large hammer. This is taken out again to make the final adjustments by hand. The adjustments are not enough and the process continues the next day.
Inside, the ship is largely empty. The partitions have been removed and even the steel water tanks have been lifted out of their anchoring, so that the frames to which the old planks are attached and new planks are fixed with thick carriage bolts are accessible. At the same time, this way you get to places, which otherwise you would not be able to de-rust. The sound of the compressed air operated needle guns, hand planes and angle grinders used in various places would be unbearable without hearing protection. Gathering for a coffee break or lunch, dusty figures emerge from the hull.
Those who need a helping hand in between will quickly find one.
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, as on board. In between, you hear French, German and Dutch. The occupations are as diverse as their origins: one morning, a Canadian aircraft mechanic stands on the scaffolding with brush and paint who quit her job at Boeing. The German electrical engineer, who no longer liked his job in the auto industry, makes his first board. This one fits. And when I needed a grinding wheel to remove the companion's completely rusted door lock to the Foxhole, but had no experience with the dangerous machine. A Hungarian with the dreadlocks turned around to help me. He brings experience from the 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 thumps from the loudspeaker through the noise of the machinery, while Mali blues and Fela Kuti's Afropop play on the other.
The work is distributed by a Dutchman who has been with the "Tres Hombres" from the beginning. He became increasingly bored with his work in construction because it was more and more about assembling prefab houses. Then a loud hello greeted the Israeli ship's officer, who also brought a friend in work clothes. The French DJ, who installed his electronic equipment on the ship on which we are temporarily housed, scrapes the newly installed boards from the outside, while the former test ski driver and outdoor gear marketer from France and a gear specialist from Holland Werg in the cracks and then seals them with tar. "Love Tar" - wrote someone with a black handprint on the refrigerator placed outside, which holds butter and cheese for snacks or the beer for after work.
Theoretically, the work ends at six o'clock, but before 6:30 almost no one begins to clean up the tools, unwind the cables and wipe off the wood shavings with a broom. Most of them have never sailed on the "Tres Hombres." Some hope to sail with her in the future, others are just so proud, with beaming faces, to help set up an alternative for bed and food.
Interrupted by Corona
Wednesday, the beginning of autumn: the wind is strong. It nearly rips the flat bowl of paint out of my hand. As I dip the roller into the paint, which is linseed oil-based, a layer of paint sometimes rips a thread of color into the air. Below me, a colleague covers the water line with tape; I have to stop so as not to stain him. Later he "chases" me and for his part he paints the area below the masking tape with copper-based antifouling paint, while a black paint drop flies onto the left lens of his glasses as I cover the hull above the waterline with an elegant coat. , glossy black.
A week and a half ago we put in the whiskey shelf. This is the name of the last plank that closes the hull again, which - analogous to topping-out in a building on land - is celebrated with a bottle of the right 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 in which the screws were countersunk with wooden pegs. In addition to the new boards, all the small areas where the old paint was peeling off were sanded and primed. So the hull took on the appearance of a patchwork - now the final coat is twice as nice.
Despite the wind, the mood is almost euphoric. We had wanted to put the Tres Hombres in the water today. But Corona's ubiquitous protective measures have slowed progress. But now the mood is rising: painting is everywhere, this time to Latino rhythms. Final sprint. The ship should enter the water the day after tomorrow. However, I will miss the party: since corona rates are increasing throughout 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.