I was starting my trip with the Tres Hombres in Santa Marta, Columbia. I am a newbie to sailing and in fact, never have been on a ship before so I thought the Caribbean Sea would be a good start. When I arrived at the marina and had a first glance at Tres Hombres, I was really excited. The appearance of this historical beauty impressed me a lot, even she was not in action and all sails were dowsed. I felt the urgent need to get on to it and get known to the crew that was already honoured to call Tres Hombres their home. I can describe my first contact as you can read it in sailing fairy tales. I was invited to sit down with the lovely crew during picturesque sundown in perfect weather. Then I got a small tour around the deck and was introduced to my place in the « foxhole ». Even that the air quality dropped immediately in this 8 people sleeping room, I knew I would feel comfortable here and the bed was actually larger and better than expected. When we left the marina and set sails to get to the cargo harbour of Santa Marta, my heart made a jump and I could see and feel what sailing looks like. Later I realized, that this was just the light version of sailing. But since I am adventurous and love to be outside and in nature, my personal happiness tank was filled up more and more, the more days I spent on board and the more experiences I acquired. I can’t tell, what I like the most. To learn about rigging, ropes, knots and navigation as well as practising manoeuvres, climbing up the mast or maintain the ship. Or if it is the confrontation with mother nature that inspires me and also make me think about the impact that we all have. There are only a few chances to watch stars like this in the real world. Being on the ship day and night creates a deep sense of consciousness and you get one with the ship and your surrounding. When all sails are hoisted and the wind is strongly blowing into it, and the waves are shaking this small piece of wood with a couple of human beings attached to it in the middle of the ocean, it does not just feel like riding rodeo. It shows you the power and beauty of nature in all facets.
It is almost ironic, that we are on this mission to transport cargo worldwide emission-free and therefore show the world that there are alternatives to established systems. And while doing it, you will be totally reassured to do so and take your share in saving our planet. So if you want to have a once in a lifetime experience, I can recommend a trip with Tres Hombres or if you are not that brave, just buy Fair transport rum, chocolate or coffee, because it is really good 🙂
The last 54 hours we were beating against the trades. In the morning the winds are East and we steer North, North North East. As soon as the sea wind effect in the afternoon makes that the wind is North East we tack with all hands and steer for 12 hours South East (around 120* overground). This full-on by/closed hauled sailing made us win around 100 miles in the East direction in nearly 3 days. That sounds maybe not so much but can be the big difference to reach Boca Chica/Dominican Republic. At the moment the wind picked up 22 knots and Tres Hombres is jumping against the increasing waves. We have a course of 130* and the ship is heading toward Cabo de la Veda, the most eastern point of Colombia. Tonight when the land wind effect will stop the evening breeze we will tack again and try to get a ground course of 15*. I hope we can make the 350 miles to the Dominican Republic in 3 days full on by starting tonight. I think we will arrive around Thursday night a little east of Isla Beata at the border of Haiti and Dominican Republic. To get into the bay of Santo Domingo we will use the land/sea effect again.
The atmosphere on board is very very good, the crew is really into it, the tacks are going faster and faster: Douse the outer jib, douse the gaff top, clew up the course, everybody in position, helm’s a lee! Ease the jibs, tack the stay sail’s and let’s go and haul! Set gaff top, outer jib and make speed again.
It’s so nice to have so many people from different sailing cargo ships on board. Marine and Lenno, come from the Nordlys, they know how it is to sail on a Fairtransport ship, Anna who sailed on the Greyhound, Luuk and Logan coming from the Ceiba project in Costa Rica, Lars from the Hawila in Copenhagen. And then off course the people of Tres Hombres already sailing here on board since the Netherlands: Paul/Martin/Soraia/Karsten and Daniel. It’s a fight but the spirit on the Tres Hombres is high!
In passing first behind St Lucia, we ended up behind Saint Vincent without any wind, and the starboard watch spent six hours bracing non stop in the scorching heat looking for even the slightest breeze, to no avail. after another couple of hours, we finally caught some wind again and continued to Saint George, Grenada, where we were tugged in with the help of local fishermen.
I think its safe to say none of us knew much about Grenada before arriving there. At just over 112.000 inhabitants, its’s the 10th smallest country in the world. Famous for its valuable spices, its unsurprising that Grenada was heavily colonized from the 16th century onwards by the Spanish, the French, and finally the British until its independence in 1979.
The island has everything from beautiful beaches lined with palm trees, to tropical forest inland, and the way to get around is by the little minivan buses that drive at breakneck speed down the winding narrow roads. The Grenadians are friendly and easygoing people. Music is always coming from all directions, the smell of spices is in the air, the sun is blistering hot every day so we decided to start work at 6 am and finish earlier so we can go to the beach or out for some ice cream or a local Carib beer.
The new trainees that came on board in Martinique are getting their first sail training and climbing instructions. We visit the Grenada Chocolate Company, that makes delicious organic chocolate, and after a guided tour of through factory, the staff treats us to a huge cookout of the national dish ‘the oil down’ a sort of giant stew.
For me, Grenada is an unsung Caribbean paradise, a land of spice, hidden treasures and smiling faces. I have many fond memories of it as we set sail to our next destination, Colombia.
Amber Grootjans, Trainee.
Make fast slowly! Arrival in the Caribbean
The last two weeks were arrival weeks for the crew of Tres Hombres. After 22 days we saw land again: the island Barbados was in sight in the morning of the 9th of January. Hotels! industry! cruise ships! We had a 25 knots of wind, so to reduce speed for the anchor manoeuvre we took down royal, upper bob, outer jib and course.
Close to the entrance of the river of Bridgetown we tried to anchor and for two times the anchor was not holding. Pump the anchor up by hand 2 times, set sail, tack back into the bay: we were busy with that for 7 hours. The 3rd time we were doing 3 knots again but then she stopped: we had 4 shackles in and where holding. This is how to make fast slowly I guess.
Soraia and I went into Bridgetown to clear in and get some fresh food. What a world we are living in! Music, car sounds, the smell: unbelievable after such a long time at sea. In the cruise terminal we cleared in and went to the fishing harbour after to get cold beer, veggies and some fish.
The weeks after were real organising weeks, talking with agents, rum distillers, harbour offices etc. etc.
In the end, we could go into the cargo harbour on the 17h of January, just for 10 hours. Make slow-fast!
At 5 o clock, we got tugged in by our friend Randall and at 9 o clock, we had the rum on the truck.
At 12 we were filling up the barrels in the Four Square distillery and at 14.00 we were back on the ship again. At 16.00 all barrels were back onboard filled up and sea tight. After that we unloaded wine, seaweed and olive oil for a slow food restaurant on Barbados and we picked up a new trainee from the Cruise terminal. I cleared out and at 18:30 we had all sails up and sailed out of the harbour of Bridgetown. Bye-bye Barbados! Seventeen hours later we arrived in the bay of St. Anne Martinique and we had a meeting with our friend Raphael. We cleared in and believe it or not: they have a pizza catamaran in the bay here: you order on a VHF channel and they come by with a tender to deliver the pizza. This was a good, goodbye party: with pizza, wine and rock ‘n roll music. 6 trainees are leaving and we get 6 new ones on board.
During this week we unload wine and Armagnac for Raphael, we unloaded empty barrels of rum on the beach and Friday we gonna load full barrels back on board. When I wake up and look around me, see the sun go up, drink a coffee, have a chat with the crew on deck in the sun, do a swim I can only admit that this life is like a dream.
It was in the afternoon on Saturday 4th of January when our watch got woken up from our precious sleep half an hour before wake-up time. No explanation, only the message that the captain required our presence on deck immediately. Now, if you finally can sleep for a meager six hours after a tiring double night watch, this half an hour seems like an eternity. You can imagine the look on our faces when we appeared from the Foxhole.
The scene we were treated to on that moment seemed surreal, as if we were still dreaming. The crew had put the dinghy, a small motorboat that normally is stored on deck, overboard and now the captain and some other crew members were driving circles around the ship, taking pictures, screaming like madmen and jumping into the water. The past few days the temperature had been building up slowly and we’d been longing for a refreshing swim between maintenance jobs for a while now. Unfortunately (and fortunately), the ship always has too much speed to be able to do this.
It seemed they had found a very entertaining way to overcome this. I couldn’t wait to get into that boat! When the first group returned, I grabbed my chance and jumped in. While we drove away, swimming was the only thing I could think of at first – until I turned around. There she was, in all her glory, fully rigged with all her sails, as if she came straight out of a kick-ass pirate movie. How different things can look when you change perspective! This had been our home for the past few weeks now, but it was the first time we all could see her how our surroundings see us: simply magnificent. At the same time, it stroke me that the ship somehow looked very small. At that moment, it seemed almost impossible to me that fifteen people could live together for so long on such a small patch of surface. Yet, we do.
Sailing this ship, that patch of surface and the people living on it turn into a world where all the things you knew before seem to disappear into the background. Life becomes beautifully simple: eat, sleep, work, repeat. Everything becomes a group thing, we all depend on each other. The wooden railing becomes the physical border with the only thing that is outside: the ocean. Literally stepping out of that world felt liberating and scary at the same time. Knowing that there is about 4,5 kilometer of water underneath you when you dive in makes you feel very, very tiny. But boy, did we enjoy it! We all returned back to our world soaking wet and with a huge smile on our faces.
We are three weeks on the water now and it won’t be long before we will see land again. I feel unsure if I will enjoy our re-entry in civilization. This world of ropes, sails, wood and steel and the family we made here are growing on me. But I’m sure I’ll adapt again. It’s just a matter of perspective.
We are crossing the Atlantic Ocean from east to west in the moment, which means we are sailing more or less downwind in the Trades, just north of the equator. Stun sails are up, tropical nights the norm and we have at least 3 weeks to find our rhythm. The mood in the crew could not be better, we are deep in the performing phase of group dynamics. The inevitable nitty gritty conflicts bubbling up when living in a community get solved in some way or the other. Last midnight we all watched « Rounding Cape Hoorn » by Irving Johnson, together on top of the chart room during the gained extra hour due to crossing time zones. Pure awe, we are just children playing with a toy compared to the sailors of yore! But enough of that, just be assured: life is great and here nobody cares about Trump. I wanted to write a bit about the Sounds of the Sea.
We are travelling in an engine less ship. Trivial as it is: that means there is no engine, no internal combustion happening to move along. In the modern world we are very used to the constant background noise from fans, equipment or machines — our brain successfully blends them out. So at first you don’t really notice the absence of an engine, but as soon as our generator is running (a regularly necessary evil to power the ships computer and radio) you appreciate the sweet sweet silence. In Santa Cruz de La Palma we visited the Alexander von Humboldt II while she was moored next to us. Beautiful ship, impressive rigging and modern interior. But multiple decks and modern living standards also result in a continuous ventilation humming along. The need for electricity means her engine room is always noisy and her steel hull carries the slight vibrations caused by active machinery as a sign of being alive.
The sounds of sailing on the Tres Hombres are very different and diverse, surely depending on the situation, wind and swell. It ranges from the mighty bellowing of the Mainsail, when big swell and low wind causes it to flap. On the other end of the spectrum you find for example the faint metal clicking of the Forestaysail sheet tackle, located on the Foredeck directly above the Foxhole. There is the regular whirring of the tow generator when it is tailing behind the ship and the swishing of the windmills which in concert with the mute solar panels try to magic up enough electricity so that we do not have to endure the generator too often. Waves rushing along the ship or the ship crashing into waves, the wind howling in the rigging. Crew yelling in excitement when dolphins play under the bowsprit and flying fish suiciding on deck with a confused splash. The *pluuumpscht-ratratratrat* of dropping the anchor, the *prrrrrrrr* of turning the steering wheel or the *chrrrrruut* of a successfully doused Mainstay sail. The chaotically mad symphony of the pots and pans swinging around in the galley, conducted by the ship itself. The sweetest sound of them all is the food-o-clock bell while the sad burbling of an empty coffeepot can ruin the start of your watch.
Wear and tear is the biggest enemy on the ocean, and some chafing also creates a noticeable sound. So it is always good to have a sharp ear to the small and tiny sounds that were not present last night. Try to mentally locate every muttering of the ship while staring up into the night sky. And not to be underestimated is the effect of the low pitched but regular banging and bashing onto the sleep of the other watch below deck. When you lay awake in bunk the tiniest sound from above is amplified by the wooden structure, and can easily rob you of your sleep. You might know where a specific sound is coming from, you might even know which tracing line has to be adjusted in order to silence the damn thing. But finding your headlamp and getting up to fix it yourself is something else. Deck rounds in the night additionally keep you occupied, help passing the time 😉
Sounds I do not miss in the slightest: Lonely TV’s running in the background of a café. The metal-on-metal screeching of the Tram passing by on a busy four lane main road. The nagging *pling* of an incoming Whats App message, begging for attention. I will hear them again, but for now the sounds of silence have to suffice.
Martin Zenzes. Tres Hombres. 2020.
Vandaag 2 januari vier ik mijn 30e verjaardag, voor de 3e keer mijn verjaardag op de Tres Hombres voor het eerst midden op de Oceaan, voor het eerst als kapitein. En de dagen zijn als alle dagen op de oceaan, een alweer prachtige zonsopgang terwijl de portside watch hun ochtend wacht beëindigd, pap met gebakken bananen eet als ontbijt. Dagelijkse kleine beslommeringen als: de koffiefilters zijn onvindbaar dus moeten we met de herbruikbare filter koffie op schenken (wat een paar minuten langer duurt), we kunnen er tijdens de nachtwachten uren over praten.
Een wachtoverdracht tussen de Port en Starbord. Een plan voor de dag met de stuurmannen en de bootsman. Nog meer zeilen willen we hebben, dus worden er plannen gemaakt voor extra zeilen rond de Royal. Ik lees de verzamelde werken van Toergenjew, luister naar Leonard Cohen, kijk uit over zee. Happy birthday wordt gezongen en verder? Verder golft de oceaan wel door, blijven de tradewinden wel waaien.
30 jaar, mijn twintiger jaren zijn over: tien jaar geleden zat ik nog op de kunstacademie, vierde eindeloze feesten op het havenpark Zierikzee, zeilen deed ik niet eens zo veel in die tijd. Na de kunstacademie was ik ziek van de hele kunstwereld en wilde alleen maar nog varen, varen, varen. Ik was niet op zoek naar roem maar naar vrijheid. Varen deed ik eerst in Nederland: in de Zeeuwse Delta, Ijsselmeer en het Wad en toen mijn kennismaking met de Tres Hombres. In Vlissingen lag het schip op het Sail de Ruyter festival waar ik ook lag met een tjalk. Of ik niet eens een keer mee kon, ja morgen was het antwoord. En daar begon het allemaal, van Vlissingen naar Den Helder, kruisend in een drukke Noordzee. Nog dat jaar zou ik mijn eerste oceaan oversteek doen en ineens was het allemaal duidelijk. Die ongelofelijke leegte, buiten de maatschappij, dagen alleen maar water: dit was het! Noem het romantiek, noem het het besef dat de mens maar zo iets kleins is in een groter geheel.
Nu meer dan tien oversteken later, vaar ik als kapitein op dit mooie schip. 30 jaar en zoiets moois mogen doen, dit had ik tien jaar geleden nooit kunnen bedenken. Ondertussen zoveel ervaringen verder, Suzan leren kennen, een dubbeldekker omgebouwd tot huis, muziek spelend waar het maar kan, zoveel reizen, zoveel mensen ontmoet, zoveel zee gezien.
En dan is er nog een groot nieuws wat ik graag zou willen delen vanaf zee, juist voordat ik vertrok voor deze oceaan rondtocht met de Tres Hombres kwamen we er achter dat Suzan zwanger was. Dit geeft ons een ongelofelijk gelukkig gevoel. Het is raar om op de Tres Hombres te zitten terwijl bij haar de eerste echo’s worden gemaakt, ze het hartje voor het eerst heeft horen kloppen, het is onwerkelijk om haar pas in Mei weer terug te zien op een of andere kade in Holland met een dikke buik, maar wat zullen we wuiven naar elkaar.
Eind Juni zal ik vader worden. Hier op het dek bouw ik samen met Jeroen de bootsman een wiegje. Hoe het wiegje er uit ziet? Als een schip: een zeilschip natuurlijk, gemaakt van spoelhout gevonden op de verschillende eilanden die we aandoen deze reis.
En waar zal ik zijn over tien jaar? Of als ik 60 ben? Misschien op een van de Ecoclippers die Jorne aan het voorbereiden is? Zeilend dicht bij huis door Nederland? Muziek en gedichten makend struinend door Nederland, door de wereld?
De toekomst ziet er misschien wel een beetje uit als de oceaan vandaag: vliegende vissen, blauwe luchten, 15 zeilen van dit schip gevuld met wind en verder 15 gelukkige mensen slingerend over een eindeloze zee. Het kan, en omdat dit nu is, dit nu echt is, dat er ondanks al die ruis als bijproduct van onze kapitalistische samenleving projecten als dit schip mogelijk zijn. Dat er nog steeds mensen zijn die op staan, de vraag stellen, energie steken in de bouw van zoiets prachtigs als dit schip, dat geeft hoop: hoop op een mooie toekomst. Hoop dat mijn kind later ook zal kunnen varen, zal kunnen leven op een planeet die er hier vandaag ook best mooi uit ziet.
In the vast Atlantic Ocean lies the secret of the strong spirited. A gift available for whom has left shore and all things known. A side of sailing only truly appreciated by those who have seen the other. Without contrasts in life we easily become accustomed to even the most magical things.
We started the crossing 16 days ago. We are now more than half way through.In the meantime, life has completely changed. We went from survival mode to actual living. I mean, literally, our safety nets are now mostly used to hang our clothes to dry.
I feel peace. A peace that derives from the simplicity of life on board and the constant contact with nature. We cook, we clean, we fix, we sail. We sleep, we eat, we talk, we stare. We made it so complex on land. So many worries, so many things abstract. We have become slaves of things thought to free us. Emails, cellphones, property, money. Life here feels more real and concrete. I miss nothing, even having so little. I have a meaningful existence. My meaning is to feed 15 people. Yet this is an oasis, drifting towards shore again. One can’t be in the sea forever, alienated; but one could try to bring this knowledge and the quest for a simple life back home, and remember what was important and what was superfluous. One could look deeper into old habits and dependencies, understand where they come from and maybe brake free.
Happy New Years!
One more day of 2019 and the last one. In the middle of the ocean – a perfect place to look back at the past months, (even years?) of your life. The ocean is a kind of mirror – it shows you the picture of your current spiritual and emotional condition. The measurement device of your soul temperature.
My thermometer says: peace, harmony, freedom, happiness. No boundaries, no worries, no obligations. It is a feeling of pure harmony.
I joined the crew in La Palma. I arrived by plane 2 days before we started for Barbados. Unbelievable – one day before I was still sitting in the office in Berlin, one day before I was still being overloaded by destructive issues of a big city life.
It takes time to start reflecting. It was a little bit disappointing in the beginning: Why I can’t write down immediately the super philosophical enlightenment’s in my diary? The only thing I forced myself to do was at least to document the day (and night -:) routine on the ship and the new impressions like flying fishes, dolphins and hundreds of falling stars.
But then I understood – it takes time. First you need to sort out and empty your “brain wardrobe”, your “brain cellar”. You need to throw away all the trash you have accumulated through mass media, through hundreds of adverts-banners in the metro, through tons of forced useless small talks about nothing, through dozens of every day worries and appointments… The list of things which brings you away from yourself is very long.
I am done with the list and I threw it away.
Happy New Year to all of you!
P.S. Cnm, our plan seems to work! We have a good speed! Te quiero!